Oct. 29 2021 10:00 AM

While we consider my dad and brother the leaders on our farm, my 2-year-old niece gets to help with every aspect of the dairy and might just be the true boss.

Everly bundled up to check on the cows in our robotic milking barn.

Meet my toddler niece, Everly. Her 2-year-old self has grown up spending countless hours out and about at our family dairy farm. When you’re that little, you tend to get passed around a lot, accompanying different members of my family throughout the day. So, instead of solely doing field work, feeding the calves, mixing feed, watching for heats, milking in the parlor, or doing chores in our robotic milking barn, she gets to do it all. I honestly think she might know the most about every part of our farm for this reason.

No matter what’s on her chore list for the day, this little girl is ready to go. She rushes to get her boots on at any mention of going outside and usually totes a cup, bottle, snack, and several baby dolls along with her.

Everly keeps an eye on our progress in the milking parlor while lounging in her stroller.
Over the last two years, she has taken a myriad of naps in her stroller or pack and play while “supervising” us milking cows in the parlor. From her stoop, she lets us know if the milker falls off, when a cow is done, or if a cow still needs to be sprayed with teat dip. She spends other days down in the pit (where we stand while milking) trying to lift up the milkers to put them on, delivering paper towels to us to prep cows, bringing us the spray bottles of teat dip (sometimes just spraying the cows herself), grabbing colored leg bands to put on cows, and more. At the end of milking, she is the first one to grab a shovel to start scraping manure. She also knows how to put the wash cups on, hang up milkers, close needed gates in the holding pen, and hose down the milk room.

Beyond her in-depth knowledge of our setup, milking, and cleanup procedures in the milking parlor, she can be found helping with a plethora of other tasks around the farm. Most mornings, she’ll help my dad fill and dump feed pails for our younger calves. Mixing feed, riding along to haul manure, packing silage, tagging along on combine rides, and covering the silage piles are all common activities for this adorable, curly haired 2-year-old.

Everly also spends a lot of mornings and evenings with my mom and I in our calf building. She knows how to mix up milk, warm up bottles, put bottle nipples on, and wash the bottles when we feed the newest calves — often trying to hold the bottles and giving the “new babies” affectionate pats on the head. She is also no stranger to our automatic calf feeder — helping switch calves to drink, watching when we need to add milk replacer to the hopper, carrying the ear tagger when we train new calves, and so on.

Everly is the ultimate helper in the calf barn. She is a pro at mixing milk, warming up bottles, and washing the bottles when we finish.
When we work on chores in our robotic milking barn, she’s right there with us. She grabs a pencil and paper to scribble her own list as we look up fetch cows on the computer. We carry her a lot of times while going to rake stalls and catch needed cows, and she watches to make sure the robots all have cows visiting them. As we get fetch cows through the robots, she loves to open each robot door to feel the warmth of milk in the milk jar, and she likes to help clean the laser screen and clear bleed (air) holes when we do daily cleaning and maintenance.

This little girl may be on her way to becoming a dairy farmer. She and her older brothers bring so much joy to our days on the farm. Having the next generation involved and excited about what we do each day makes the dull, repetitive tasks much more fun and entertaining. We are so happy to have Everly as our helper and constant supervisor!

Molly Schmitt

The author dairy farms with her parents and brother near Hawkeye, Iowa. The family milks approximately 300 head of grade Holstein cows at Windsor Valley Dairy LLC — split half and half between a double-eight parallel milking parlor and four robotic milking units. In the spring of 2020, Molly decided to take a leap and fully embrace her love for the industry by returning full time to her family’s dairy.