Marilyn Hershey
Lately I have been thinking about how a dairy farm lifestyle fits into a world of instant gratification. We are in a society that thrives on immediate information, quick deliveries, and things that download within seconds of ordering. Farming is not set up to work like that. It feels like a square peg rammed into a round hole.

Working with animals and the land is a career that includes a pause from time to time, and that is not a bad thing. If I am being honest, waiting for things to happen has never been high on my list of strong qualities, but it is a big part of being a dairy farmer.

As we prepare for planting, we spend a lot of time getting the equipment ready to work in the fields, preparing the soil to just the right level, and then putting seed into the ground. There is something special and gratifying to see the tiny seed sprout out of the soil and start to grow.

As soon as the seed is in the ground, the waiting begins. There is waiting for the rain, waiting for the hot weather, and as the corn continues to grow, we wait for the right time to harvest. Planting and harvesting crops gives us a good lesson in patience and waiting for good things to come about.

Another good foundation for patience is waiting for a special calf to be born. Birth takes a specific amount of time, and there is nothing we can do to speed up the process.

I remember when our children were in 4-H and it was time to breed their show heifer or cow. There was a lot of thought that went into the best service sire. There was strategy used to decide the specific time of year to breed the animal, and then there were months of waiting until the calf was born. All the while, we were hoping the calf was a heifer born on the right day of the right month. A lot of anticipation went into that special moment, and if it did not turn out as planned, there were tears and frustration realizing that it would be months before we were awaiting another new arrival.

We often play the waiting game on the farm. One could assume with all that practice, I would be used to it and not mind waiting for anything. However, the pandemic has challenged me in this area because supplies we use every day on our farm are not always available. I think I was spoiled prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Things that were ordered in a timely manner, for the most part, were delivered as expected.

It is amazing to me that manufacturing plants still do not have the labor force to produce their products at the same rate that they did before the pandemic turned businesses upside down. They lost a certain percentage of employees and are not yet able to run at the same rate as before.

There is no doubt that one of the issues is labor. I understand that a shortage of labor makes manufacturing difficult, but there is also a part of me that thinks we should be back to a normal rate of production by now.

Whatever the reason, our farm supplies are impacted by this. During this time, one of the most annoying delays were ear tags for the calves. I heard there was a delay, so I ordered earlier than normal, but the weeks ticked by and turned into months, and before I could blink, we ran out of our ear tags and the order was nowhere in sight. In fact, when I called for an update, the company had no idea when we would receive them.

My first reaction was to voice my complaints and disbelief that there was no idea when the tags would be delivered. How was that possible, and what was I supposed to do about registering the calves?

I soon realized that being impatient and letting the frustration build was not a good solution and would certainly not get the tags to the farm sooner. So, we improvised until the tags came.

Farm equipment parts and building supplies are more areas that are testing us. It certainly adds to the urgency of farming when we are waiting for a specific part to come in or for building supplies to arrive before we can finish a project.

A farming friend told me about the issues in his building improvement project. He waited for the parts to be unloaded at the docks, and the delay pushed his project back months for what should have been a seemingly simple renovation. Thankfully, the delay did not impact the milking barn, and he was able to maintain daily activity despite the disruption.

Whether I like it or not, our farming lifestyle hands us many opportunities to fine-tune patience, perseverance, and acceptance. Farmers are good at improvising, adapting to new circumstances, and waiting. That is probably easier than hammering a square peg into a round hole.

The author and her husband, Duane, own and operate a 550-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa.