The author and her husband, Duane, own and operate a 550-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa.
It takes a lot of momentum to get through the summer months. The days are long, the outside work is screaming to be done, and if a farmer sees daylight, they see an opportunity to do more. There is a lot of drive and determination behind the list of work that is being completed in a timely manner.
Momentum reaches a new level when farmers are baling hay and the storm clouds start churning. As the sky darkens, the pace picks up and all hands are on deck to make sure the crop is stored safely in the barn before the first drop of rain hits.
Sometimes we win the battle. Other times, no matter how much momentum is driving us, the weather wins that game.
There is also a good bit of momentum behind planting. It builds to excitement as the equipment is prepared, the fields are made ready, and seed is put in the ground.
Cows do not understand the elevated pace. Their steady tempo typically remains the same day in and day out. They like consistency and a routine that moves like molasses. In fact, it seems that there are times that they work against momentum, like when we are waiting for a calf to be born. They will push the calf out when they are ready and not a minute before or a minute after. The momentum is totally in their court.
I saw that clearly when I was walking through the calving area and from a distance, I noticed a cow pushing. As soon as she saw me walking behind her, she stopped. I was trying to figure out if she was pushing to calve or if she was just readjusting how she was lying. I watched and waited, and she just laid there, still as a rock. I thought she must have been readjusting.
As soon as I walked away, I saw her push again. She thought the momentum was in her court, but I made sure to win that game and moved her into the calving pen.
There are things that come up every day on our dairy farms that can either slow down our momentum or cause us to speed up the stride.
Duane and I recently watched a basketball game on television, and the obvious game-changer on the court was a shift in momentum. Once a few key plays transpired, the attitude of the losing team changed. The team that was behind in the score and looking hopeless got new life. Grabbing hold of that opportunity was necessary for a change and a shift in the outcome.
Watching that game made me realize that there are a ton of similarities between momentum in a sports game and the momentum in dairy farming.
Grabbing the opportunity to shift the energy takes effort. It takes wisdom to see the occasion when the shift is happening. It takes a lot of action to keep going when fatigue sets in, and it takes discipline to not become rattled when life is not going as planned.
Everyone playing basketball, either at the college level or professionally, is there because they love the sport. They love the game and they want to play through the adversity to win. No one at that level is there because they are forced to; if they are, they are sitting on the bench because their lack of motivation will show through.
Dairy farmers are not here because we half-heartedly like to work with cows. We passionately produce a quality food for our communities. We work with our animals and steward the land and the environment. We love what we do enough to keep going through the tough and challenging times, and we will not head for the locker room at the first mistake made.
There are times when the challenges of farm life stack up against us higher than the hayloft. During these times, it takes a lot of effort to overcome the pile. It takes a tremendous amount of insight, drive, and planning to get us through.
Sometimes we need a timeout — a chance to regroup, replan, and proceed through another avenue. Honestly, there are times when the drive has fizzled out and I would rather throw the playbook away and start anew.
When I am watching sports, it is easy to see that, just as strong as the momentum is building for one team, there is another team that is either accepting defeat or clawing their way back to a position where they can shift the flow back to their advantage.
I am blessed to be married to someone who redefines momentum. Duane doesn’t have trouble keeping up with the shifting winds of the farm. His grit and ability to see the shifts, find a strong game plan, and ride the momentum is what makes us a stronger team. Sometimes it is not easy to carry on when the winds blow against us, but he never accepts defeat. He is leading the team that capitalizes on the positive plays of the farm.