Dec. 15 2023 09:29 AM

Inadvertently, I became a go-to animal health guru in my county.

First and foremost, I am not a veterinarian. I have the utmost respect for those who have gone through the chemistry, biochemistry, math, animal science, and all the other courses in order to obtain the title of doctor of veterinary medicine. I am not that person. I went to college, but I wanted out as fast as I could get there. I had goals and dreams of working for different companies alongside my own dairy. I just wanted to earn my degree, and then I was off to tackle what was next in life. However, when I graduated, it seemed as if I became the county “go-to” for animal health questions.

When I graduated from Virginia Tech, I decided to move back home and continue the legacy that is my dairy farm. Within the first couple days of returning home, my phone went ballistic. Everyone and anyone was asking me questions about cows, horses, goats, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats, and so on. I am a cow person. I do not know much, if anything, about the other species. To my dismay, I am a people pleaser, so I’d always tell them, “I don’t know, but I can find out or ask someone that does.” That sentence became a blessing and a curse from then on.

The blessing that came with that sentence was in the form of community. I gained a lot of friends and have been exposed to a community outside of the agriculture world by meeting folks from all walks of life. A lot of folks move into my area as hobby farmers and love having just a few animals to pamper and spoil throughout the year. The connections and networking I have been able to create have led to new opportunities and gained knowledge of other “worlds.”

The curse of this sentence is the fact my phone never stops ringing. I could be in the middle of harvest season, calving, or any other majorly busy time of year, and folks will call about random ordeals. For example, a few weeks ago, we were shorthanded at work and a neighbor needed a calf tubed as it was born a twin and was weak. Regardless of the never-ending work ahead of me, I took time to tube her calf and help it get the boost it needed to start a great life.

Some days, I wish I could just say no and walk away. However, I’ve always believed that “What goes around, comes around.” One day, I may need them for something; you never know. The networking and communities I will build through these encounters are imperative for the world we live in today. I’m not saying you should use up all your time to help others — we all know how valuable time is — but don’t always be too quick to turn a blind eye. You never know when you may be on the other side of the equation one day. Stay safe and happy holidays everyone!

Courtney Henderson

The author is a sixth-generation farmer and fifth-generation dairy producer in southwest Virginia, where she and her family own and operate a 145-head Holstein dairy. Courtney is involved in agriculture organizations throughout her community and is a graduate of Virginia Tech.