April 24 2018 11:20 AM

Adjusting to the physical demands of farming after surgery.

No bending.

No squatting.

No heavy lifting.

Those were my doctor’s orders after a surgery I had this winter. For two months, I was under strict activity restrictions: no lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds; no activity other than walking.

But even after I was cleared to start working outside again, my doctor advised against a lot of bending, squatting, and heavy lifting.

I remember thinking to myself, “Isn’t that the definition of dairy farming?”

Perhaps not every dairy farmer has a workday that includes a lot of bending, squatting, and lifting, but I suspect that many do. I know that I certainly do.

So, getting back to work after surgery required some adaptations to the way I approached highly physical tasks.

Before surgery, it was nothing to carry sacks of grain, bags of milk replacer, or bales of hay around. Now, I either use a two-wheel cart to move heavier items or ask someone else to move them for me.

Before surgery, I always prepped cows and attached units in a deep squat, since we milk our cows in a tie stall barn. Now, I kneel to do those jobs.

I also kneel to feed newborn calves, instead of bending over. A pair of heavy-duty kneepads makes kneeling more comfortable.

These biomechanical adjustments have made me think a lot about the physical demands of dairy farming and the way dairy farmers work. Perhaps if I had adopted some of these “work smarter, not harder” ways of working sooner, I might never have needed surgery. Just because I could lift and carry 100-pound calves and 50-pound bags, doesn’t mean I should have.

I’m a lot more careful about how I move now. After all, I’d like my body to work for a couple more decades.

Have you given any thought to the biomechanics and physical demands of your work? How are you respecting your body and working within its capabilities?

Sadie Frericks

The author is a dairy farmer and writer from central Minnesota. She farms with her husband, Glen, and their three children. Sadie grew up on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agricultural communications and marketing. She also blogs at Dairy Good Life.