Aug. 16 2018 08:00 AM

It’s back to school time, which means we are losing some of our best farm helpers.

Cassie and Jacob bottle fed many calves this summer.

The school bell rang last week and my kids went back to school. Truthfully, it will be an adjusting period for our entire household, as we have three children in three different schools — freshman, a seventh grader, and a third grader. Just when I thought it wasn't possible, my days instantly became busier.

Farm kids are really good at tossing straw bales.

Our work crew, that we have so depended on this summer, is back in school and back in after-school activities.

Students were asked to write about what they did over summer break. My kids’ summaries differed immensely compared to their urban classmates.

Yes, I'm beyond proud because she did just that. They all did, especially Cassie and her older brother, Tyler. A 14-year-old and 12-year-old have proven to be a good asset on our family farm. Even the 8-year-old became pretty darn good at bottle feeding calves by summer’s end. My seventh grader reported that she "helped my father a lot."

The oldest two ran the barn: scrapping stalls, moving cattle to and from the parlor, supervising the maternity barn, and feeding calves.

They assisted the hoof trimmer by getting cattle in the chute, helping with hoof wraps, and documenting which cattle were given what.

Cassie driving the tractor, packing down silage.

They cared for their 4-H show string and broke stubborn Jersey cows to lead. The kids showed them all at the county fair.They drove tractor to rake hay, plow fields, and pack down silage.

They sorted, vaccinated, and moved more cattle than they can recall.

They built fences.

They baled straw.

They moved round bales.

They took a road trip to the sale barn every other Thursday with their father.

They helped the vets with herd health checks.

In past years, our oldest two kids used their fair premium money toward their school clothes. This year, I surprised them and purchased brand new shoes for them to start the school year — the high dollar ones they've been wanting for so long. It's a little way for Scott and I to say thanks for all the help they gave the farm this summer. They grew in more ways than one, mostly in maturity this summer. The key was mom stepping back and dad leading the way. This was an adjustment on my end, but the rewards go beyond measurement and make my heart burst.

Our Jersey kids leave big shoes to fill. Back to school means our extra helpers are gone and this mom will most likely be called to help out more often.

Karen Bohnert

Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State University. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.