April 2 2020 10:50 AM

The recommended safety measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 are not unlike biosecurity practices farms have used for years – let’s share that information with consumers.

Farmers, especially dairy farmers, tend to be more distanced and like staying at home on their own farm. During these times, that is a good thing.

We are all starting to get busy with spring harvest and corn planting season, but it is also a great time to take this opportunity to share online facts about farming that all can relate to during this time of social distancing, particularly terms that dairy farmers have understood for their entire careers.

1. Social distancing: Take time to record a video and share information on why a lot of farms separate calves for the first few months. Explain why that is important to give the calf time to build a healthy immune system, to help prevent viruses from spreading from calf to calf, and to make it easier on staff to monitor calves as individuals. Explain that they are housed like this for only a short period and then are moved into small social groups once they are past those first critical months of life. Being a few feet apart greatly reduces the chances of virus transmission. Remind them that each calf is precious to us.

2. Herd immunity: I never thought I would hear that term on the evening news. We should take the time to explain all the steps we take to protect and care for our cows. Dairy farmers understand better than most the reasons for vaccinating your herd to give it resistance to many common viruses found in nature.

3. Critical infrastructure: This should have already been self-evident, but people took note of that fact when they went to a store and found empty shelves for the first time. We had folks calling wanting to know why milk production had dropped or wondering if we (dairy farmers) had stayed home. I explained our cows were producing the same amount as always. I told them our family and staff had to care, milk, and feed our animals just like we always had. I explained that we were trying to social distance staff at work and explain to staff daily why that is important.

This is a unique time in which we can explain things we do on the farm to care for our animals and how it relates to the current situation we are all in.

We are all part of the human herd. We are a critical industry to the herd. Take this time of social distancing to explain what we are already practicing.

Caitlin and Mark Rodgers

Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. Their “Father and Daughter Dairy Together” column appears every other Thursday on HD Notebook. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.