Nov. 18 2020 10:00 AM

Don’t let a bad day get in the way of caring for your animals.

We can all agree that the angry animal activists are the worst, right? They don’t just comment on one post and move on, they ask their friends to attack, too. They comment on every post you’ve made in the last month and then personally harass each of your followers. Instead of having constructive conversations, they’d rather call you mean names and attack your character. It’s about as fun to experience as I imagine brain surgery would be.

But can I be honest? Some of their comments and points have actually changed me and the way I think about my cows.

Have you ever just had one of those days? It’s one of those days where you walk into the barn already in a bad mood. The cows won’t move, and when they do, it seems like half of them just kicked off the milker. No one wants to be there. I get so frustrated, and it always makes more sense to blame the cows over myself, but it’s always me. Animals are intuitive; they know when I’m having a bad day, and they throw my mood right back in my face.

After one such day, I was sitting on the parlor steps, at the end of my rope, and I started thinking about what the activists said. Most of it was rubbish, and I would never physically abuse or neglect my cows. Maybe the activists had a point, though; was I giving my animals the respect that I know every living thing deserves? I was putting my issues on them. I was giving them all the blame for my shortcomings. It made me realize that most of the times I get mad at them, it’s my fault. I mean, they’re cows. When they get loose, who left the gate open? When they tear down an electrical cord, who left the cord too close to their pen? When a cow has an injured teat and kicks while I milk her, I lose my patience too quickly, even when I know she’s in pain.

This perspective has honestly changed me. I was letting my mental health get the better of me. I went from being a bitter farmer with a chip on my shoulder to actually enjoying my time in the barn. When treating a sick or injured cow, I thought about how I would feel, and I treated them more as a patient than a chore.

Activists are crazy, yeah, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them. Each of their attacks make me a more compassionate farmer. They also make me grateful that I spend 90% of my time with cows instead of people.

Jessica Peters

The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.