Dairy has certainly taught me many lessons and provided me with many stories through the years, whether it be on the farm or in the plant. With some creativity, I could possibly weave them into witty narratives. However, sometimes they are only funny to us or too weird for those off the farm to understand. Meanwhile, many dairy kids may nod or chuckle. So, I will share a few snippets.
An uncle of mine used to tease that I was so tall because I ran through the pasture barefoot. This is partially true because my brothers were known to “borrow” any available pair of boots and never return them to where they found them. There was not always time to find my boots and feed my heifers before school started, so some mornings I skipped searching for the shoes and just resigned myself to hosing my feet off after. Gross, but true.
The pasture by our house where we kept my heifers had a decorative fence with three wooden slats running parallel to the ground. On the interior of each slat was barbed wire. If I did not have time to find my shoes, I surely did not have time to use the gate. Knowing how to slide between the slats without getting caught in the barbed wire was such a habit as a kid that I can still recall the tactic to this day. Muscle memory? Maybe.
Another clear memory is that one early morning at the state fair, I was leaning over tying my heifer’s halter in the pack after returning from the wash rack. She was in heat and jumped on my back. Yes, I had my 800-pound heifer’s front legs on my shoulders. Fortunately, I did not get hurt so I could joke that I gave my heifer a piggy-back ride.
Fairs leave us with lots of stories. One other year, one of my friends was standing behind a bed of cows. Many times, cows get more access to rich hays like alfalfa at the fair and just indulge, resulting in loose manure. This cow certainly enjoyed her fill. Unfortunately, the cow lifted her tail, and in that same moment, she coughed. It happened so fast there was no time for my friend to move. I do not think those show whites he was wearing could be revived. I wonder if all these years later he can finally get a good laugh out of that one. I surely did after I picked my chin up off the ground in astonishment that day.
While stories about manure and the like may not be suitable for the dinner table at most homes, they are just everyday life to those on the dairy. If you want to grow tall, I have leaked my secret . . .
Erin Massey is the product development manager at Prairie Farms, a farmer-owned cooperative based in Edwardsville, Illinois. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the development process, from concept to commercialization. Erin grew up on a Florida dairy farm and has a deep-rooted passion to invigorate the dairy industry. Erin earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida. Her personal mantra is "Be Bold."