Sept. 7 2023 09:20 AM

Between dry conditions, heat, and health problems, this summer has been a long one.

In Alan Jackson’s song, “Summertime Blues,” he discusses how, as a teenager, you work all summer and do not have the opportunity to enjoy it. That perspective most likely resonates with 80% to 90% of teenagers to this day. However, farm kids are different. When summer ends, their chores and time in the field becomes limited. They go from spending long hours out in the fields to six to eight hours a day indoors at school. For me, the first few days of school were like a vacation. You get to be inside in the air conditioning and sitting down instead of on your feet all day. But very quickly, the “vacation” feeling left, and I was bored, wanting to be at work.

As an adult working full time, though, my end of summer blues look a little different. This year, the rain stopped in late July. The few showers here and there since haven’t done much other than settle the dust for a day or two. On the crop side, our hay burnt up. A 5-acre field in a normal year will provide an average of six to 10 bales to the acre. This year, that same field provided us with three total bales.

Corn wise, things aren’t great, either. The lack of rain has stunted the development of the ears. Some fields look great, and others do not. We plant later than most, so we are still another three to four weeks from chopping. It’s just disheartening to know all the time, money, and energy that went into the crop will not be shown during harvest like previous years. Along with drought, the corn has been damaged by both bear and deer. Even with the allocated bear permits from the game warden, we are no match for the ever-proliferating deer and black bear. Ten to 40 acres are damaged a year. Since we only plant around 130 acres, this is a huge loss.

Cow wise, I’m fighting mastitis and respiratory issues left and right. I finally get two cows cleared up and back in the tank and another cow comes in sick. We’ve constantly been cleaning barns, bedding stalls, and doing all we can; it’s just a ridiculous time of year. We are having to find different medicines, new vaccines, and try all we can to get the herd healthy again.

I know, I know — things could always be worse. We could be dealing with wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and the whole nine yards. Let’s be honest, Mother Nature is brutal. We count our blessings every day, but it’s okay to feel down once in a while. The heat and humidity haven’t helped any of the aforementioned situations and have really ground our nerves throughout the summer. The promise of cooler days is welcomed, but for now we keep pushing. Although we feel blue, we will always push through. Happy harvest to all and stay safe out their folks.

Courtney Henderson

The author is a sixth-generation farmer and fifth-generation dairy producer in southwest Virginia, where she and her family own and operate a 145-head Holstein dairy. Courtney is involved in agriculture organizations throughout her community and is a graduate of Virginia Tech.