May 24 2024 08:39 AM

    People who work on farms pick up a long list of interesting skills that come in handy on all sorts of occasions.

    As I was walking through one of our freestall barns bringing fetch cows up to get milked, it dawned on me that farmers have some very peculiar, yet somewhat boastworthy talents.

    Now, you’ve probably heard, read, or even said yourself that farmers are jacks-of-all-trades because they sometimes serve as mechanics and truckers while simultaneously working as their own veterinarians, geneticists, nutritionists, and much more. While that is true, farmers also have their own set of somewhat strange and incredibly specific skills that may leave others both impressed and dumbfounded as to why such a thing is important to have mastered.

    I never quote from movies, yet I find myself repeating the iconic line, “What I do have are a very particular set of skills.” Some of you may recognize that quote from one of Liam Neeson’s movies.

    With that, I present to you a little collection of what I consider to be some extremely specific, quirky, and downright laughable talents that either you or other farmers in your life may very well possess.

    • Farmers have a knack for remembering the exact markings, features, and personalities of hundreds of cows at a time.
    • They have an incredible eye for guessing the weight of an animal, which is particularly helpful when taking cattle to market or figuring out the dosage of any needed medications.
    • Farmers can glance at a span of distance and eyeball exactly the length of material they need to do the job. (I’m talking the perfect length of chain to secure a gate, wire to mend a fence, board to fix that building, a bolt to hold something together, and so on.)
    • They are especially gifted at coming up with a valid excuse to leave any event early or miss it entirely. We’ve heard and said them all: “The cows are out,” “A heifer is calving,” “I need to check the fence,” “That calf needs another round of electrolytes,” “The hay is getting too dry,” “It looks like rain,” or for some of you, “The robot (robotic milking system) is calling.”
    • They can spot a rock in anyone’s field from a mile away. Year after year of picking rocks out of fields growing up has led me to consider this one of my own special talents — it’s just something your eye becomes trained to notice. Now, my husband and I point out rocks as we’re out driving, both laughing and being entirely serious about the matter at the same time.
    • Farmers are gifted at casually working “It wouldn’t be so bad without the wind” or "If it wasn’t for the humidity, it would be a nice day" and “So, how much rain did y’all get?” into any conversation.
    • They know all the local activities despite rarely leaving the farm.
    • They reliably supply the pocketknife for opening difficult wrapping at family Christmas. The best part of this is when there are multiple farmers in the room and they all whip out a different pocketknife to offer simultaneously.
    • Farmers are skilled at reciting the medical history and/or pedigree of any animal on the farm on demand.
    • They know who farms every field in the area and the full history of ownership and renters — all while calling the farms by the last name of someone who owned it four generations ago. They’re also the biggest plat book enthusiasts. (Seriously, my husband has been standing next to me for 15 minutes reading the plat book as I write this.)
    • Last, but not least, farmers can fashion a fix for just about anything using a piece of baler twine. Need I say more?

    Molly Ihde (Schmitt)

    The author dairy farms with her parents and brother near Hawkeye, Iowa. The family milks approximately 300 head of grade Holstein cows at Windsor Valley Dairy LLC — split half and half between a double-eight parallel milking parlor and four robotic milking units. In the spring of 2020, Molly decided to take a leap and fully embrace her love for the industry by returning full time to her family’s dairy.