From the Farm: It’s hard to stand by

It has always been a dream of Steve and mine to have one, or both, of our boys come back to farm.

Secretly, we used to wish upon a star that maybe just one would return to continue the dairy operation. We just figured it would be a lot easier if one of them decided on take on other adventures.

We really didn’t need to keep our wishes a secret. The two of them figured out on their own what will happen to the farm when Steve and I retire.

It just so happens, Joey likes the cows way more than the Russell. So I guess he will be the one to take over our dairy operation and move onto the home place.

Russell likes doing field world way more than Joey. So he will be the one to venture off the farm and find employment elsewhere. I don’t think he will totally ditch working on our farm. I believe he will be the crop guy and do custom farming for Joe.

It’s a win-win situation for the two of them.

It’s harder than heck as a parent to start the process of letting them take over the farm. All we are doing is letting them make some decisions we think they have the capacity to handle.

Oh, we are not even close to letting Joe be the owner of our operation, but this summer we started letting him be the man in charge in the milking parlor.

Joe was quite confident becoming the man in charge. He was sure milking the cows was going to be a piece of cake. I mean, he has watched and participated in milking since he was a wee tot. He knew we were producing a great product. He also has the attitude of all new college kids starting their jobs – “I can conquer anything.”

What he didn’t know was that before he could remember, Steve and I struggled with maintaining a low somatic cell count.

It hasn’t always been sugar and honey around here. Or should I say milk and cream?

Even though Joe had no idea what was going to happen to him being the parlor manager, Steve and I did and we had to let it happen.

Now that’s a tough parenting responsibility.

We knew production was going to slip a bit, and we also knew that quality was going to drop as well.

We have watched how Joey milks the cows. We know he doesn’t pay as much attention to the little details that Steve and I have learned to watch. For instance, sometimes Joe doesn’t get a cow’s teats as clean as he should before putting the milking unit on.

Believe me, I have mentioned it to him, but then I get accused of being too particular.

“If you do it correctly in the beginning, you will avoid having to discard milk from that cow,” I told him. “Nobody here likes to use the quarter-milker; it’s a pain in the ‘behind.'”

Steve and I sat back and watched the somatic cell count (SCC) increase daily. The SCC lets us know the count of the white blood cells in the milk. White blood cells are the cells that fight infections. It’s a good indication letting us know if a cow is not feeling up to snuff.

We don’t get notifications of individual cows. Instead, each day a text message is sent letting us know the average of the bulk tank. It’s up to all of the people milking to find the suspect cow. So we start searching for the cow out of 130 cows that has an infection in her milk.

It may take one day; it may take several to identify the cow. But as soon as you find her and separate her milk, the SCC drops immediately. The cow will receive a treatment and eventually she’ll feel better and her milk can go back into the tank.

It took only a few weeks to start seeing how the higher numbers were starting to tork Joey off. He would receive the text and not say a word. (We all receive them at pretty much the same time, so we knew what he was seeing.) He would come in for breakfast and was frustrated as he talked to us about finding another cow that needed to have her milk dumped.

He was at a loss for how to proceed.

That’s when I knew it was time for Super Mommy. I volunteered to help milk one evening. I did it as a “volunteer” and asked questions that would help Joe figure out what was happening to the cows. I didn’t tell him what to do; I let him figure it out on his own.

That night he decided to switch things up a bit. Yes, the cell count has been slowly decreasing, but it’s still early in the game. Hopefully, it keeps trending downward, or I may have to put on my Super Mommy cape again.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at

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