The Difficulties of Dairy Farming
Dairy Cows Tread A Fine Line Every Day, Without Knowing It
If Dairy Cows, and other such creatures (whose yields are relied upon day after day), were granted an increased amount of consciousness or awareness – the pressure they would be under would surely be too much for them.
Although I’ve spent many years living on a Dairy Farm in both my home country of Bavaria in the 80s, as well as more recently with my wife in Dorset, I’ve always had mixed feelings about the relationship between a farmer and his cows. At an early age, I took a cue from my parents – as most children do.
From traditional Bavarian stock, my parents knew nothing but livestock management and dairy farming. They had both come from Dairy farming families, their marriage creating quite the local storm, as their union essentially ended a business rivalry that had existed for decades. Judit and Hal were two star-crossed lovers, who had seen each other from across a crowded showroom.
The first time I met my wife would later mirror that oddly charged scene.
Of course, when my parents met, in 1950s Bavaria, life was a little different. In a time before the popularisation of culture and the proliferation of television, a man’s job and farm were his life. By default then, the farm was emblematic of the entire family’s status and the source of their pride.
As such, when farmers came together for auctions or shows, the presentation of their livestock (and their respective families) represented everything that a man was. At these events, pride was at the forefront and tempers could run high, as sales and bids were decided based on surface traits. However, these events were also a rare chance to socialise and intermingle with people from around the area.
In the dusky corners of the cavernous sheds, where hundreds of cows calmly trundled in procession, Judit and Hal met and talked for hours, sharing their passions for animal care and the great outdoors.
The contradiction between my parents’ sincere love for their creatures and the ruthless view of each animal as a commodity was something that would often confuse me. It’s something that I’ve learnt to come to terms with in the last few years. Running a farm with my wife and relying on the animals for our income does change the nature of our relationship with them.
The 80 or odd animals we keep here in Dorset are relied upon to return on the value that we expended in purchasing them. As much as we can care and nurture their development, if they do not supply us with enough product to sell – then we have to make the hard decision to either sell or butcher them.
I’ve had moments of intense deja vu in the last year or so, as my three kids have started to grow up a little and begin to understand the nature of our business.
Trying to tell them why a certain cow is being led away from the rest is a challenge – but it’s a truth that all farmer’s children must learn in time.