It is both exciting and scary at times to be a young dairy producer in today’s world, but it also provides opportunities that generations before us never imagined. My husband and I milk a herd of dairy cows, and technology has enabled us to raise our children on a farm and still be sustainable.
While studying dairy science in college, I lived by one motto: “It’s all about efficiency.” I always wanted to get the most out of the work that I put into any project. That is still a motto I live by today.
Looking back, past generations of dairy farmers aged very quickly due to the hard labor that placed a lot of stress on their bodies. Things like forking manure, feeding with a wheel barrow and picking rocks by hand are all in the past; skid steers, TMR mixers and power equipment are here to stay. Robots, activity monitors and automation are all options for farmers to be more efficient. This is extremely important for me as I try to balance our farm, my job as a Vita Plus nutritionist, and our growing family.
One thing that we haven’t lost through the generations is hard work. If you are a young farmer starting to dairy from the ground up, you have your work cut out for you. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Long hours and sleepless nights may make it seem like you’re fighting an uphill battle; remind yourself why you wanted to farm in the first place. For my husband and me, working with cattle (and, in his case, machinery too) is what makes it easier to get out of bed so early every morning.
Great for the kids
More importantly, we can’t think of any other way we’d rather raise our children. As we farm, we teach our kids to have a work ethic and compassion among many other life lessons. My two-and-a-half-year-old son loves to “help” feed the calves, scrape the walk and let the cows outside. He already understands that all of the work has to be done before we can go into the house to play. He loves playing with the animals and gets very concerned when they are sick or leave the farm. I can’t imagine any other way to teach children about life and death and that hard work pays off.
With many more working farmers in their generations, our parents and grandparents didn’t have to think about telling their stories of producing food. As a young dairy farmer, I am taking the opportunity to teach my children the importance of this task early. Our son and three-month-old daughter will be part of a generation that knows even less about how the food on its table is produced. I want them to be able to go to school and teach their friends about how their food is grown and produced. That way, if my son or daughter wants to farm 20 years from now, they will have the freedom to do so, and be proud of it.
Eliza Ruzic and her husband operate a dairy farm near Greenwood, Wis. She also works as a dairy specialist at Vita Plus.