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How a cow changed my life

By April 03, 2014 ,

I am the product of a traditional small family farm and I'm pretty proud of that.

My dad milked 36 dairy cows and farmed 500 acres, which by today's standards is quite small. We also had a few hogs, beef cattle, sheep and horses through the years. Some of my best memories growing up took place on the farm.

I was active in 4-H and FFA and started my Jersey dairy herd at the ripe young age of eight. I started with one crazy heifer named Shirley and I'll never forget my early memories in the show ring as she'd freak out and drag my 80 pound body across the arena. Good times...NOT!

The most cows Dad ever milked at one time was just over 50 and I knew every single one of their names by heart. (Today, there is a farm in Indiana that milks 30,000 cows, that's nearly 1000% more than Dad!)

Most of the cows were pretty sweet. But there were the occasional ornery ones. And the meanies too. Have you ever had a cow actually try to bite you? Think angry buffalo. It's not common at least not in my experience, but lookout if "she" is having a bad day.

But there were always plenty of sweeties to even out the angry buffalo in the group. I always sneaked the sweeties a little extra grain and alfalfa flakes when Dad wasn't looking. But when he would catch me, we'd both just laugh, because he would often do the exact same thing.

I had my favorites too of course. Katherine and Macaroni. I used to sit on Katherine's back when I was little, like age 3. Her neck tag read Number 1. She was the sweetest. I miss her.

Macaroni was beautifully colored with a dark black face, a chestnut colored body, a white star on her face and a white tail. I helped name her as a baby calf when I was maybe eight or nine. I remember the day we sold all of the cows when Dad liquidated the herd the first time in 1994. I couldn't believe she was being loaded up and sold to someone else. No one could never love her like I did.

I helped Dad feed baby calves, bed pens, throw hay out for the heifers, clean the milk house and if he was milking through supper time, I'd bring his dinner out or we'd order pizza and chow down in the center barn aisle together.

Dad loved the farm and the cows. And it didn't take long for me to share the same love. When I graduated high school, I wrote a career goals summary that indicated my plans for the future. What degree I wished to obtain and my intentions for a career path after college.

My focus was on "supporting the sustainability of small family farms" nationwide and "saving the small family farm" from corporate agriculture. These were the words I used.

So how exactly did I get from 36 dairy cows to over 12,000 pigs a year. Good grief what a scale change. When I was 18, I would've scoffed at the thought. Where is my heart today? And how do I feel about small family farms versus and/or corporate agriculture. And what exactly does corporate agriculture mean.

Guess you'll have to read next week to find out!

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