Wow, what beautiful day in Southern Minnesota today! The sun is out, the crops are growing; sure, there is some humidity today, but tomorrow they said it’s going to be nice out! They are predicting rain for this weekend, but we should be finished up with hay by then. I got to wake up this morning, eat breakfast, hug my family and head outside to do my daily duties on the dairy. My cows are doing fine, except for the heat lately – that heat sure took a toll on them, so they are down in milk just a little bit. I have 4 employees on the farm, and I am lucky to have them here by my side, otherwise I would be lost. I did lose one milker the other day, so I may have to pull the night shift this weekend.  The skidloader is down this morning with a flat tire, and the milk pump sounds a bit funny – I’ll have to address both of those issues before noon.” 

“My wife is a great cook. She is making some casserole for lunch today.  Although, I’m not sure what’s in it, but it doesn’t matter because she can make anything taste good. Adam didn’t show up for milking this afternoon and he didn’t call until 2 hours after he was supposed to be there. I guess his 5th grandma passed away this morning. I guess I will be pulling the afternoon shift too. I have 4 loads of manure to haul, but the spreader needs to be greased first otherwise I am going to have a problem. I guess bedding will have to wait until tomorrow because my daughter plays softball tonight. We have been working on catching flyballs in the backyard lately, and I want her to know how proud I am of her when she catches one. I told her we would go to Dairy Queen for ice cream after the game. All of my night help showed up, or at least I think – no one called. I got home and ran to the barn to check on the guys – all is good, and the milk pump does sound better now. My wife got the kids bathed and I hugged them all and sent them to bed. I kissed my wife and held her for a while. I asked her, ‘What are we going to do?’.”

“Today was a pretty good day, there were minimal problems to fix, only one person didn’t show up, sure I have more to do tomorrow because I didn’t have time to bed the cows today, but I was with my family and got to spend a bit of time watching my daughter play ball. I am a dairyman, and this year and the past few have been tough. I have debt that I cannot service as fast as I want, I can’t pay my help as much as they need, and my cows have ok production, but I need more to make the cashflow work. Even though I got to be with my family today, that doesn’t happen every day. I am sure they want to see me more. 

Does this sound similar to what your diary as a dairy farmer may sound like? It’s no secret that the day of the life of a dairy farmer has its struggles and thoughts are running through your head all day long about what the future of your farm will look like in 1, 5, or 10 years. Each dairy farm is a product of hard work and discipline to seek success and pride in the work that is performed every day to provide food for the world. We can compare ourselves to many other businesses who compete for their space in the market, but the fact is that in a commodity market, we are a bit different. I know your mind may explore the things that may not be as desirable about dairy farming, but folks the industry that we are a part of is one of such great risk, and with great risk comes great opportunity. Though much of our optimism can be clouded by financial stress, I urge you to think outside of the box. Creativity is not discriminated by age, herd size or experience.  We tend to get caught up in our day to day grind and we get comfortable doing the same things the same way we always have.  Do you have a special place that you can go to think? It doesn’t have to be miles away, it could be in a pickup on a 4 mile stretch of road, or in the parlor, or in the combine parked in the shed.  I think it is very important to have a place to go that you can have some time to yourself to develop positive and clear thoughts—any thoughts- frustrations you may have, processes you are trying to review, family, or anything that may require you to be alone for 10-30 minutes. This can be some of the most useful time in your day.

When you are deep into thinking mode, think about what defines success on your farm.  The measure of success on your farm should not be set by what your neighbor thinks, or what the industry guidelines are.  Be proud of how far you have come knowing that the journey isn’t the same for everyone. Be grateful for the place that you are in and celebrate the little things that you may take for granted every day.

There is no doubt that some days may feel like a drag, most everyone has these. Think about someone in your life that gives you energy and visit with them 1-2 times per week even if only for 5-10 minutes. This can be such a reviving method to restoring positive energy in your week. After all, you yourself are a role model either to your kids, neighbors, friends, and employees. The mood that you are in is reflected on to other people whether you know it or not. Give yourself a reason to smile or make someone’s day because at the end of the day, whether all the work gets done or not, whether you made any money or not, or if someone didn’t show up– you still have a family that loves you, a roof over your head, and food on the table.  Take a deep look into making sure that you DO NOT sacrifice your happiness. You have worked too hard in life raising a family, building a business, and building yourself to turn down the opportunity to smile.

I challenge you to think outside of the box and be creative. Think about how you can be successful in your daily life even though there are daily struggles. Make time for the little things in your life even though it may seem more difficult when your day is spinning around you.  As the world moves forward beyond our control, strive to be a forward thinker and keep tomorrow in mind.  Make time for people in your life, remember to smile because these are some of the most important things.

 Todd Speltz

by Todd Speltz