Saying Goodbye, not every farm day is a happy day …


Our first September Dairy Award

Probably one of the hardest things about farming is saying goodbye. Let me tell you a sad story…


Sharing a hug with Haiti

It happened last month just before Christmas that our ‘very best’ cow was about to calve, by Very Best, I mean that she had the highest score in our barn. She was an Excellent 92-2 times Excellent cow from Lheros. In the dairy world she was, if I could quote the famous movie character Borat, “Verrrry Niiice!” Not only was she beautiful, but my husband had spent time training her and taking her to cow shows, she was halter broke and extremely friendly. She greeted you with hugs, nuzzled your shoulder every morning, and licked your face. When you came to the barn she was always the first to greet you, and she was always pleasant in the milking parlour. We took our engagement photos with her standing by our side. And we talked about one day taking photos of our kids on her back; she was that tame. She was a pet, a valued employee, and a family member. She was the barn Diva, and she knew it. She won us our very first September Dairy Award, a significant part of our farm.


Haiti enjoys some choice feed… yum!

If there was ever a cow that you could fall in love with, #702 Suncountry Haiti Lheros was it.


EX 92-2E Suncountry Haiti Lheros

But December was a difficult month for Alberta farmers last year. For us it was the most difficult month since starting our farm… we spent countless hours trudging through the huge snowfalls that Alberta experienced. Back and forth we rushed to get warm dry straw to our animals again and again in the unusually frigid temperatures. We worked tiresomely to ensure everyone could make it through. We fed, cleaned, milked, and cared for our cows through each huge snow storm. One night it reached -47 C with a wind chill and we blanketed all our calves in their hutches and brought the tiny ones in to our shop so they wouldn’t chill. The only ones on the farm who weren’t covered in frosties were my giant Bernese Mountain dogs… who love the cold weather… they embraced it! In my 28 years living in Alberta – I can’t remember a more difficult winter.


Haiti enjoys an early sunrise

On a very very cold night, Haiti was about to calve. I walked out to check on her several times that day and I just knew, because her breathing had changed, that she was going into labour. She was all bunked up in our heifer barn, surrounded with dry warm straw and ready. What I didn’t know was that inside of her a fever was starting that would debilitate her before night time…

She was 8 years old, which is getting a bit older for a Dairy cow, but at first she gave no signs of illness, she stayed standing and alert; she was eating and drinking. She was healthy, and she was happy. We prepared ourselves for her calving, and were prepared to help her out.
But when we came out again, we were surprised to see she was laying down and in distress. I remember the look on my hubs face… his favourite girl, his pride and joy, his friend – was in trouble. We rushed about in the cold – cold – COLD – and immediately began to treat her. A milk fever can happen in any mother of the animal kingdom, whenever the mother is producing milk and doesn’t have enough calcium. It is common, but usually happens just after the baby is born and her body is producing rich collostrum. There is a simple and effective treatment, in which we give the cow extra calcium to replenish her stores. Typically, within minutes the cow feels better. But this situation was different. Haiti was in the middle of labour, and this is very uncommon. We gave her calcium and ran inside to put on extra layers of clothing… it was going to be a long and cold night.

We waited by her side, providing her with everything we could think of to make her comfortable. It wasn’t until the early hours of the next day that we realized she was not going to have enough strength to push the calf out by herself, but she was ready. So we helped her by pulling. I remember my hands hurt so bad from the cold, and my feet were numb. But we couldn’t give up on her. We would not leave her side. The calf was healthy and quite large, but Haiti was not interested in licking her calf off like most mothers. In fact, she didn’t want anything to do with it. We took the calf in to dry off and put him in a blankie with a heat light so he wouldn’t chill. Then we returned to Haiti, who would not get up. We treated her again…nothing. We checked her for signs of any other illness… no signs. By the time all was done it was morning, and time to milk the cows again and start a new day. Cold, sleepless, and sore, we headed to tend to the other cows. Haiti was no longer sick from Milk Fever, she had quickly recovered – however, she still would not get up.

Sometimes, when a cow lies down (if they have experienced some illness or stress, or sometimes for no apparent reason at all) they don’t get up again. You have to try to get them up because the longer they lay down the shorter they have to live. I can never describe to you in words, the agony of trying to get a cow you love – to stand – when she herself has given up. You can urge her, beg her, slap her, push her, pull her, get angry with her… because you NEED her to get up. PLEASE GET UP! PLEASE, PLEASE GET UP!! You can fall to your knees…

Days passed. We doctored her over Christmas, giving her food and water and keeping her warm. We couldn’t bear to admit that she was finished. Haiti was family. We tried everything we knew we could without hurting her. We lifted her, an 1800 lb cow, in a sling held by a tractor, but she simply would not stand on her legs. She ate only small amounts of food. We had her checked to see if anything else was wrong, but the vet found nothing. She was deteriorating more and more each day. It was evident that she had just decided that this was her time. And she wasn’t budging.

And just before New Years, it was time. My husband and I said goodbye to our favourite cow, sad, defeated, and devastated.


Our engagement photo’s with Haiti by our side.

I am sharing this story as a memorial to our #702, our Haiti. And I am sharing this story so that my readers can further understand what a cow means to a farmer. We are forced to make hard decisions, how can you save this animal? What are you going to do next? Why isn’t it working? Why has she given up?? Why won’t she listen to me? Is it time to say goodbye? Does she continue to have a good quality of life? But never for one second does this not phase us or affect us. A farmer may spend all night reviving a chilled calf. A farmer will brave frigid temperatures to assist a mama who’s in distress. A farmer will restlessly spend hours upon hours, days upon days, nursing a cow that can’t get up. A farmer will shed tears, over their animals. It doesn’t matter if the cow’s purpose is for milk or food, or auction, or money, or show. What matters is our animals, and we are their primary caretakers. We do NOT take that loosely.


Haiti enjoys a green snack.

We will never forget our Haiti. Not just because she won an award, or because she made us proud, or because she was our best cow… but because she had character, personality and made a difference in our life. She gave us motivation and passion to farm, and greeted us each morning happily and contently. She will be in our hearts forever.

And we will never ever forget that cold cold night that we spent with her.


On our farm- you will always be remembered Haiti. As one of the reasons that we decided to start farming.

Posted in Ag For Life, Agvocate, Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farming, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A day in the life of a Dairy farmer(‘s wife)… a follow up lesson.

Well as you may know, my previous posts touched on the basic things you need to know to start a dairy farm. Of course there is so much more to learn. Remember I said my life had become an endless study? This is an understatement :). Every day there is a new adventure on the farm. A new hurdle to jump, road block to overcome, or lesson to learn. But a long day means a long blog post… so take a deep breathe…

Let’s get talking about what your first day may be like! Or any given day of the year for that matter. Each day will change and differ with the time of year, what needs to be done, the weather (oh its -45 outside?… you still have to work!), if you are getting ready for a big show, or harvesting your crops ect. ect. But there are some basic things that will need to be done every single day 365 days/year on a dairy farm.

First of all let me say that on some farm’s you get to be a Dairy wife- which don’t get me wrong, is still a LOT of work! But the farm may be big enough that it employs a worker or two, and your duties may be more directed towards your home. But most farms in Canada are still run by families, which means that you and your kids will always have a part in the farm work. In my case we have just started our farm together, and well… we are the only ones here. Thus it is safe to say I get my wellies dirty each day. I don’t milk twice every single day, sometimes I attack a mountain load of house work or have a baking party instead… but I am always a part of the day to day farm work. This is why I have categorized myself as a Dairy Farmer (‘s wife). Which is probably more fun, because I make sure that my opinion about farming procedure’s is well heard:

-“Um honey this calf is cold.

-I don’t care if there is 4 feet of mud I want to let the cows out to play.

-I want ducks.

-You missed a spot.

– No, I don’t like that fence there.

-Let’s use THIS bull for breeding, its pretty…. erm I mean… it has high genomics.

– Did I mention I want ducks?”


(My ducks are so cute!) My hubs is so wonderful and patient. But what’s great is we really get to work together and make the farm our own, we build ourselves and our relationship stronger through our farm. So lets get started… A day in the life of a Dairy Farmer (‘s wife);


Imagine sleeping sooo soundly, cozy in a big warm feather bed – you know the kind that feels like happiness. And then, your alarm clock screams at you at 5:00 am. Yes. You smack it across the room angrily, and you want to crawl under your covers and escape the cold morning… but you know that you have to get up now because there are some cows waiting in the barn for you with full udders. They will actually be waiting in line if you are late- because they know the routine and they like punctuality. Cows need to be milked a minimum of twice per day, at least every 12 hours. Too long and they are getting uncomfortable. You will crawl out of bed and put on some work clothes, maybe a couple layers if its a cold day (who ever said long johns couldn’t be sexy?) Your Husband might go to the barn first to get started while you make some early morning coffee to bring in mugs. When you and your Husband get to the barn you need to put on some coveralls and wellies, for in fact you may be about to get into some poo. You get everything set up and sanitized and … you head to the barn, when you open the door you find 50 (at our farm) beautiful ladies waiting for you. You walk and make loud calls to herd all the ladies into a waiting area. They know what to do and come easily and sleepily, they stretch out and wake up -nuzzle you good morning. There is always one cow in the herd who slept on the wrong side of the bedding, and feels a little grumpy… she might stare at you like you are an idiot – but eventually she will come too. All the ladies line up in the milking parlour, and now the day begins. Once you have pulled on your ‘smashing rubber gloves, and start the first group of ladies milking, you are officially having your first milking coffee date. When we are milking early in the morning the cows don’t mind if we sneak a few kisses here and there. 😉

When milking is finished the cleaning begins. Everything is cleaned and rinsed, and the equipment goes through an after wash. And you will get some bottles of fresh warm milk and go to feed your babies. Each wobbly new calf gets bottle fed by hand, and if you’ve ever nursed a baby animal you would agree that its a bonding moment. Our calves get handled daily and grow to know us well, as we grow to know them. We know each calves number and name, and chances are she will stay in our herd until she is old and grey. Even the squeamish can appreciate the little snot bubbles a baby calf wipes on your arm while nudging you for more milk. And I will tell you that each cow has her own personality and it means a lot to know them from the beginning.


Now once you have fed all your fur babies, your Husband will go to make feed for all the rest of the cows. They are hungrily waiting, and they eat before you do. If your farm is anything like mine, now is the time to feed all the Other animals. What’s that you say? You have 50-100 cows and calves and you feel the need to have other animals? Insanity?


Maybe… I go to feed and water my ducks, sheep, turkey’s, dogs, barn cats, and chickens, collect the eggs… and head into the house to make breakfast. Ok farmer lady, you’ve done the dirty work and now you need to feed your giant man baby- and by that I mean your husband. Breakfast around here usually consists of toast and fresh farm eggs, fresh milk and of course coffee. We eat and relax, take a short break… talk about the day and devise a plan. Some days there is a specific task to be done, such as seeding, combining… building a shop… the list never ends! We decide what tasks need to be done that day over breakfast, and then my husband goes back outside to clean the barn and refresh the straw that our ladies sleep in. Each morning usually goes about the same, its nice to have routine when there are so many things that need to happen daily (and your as forgetful as me!). During the rest of the morning your activities might vary, maybe you will do some cleaning and laundry- I hope you don’t get too surprised when you realize that farm work comes complete with mountains upon mountains of filthy clothing. You may do some internet blogging… or playing with your kids (I don’t have any of these yet by the way… and imagine my day will be crazy x 500 once I do!), and by 10:30 am it is again coffee time.


Wait what? Its only 10:30 am??? … well yea you got up at 5:00 am, who does that?
You may want to have a piece of cake and a coffee for your husband when he comes inside, he’s already been working all morning. At our farm, morning coffee usually includes reading material. And my husband reads about dairy news, farm news, or sires that he could choose to breed to his ladies. He may do some research, or read the newspaper… and then its back to work! This is where it gets really busy, because now that you have accomplished the morning milking/feeding/and cleaning of your cows- you can do other jobs. Lets say for time’s sake that you aren’t in the midst of any huge spectacular all day jobs, but that its an average farm day. So today you may go outside to help your husband sort some heifers before lunch…

You once again get all dressed up in your covies and wellies, and head outside. Cows are very social animals, but the heifers (young cows) are split into groupings according to their age- the reason is because a little heifer gets picked on by a bigger heifer and sometimes isn’t allowed to eat (let’s say this is Junior high school for cows). So we sort the heifers according to their size and age, so that each has a chance to eat and grow all they want, without someone taking their lunch money or giving them a wedgie.  You are going to need at least 2 people to sort your heifers, they like to run circles around you and they think sorting time is play time. But cows also poop a lot, in fact… they poop just about every 15 minutes… (they especially love to kick poop at you) so when you get done helping your husband usher heifers into another grouping… please head inside to clean yourself up.


After you have chased cows and cleaned up, your going to need to make Lunch. At our farm Lunch is the biggest meal of the day because in the evening we don’t get in until late and we don’t want to eat (nor do I want to cook) a huge meal. So you will want to be in from the morning work by at least 12:00 pm, and have lunch prepared by 1:00. Lunch may consist of meat, potatoes, bread, and vegetables, it’s pretty well rounded because you are working a long day. We usually conclude lunch with a Yoghurt. Dairy is a definite necessity in this house. Mmm mmm good.
Finally… it is one o’clock and you are tired. But the day is only half done. Perhaps if it is a slow day you may lay down after lunch for 15 minutes… but don’t get too comfy because many days this can’t happen. It is crucial that all your herd is taken care of at all times. There is no -I’ll-do-that-tomorrow, in dairy land.

You head back outside with your husband and, you guessed it, get back into your wellies and covies. (You might as well buy a nice pair, because your going to live in them.) Your husband needs your help to herd a cow in a stall to be A.I.’d. What is A.I. you ask? Well on a Dairy farm, we usually don’t keep a wide array of Dairy Bulls. The reason is because they are incredibly mean. A Holstein bull can reach maturity and full mean-ness as early as 6 -8 months of age… and even if you spent your entire life cuddling him, he can not be trusted. Farm’s that do keep a bull around will have him behind a very strong fence, and it is VERY dangerous to work with him. There are professional’s out there instead that breed Dairy bulls, they know how to keep and handle them, and instead of us risking our lives every day in the pasture- we purchase Semen from a catalogue of Bulls that we would like to breed to our cows. Just like if you go to the sperm bank and look through a book of potential… erm… potentials. Lets just leave it at that. Our bull calves are still bottle fed and picked up after a few weeks by someone from a farm that is set up to raise bulls specifically, there they will have better care than we will be able to give them.

Having had special training in A.I. -artificial insemination, you or your hubby will do a very routine and clean safe procedure to A.I. a cow who has been showing a lot of, well… friskiness. And you will keep track of each cows heat and cycle very closely. For this and many other reasons you will keep a close eye on each cow every single day. And a few months from now, you will be able to check to see if she has happy news! My Husband usually does this, and I go to work with some calves by walking through them or haltering them so they are always calm and easy to manage.

Now you are walking around the side of the barn and the young lady you have been expecting to calf will be hunched over and breathing hard. A new baby Is coming!!!


Oh … to see the look on my own face the first time I saw a birth in action. You may want to have someone there with a camera. It could be hilarious. It must have been a twisted mix of awe and disgust, oh-my-gosh-that-looks-painful, fear, and happiness. It is truly a blessing to witness life being born. You will watch mama cow for a bit to determine if she needs help. Most of the time she will not have any problems, but sometimes if the calf is taking too long to come out… it will be your duty to step in and give her a hand. In this case your mama cow is doing ok, so you will get a pail of cold water just in case. If the calf is having trouble breathing after it comes out you can shock it into taking a breathe with a little dump of water. And it will, in most cases be just fine. We like to leave mama and calf together for a bit so she can clean and lick it all off. But then, just like a baby is rushed away to the nursery in a hospital, we pick up the baby and take it to some clean comfortable warm dry straw and safety in a little hutch. You will need to dip his or her little umbilical chord in iodine so it can’t get any infection, maybe if its cold put on a little calf blankie to keep its body temperature up, and then feed it a bottle of colostrum. Mama will go into the milking parlour to be milked tonight. And she is ok with that, because she knows we are taking care. For anyone who has any questions about why we don’t allow a calf to stay with its mama for too long, I will be making a longer post about this in the near future. But I assure you it is in the best interest of the calf, who is now safe and warm with a full belly.


After you have helped to deliver a little life, you are checking all the other cows and you discover a cow who has a sore foot. You will have to treat her foot right away by ushering her into a stall, cleaning her hoof and trimming it… then putting some ointment on to keep her from getting foot-rot or infection. She will walk away feeling much better. A dairy farmer needs to make sure that all his/her cows are comfortable and happy all the time- because a happy healthy cow gives scrumptious healthy milk. Plus you will love her like she is part of the family… and you wouldn’t let your brother or sister limp around on a sore leg would you? (unless maybe you afflicted said soreness yourself in some brotherly battle of epic proportions… )

By now it MUST be coffee time again! So… you will head in for a coffee and maybe a small cookie or cake. I know, I know, it gets tedious. But you will appreciate the break!
At our farm we have a coffee around 4:00pm… and then head back out for the second milking. Wait… you forgot there was a second milking? I told you this!
Get those wellies and those covies back on and get back out there. Sometimes before afternoon milking we like to do some extra cleaning in our parlour. Sweeping, scrubbing the milking units, or general maintinance. My husband may do some paper work (paper work?!…. you mean all this and there is also paper work?!…. why yes, and accounting too!), while I clean the tank because the milk has been picked up. And then we begin milking. Milking usually takes around 2 hours completely, once everything has been cleaned up. And of course you need to feed your fur babies again! All the little babies get a bottle, and sent to bed for the night. All the cows and calves have their feed pushed closer in case they need a midnight snack.
You’ll want to take a walk around the farm to make sure that everyone has everything they need before dark, all the animals still have water. No one is calving or in distress.
And then… you are finally allowed to head inside.


You may want to have a shower, you stink.


And a bed time snack, because it is around 8 or 9 pm by now. And if your anything like us, you will like to sit in front of the T.V. and vegetate or read for a half hour. Maybe have a beer… and then head to…. the cows. Because every single night, before you go to bed, you will quickly check on your cows one more time… push their feed, make sure everyone is ok, because they mean that much to you.

And finally… you will crawl into bed tiresomely, and drift off into a deep and happy cozy sleep. Dream about warm things like milk and cookies, happiness. Until… your alarm clock screams at you at 5:00am.

Posted in Ag For Life, Agvocate, Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farming, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Lemon Ricotta Cheese Cranberry Muffins…

Lemon, cheese, and cranberries all wrapped up in a little bun? Why yes!


I would like to start by saying that this post is a prelude to “a day in the life of a Dairy Farmer (‘s wife). And that post will in fact be coming right up! When I became a Dairy farmer I of course already knew the simple pleasures of cheese, milk, ice cream (nom nom nom), butter and one of my favorite’s -yoghurt. Oh me and cheese have been having a passionate love affair for some time… But I even gained a few poun*cough*… I mean a new found appreciation for these things when I was the one producing the milk that they are made from!
You have no idea really, where your food comes from… well of course you have some idea, but you didn’t milk the cow or feed the chicken yourself did you? In this day and age, unless your a farmer, it is unlikely to have that sort of experience. So picture spending a day tossing some feed to a lovely lady, enjoying her cow-lick kisses and her soft muzzle nuzzles, cleaning and milking her, then coming inside to enjoy some fantastic Canadian cheese with a tall glass of vino (or some delicious milk and cookies for the young at heart!).
Aaaaah… it doesn’t get much better then that unless you had picked the grapes yourself (or the chocolate chips- because those grow on trees right? he he)

My point is that it gives me the utmost pleasure to use 100% Canadian milk products, after I have seen that big milk truck take my milk away every other morning. And  know that I am contributing to something great.

Now I fancy myself a chef. Not really the ‘I have 3 ingredients and PRESTO I have made something that you can serve in a restaurant for 50$/plate chef,’ but more like the… ‘I’m tinkering around until something good happens, or… I burn the house down,’ sort of chef. I like to take inspiration from recipe’s or idea’s I have seen, and mix or make them my own. If they work out I make sure to jot them down -most of the time that is. Hopefully I will be more diligent about saving the ‘keeper’s’ when I am sharing with you. And as you can probably guess, my recipe’s will all involve a scrumptious and nutritious dairy product. Playing with milk products has been even more fun since I became a dairy farmer. And thus here is my first recipe, a very healthy hearty one too!

Lemon Ricotta Cheese Cranberry Muffins. (makes about 12 muffins)

Firstly you will need:

3/4 cups rolled oats
2 cups all purpose flour (I like to use 1 cup white unbleached and 1 cup whole wheat)
2tsps baking powder
3/4tsps. baking soda
1/4tsp salt
Lemon zest and juice from 2 lemon’s (you could also use oranges!)
1/4 cup milk
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
3/4-1 cup of honey (depending how sweet you like them)
1/4 cup coconut oil (or butter softened)
1Tbsp Vanilla extract
2Tbsp Chia Seeds (you could also use poppy, or flax!)
1 cup cranberries halved and dusted with flour

Preheat your oven to 350F, and in a big mixing bowl mix together your dry ingredients Flour, baking soda, baking powder, oats and salt. In a separate bowl mix together well the wet ingredients zest, milk, cheese, eggs, honey, vanilla, coconut oil.

Using a stand mixer or your super strong self, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just incorporated. Then fold in your chia seeds and halved cranberries (dusted in flour). The cranberries are dusted in flour so that they don’t sink to the bottom of the muffin mix.

Your mix should be thick enough for you to easily scoop into muffin tins that are greased with fresh butter or a healthy cooking spray. Fill the cups all the way to the top with little peaks for nice sized muffins.
If you like to make them look pretty like me, then take a few extra rolled oats, and sprinkle them on the top of each muffin. Just a few!

Bake them in the oven for approx. 20-25 min, or until the tops are set or slightly golden brown. These muffins won’t brown too much.

Let cool, and enjoy.
Whole wheat flour and rolled oats add a lot of nutrients and heaviness to these muffins, great for breakfast or for a filling energy snack. The ricotta cheese adds protein while making the muffins moist and delicious! Cranberries and lemon are a great and healthy taste combination, and the chia seeds add omega 3’s. These muffins are top notch, filling, satisfying and healthy! Better yet they are Husband approved and go great with … yes, coffee.

I hope you learn new ways to use that goodness that is Ricotta cheese, and enjoy them as much as we do!

Stay tuned for more fun recipes from my adventure’s in a dairy kitchen ❤

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Part #2 How to Start A Dairy Farm From Scratch

Alright alright, now … here is part two of my post much much too late due to a) hubs having spilt an entire cup of coffee on our laptop, b) learning how to use windows 8 and a fancy new computer, and c) my accountant being psychic and knowing the perfect moment to ask for an update on our books which I lost in said coffee incident. And thus… it had taken me mountain loads of time to get back to you. But I persevere!

How to start a dairy farm from scratch Part #2

3. Learn the Lingo…. So this is funny on my part because once I said to my Husband that I liked a calf because she had “pretty eyes,” which of course he well informed me was a mistake. Not to mention the time that I referred to an Excellent cow as having a “nice A…um… Bum,” eeeeeeeee wrong again! If you want to be a Dairy Farmer you most definitely have to learn the language, or risk embarrassing yourself or significant other at a show.  You must learn the names of every High Breed Sire such as (in stern superhero voice) “September Storm,” and “Goldwyn…” You must learn various abbreviations, the names of each brand of machinery and which is better than the other and why. You will even benefit from learning various Dutch and Swiss words- of course this is depending on where and who you farm with, our cows respond to certain Dutch commands such as “Schiet op!” and “Hup!.” Not to mention a wide range of un-determinable sounds and non-English swears for when something just doesn’t go right …. (remember that the word ‘s**t’ no longer applies as a swear word in this world, and will most likely be one of the first words your little ones learn. True story.) That’s tradition!

4. Get fit… To be a Dairy Farmer you will spend any given day lifting various weighted objects ranging from an awkward milking unit, to a bale of hay, a tractor tire, or a calf, maybe even a cow. You may have to pull, push or chase a cow out of some situation. You may have to wrestle. You will shovel poo and feed, you will climb various high objects… you will clean, walk miles a day, and you will work hard! So get fit! When I got married my friends asked me if I had been working out… but really I had only been milking cows.

5. Pick up a Java… what’s that you say? I’ll have a steamed hazelnut latte americano with no foam please… AH no. If you want to become a Dairy Farmer you had better drink your coffee like you like your cows… strong and black, erm … well with black spots… or red ones, or Jersey. Ok that sounded way better in my head! The only other exception is a shot of fresh milk. We have a schedule around here which consists of : milking with coffee, breakfast with coffee, feeding, coffee time, lunch (possibly with coffee), farm work, cake and coffee time, milking, dinner with c…just kidding… with beer- definitely beer. But you get the idea right? A Dairy farmer puts in a long hard day and drinks a lot of coffee. And don’t underestimate the comradery of a coffee break! When another farmer, salesperson, feed specialist, or family comes to visit we will of course have hot coffee in the pot. Coffee time is the best time. (next to beer time of course)


6. Get Social with the Ladies… Now, throw away that old social life. Dairy Farming takes dedication. No more late nights out dancing and drinking or you will be a wobbly milker in the early morning (trust me)… no more dinner dates, no more spontaneous road trips. Look at those cows out there! They need you. Dairy farming is a different way of life and it’s not for everyone. I’ve been farming for a year milking every day at 5:00 pm and my dad still calls me at 4:30 to come over for supper (hint hint dad) . If we go shopping, to the zoo, to my cousin’s house or on a date… we have to leave after everyone is well taken care of and then be back by milking time. Our most frequent hang out is the ice cream shop just a few miles down the road, where we can enjoy an ice cream and a walk down the river… then hurry back for more work to be done. And a vacation is no small feat, finding someone to milk the cows and take care of the farm until we get back- someone you trust with your lively hood- It just can’t happen all the time! But… don’t get me wrong, I love it… and If you’re a real Dairy Farmer nothing could be more fun than a date with all your ladies (cows) sitting on the silage pit with a blanket under the stars-cold beer in hand of course.


7. Open up your boundaries… for serious. You are going to do many different jobs and  to be a Dairy farmer you are going to have to get down and dirty sometimes. There`s no time for fear when a mama is calving in distress.  Get in there grab a mini hoof and pull that little baby out!! When you’re a Dairy Farmer your also a mid-wife, a veterinarian, a production manager, a grain specialist, a brick layer, a mechanic, an electritian, a feed specialist, an environmentalist, a  fertility specialist, a carpenter, a landscaper ect ect. And if you’re a Dairy Wife don`t forget baker, cook, housekeeper, and personal shopper (`Honey… please go get me this part thing for this tractor…. I don`t know what its called just ask the guys there at that one place I don’t remember the name… oh… and its very heavy…), and mama –even if only to fur babies in the start. My husband says that the most important part of opening up your boundaries will be to learn to love the long pink glove and its benefits – I won`t explain that one.


8. And my last and most important step in becoming a Dairy farmer is to Own it… Dive right in, don’t hesitate, don’t be scared… Dairy farming is exciting and you will learn new things each day. Clean those teats, pick up a unit, and start milking. Shovel that poo, and don’t be afraid to get some on you- in fact learn to love poo – good poo means healthy cows. Fall in love with your animals. See the equal beauty in a newborn calf and an old lady who has served you well. Feel the sadness of an animal in pain and the happiness of a playful cow on new grass in the spring. Love your barn, love your farm, love your life… love your coffee. The work is never done, and you’re in it for the long haul. Breathe in deep when the first silage has been cut. Let yourself get frustrated but don’t ever loose heart… because you have built this… and it is beautiful.


And there you have it, of course there is so much more to farming but I find these lessons have been particularily helpful in my journey. Basically you are now ready to farm… but… there is so much to tell that I couldn’t fit it all into one post. Next up I will cover what your very first day of farming might be like. I don’t want anyone to go into it without expectations!

‘A day in the life of a Dairy farmer (‘s wife)’ a follow up lesson for Beginners.

Posted in Ag For Life, Agvocate, Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farming, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Starting a Dairy farm 101; a guide to starting a Dairy Farm from Scratch.

How to start a dairy from scratch: in my humble Opinion.

Well I suppose the idea of a Blog is to write a blog post… which is tough when farming gets busy! None the less, here I am! As promised I started writing about what you need to know to start a Dairy farm, and my post became so long and fabulous that I decided to break it into 2 part’s (for your reading convenience). I don’t need everyone falling asleep on me. So here is Part #1, and please keep following to catch the rest!!

What a fantastic and daunting subject! Did you ever wonder how Farmers decide to spend the rest of their life farming?? Do they look out into the night one evening and say hey… tomorrow I am going to wake up at 5 am and work all day until 8 pm- even if there is a blizzard or rain or some freak tornado… and then I’m going to like it SO much that I think I’ll do it every single day for the rest of my life!? (Screw Holidays!) ….Um, No. No not really… most farmers these days grew up on a farm. They woke up to the smell of coffee and pancakes each morning and went running out in rubber boots to help their dad, or their mom… or maybe to check if that duck had hatched out her eggs yet (Which she did!)- then came running in after school for coffee and cake, and back outside all evening to feed the sheep or play with puppies (yes… puppies trump television ANYDAY) -there was always something new to discover on the farm. Always some more work to do, and always a nice view to look out over after a long day. Little farmers that grew up unafraid of hard tiresome work and poo. It’s for this reason that they become a farmer; most of them wouldn’t have it any other way. And Dairy farming is NO exception. But starting a farm from scratch is no small task, of course any farm is a lot of work, but I’ll keep my focus on Dairy farming. There are 3 main reasons why it will be difficult to start a Dairy Farm, but don’t let me scare you off- because most of you Dairy farmers out there know that there is hardly anything more fulfilling then milking your own cows each morning.



  1. It’s friggen expensive!  –In Canada, a Dairy farmer must purchase an allotment of Quota in order to produce milk. This way we produce what the country needs, and Canadians drink Canadian Milk (throw that in your I Am Canadian commercials!!). The Quota is fairly expensive and rises and falls like a stalk -Combine that with machinery costs, land, barn, livestock, crops, and feed… and you need to spend money to make money folks! Canadian Dairy farmers reinvest somewhere around 90% of their farms income. For most farmers their business is never about how big their paycheck is, but more about how well their farm produces. (Talk about passion!). The Quota system ensures that we  are always getting a fair price for our hard work, and consumers are never overpaying for their product. Plus Canadian Milk stays in Canada! And we don’t import all our goods from other countries. We love Supply Management!
  2. It’s a LOT of HARD work. Don’t get me wrong, all of our farmer’s out there work so hard and put in long and tiring hours. But a Dairy farmer milk’s/feeds/cleans/water’s/and keeps his cows twice a day every day…365 days per year. (This makes for fun Christmas times that consist of seeing both families, eating 2 dinner’s and milking our cows at least twice, while nicely dressed underneath covies.) Not to mention that most Dairy Farmers produce a percentage of their own feed and take the time to manage economic practices such as composting on top of their full workload. When was the last time you complained about working a Saturday or on your birthday… hmmmmmm ?*raised eyebrow*
  3. I kid! … number three is It’s Riskay. Because of the fact that quota prices and value can rise and fall… and also considering that in any given year you could lose a crop, or some cows, or the extreme measures and care that you have to take in order to always ensure that your milk is 100% quality by Canadian standards (which are superb by the way) – Dairy farming can in fact be risky… but very very rewarding. To be a Dairy farmer you must be a passionate breed… to farm you are willing to put in everything you have 150%, take chances, and extreme care with your production and your farm. I don’t know about you but the last time I left my milk on the counter and then took a swig… I learned that milk is perishable. Fresh milk (unpasturized) is even more perishable and must be carefully contained, cooled, and picked up every two days. Dairy farmer’s are meticulous in ensuring that nothing ever goes wrong with their milk and everything stays clean clean clean! Now how do you feel to know that your milk is produced with such passion? This is one of my favorite things about Dairy Farming.

Now now, I know what you’re thinking… well if it’s so difficult why would one farm? Well because you love it that’s why. For a Dairy Farmer there is NOTHING better than a beautiful cow nuzzling your shoulder, and producing some of the best Milk in the world. (In fact… the only thing better would be a Beautiful cow that produced Chocolate Milk. Ah … YES)


So now that you know a little bit more about starting a Dairy Farm let’s get into the real fun parts… You have purchased your land, your quota, your cows… you have a little barn parlour to milk in… and you are ready to get that first tank of milk into the truck! Everything is clean, sanitized and ready and your cows are standing there wondering where you are… so now what do you do?


Step’s to becoming a Dairy farmer From scratch (-and by scratch I mean “uh… I milked a goat once…”):

  1. Choose a Cool Farm Name and Logo… Nothing is more exciting then the first day of production at your farm! Each cow born and bred on your farm will have a prefix that is chosen by you. Should these cows ever become something special your farm name will be well-known. Maybe this doesn’t seem that important… but what if your cows are famous one day? You don’t want them to have some sort of unthoughtful name such as… bananahammock, do you? Most farm’s are named after the families that run them. In our case there is already a parent farm… so we named our farm September Dairy because both our Birthday’s and wedding anniversary are all in September. It’s rather romantic! But the fun part is you can name your farm whatever you want -even bananahammock.Image Look The part… Believe it! If you want to be a Dairy farmer you had better get yourself some nice Wellies, and a pair of flattering Coverall’s. A Dairy farmer usually sports various shades of Blue or Grey Coveralls, and probably has more Wellies (Rubber Boots!) in their parlour then I had shoes in my closet- In fact… I got rid of most of my shoes in exchange for  ‘that fabulous pair of yellow Hunter boots’. My Hubs is so handsome first thing in the morning in his Covies with the collar turned up just right, and some cow drool over his shoulder *Sigh*. Also… you need to get some good going out wear that has some sort of feed or Semen logo on it (that’s right I said semen). A jacket or hat, maybe a sweat shirt that says High-pro or Semex… and you will fit in nicely (p.s I will except endorsements …eh….eh?).
  2. If you’re showing Cows you will need a lot of white in your wardrobe- white? But of course you should wear white in close proximity to cow bums.
    And finally, a Dairy Farmer’s wife is always super chic, that’s right ladies… after milking the cows you had better get showered up and looking hot fast. Because in my experience Dairy wives are beautiful hard working hot mommas who can multi task while looking fabulous (you go girls!).Image

Coming up next Part #2 of How to start a Dairy farm 101. Ok so I am leaving you hanging, but I promise I have lots more coming up!

Posted in Ag For Life, Agvocate, Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farming, Uncategorized | 2 Comments