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Think on you feet, run like crazy; no time to be lazy!

Time and technology are moving so fast these days that it has me wondering if we can even afford to take time to think. It’s a dilemma we didn’t used to have, that’s for sure. But now, stop to think and you may miss something! Yet think we must!

Well, it may not be entirely that bad (yet), but you get the picture. I’m reminded of a humorous quote attributed to the late, great American entertainer, Red Skelton. “The older I get, the faster I was!”

How many of us living in our “second 50 years” feel that way? And how comfortable are we, anyway, with the endless changes coming at us within a time frame that is surely shorter and shorter?

Personally, I’ve reached the point in life where the phrase “within my lifetime” takes on a hefty segment of years. All the way back to the final days of World War II, in fact.

At the risk of sounding like an “old timer” -- which I confess I am now -- I’ve seen an awful lot of changes during the past seven decades. Looking back, some of the old facilities and methods seem positively primitive today, such as cows kept in home-made wooden stalls and tractors that had neither tires nor fenders as standard equipment. Never mind comfortable seats and air-conditioned cabs. We old timers sat on a shell of steel that was ice cold during the winter and frying-pan hot during the summer.

I remember a barnful of cows with horns, milk cans in water-cooled cabinets, and even horse-drawn farm equipment. I dare say that the word “technology” had not even found an application in agriculture yet! Did people even know of the word?

And just look at us today! We’re surrounded by technology that’s so deep and fancy that most of us don’t have a clue how it actually works. That’s fine, I guess, so long as we know how to use the buttons, key strokes and swipes to our advantage.

We’ve come so far that we can manage entire segments of our operations with a so-called “smart phone.” And that same smart phone allows access to information beyond anything we could have imagined even just a decade ago.

But despite all of these vast changes, all the modern technologies and the labor-saving equipment and enhancements, there is one over-riding principle that defies replacement.

It’s the farmer’s work ethic. Work is required; laziness is positively not an option. One way or another, the dairy farmer is kept very busy and he’s on call 24/7. No robot has yet been invented to assist in the arrival of a highly valued calf. And there’s really no substitute for the loving care given to baby calves by the women on the farm.

From my perspective, I’d say that while the physical work load has been greatly reduced on most farms, modernization has brought with it a much higher intensity of management that demands constant attention to every detail. Simply put, a half century ago a dairyman could afford to do a few things wrong during the course of a year and perhaps get away with it. But not today. Margins don’t allow for errors like they used to.

Today, more than ever before, sharp management is positively the critical driving force to keep a dairy farm in operation. Failing to keep a close watch on the myriad of responsibilities and issues that pertain to milk production can quickly put the whole operation and family at risk. It’s an awesome, even mind-boggling set of challenges that today’s dairy producers have to deal with.

I have simpler times on my mind this evening and, yes, I do wonder on occasion if those “yesteryears” might have been the best ever.

But I also realize that pleasant memories of long ago can hardly be compared with the realities of dairy farming in the 21st Century.

Each generation builds its own confidence, regardlesss of how rapidly and relentlessly changes are brought on by the years that we are given.

In the long run, that’s what’s so reassuring; even amazing, gratifying and inspiring. That fast pace that has me breathless is, after all, not too fast for those half my age. They’re running and succeeding and already inspiring those who are next in line to fill their boots.

Our wish for every dairy farm family is that they enjoy and succeed in what they do, earning not just a fair income, but also the respect and dignity that they deserve.

God bless you all and thank you for all you do. I tip my hat to people of all ages and generations who have contributed to the good of mankind through their humble and noble careers as dairy farmers.