For glory and for shame!
Far too many advertisements in Farmshine -- and other publications too -- strike me, personally, as very sad and even heart-breaking. Week after week, our pages contain announcements of dispersals, and with each one, we feel a true loss.
I’ve gotten to know so many of the families that have been behind these well-bred and well-respected herds for decades. What a privilege it has been for me to get to know these fine folks,as well as many of their beautiful animals. Over the years, their very existence provided refinements to the dairy cattle population and inspiration to younger breeders. Seeing it all disappear two and three herds at a time is beyond sad. It’s disturbing.
We who are intimately involved in the dairy community know that as we lose these distinguished herds -- or for that matter any herd -- we lose more than what instantly meets the eye. The closing of barns changes the character of the landscape and eats away at the collective pride we might have found in our careers and county. Indeed, our rural towns, schools, and businesses ultimately feel the loss as barns are continueing to be emptied.
We can’t blame anyone for deciding it’s time to quit. Sooner or later, we are all faced with that reality. But we also know that for a lot of these folks, quitting time came early because of the empty wallets that they keep having to pull out of their pockets. They have nothing left to go on. They’re not just out of money; they’ve sacrificed their equity and have been robbed of their energy. It’s way beyond sad.
Dairy farming has never enjoyed a reputation as being “easy,” but it has surely been known as a career choice that blends opportunities, challenges, rewards and lifestyle in a most satisfying way. That is, if there’s enough money coming in to keep the bills paid. People don’t start milking cows with the intent of getting rich; they choose this humble profession because they like cows.
The on-farm interviews I’ve done over the last nearly 40 years all have a lot in common, beginning with the fact that there’s nothing else that the owners would rather do and the farm is the best place in the world to raise a family.
Beyond these noble and admirable motivations are the quality products that dairymen take pride in producing. As milk producers, they help feed the world. As breeders, they have a hand in improving the genetics of their chosen breed. Further, they can take pride in the animals they show, sell or contract. To be the breeder of a bull that’s used around the world ... that has to be a mighty satisfying accomplishment. But hardly anyone outside of the dairy business gets to know ... or even cares. As for that touchdown pass last Saturday, it’s the talk of the town! Even a guy who shoots a big buck gets his picture in the city paper. Not so the dairyman who wins a prize or his wife who willingly and steadfastly shares her talents for the good of the community.
But dairy farmers are humble people with values that respect God and their fellow man. They don’t have a craving for recognition. For sure, it’s seldom that a dairyman lets success get to his head. Rather, it’s quite common for these people to share their expertise and passion while offering encouragement to anyone who aspires to breed an outstanding cow ... or better yet an entire barnful of beautiful cows. If there is such a thing as a selfish dairyman, I have yet to meet him. Isn’t that really why we all love being a part of this wonderful way of life? We’re friends! We’re family! We care about one another!
And that’s exactly why it hurts so much when we see the notices that yet another great herd will be dispersed. Another fine family -- people of admirable and exemplary character and extraordinary talent and passion -- have had the wind taken out of their sails. And as they close their barn doors for the last time, it’s not likely that someone else will come along to re-open them.
We are losing the very foundation of not just the rural economy, but also a lifestyle that has been at the core of stable communities, both monetarily as well as morally.
Glory to those who did the providing!
Shame on those who foster the erosion!