And then there were none…

Hi everyone! Muts mom here for a blog take over. Mut’s talked your ear off about the health benefits of milk, and why it’s safe and all about dairy farms but I’m going there again. The dairy industry is currently in a state that many people don’t realize.

Here’s a scene many of you can relate to, farmers or not. You just put the baby to bed, knowing you have about 2.5 hours before his teeth that are just starting to break through wake him up. You sit down at the table with your beverage of choice ( I either go with warm milk or Cabernet, depending on how much my ulcer hurts) and stare at the stack of bills in front of you. You fire up the computer and open quick books and just stare at the pile. You know milk prices are at a few year low and this year is predicted lower. You do what you can to pay who needs paying and pray as hard as you can that next month will be better. You’re almost relieved when the baby wakes up so you can put off the bills for a little while. 

We have our farm and our baby and that’s our whole life. You think that working every single day, long hours in all the extreme elements would be enough. It should be enough. That the security of being able to leave the farm to our children, if they want it, is there. That it’s not even a question of if they will be able to grow up and choose because it will be there for them. But that’s not the reality all over the country. The reality is that soon dairy farms across this country will be as common as households with typewriters. They will become obsolete and moved over for the next “better” thing. In 1950, there were 3.5 MILLION dairy farms. IN 2012, there was 58,000. In 2016, 41,809. Just take those numbers in for a second. Yes, there are larger farms than in the ’50’s, and yes, farmers are producing milk more efficiantly, but look again at those numbers. 

It’s not just that dairy farmer who sold out. It’s his vet, nutritionalist, milk tester, hoof trimmer that all lost a client. It’s his supply company, repair man, semen company that all lost his business. It’s the local hardware store, gasoline company, tire shop, tractor dealer, and feed mill that all lost his money. Maybe it was just one small dairy farmer. But then it happened over 16,000 times in just FOUR years. 

Why is this happening? There’s a few reasons, or so I’ve been told. China and Russia aren’t importing what they were a few years ago. Farmers have added on more cows (If you need more money to pay bills, you need more milk which means you need more cows which means more milk on the market which means lower milk price-vicious circle). But people also stopped drinking milk. They stopped trusting their farmer. It wasn’t long ago that people thought “farmer” and they thought “honest”. They may have also thought “denim overalls” or “simple” but the truth is people trusted farmers(and I much prefer yoga pants to overalls!). If you were lost, you would stop at a farm, because that farmer could tell you where to go and you trusted him. Now I’m not old enough to reminiscing about the “Good Ole Days” but that’s just how it was when I was growing up. And then came the Internet. And then came social media. And then came people believing absofreakinglutely everything that they read on the Internet, without ever once checking a source. Activist groups slowly got bigger and bigger and started infiltrating farms and staging videos to make farmers look bad. And soon the idea got swayed from “farmer=honest” to “farmer=lying”. For this reason, I hate social media. I know, I know, I’m on it as much as the next person, and here I am writing a blog to post to Facebook. But the “information” that is at people’s fingertips is disturbing. The fact that people need to hit record on their phone when they see an accident and never call 911 because they don’t want to stop recording? I guess if you get enough likes that’s all that matters. 

Why am I writing all this to you? Because, in a nut shell, my heart is broken. More and more large companies and orginizations have turned away from dairy, whether intentional or not. Tonight I saw a post on Facebook from Cheerios, who was listing Blue Diamond Almond Milk as their best friend, and win a trip to California. I was almost positive that nothing went better together than cereal and milk (not nut juice mind you, milk). The Girl Scouts are advertising their cookies this year as vegan. Not allergen free, but vegan. To me, this feels like a knife in the back. “Et tu Brute?” With milk prices so low and falling, and the general population with a unfavorable opinion of dairy farmers, if you’re not with us, you’re against us. We need all the help we can get. I don’t know what Cheerios agenda was. I don’t know why the Girl Scouts were advertising their cookies as vegan, whether it was a marketing ploy or someone’s belief getting rubbed off to impressionable young girls. I did offer to work with them to implement an ag program for the girls, but was dismissed. So it’s like this, you come home from work, after being on your feet for 12 hours in the freezing cold, taking care of your animals, knowing they are all safe and warm and fed, while you yourself are numb and starving and while warming up some leftovers, you scroll through your newsfeed and see video after video, article after article about why farmers are bad, how they’re hurting they’re animals, why nut juice is better and you just want to cry. You put every ounce of yourself into being the best farmer you can be and you see these things and can’t wrap your head around it. 

It would be easy for us to sell our cows right now. By easy, I mean the most sense financially. We are losing money every single day by keeping them. We have cut back everything we can and see our future dwindling very quickly. But you know what else is easy? Loving our cows. To me, to any farmer, they are not “just cows”, just like that doggo keeping your feet warm is not “just a dog”. They have their own personalities, you see them more than you see your family and to you, they are your family. If we have to sell a cow, I cry. Every single time. It literally breaks my heart. Muts mom passed away shortly after she calved. She was older and sick and getting Mut was a huge blessing, as she was my favorite cow. I cried for days. I’m getting choked up writing this because I loved her and I still miss her terribly. But the bond goes both ways. She loved me too. She would come when I called her and she would give my husband a hard time because she was my cow. When I hugged her, she would wrap her hear around me and rub it up and down on my back. She was so much more than “just a cow”. So although it would be the wiser thing for us to sell our cows, I don’t think I can handle that. Losing money is worth looking in their eyes and telling them we will do everything we can to keep them home where they belong. To me not having them is unfathomable. And I didn’t even grow up on a dairy farm. For my husband, who has worked so hard his whole life for this? And has done a damn good job, I might add, at having healthy, friendly cows that milk well. I won’t let his dream end. Maybe it’s the Irish in me but I’m a fighter. But that might not be the case forever. There may come a day when we have to sell. When we say we have lost everything we have and now we have to say goodbye to what we love the most. This is the current reality for hundreds-thousands- of farmers across the country right now. Just close your eyes and put yourself in their place for a minute. Think about their broken hearts and dreams. Those long cold winter nights helping a cow deliver a calf and placing that calf in your warm truck hoping she makes it. Those hours you spent lying with a sick cow, knowing there was absolutely nothing you could do to make her better but you’ve been there for her since birth, so you will be there for her in the end. You lie with her, stroke her head, whisper in her ear thank you for all your hard work and you promise to take care of her baby. All of that gone. It’s ending.
Every night, I rock my son to sleep. I sing him lullabies and when he shuts his eyes I stare at his perfect face. I say my prayers while I’m still holding him tight. I pray he grows up respectful to all, gentle to animals and always helps anyone in need. I pray he gets to grow up in a world with out hate and one that’s at peace. I pray that one day he will have the opportunity to make a living in the most honorable profession, and feed his fellow man. I pray we can hold on long enough to see a turn around. I pray he won’t have to go through these tough times. I pray he gets to know what’s it’s like to feel the love and trust from a whole herd of animals. I pray that my husband and I, and our son will never have to stand in an empty barn.