You can tell a lot about a person by their hands. In a blog post by Farmer Tim, he writes “A farmer’s hands may not be soft and manicured, but they tell a story.”
An Early Start
The story starts every day at 5:00 a.m. with farmers getting dressed in their barn clothes and heading to the barn. Once a farmer has gathered all their cows for milking, they bed the cows. Bedding happens every two days to ensure the cows are clean and comfortable. During milking, a farmer will wipe the udder clean before attaching rubber or silicone cups to each milking quarter. Each cow takes about 5-8 minutes to milk before she returns to the herd to socialize, eat, or lay down. In a parlour-style barn, milking is usually done two or three times a day, so after morning milking farmers usually have a full checklist of chores that need to get done.
Automated milking systems, or robots, are becoming very popular in BC, but that doesn’t mean that the farmers have less work, but rather allows them to be more flexible with their time.
After the cows finish milking, they usually go to the feed bunker to eat. A farmer will push up the feed to ensure that the cows have enough to eat throughout the day. In rain or shine the cows have to be fed. This means that farmers spend a lot of time during the day ensuring cows are given a feed mixtures of silage and grains. These mixtures promote gut health, and allow the cow to get the nutrients she needs for milk production.
After morning milking, a farmer will head out and feed the calves. Many farmers implement a feeding program for their calves. This involves feeding colostrum within the first few hours of life and, as they grow, options such as whole milk are introduced to promote growth and gut health.
Extra Work in Harvest
Through their years on the farm, dairy farmers have a broad range of skills. Most farms in BC grow their own crops which means they harvest their own crops as well. As Farmer Tim writes, “A farmer’s hands have wiped away the sweat from a brow as bales of hay are piled on the hottest day of the year”. Many days in late May and early June, farmers spend long hours getting first cut off the fields so their cows can have food in
After the farmer completes his or her other chores, he or she will return to the barn to milk the cows again. The farmer will return home only after cleaning the parlour, and checking to make sure the cows are healthy.
The story of BC dairy farmers is one of “pride, hard work and dedication.” Our story is that of 470 BC farmers who work diligently to make sure Canadians get the highest quality of milk. This means each smoothie bowl or plate of mac and cheese came with the contributions of a hardworking Canadian dairy farmer!