Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dairy FAQ: What do dairy cows think about daylight savings time?

It's that time again--don't forget to change those clocks Saturday night. Everyone has their own opinion on daylight savings time, but what do cows think about it?

Dairy cows are creatures of habits. That's one of the many reasons I love them. Everything happens at about the same time every day. If you are even a few minutes late to start milking and/or feeding, you can bet those sweethearts will let you know it. 

Every cow I've ever encountered (especially during milking) has not been a fan of this time change. If it's an hour earlier, they are confused what is going on. If it's late, they are impatient (can't say I blame them). Imagine your whole routine being thrown off by an hour twice a year and probably not understanding why. I know I wouldn't like that. 

Changing the time and their routine can be hard on the cows. It's not easy on the farmers either.

Farmers work hard every day, 365 days a year. Regardless of what time the clock says and regardless of whether it is daylight, animals need to be fed and chores need to be done. Keep in mind that daylight savings time does not actually add or eliminate an hour of daylight. Instead it moves that hour from evening to morning, or vice versa. In the winter when daylight hours are short, lots of farm work is done in the dark and in the cold. It may be cold, but that doesn’t mean things stop (voluntarily) on a farm.

Farming is always busy, especially with livestock. Add harvest or planting into the mix and free time becomes almost nonexistent.

For farmers with crops and livestock, this means even longer days. It may be harvest and you may be in the field all the time, but cows still need to be milked (they won’t understand if you tell them they have to wait until harvest is over), animals still need to be fed and chores still need to be done. This leaves very little time for sleeping or anything else for that matter. Most farmers I know don’t have any free time during harvest. And most are tired most of the time.

On top of that, farmers are up at all hours of the night checking on cows that are calving or getting ready to calve to make sure they aren’t having any difficulties and checking on the grain dryer to make sure it’s still running. And then they get up long before the sun in the morning. There are no sick days when you have livestock and especially not during harvest.

Farming can also be a very dangerous job at times. Augers, for example, are not very forgiving and can easily cause serious damage to people. Bulls (and cows too) can trample or in another way hurt people. Farming involves long hours and a lot of risk (financially, too). 

So, then why do people farm if there is so much risk involved and such long hours (and no vacations or sick days)? Farmers are some of the most dedicated people I know. They love what they do. In this industry, you have to love it. 

In addition to changing all your clocks and watches back an hour, it may be a good idea to check on a few other routine things as well. My parents always told us to replace the batteries in the smoke detectors during daylight savings time so we'd never forget. It also prevents that annoying beeping sound that occurs when the batteries are getting low.

Enjoy the "extra" hour of sleep this weekend, but take a moment to think about all the farmers and livestock that don't stop this time of year. The best way to thank them? Besides actually saying 'thank you for what you do', pick up a gallon of milk or some delicious steaks at the grocery store. 


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