A Day In The Life Of A Dairy Farmer

It’s 7 in the morning. You just got out of bed and poured a bowl of cereal with milk. After some morning TV, its time to get ready and go. On the way out the door, you pour a cup of coffee and add some creamer or milk to it. The normal 9 to 5 grind calls for 3 more cups throughout the day. 5 o’clock hits and it’s time to go home. Supper is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and some chips. Your bed calls your name, and so you settle in with a warm glass of milk, then slowly drift off to sleep. What made the day bearable? Was it the morning coffee? Or the warm glass of milk to aid your sleep? Where did it come from? The problem is, not enough people can answer the last question. Dairy farmers provide goods that not only nourish bodies, but brighten days. So here’s your answer.

A man with cracked, calloused hands slaps his 3 A.M. alarm off. His tired eyes focus as he stumbles to the kitchen, pours a cup of coffee, and watches the farm report for about half an hour. Finally, it is time to start the day. No matter the season, no matter the weather, nothing stops this man from doing his job. The barn door glides along the guides as it slides up quickly. The ATV sputters and eventually starts. Once he arrives at the barn, a lot has to be done before milking. The milkers and milk lines are sanitized and then set up for milking. Again, the ATV starts as the farmer goes to herd the cattle to the lot. The sun has yet to come up, making the winter temperature on the no-cab vehicle bone chilling. Bundled up with layer after layer of clothing, the man slowly gathers all cattle to the holding pen.

The cattle have been contained and it’s time to milk. Over and over, group after group, the same repetitive motion of wash, dry, milker on, milker off, spray occurs for hours. Young cows kick the farmer time and time again, but he can’t give up on her. New strategies must be created to calm the cow. No milking is complete until the last cow has come through. The barn still has to be cleaned, milkers have to be washed, and milk lines need cleaning. Once everything is cleaned up, it’s mid-morning.

Manure piles up in the holding pen after hours of cattle on the concrete. All the manure slides and drags away from the lot slowly. This qualifies for one of the nastiest jobs on the farm. Is the day over yet? Nope. Now the calves need to be fed. Powdered milk is mixed with water for the calves to eat. Once the calves have drank the milk, they will be fed grain, water, and then bedded down. Some days, calves need to be doctored or taken special care of. Soon after, the larger calves that have been weaned from milk receive grain, mineral, salt, and hay. Now that all the livestock have been fed, it’s time for a quick lunch and then back to the grind.

Miscellaneous projects can be completed at this time, whether the tractor need repairs or the fence needs fixing, this is the time it gets done. Whatever does not get done at this time will be done the next day or during what little downtime the farmer has.

Milking time has come again. Mid-afternoon milking is generally faster than the mornings, but not anything to look over. The same preparations from the morning are done at night. Sanitize, herd cattle, dry, milker on, milker off, disinfectant spray, clean barn, clean milkers, and then it is finally time to go home. By now, its after sundown and time to eat, go to bed, and start it all over again the next day.  

This was just a typical day on the dairy. Some days cows will need help delivering a calf. Other days in the summertime, hay needs to be cut and baled in free time. You never know what the day holds. The dairy farmer’s day is never easy. Was that the answer you thought it would be? You probably knew milk came from a cow, but now you know the ¨daily routine¨ of a dairy farmer.  The typical 9 to 5 doesn’t sound so bad now does it?


Jarrett Calton

Writer for Everything Agriculture

Real Dairy Farmer