Thursday, June 30, 2016


Nothing like a Jersey milk cow on the homestead

As a shepherd, Dairy Month is little more than an excuse to enjoy free icecream at the Market.

I’ve been spending my time thinking about lambchops, marketing lambchops and selling lambchops. Hey, I wonder when it will be lambchop month?

Anyway, Dairy Month had nearly escaped me…until I saw a couple of familiar faces smiling back at me from Lancaster Farming when I was in the feedstore. Yay for the Pyles!

Blondie's best friend
and owners of Cow Comfort Inn Dairy
Union Bridge, MD

It's Dairy Month! How could I forget Dairy month?

June has been Dairy month for many years, (since 1937) chosen to heighten the demand for milk and milk products when the lush Spring grasses traditionally brought on the highest yields. It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about Dairy Month. click to read And, it's been even longer since any sort of dairying was a part of my life.

It’s been seven summers since we saw our last brown-eyed beauty leave the hill and we said good-bye to home dairying forever. And, I find myself missing those old girls far more often than you may think.  Because while we’ve become shepherds…and mighty fine ones (if I do say so myself) I am first and foremost a “cow-person”. Honestly, if I found myself in need of work, I would seriously consider heading to the nearest dairy.

I had dreamed of having a cow ever since I looked deep into a set of Jersey-brown eyes and lost my heart at the county fair when I was just a little girl. My ever indulgent husband saw to the fulfillment of that dream when we found ourselves on the hill. It’s safe to say dairy cows changed my life.

Some of our best stories are because we had dairy cows. 

Kuh and the Massai
How many people can say they had Massai sing to their milk cows? This post doesn’t do that experience justice.  

We met some of our favorite folks ever due to those milk cows. Shout out to Doc Snowdy, Dr. CJ and Sam, among others. Here's a funny farm story.  We had more than a few adventures, some tear-jerking moments, great conversations and amazing icecream.  This post  is the short version of our dairying adventures.

But, farming is not unlike gambling. And taking a cue from Kenny Rogers,

“you got to know when to hold ‘em, You got to know when to fold ‘em…”

new meaning to COW-GIRL

Living/farming on twelve acres of hill and rock, in a state that doesn’t allow raw milk sales…a home milk-cow is not at all a profitable (or wise) venture. The land is too small and not truly suitable for cattle and we cannot produce our own hay and feed.  (I know there are folks that have cow shares and/or sell “pet milk” to get around regulations…those options weren’t for me) It was time to move on. We sold the last cow and began to focus our complete attention on the sheep.  

In the ten years we had our cows, I learned more than you can ever imagine…about breeding, animal husbandry and milk products. I worried and fussed more than you might think humanly possible, mainly about breeding, animal husbandry and milk products.

I realized during that time that honestly home dairying just cannot pay its way on an operation of our size. When you figure in the feed and vet bills…I’m guessing that each gallon of milk was worth about $50. (I may be exaggerating) We lost SO much money on that venture, it wasn’t even funny. Definitely NOT a sustainable practice. And, I gained a whole new appreciation for those in the dairy industry.

But, I did love those cows!

Those dairy farmers who produce the milk, cheese, butter and icecream for the rest of us, REALLY, REALLY deserve some positive recognition. It’s the most demanding type of farming out there. You can’t simply turn off the supply…it’s twice a day commitment EVERY DAY. (and some dairies milk THREE times a day) Dairy farmers catch a whole lot of negative publicity needlessly. Milk prices are at an all-time low for dairies around the world. And, while I can’t do much about that…I can say THANK YOU…and keep buying milk, cheese and of course, icecream.

And, be sure to point out that…Dairy farmers rock!

Now, back to thinking about national lambchop month…wonder who I lobby about that one?


  1. When I was growing up my uncle had a dairy farm, 50 milking Holsteins. I have many fond memories of times on that farm. You are absolutely right about it being a labour intensive way of life, from the milking to the growing and harvesting of crops for feed. Now many farmers run completely mechanised/computerised operations, but I remember the days of milk cans being carried to the milk house to be dumped into the bulk tank. -Jenn

  2. Interesting post Barbara. When I married the farmer twenty three years ago, this was a dairy farm and always had been. He had been milking since he was around twelve and really loved his cows. Then in 2001 tragedy struck when we had Foot and Mouth Disease and overnight every farm in the area had all their cows slaughtered and burnt. The poor farmer was devastated but after careful thought decided that he would not spend the compensation money on re stocking but would semi retire. Now he lets off his fields to a friend and the friend's cows graze them. In the winter we house the friend's in calf cows and heifers - so the farmer still gets to handle the cattle he loves to much.