Dairy cows

As you read this article, we are on the eve of another auction of a local dairy cow herd. And I would like to add — a very successful dairy herd owned by dear friends.

This has brought up many conversations and memories of when my husband and I left the dairy industry and when the cows left the farm where I grew up. There are a lot of reasons for farmers to get out of the dairy business, but what does life look like without dairy cows? Let me tell you, the transition can be tough. I saw it in my immediate family and my extended family.

It is a heart-wrenching decision. It’s emotional and affects everyone in the family. I didn’t realize how much of my identity was wrapped up with the dairy farm, even though I worked a full-time job off the farm. Looking back, it was worse for my husband. We both grew up on dairy farms. Most dairy farmers do. It is what you know and, in fact, what you always wanted to do — or maybe it was expected of you.

Saying goodbye to the cows was hard. Most dairy farmers will admit that they get attached to their cows. They are the ones that greet you in the early morning hours when you reach the barn. Recently, one of our daughters told me that she had not realized how therapeutic taking care of calves and heifers was because they were always glad to see you, even if it was because you were going to feed them.

Cows have individual personalities and some really became more like pets. The girls, Gary and I had an especially favorite cow and we wanted her to be someplace where we knew she would be well cared for. So, we bought her ourselves and she went to our friend’s farm where we could visit. We are forever grateful for Andy taking in our beloved Gabby!

Every step is hard. What are you going to do next? If you can keep farming the land, it helps. Some farmers have to start working a full-time job for someone else. Farmers have a strong work ethic and would be an asset to anyone who hires them, but finding the right kind of job can be difficult.

Some statistics say that in 1934 there were 5.2 million dairy farms. Today there are about 28,000. Demand for fluid milk has decreased. The trusty internet tells me that in 1975, Americans drank on average 247 pounds of milk per year. That’s about 28.7 gallons. In 2018, that amount dropped to 146 pounds, or about 17 gallons. Consumers have turned to dairy alternatives for a multitude of reasons, but it has had a negative effect on the dairy industry. So, I don’t expect the trend to change.

I sure miss the cows sometimes. But when Christmas falls on a Sunday, we can get up and go to church and on with our other plans without concern of milking and chores. I don’t miss them on bitter cold nights when water fountains are frozen or wondering if a calf will be born unexpectedly. It’s nice to be able to go on a vacation. But I surely appreciate and encourage those that still dairy farm. I am thankful that quality milk and other dairy products are plentifully available. And sometimes… I wish we were still milking cows.

Submitted by Mary Smallsreed, a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.


OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
Ernie Welch's avatar
Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
Jaclyn De Candio's avatar
Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
Jenna Gregorich's avatar
Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
Jared Hughes's avatar
Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Suggested Tags: