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HERd Management: Across the road

Melissa Hart for Progressive Dairy Published on 01 March 2021

As I was doing some much-needed purging from my office, I came across a piece I wrote 10 years ago. It was about the busy schedule of two parents with four kids, milking cows and keeping up with life’s challenges.

One of the lines went like this, “When the work was done and we left the barn, I slipped my smelly hand into his smelly hand and together we walked across the road, not only as 21-year sweethearts but as partners in an industry that deals out difficult days with seemingly insurmountable challenges.”

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How many times have we walked across the dirt road between the house and the barn? I can’t even begin to calculate the steps we took in the hot summertime and the cold winters. The ice storms that made the road an ice rink and the springtime mud that made everything messy.

How many times did I hold the hand of a 3-year-old and say, “Always look both ways,” or yell at a 10-year-old who crossed without looking. I took kids across in backpacks, strollers and wagons. We carried snacks in buckets, we carried hot water when the hot water heater went out, and we hoisted our ambition on our backs when low milk prices made life unbearable.

We walked across in anticipation when a new calf was born, when a new purchase was made and a trailer rattled in the driveway. Our steps quickened across the road as we couldn’t wait to see the new cattle.

When the cows got out, we ran. When the horses whinnied, we took notice. When a load of hay pulled up, our pace wasn’t quite as quick because we knew what was coming. We had fearless dogs that carelessly lay in the middle of the road on a hot afternoon, and we kept barn cats from coming across the road to the house.

I have walked across that road madder than a hornet at my spouse – and by the time I crossed it again, all was peaceful. I have been summoned across the road to help fix gutter cleaners, pull calves, thaw frozen water lines, get cows out that were stuck in the feedbunk and to fix fence.

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I’ve seen milk trucks tip off the road and wondered how they were going to get it back on – its wheels in the dead of winter with the wind blowing across the open field. I have pulled tractors up and down the road trying to get them started, and I’ve even raced my son on our antique tractors only to see my John Deere A get beat by his Farmall M. every single time.

I have chased uncooperative kids across the road; I have dragged screaming toddlers back across the road who wanted to ride with Dad on the tractor. And we have crawled across the road when we were sick and could hardly hold our heads up, but the cows still needed to be fed and milked.

There were days when I did not want to see what was happening on the other side of the road. And, admittedly, there were days when I wished we had never driven down this road. The dark days of low milk prices and volatile feed inputs made for gut-wrenching conversations that only took place across the road.

We had life-altering discussions across the road. We made life-changing decisions across the road. And we had one tragic event that changed our perspective forever on the fragility of life itself – that happened across the road.

We raised our kids across the road. We developed an appreciation for each other across the road. We laughed, we argued, we cried, and we loved each other across the road.

There were days when I thanked God for placing me on this road and that I never wanted to leave. There were days when I didn’t think I could take one more step across the road, and then I would remind myself of the dirt road my Saviour walked with a heavy cross on his back … for me. In the book of Romans it says, “but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

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The tough times refine us, and hope keeps us buoyant. There has been a whole lot of perseverance across the road that has served to build a whole lot of character. And still today, I will slip my smelly hand into his smelly hand, and as sweethearts of 30 years we continue to help each other walk – together, across the road. end mark

Melissa Hart
  • Melissa Hart

  • Dairy Producer
  • North Adams, Michigan
  • Email Melissa Hart

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