Dairy farming is a round the clock job, 365 days a year. Ever wonder what 24 hours on a dairy farm is like? Here’s a peek into a day in the life at Gilead Brook Farm in Bethel, VT (also known as the Wright Family Farm).
Rise and Shine
It’s about half an hour before daybreak. The alarm sounds, but no matter. Beverly Wright is already awake, lying in bed and mentally going over the chores planned for this mid-summer’s day. She lets her husband, Derrick, get a few more minutes of sleep (he’s a night owl), and hops out of bed.
The eastern sky is brightening, as the sun’s about to rise. Walking from the house to the barn, Beverly can already hear the cows mooing softly and moving about in the field as they anticipate being let into the barn to eat the hay she is about to feed them, and for the morning’s milking. Funny thing about cows: they’re creatures of habit, and they appreciate a schedule as much as most humans do. After the cows are fed, Derrick meets Beverly at the barn and he begins milking the cows. Beverly heads to the calf barn to feed the baby calves.
Derrick doesn’t need to direct these cows – they know the drill, and with full udders and his reassuring voice, they welcome him as he moves from cow to cow and puts the milking machine on. The quiet hum of the machines even have a reassuring, rhythmic sound, appropriate for this time of day.
The sun is rising in the sky, by 8:00 a.m, most of the cows are milked and they are moved into the nearby pasture or the barn where they can eat, walk around, socialize and relax. Derrick scrapes and cleans the cows stalls in the barn.
Meanwhile, Beverly and Derrick’s son Andrew and his wife Kendra, take care of the younger cows, called heifers. Andrew and Kendra are the fourth generation of the Wright family to farm. They take turns carrying their nearly one-year-old daughter, Amelia, who loves riding along for the chores. She just learned to say tractor – one of her first words.
The heifers are fed grain in the barn and then go outside to graze. Kendra makes sure to check the cows that are pregnant to see how they’re doing. Andrew and Kendra also help with milking occasionally when their parents have the rare occasion to take time-off.
After morning chores, the family returns to the house, to sit and chat about the rest of the day’s chores.
9:00 am to Noon—Chores to be done!
Each family member has their own responsibilities on the farm like mending fences, fixing machinery, and loading the cow feed into the storage area, or feed bunk. Most dairy farms are true family businesses: someone does the finances, another oversees the cows, and another manages the field work.
Farmers need to keep records of everything that happens on their farm such as what a cow eats, veterinarian visits, as well as other purchases and schedules. Derrick manages the bookwork and uses his time in the morning to stay organized.
The milk truck arrives at Gilead Brook Farm every other day at 10:30 a.m. to load a shipment of milk. It’s kept to 40 degrees in the farm’s holding tank, and the driver keeps a careful record of gallons and temperature. It’s tested to ensure it’s safe with no antibiotic residue and that it is the right temperature – it will be tested at least two more times before it gets to the dairy case at the store. Once the load is transferred to the truck, the driver offers a quick handshake and drives off to deliver this milk – and more milk from nearby farms – to the local processor.
Noon—Lunchtime followed by more chores
The morning chores are done, but most farms grow their own feed such as hay and grain, so there is much field work that needs to be done in-between milking times. Derrick and Andrew do a lot of the haying and mowing at the farm. Andrew and Kendra also spend time getting their cows ready for shows at the nearby Tunbridge World’s Fair and have taken home a slew of blue first-place ribbons.
Our ribbon haul from The Tunbridge Fair this year. 1st in Ayrshire summer and winter yearling. 1st in Ayrshire 2 & 3 year old cow. Both cows won best udder; our 3 year old was reserve champion.of the breed 1st in produce of dam for Ayrshire. 2nd in Ayrshire winter calf 2nd in Jersey aged cow 2nd in Jersey dam & daughter 3rd in Jersey winter yearling 3rd in Jersey 4 year old cow 3rd in best 3 females for both breeds 4th in Ayrshire winter calf 5th in herdsmanship #tfair2016 #showcows #cattleshowing #fairlove #farmlove #farm365 #jerseycows #ayrshirecows
4:30 pm—Second milking
The cows are gathered from the pasture and brought back into the barn for their second milking.
Around 5:30 p.m. the milking equipment is again sanitized and the farmer cleans the cow’s udders before gently placing the milking machine on the teats for the afternoon milking. Once the cow has been milked, she returns to the pasture to eat, walk around, socialize and rest for the night.
Beverly feeds the baby cows again too and makes sure their beds are clean.
These cows are not house pets, they’re a business investment, but as any dairy farmer will tell you, each one becomes a member of the farm family, and they care about their well-being. This particular farm names each and every cow.
9:00 pm—10:00 p.m. Bedtime
Before Derrick heads to bed, usually around 10:30, he heads out to the pasture to check on the cows one more time. Calving cows need to observed and assisted as needed. Like humans, cows will give birth any time of the day, so sleep can be interrupted.
Life on a dairy farm is busy! Beverly is already asleep, knowing she’ll once again anticipate the alarm’s ring to rise before dawn and start another day.
Thank you Wright family for all of your hard work to make delicious dairy!