We’re losing an hour of sleep next weekend, at least for everyone outside Hawaii and Arizona, but that’s nothing compared to the sleep dairy farmers lose over the very idea of Daylight Savings Time.
Yes, we’ll all set our clocks forward Sunday, March 12–but why? Daylight saving time (DST) or “summer time” is the practice of advancing clocks during summer months by one hour so that evening daylight lasts an hour longer, while sacrificing normal sunrise times. We then revert to standard time on the first Sunday in November.
The common belief that DST was designed to help farmers is far from factual, say many sources. More daylight means more time in the field or in the barn for dairy farmers, right? Isn’t that a good thing?
Nope. Back when it was first implemented, the lost hour of morning light meant crop farmers had less morning light for harvesting, and any dairy farmer will tell you that cows are creatures of habit, so it’s not easy for them to adjust to schedule shifts.
Daylight savings time was first proposed by William Willett to the British Parliament in 1907 as a way to take full advantage of the daylight. Germany became the first country to implement it, and the United States adopted DST 10 years later when we entered World War I.
Fans of DST claim the ‘extra’ hour of light at the end of the day makes us more productive, helps us get more Vitamin D, and a myriad of other benefits. It saves energy, say some, but that’s hard to measure. Most benefits are myth, say experts.
Dairy farmers in particular have to deal with the negatives of DST. Many farmers have to ease cows into DST – usually by feeding and milking 10 minutes earlier (or later) each day until the full hour is achieved.
Stressed cows are something any dairy farmer works to avoid.
So why does everyone think farmers are DTS Fans? According to Tufts University Professor Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Times, farmers raised such fuss against DST, “they became associated into the popular image of daylight-saving and it got inverted on them. It was just bad luck.”
PS — Guess what time we’re on for eight months of the year? Daylight savings time, which means “standard” time is anything but. Go figure!
Washington Post: 5 Myths About Daylight Saving Time
American Dairy Association of Indiana: Do Cows Like Daylight Savings Time?
National Geographic: Time to Move On? The Case Against Daylight Saving Time