How Coronavirus Is Impacting Farm Life



 

Between spring rains, preparing for planting, and keeping an eye on how COVID-19 is changing pretty much everything for everyone from one day to the next, I nabbed my favorite dairy farmer and asked him to help you take a peek into how the coronavirus situation is impacting dairy farming.

Q: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed daily life for you on the farm?
A: If there's ever a "good" time of year for a situation like this, it's now. It's come at a time of year when we're preparing for planting, but since it's been wet and we can't get into the field, we've had the necessary time to be in the office researching and preparing contingency plans. We're putting in writing what precautions to take, discussing how to get our work done while still keeping our people safe, and doublechecking to ensure we're following the guidelines set in place because they change every day.

And ultimately, we're making sure that we're still able to -- in the midst of all this -- do our work so that we can continue to provide an essential product at a critical time. Not to mention we're doing our best to make smart decisions so that we can stay as financially healthy and viable as possible so that we can provide for our employees, their families, and my family.

Q: People are stockpiling toilet paper and food. Are you having to do anything similar for the farm?
A: We're good on toilet paper, but we have had to make sure we have enough of our supplies to continue our work. In the midst of various industries being shut down unexpectedly, we've had to purchase ahead when it comes to our seed and fertilizer for the row crops and a dozen different types of feed for the cows. We're also making sure we have plenty of veterinary supplies, and as best we can, supplies for equipment in the shop. I'm expecting that manufacturers of vet products may well pivot off the animal side to the human side if asked to do so, but that's speculation on my part. So we're just all working to make sure our families have what they need as well as the same for the cows and all they need.

Q: A lot of people are out of work at the moment. Do you and the team feel a certain amount of pride and gratitude in knowing you're among an essential workforce right now?
A: There's a badge of honor that I can sense among the team in regard to providing a critically essential food product, for sure. And they should be proud. They're out there sweating and hustling and showing up and doing their work, no matter what's going on in the world.

Personally, I sometimes get in the rut of thinking, as people do with any job, "This is my job. This is what I do. I take care of the cows. I take care of my people. I take care of my family. I go to sleep." But this has reopened my eyes to how vital what we do is to the community, how many people rely on us, and it's also been a good reminder of the fulfillment that comes with farming.

Q: What do you think the next year will look like for the ag industry after we emerge from this?
A: I have no idea what next week or next month will look like, let alone next year. What I do know is that as long as we have consumers that are demanding our product, we will still be here making milk.

Q: It seems like things are leveling out a bit, but what are you telling people who are still worried about finding enough food at the grocery store?
A: There's plenty of food out there. The supply chain just has to catch up with it. Our milk prices are terrible right now; there's actually an oversupply of milk. So, hold steady. You just have to give it time to catch up at the grocery store.

Q: How do the cows feel about all of this?
A: The girls remain exceptionally unphased. As long as they have enough people who show up at work to milk them, feed them, and get them clean, dry bedding, they don't really care what goes on!



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