What dairy families can do amidst low milk prices
Recently, my husband and I were at a dinner meeting with other dairy farm couples. We own and operate a dairy farm as well. It was a fun evening with a lot of joking and camaraderie in the group. Even in the midst of nearly record low milk prices, this group wasn’t focused on that. Instead, they had fun visiting about their work and family lives. As I thought about it, it made sense. Why dwell on low milk prices when you can enjoy an evening with people you know are experiencing the same thing but who also want to laugh, share, and talk about other things. Out of that evening came some thoughts about what dairy farm families can do.
- Seek support from others who understand. I think that is what happened in our evening out. Everyone there is in the dairy business and understands current economic conditions. That in itself is a comfort. Everyone was in the same boat.
- Talk it out. It’s one thing to get support from those in the industry but dairy farm couples themselves need to talk about the problems and challenges. It might be most comfortable to talk about difficult financial problems while working or doing something around the farm. Certainly there is no shortage of opportunities for that!
- Talk with the children. Besides couples talking together, it’s also important to bring children into the discussion. Children can be pretty perceptive sensing the unspoken. Even very young children can feel tension and stress through body language. It is better to talk with children in simple terms according to their age about what the problems are rather than leaving them to speculate. If left to their imaginations, they may come up with something far worse than what really exists.
- Think about why you do what you do. There’s the old joke about dairy farmers not minding being swatted in the face with a tail because they really like what they do. It doesn’t hurt to remind the whole family the good things about dairy farming and living in a rural setting. Knowing who your neighbors are, the safety of rural communities, being one’s own boss, enjoying working with animals, and being close to nature are just a few of the things many dairy families appreciate.
- Concentrate on your circle of influence. Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about the circle of influence and the circle of concern. The latter one is much bigger than the first. As farm families, we have a huge circle of concern including everything from the weather to dairy imports. But, we can only influence a much smaller circle, which includes the dairy business and family. That’s where we need to put our time and energy.
Image Source: Milligan and Danes – Dairy Initiatives Newsletter, Spring, 2001
- Take care of yourself. When things aren’t going as you would like, it becomes even more important to take care of yourself. First, getting enough sleep is essential. If you are having trouble sleeping, try having a more relaxing routine in the hour before you go to bed. Consider also what you eat and drink. At any time, strive for a balanced diet including whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, beans/legumes, and lower-fat proteins like fish, lean meat and poultry. Of course low fat milk will be in your diet but be sure to drink natural juices and plenty of water. Keep healthy snacks around that are easy to pick up and take along to the field. Avoid those with a lot of sugar, salt and fat. Look for ways to exercise that can be done at home to fit into the daily schedule.
- Take breaks and mini-vacations. Another part of self care is some time away from the farm. For dairy farm families, that’s always been a challenge but is even more important in today’s economic climate. Time away does not have to be a lengthy vacation. An afternoon or evening out is a good idea. Look close to home for things you’ve never done. Often, we don’t go to the attractions that are right in our backyard.
- Avoid self-medication. It must be said… in times of stress some individuals may turn to alcohol, over use of prescription drugs, or other substances. Look for healthier ways to relieve stress including the suggestions mentioned earlier.
Dairy farmers have weathered difficult economic times before as well as other setbacks. Information abounds on strategies for dealing with the dairy business, but at the same time, it is important to pay attention to caring for yourself and family.
Published in Dairy Star May 9, 2009