I recently engaged in a discussion via Instagram with a young girl heading off to start a new job on a dairy farm. She asked for some advice on how to be a ‘good’ farmer, what to expect when she got there and what would be expected of her as part of a dairy farming team.
It got me thinking. I’ve been farming for a loooong time. I’ve been farming all my life. But then, I’m only 23, so I haven’t really been farming for all that long at all.
There’s very few days that I don’t learn something new in agriculture. It could be a new way of doing an everyday task, a little bit more about the science behind the job or it could be about ‘the old ways’ of farming, and how we’ve learned from our past.
You see, we’ll never know it all. Agriculture is moving at a lightning rate; the things I learn today could be out of date tomorrow. With that said, I thought I’d pull together a little list on my top tips for farming and the life lessons to go with it.
- Listen to what others have to say, but make your own mind up.
- Appreciate that there’s more than one way of doing something.
- If you can’t do something, ask someone to show you. Don’t be afraid to ask again.
4. Sheep love to escape, or die, or both – I think its genetic.
- Wear gloves when you’re milking, its more hygienic (and your hands won’t smell of cow dung for days!)
- Don’t tuck your waterproofs into your wellies, your socks will get wet (no really, people actually do this).
- When your mum says ‘empty your pockets before you bring your washing down’, do it.. it ain’t so fun pulling blue paper off your clothes when you have to do your own.
- Your pocket knife will go missing. It’ll probably turn up in the aforementioned washing machine..
- Body language is key to working with livestock, behind on their left and they’ll turn right, behind on their right and they’ll turn left. If you’re walking towards them, turn your shoulder away and don’t look at them, they’ll not move! Remember, easy does it.
- Get a seat cover for your car and a plastic box for your boot. Demote a pair of slip-ons to ‘driving shoes’ and change out of your wellies, no air freshener can rid the smell of a dairy cow, even if you can’t smell it yourself.
- On the same vein, if you’re on a farm long enough, you’ll go ‘nose blind’, you might not smell the smells but everyone else off the farm will, funny looks in the shop are a given.
- Clean stuff. No but really. Clean buckets, clean walls, clean tractors, clean sheds. Do it regularly and it’ll become a habit, it’ll never feel like a big deal or a big task.
- A square of chocolate or a squeeze of honey will encourage a baby calf to suckle a teat.
- Sales folk are very good at sweet talking. Listen to them but do your own research. The science behind what they’re selling often neglects OTHER opposing science – make informed decisions.
- Know your neighbours and be willing to help them. You never know when you might need them.
- Support local. It’s your community, like before, you never know when you might be in need.
- Take a break and get away from the farm. It’s not an easy job and 9-5 doesn’t mean anything. Don’t forget that there’s more to life than sheep, dairy cows and grass.
- Record data. Keep a diary and check your progress. You can’t manage what you don’t measure and you’ll never know if you’re getting better.
- Work hard. No, really work hard. Don’t tell people you’re a grafter, let your graft speak for itself.
- If you’re not happy, change something. Go to a different farm, ask for different responsibilities, don’t work where you’re not appreciated – life’s too short.
So there you have it, my little tips for farming. By no means an extensive list but if you remember these 20 you’ll be well on your way to being a ‘top’ farmer!
I’d love to know what your top tips are!