The Cows Are Out
Cows Are Out by
Trudy Chambers Price is a good farm memoir to read on a rainy
day. The author, her husband, and their two sons spent 23 years
on a moderate-sized dairy farm (25 to 75 Holsteins) in Maine. The
story itself is very engaging, aided by the frequent family photos and
the author's pleasant style, but as Mom told me when she lent me the
book, "It's the wrong kind of dairy farm!"
Mom was coming fresh
from reading Folks,
This Ain't Normal,
so she was struck by the amount of time the Prices' cows spent in
confinement on concrete floors. From what I read, though, dairy
cows are a whole 'nother ball game, and it takes a lot of extremely
careful planning to raise them on pasture alone. The Prices did
have lots of grazing area they turned the cows into in the summer, and
I suspect stockpiled
hadn't hit the forefront during the sixties, seventies, and eighties,
so folks didn't have any other option than to feed their cows hay in
the barn all winter.
While I'm willing to
give the operation a pass on the confinement score, I do think it
should be read as a cautionary tale about debt. First the couple
went into debt to buy the farm, then they went further into debt to
purchase machinery (and yet more machinery as time wore on). Two
years after moving to the land, the author had to start teaching school
to pay the bills, and it was clear that even after 23 years, they had
yet to break even.
This cycle of debt is
par for the course in mainstream American farming today, but I think
it's also what drives the little guy out and turns our farmland over to
mammoth agribusinesses. In the Prices' shoes, I'd like to say
that Mark and I would have thought outside the box and dreamed up
value-added products so we could keep equipment purchases to a minimum
and make a living wage, but it's hard to think straight if you're up at
3:30 every morning to do the milking.
Our chicken waterer is the POOP-free way to get
off to a good start with your new flock this spring.
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