Highlighting the life and times of the dairy industry

In the Wednesday, June 18 issue of The Holton Recorder, we are saluting the month of June as Dairy Month.

In Section B of the newspaper, you will find several stories about essential dairy products and many facts and figures about the overall dairy industry.

Living in rural Kansas like we do, most of us are quite familiar with the dairy industry. In fact, many of us have, or have had, some direct connection to the dairy business.

The same cannot be said for a lot of people living in our urban areas, some of whom are two or three generations or more removed from direct family connections to farming and agriculture in general.

That is why it is important for us to continue to inform and educate people about what it takes to produce safe milk and dairy products that we all consume as part of our healthy diets.

My own connection to milk production and the dairy industry goes back to my maternal grandparents, John J. and Leona Rockers, who lived in the rural Garnett area, and had a small dairy herd to provide for their family’s own milk supply.

Just a few generations ago in Kansas, it was quite common for most rural families to have their own milk cows.

I can remember, as a small boy in the early 1960s, spending the night with my grandparents and, in the morning at about sunrise, walking out to the milk barn with my grandparents to milk the cows.

Their small herd of cows, probably eight or 10, had already arrived at the barn by the time we did. The leader of the herd had the honor of wearing a cow bell.

The cows knew the way into the barn and where to stand to be fed hay and milked by hand. The ornery cows were harnessed with “chains” - a device placed on the ankles of their back feet to keep them from kicking at the milker and anyone else nearby.

Later in the 1970s to 1990s, I learned a lot more about the Kansas dairy industry through my wife Connie’s parents, Glen and Doris Lickteig of rural Garnett, who operated a Grade C then Grade A dairy for about 30 years and, at its peak, milked about 90 Holstein dairy cows twice a day.

To be a farmer and dairy producer, I learned, you must also be a top notch mechanic and maintenance man to fix machinery on a moment’s notice, a sort of veterinarian to give shots and give medical attention to your animals sometimes as a prevention against further stress and disease and sometimes to essentially save an animal’s life, a conservationist using the natural resources you have in the best interest of all, a weatherman to know when to plant your crops and when to harvest and just generally a good steward to the land and to the animals. Not to mention a good book-keeper, accountant and A-1 top notch business person. These are just a few of the skills it takes to be sussessful in the ag industry.

A lot of dairy families and farmers get more work done before 8 a.m. than the rest of us do all day! Maybe you’ve heard that said before. It’s true. And work on a full time farm extends throughout the day and, these days in the summer, sometimes well after dark, seven days a week.

There is something uniquely special to the life of a farmer, stockman and dairy producer.

Over the years, we have often described our community journalism work as something like the dairy business in that we have to be on the job and work everyday, too.

The truth is, however, that we really can’t hold a candle to farmers and dairy producers.

For these reasons, and many more, we’re proud to salute June as Dairy Month and all farmers and ranchers, in general. Salute!

—David Powls

WeatherHolton, KS