It’s the coldest part of winter, and it’s getting old. Fun holidays are over, bookwork is overwhelming, calves are plentiful and help is scarce.
During days like these, I think of one of my father’s pieces of advice that I may need to apply to my own psyche. 
“Don’t be a bawl baby.” 
In explanation, my dairy farmer dad was referring to calves that were obnoxiously hollering or bawling for their moms, maybe just for the sake of drawing attention to themselves. It was his way of telling me to, “Suck it up and adjust your attitude.”
Possibly this might be good advice to other dairy folks this time of year. To that end, here’s my top 10 list to spin negatives into positives for these first few months of 2022:
– Bad weather. True, it is now windy, cold and dreary. But, the fall was unusually warm and free of excess precipitation. So far this winter, there have not been many frozen waterers or burst pipes, and we were able to go many weeks longer than usual without wiping teat dip off before cows exited our parlor. Besides, the colder the winter is, the better spring feels.
– Winter dairy farmer Olympic events. The bundled-up waddle, slide on icy yards, extreme walking through drifts and muscle-aching shoveling will be over in a few short weeks. In July, we won’t even remember all of the suffering from cold noses, toes and fingers. Plus, you can get a little work out in at the same time as getting chores done.
– Lots of fresh cows. It is so much work taking care of all of the new babies, cows with twins that need extra attention, and handling the many buckets of fresh milk. On the good side, we only freshen older cows in January and February, so there’s no training-in new heifers right now, and the experienced cows know what to do and where to go. We get to listen to them talking to their babies on their way into the milking barn holding pen when they pass their calves being warmed and dried in the calf warmer. 
– Milking more cows than other times of the year. Milking takes longer. Keep in mind, though, the older money cows are calving, and they hopefully milk well, stay healthy, breed back quickly and fill the milk tank. These cows offer the highest return on our investment of raising them as replacements. And, what else do we have to do in the winter besides milk cows?
– Could use more chore help. After kids were here during the holidays, now it is back to just Mike, Rolf and Jean doing the milking on weekends, and the days get long. Yet, we can remember how fun and special it was to have the extra help during the holidays and work together. The kids did many extra projects on Rolf and Mike’s to-do list. Now during the week, our regular employees are back to help and contribute so much, and we appreciate their efforts.
– The holidays and parties are quickly over letdown. We can realize how unique and blessed we are to have had our family gather and to celebrate Christmas and the New Year after or in between chores. 
– Much to think about for future planning. If any new facilities, renovations or projects will take place in the next year, we need to plan now. We will carve out some time for meetings to go over plans with advisors that could help us decide what to do and how to do it.
– Still cold, snowy and miserable. It is wearing after a few months of it. Wait; every day has more light. Spring is not too far around the corner. We can plan for the next growing season. Did I hear some bird songs? Hey, let’s go for a walk in the snowy woods on this gorgeous winter day.
– Boring bookwork to grind through to finish up the fiscal year and all of the tax forms to distribute and deal with. Well, our farm business is still up and running. We have a great family and employees to help us do the work. We are marketing milk for cheesemaking, selling beef and male calves for others to raise, and selling cull cows. We sold some forages and grain in 2021. Maybe we will see a profit when all is tallied up. “You don’t know what is not measured,” as is often stated by smart advisors.
– So much to do and think about. That is almost always the case. However, isn’t it great that my brain can still multitask, and I can write a column in my head as I also milk cows. This life is certainly not boring.
Remember to keep looking for the light, more opportunities and the good things to come in the days ahead. Winter may not be most dairy farmers’ favorite season, but there is truly beauty in every season if you take a minute to look for it.
Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, Minnesota, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.