It almost seems impossible that I have been managing Cedar Pine Farm for five years now. I remember walking onto the farm on that chilly November day. We were milking around 300 cows and feeding 30 calves. These days we are quickly approaching 500 milking and 100 calves.
But more has changed than just cow numbers – I’ve evolved. I was 18 when I began and I didn’t have the slightest clue of the struggles that would ensue. I’ve had days where I felt like I needed to jump off this crazy train at the next stop, and I’ve had days where I just sat in the barn and felt at ease, like I’m home. I would like to share five lessons I’ve learned that have helped me through those years.
1) Know when enough is enough. Sometimes it is with people; they like to test my limits. I’ve learned to stop giving chances to those who don’t deserve them. Other times it is with the cows. I will fight endlessly for a sick cow to get better, but too often I have to remind myself that if she is showing no signs of improvement, it is better to let her go. Every circumstance is different, so I trust that I will know when it comes to deciding.
2) De-stressing is necessary. I am the biggest worrier. I can honestly tell you it is bad for you. I have given myself stomach ulcers because I can’t stop. You have to step back and find ways to relax. Whatever you need to recharge, you have to do it. I like to go for long drives with the windows down; it clears my head. Stressing drains you of your energy, and you cannot function on a low battery forever.
3) Get new boots! I know they are usually expensive, and I hate to have to buy them, but do it. I don’t ever realize I need new ones until my socks are wet and brown. You must have them for good support and traction. Take it from the girl who slipped and bruised her tailbone; I couldn’t sit properly for months. Not only do you need new boots, you deserve them.
4) Don’t be ashamed of your emotions. You are a human with a heart. It’s OK to be upset, ecstatic or angry, but you have to be aware that your mood is contagious. I can’t tell you how many times my day starts with an angry comment from someone and before I know it, everyone on the farm is grumpy. No matter the circumstances, be kind. You have no idea what others are battling at that moment. So sometimes I have to force myself to say nothing, before ruining someone’s day with my bad mood.
5) Believe in yourself. I have accomplished things I never thought I was capable of, simply because I was too stubborn to give up. I have gotten knocked down and drug through the mud so many times that I didn’t believe getting up again was even possible. I never stopped trying though. I rose up, dusted myself off and kept fighting. That is why I am still here.
I’m proud of the work I do. It is never an easy job, and I never expected it to be. I could tell you endless stories of trial and error; I’ve made many mistakes along the way. The challenge is what keeps me motivated, though. I am lucky to wake up and do what I enjoy every day. Hopefully I can continue to share the lessons that get me through the ruts of the job and highlight some of the ideas that help make us successful in the years to come.
- Dairy Producer
- Shippensburg, Pennsylvania
- Email Kelli Woodring
PHOTO: Kelli Woodring says that even with mistakes and lessons learned along the way, she feels lucky to wake up and dairy every day. Photo provided by Kelli Woodring.