Being grateful in tough times

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The end of December is here. In many ways, the year seemed to drag; waiting for a break in the weather, waiting for a break in milk prices, breeding stock prices, bull calf prices, cull cow prices. And, we are still waiting.

In other ways, the year flew by and by the time you read this, Christmas Day will have come and gone.

Ohio has lost more dairy farms, with 10 more farms exiting in October. This brings the total decline in Ohio dairy farms from October 2017 to October 2018 to 182, fully three times the “normal” rate of farm exits from 2007 to 2017.

The just-released November milk production report showed that Ohio farmers are doing their part to push cow numbers down.

USDA reported that there were 253,000 dairy cows in November 2018, down 11,000 head from a year earlier. Pennsylvania was down 12,000 head. Both states were down in milk per cow as well, resulting in more than 4 percent less milk produced than a year earlier.

In the West, however, nine states logged in increased milk production, ranging from less than a quarter percent in Iowa, to more than 7 percent in Colorado.

Overall, the 23 major milk-producing states produced 0.81 percent more milk in November 2018 than November 2017.

The bright spots? This increase was about what was expected, and cow numbers were slightly lower than expected.

It is challenging to find bright spots on many farms, especially when the end of the milk check may come long before the end of the stack of bills to be paid. Maybe there isn’t a milk check anymore, or may not be one much longer.

Before you worry about the challenges facing your dairy farm and future, when it may seem there are only hard questions and decisions, I encourage you to go back to the basics before you take on the hard stuff.

Appreciating the basics

When you wake in the morning, can you get out of bed yourself, get dressed and get to work? You likely know someone who has to wait, has to have help, is confined to a wheelchair or a bed and who lives in a very small, very dependent world.

Is there someone who cares that you do get out of bed in the morning? Who is waiting to greet you with a smile, a conversation, or a wag? You likely know someone who has no one.

Do you have a family that cares about you? That you can care about? It can be a family that you were born into, or a family that you have made. You likely know someone who is alone.

Do you have a church family and faith? You likely know someone who tries to navigate without this anchor nor the hope, comfort, strength and promise that faith brings.

Do you have friends? Good friends are there to listen, support, lend perspective, and help us laugh. Sadly, there are people without friends.

Are you healthy? Most everyone has a few health quirks, which seem to happen more frequently as we “mature”. However, we have much to be thankful for when whatever health issues we might have are manageable or fixable. Think of the hundreds of thousands of people who do not have access to so much as an aspirin, let alone a physician when they are sick.

Can you work? How many people never have the opportunity to learn how to work? To experience the satisfaction that a job well done brings? To support themselves?

These are just a few of the basics that come to mind. I’m sure you can add more.

With an appreciation for all that we have, we are better prepared to deal with what is, and plan for the year ahead.

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Dianne Shoemaker is an OSU Extension field specialist in dairy production economics. You can contact her at 330-533-5538 or shoemaker.3@osu.edu.

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