As I lay in bed this morning, I looked at my phone to see if anyone had calved overnight. Nope, not this morning. The cameras are helpful, but sometime a calf can be in the shadow of the cow or out of view. So sometimes I still get a surprise when I go into the pre-fresh pen. I rolled out of bed to feel that my shoulder is still sore from working too hard the day before.
    I can clearly remember when I injured my shoulder. It was a few years back while milking a fresh heifer that had gotten her foot tangled in the cord on the milking machine. This was one of her first milkings, and everything was new and scary. She had picked up her foot in an attempt to kick off the machine, and the cord from the auto retract went between her hooves. The more she moved around, the further the cord went up basically getting lodged in between, flossing her foot.
    She was quick, and I thought I could save the machine from being kicked apart. I grabbed her foot to hold it up. Wrong thing to do. She wanted nothing to do with being milked or me trying to hold her still while I was attempting to untangle the cord. She kicked back hard, and so went my arm, and the pain shot up my shoulder.
    I immediately knew I hurt it, but I had the rest of the barn to milk. So, I took a pain reliever and continued on moving and milking slower but avoiding the pain. I ended up going to the doctor to find I had pulled the muscle, but it was not torn so I got the steroid shot and slowly healed.
    When I work too hard lifting or pulling, my shoulder gets sore again to remind me to not use it so aggressively. After all, I am not getting any younger, and I should not try to carry all the groceries in to the house in one trip. The daily actions of moving bags of feed, seed, salt blocks and even mixing calf replacer can remind me to ease up.
    My husband, Duane, also hurt his shoulder this spring. Slipping while moving heifers was the action and catching himself as he avoided falling into the manure was the cause that pulled his shoulder. This was not the first time for him either. The last time required surgery to repair his left shoulder. This was his right shoulder. He too went to the doctor and got a cortisone shot to relieve the pain. To heal, heavy lifting should be avoided.
    Well, that is not how it works for us farmers. Lifting, pushing and pulling are all actions we need to do throughout the day, and healing was not going to be happening until all the fields are planted. This wet, cold spring was challenging to even get into the fields causing us to wait until the wind dried up some high ground and then plant all night.
    On days when it was not raining, Duane fed cows in the morning, loaded the trailer up with seed corn, and Dave, our 70-year-old neighbor who has back problems, would get the seed to the planter in the fields. Together they would fill the planter. As the day went on, Duane would call me if he needed more seed to help Dave.
    What a gang we are working through our injuries. Each of us knew that later we would be feeling the pain of getting the job done, hoping sleep would be enough to recharge us for the next day’s work. All too often, we wake up sore to take a pain reliever to make it through the mornings to take another pill in the afternoon. Knowing this is how some can get hooked on pain medication, we only use over the counter pain relievers. Even when we get a prescription, we usually only take one when the pain is extremely bad. Anything prescribed by the doctor could be a bigger problem later on. So as hard as we work, we try hard to not get hurt to avoid the pain that comes later.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.