Some people define fall as changing leaf color, football season, cozy sweaters, trips to the apple orchard and anything pumpkin flavored. Don't get me wrong, I love all those things, too. But within the dairy industry, fall encompasses so much more.
For many dairy farmers, fall starts with harvest. I love seeing the choppers, wagons, trucks and tractors in the fields to bring in a good crop. Saturday afternoon football games even make me nostalgic for this time of year and make me think of all the farmers out and about; however, with the sun being hidden more often this season and more rain coming down, getting corn chopped this year proved to be difficult, at least for producers in southeast Minnesota. In fact, there more than likely are some who finished much later than anticipated or haven't finished yet because of the excess rain dumped on the area. For the rest who were able to get their crop in, there is usually a sigh of relief before moving onto combining - at least that's what happens on our farm. I know my dad was feeling better once all the bunkers, bags and silos were filled with silage in order to feed the animals until next year's harvest; however, he and most farmers aren't relaxing yet. There's still plenty of corn left in fields to combine. I know the fall days can be long and tiring during harvest, but I think many farmers can relate to the excitement when the process is finished.
Fall also means World Dairy Expo. If a farmer needs a little positivity about the dairy business, travel to Madison, Wis., during one of the biggest industry events around the world. Boom. Problem solved. The atmosphere at World Dairy Expo is so full of excitement and enthusiasm, I think. Dairy farmers are happy to be in the company of other dairy farmers to share their joys, tips and even not-so-fun moments of rural life. There are good cows to see and new bulls to talk about using on the farm. There are seminars about new research in the industry and some of the newest technologies alongside the proven stand-by products in the booths and commercial exhibitors throughout the grounds. There are grilled cheese sandwiches to eat and different flavors of ice cream to try. Plus, there are old friends to see and laugh with, and new friends to meet. World Dairy Expo can be hectic - if you're an industry representative, it's a time-consuming week and if you're a dairy farmer there are chores to arrange in order to make the trip. But it always seems like the hassle is worth it. There are usually numerous smiles on the people wandering about Expo.
Another plus to fall is the cooler weather. Gone are the days of summer when the temperatures soared and the humidity rose higher. During the weeks when there wasn't even a break in the weather at night, I always thought about the cows. As much as dairy farmers try to keep their cows cool, there are just some days which are worse than others. I also thought about my dad and the other farmers who had to milk during those times. Sometimes, my dad would come out of the barn at night looking like he just took a dip in a pool rather than finishing chores. It can take a toll on any person. But the cool weather of fall is great for both cows and people. Plus, the snow isn't flying and the bitter cold hasn't set in yet. I can picture the cows resting in their stalls while chewing their cud after being milked and fed - a good sign of happy, comfortable cows. And being able to wear a long-sleeved shirt or sweatshirt during milking - a sign of a good temperature for the farmers. This definitely gets many farmers excited for this time of year.
Whatever makes you excited for fall, embrace it. While it may also be a busy time of year, it's also a beautiful and exciting time. I hope you continue to have a safe harvest and enjoy the fall season.