This month, we're celebrating Blue Diamond Dairy's 10th birthday.
We were supposed to start farming in early May, but my dad called on April 1 to say that one of the springing heifers we purchased had calved. I quickly packed my bags and left for the farm to take care of our new cow and calf. Glen still had a month of work left, so he moved to the farm in May.
Since then, we've milked cows in three different milking facilities, housed our cows three different ways, lived in three different houses, and added three children to our family.
It probably goes without saying that we have learned a tremendous amount about dairy farming in the past 10 years.
In no particular order, here are some of the things we've learned:

Calf nutrition
That first year, we had two calves born in late fall. One was a little 50-pounder we named Dinky; the other was a giant Brown Swiss cross we named Peanut. I was paranoid about how they would handle the colder temperatures. (For the past decade, my family had only calved seasonally; we only had calves born in the spring.) So I started feeding my fall calves one quart of milk before milking and another two quarts of milk after milking. I remember being so concerned that I was feeding them too much that I called Dr. Linn at the U to ask if six quarts of milk a day was too much for a calf. Now, we have calves on our automatic calf feeder drinking 12 quarts a day.

Sick calf hydration
We had so much trouble with E.coli in our baby calves that first year. It was horrible, but it also taught us a lot about baby calf hydration. We learned how to administer fluids to calves, using both intravenous and subcutaneous routes. We learned a lot about the importance of correcting acidosis in scouring calves. We learned that sick calves need feedings of both milk and electrolytes, because electrolytes alone do not provide enough calories. Probably the most important thing we learned is to focus on keeping the calf hydrated and nourished, instead of focusing on stopping the scours. We've also learned a lot about the importance of dry cow vaccination and feeding adequate colostrum at birth. We still get sick calves, mostly from rota and corona viruses, but we rarely lose a calf to dehydration.

Johne's Disease
I didn't know what Johne's disease was when we started farming; Glen had a basic understanding of the disease. But when one of the cows we had purchased tested positive, we found out real quick how Johne's disease affects cows and how serious the disease is. We started testing every cow at dry-off and had to say good-bye to some really excellent cows because they were test-positive. Today, we don't have a single test-positive cow in the herd. But that doesn't mean we're done testing. We'll never be done testing. That's the cruel nature of this insidious disease.

Veterinary care
We didn't have a veterinarian when we started farming at my dad's - there were no vets in our area. When something came up that we didn't know how to handle, we'd send an email to Dr. Schefers and then wait for his explanation and advice to come back. When we encountered our first navel hemorrhage, it presented as an umbilical cord full of blood being held in by the dried tip of the cord. It looked like the bull calf had a sausage hanging from his belly. We had no idea what was going on or what to do. I snapped a digital picture, emailed it to Doc right away, and he kindly explained that the calf would be just fine if I simply tied the umbilical cord off a couple inches below the belly with a piece of dental floss.
Now, we have 24/7 access to veterinary care and diagnostic testing. Amoré, one of our older cows, went down with milk fever after she calved last week. She ended up spending a whole week in the front yard before we brought her back into the barn, which is way longer than we usually allow down cows to be down. But we knew that if Amoré was going to recover at all it would take awhile because her creatine kinase (CK) enzyme level was 10 times higher than normal after she went down. The CK enzyme level (a test that's run along with the blood calcium and phosphorus tests) indicate how much damage was done to muscle tissue during the time a cow is down; a normal cow's enzyme level is 70 - 500 and Amoré's enzyme level was 5,000.

Agronomy
Growing up, both Glen and I were the kids who milked the cows and fed the calves; we had siblings who spent more of their time helping with field work and cropping. I still know relatively little about the agronomy on our farm, but Glen has learned a great deal about seed selection, soil preparation, and everything else required to grow healthy, high-yielding crops. And one of his strengths in managing our crops is his ability to think outside the box. One of his best ideas has been his method for seeding corn: each of the multiple varieties of corn we plant each year is planted in each field, so that there are two rows of variety A, three rows of variety B, two rows of variety C, two rows of variety D, and three rows of variety E. Our neighborhood apparently thinks this idea is crazy, but it has several benefits - when we chop, each variety is blended with the others in the bags and silo, so we don't experience changes in feed value throughout the year; if one variety doesn't handle drought as well as the others, the whole field isn't a complete loss because the other varieties compensate; the same holds true with other agronomic issues like pest resistance.

Business management
The business of farming is the area we had the least experience when we started, even less so than cropping. Like most dairy farm kids, I'm guessing, neither of us had been involved with our farms' finances while we were growing up. We milked cows and fed calves and drove tractor, but we didn't help take inventory or set up the budget or analyze enterprise performance at the end of the year. We didn't help make purchasing decisions or financing decisions.
I still remember the first time Jim Takala sat down at our kitchen table and explained the farm business management program. I was skeptical at first, but we decided it would be a good idea to at least give it a try. Looking back, I don't know if we'd still be farming if it wasn't for the farm business management program. Today we can tell you our income over feed cost and what it costs us to produce 100 pounds of milk - not including labor and management (we don't ever calculate those numbers, it would be too depressing). We understand the importance of financing a purchase versus tying up working capital. And we can make adjustments within each of our enterprises to improve profitability.
We still haven't figured out how to get everything done in a day. Maybe we'll accomplish that in the next 10 years.