Dairy farming is a lifestyle, not just a job PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Farm Editor   
Monday, 08 July 2013 09:09
Shelli Morlock walks amongst the cows in her field at the Ro-Jo Dairy Farm in Pemberville. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
PEMBERVILLE — Most people understand life on a farm can involve a great amount of hard work and dedication. Few can fully appreciate the total commitment required of a diary farmer.
"It's a life where you can't take a vacation, not even a day, unless you have someone you can trust to handle things for you," said Shelli Morlock.
She and her husband Dan operate the Ro-Jo Farm on Housekeeper Road.
Morlock's parents' Robert and JoAnn, (thus the Ro-Jo) started the farm in 1955, before turning it over to the next generation.
"I didn't marry him," she said of her husband, "I married his cows."
The couple knows full well that operating their family dairy is a full-time commitment. Full time for a dairy farmer means 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No days off, and being alert at all times to expect the unexpected.
Perhaps a cow is calving, or has managed to escape and is on the loose. At another time, the compressor on the tank which keeps the milk cold goes out before the good milk can be transferred to the tanker which visits the farm every other day. - Yes, the tanker comes even on holidays, if that is the date, bar none.
"There is no break," Dan Morlock said.
In fact, he finished milking the cows before he allowed his wife to take him to the hospital to be treated for a heart attack last February.
Shelli also recalled the story from years ago when her mother was in labor and was told to wait until after milking before she could give birth to one of Shelli's siblings.
Earlier this year, they did take two days away from the farm to go to Columbus to see their son, James graduate from Ohio State University. James competed at the county fair as Jayme.
"That was the first time in 22 years," she said.
They were able to take the time as they had people who have worked for them and were trained to handle things in their absence.
Dan Morlock walks through the barn where he milks his dairy cows.
Although the routine is pretty much the same every day, both say there are some variations and they have to be able to adjust to any circumstance at a moment's notice.
Each day begins around 6 a.m. with getting the cows to the milking parlor and milked. Sometimes that means going out into the pastures to get the cows. The cows need to be checked, to be sure they are healthy and all is fine.
The milking may take up to two hours, followed by re-sanitizing all the equipment for milking.
The next chore is cleaning the lot of any manure, etc. along with mixing the feed for the cows.
The couple currently milk about 40 head daily, but have up to 100 animals on the farm. The others may be dry cows, or heifers and newborns, not ready for milking yet. They also have two bulls currently in their stock.
Dan says mixing the feed is done once a day, while the animals are fed twice a day.
Despite most the cows being allowed to graze on pasture, their food is supplemented with a combination of grains including corn silage and haylage. The younger animals are fed bottles.
Shelli explained that when a cow gives birth, the calves are taken away rather quickly for two primary reasons.
First of all is the health of the newborns. By taking them from the mother, the Morlocks can watch them more closely and treat any problems in a more timely fashion.
The second and most important reason is for the safety of the baby. It would not be safe for the infant to be wandering around with all the cows, as it could easily get trampled by another animal.
Other daily duties may vary, but often includes making hay, chopping silage, cleaning or fixing something around the farm.
"There's always something to do," Dan said noting the need to run for feed or run to get parts to fix something.
Morning chores are done most days by 10 or 11 a.m.
They may grab a bite to eat around that time before tending to the needs of the cows or other chores such as getting bedding for the cows, hauling manure or baling straw.
The milking and feedings resume around 5 p.m. Those same chores that were handled in the morning need to be handled again.
"We're doing chores while he is milking," Shelli said of her job, along with their daughter, Madisen, and any other available laborers.
The jobs change with the season from spring planting to making straw and hay, getting ready for the county fair, cutting corn for silage, etc. The winter is the time to fix machines and make other needed repairs around the farm.
When they create silage, they have to make enough to last through the year until the next crop is planted and harvested.
Dan also has two agriculture baggers. As a sideline he chops and bags hay or other products for other farmers.
James graduated from OSU with his nursing degree and has told his parents he is not interested in staying on the farm.
"Madisen shows more interest," her mother said.
Madisen will be a freshman this fall at Eastwood High School.
Shelli summed up the mindset of a dairy farmer, "It's a lifestyle not a business. Who in their right mind would go into dairy, today? You are either born or marry into it, unless you are a little screwy."

Additional dairy stories:

Dairies come in all sizes in Wood County

Dairy is focus of 'ag breakfast'

Regulations and details major part of operating a dairy

Last Updated on Monday, 08 July 2013 11:08

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