Dependencies, needs, and cows

I’m processing the relationships that exist between humans and cows on a dairy farm like Hawthorne Valley. Jess, the dairy herd manager here, is teaching me so much about how to be in relation with these ruminants. It’s a pleasant shift from life where I seemingly only have to think about my needs. It’s liberating, in a way, to relax into the needs of the cows. One day, the herd might be moving at the speed of a turtle, and so I get to move at the speed of a turtle.  Another day, a calf is galloping away from the herd, and now I’m galloping after him.

There are lot of dependencies that exist between the cows and the farmers here on the farm. It’s incredibly humbling work to be part of it because it makes my inherent interdependence to all other life tangible. What is interesting to me is how certain needs for both humans and cows get compromised for the sake of keeping this system running. Or that some humans redefine what their needs are in order to fully commit themselves to this lifestyle. I’m thinking about the long, relentless hours it takes to keep a dairy barn running. Lots of sleep, personal time, vacation, liquid financial assets, these aren’t generally part of the equation. And for the cows, they don’t get to be with all of their calves because it’s not economical for the farm to keep them all. And I’m also still wrapping my head around what it means to get milked once or twice a day, every day. It seems like an intense life. Should milk be a seasonal product?

Here’s what I’m thinking about this week:

  1. Why do cows get mastitis? Does that happen to other wild ruminants? Is this an indicator something needs to be shifted?

  2. Is there such a thing as a dairy operation where you could keep all the calves?

  3. What would a dual purpose dairy and meat operation look like where both sides are thriving? What are the overlapping interests and what the competing interests?

  4. There are too many flies. They are annoying for humans and for cows. How can their unwanted abundance be reframed into a solution?

  5. Can you nixtamalize chestnut flour?

  6. What would a silvopasture system look like here?

  7. Are the pigs at Hawthorne Valley thriving? Is there a way to keep them moving more, and create more airflow around them?

  8. Why is my sourdough bread baking into flat loaves and not rising

  9. How do I know if my dough is over proofed How do I know if my dough is shaped properly?

Sophia Hampton