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Why I didn’t become a dairy farmer.

In cleaning out my inbox from the last 7 years or so (I told you I’m a computer hoarder), I ran across this email I sent to my parents in college in 2005. Note: I was an agricultural communications major taking animal science at the University of Florida.

Dear mom and dad,

I just wanted to share with you my experience on Tuesday at the dairy farm. (WHY did I decide to be an ag major?!!)

Using the context clues given in class the week before (the farm is located 30 minutes away, we’re taking a 16 passenger van, its going to be hot, we’re going to be there for 4 hours) I had plenty of time to prepare for the day. I woke up early, hydrated several hours prior to departure, took two Dramamine, brought ice water, and wore a white shirt, sunscreen and hat (for you, Dad).

This was going to be a fun field trip, just like the ones to grandma’s petting zoo. Oh, but it was so much more than that.

I got to the van early to get a front seat. The trip took 30 minutes as promised, and we received an itinerary upon arrival. 10 stops. It looked like we’d be spending most of the time in the air-conditioned van driving from stop to stop. Fine with me.

First stop, waste management site. Awesome. Look there’s a giant lake of sh*&, leading to another larger lake of sh*&, leading to yet another even larger lake of sh*&. What an impressive system.

By the third stop, it was evident that those less fortunate non-Dramamine takers, weren’t really enjoying the ride in our all-terrain vehicle.

By the fifth stop, we arrive at the “feeding area.” These cows spend six hours a day eating. (And another 10 hours chewing the food they’ve already eaten). Their diet is made up of mainly fermented corn. I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled fermented corn, but it smells amazingly like vomit.

Here we get out of the van and are suddenly engulfed in said vomit-smell. The kid getting out of the van behind me lost his cookies right there. For an emetophobic like me, this is of course,  my worst nightmare. I’m freaking out. Holding my nose, hyperventilating, fanning myself with my notebook, pleading with Jesus to make it stop.

I offered the cookie-loser my one last chewable Dramamine. He declined. So I took another one.

Next stop, the medical facility. We enter a room with one lone cow. A cow with a large hole in her side that is plugged up with an equally large rubber stopper.

“Ok, now everybody take a glove (clear, plastic, up to your elbow). Now I’m just gonna take this plug out and you’re gonna put your arm in here until you can feel her three stomachs and the intestines,” said our professor.

I’m sorry I just hallucinated.

He removed the plug, and there, right before our eyes, were the complete stomach contents of the cow. And while some of the contents were spilling out of the hole, the rest were moving up and down, visibly digesting. The professor warned us that if Sadie belched, these contents could spray out of the hole and on to whoever had his or her arm inside.

At this point, I could pass out, throw up, die, or any combination of the three. There was no way I was putting my arm inside that hole. Out of desperation, I casually put on the glove. When the professor wasn’t looking, I took it off and stealthily moved to the back of the line, as if I had already gone. He never even noticed. I admit, I feel bad about cheating my way out of such a graphic learning experience. But honestly, I am an agricultural COMMUNICATIONS major. And though I’m sure somewhere out there someone is communicating about bovine stomach contents, its just not for me.

So now we we’re back in the van, on the way to visit the “milking site.” I’m sure I don’t need to include any details to describe the smell of the van at this point.

Unfortunately for us, one of the stops on the tour was eliminated because no cows needed to be artificially inseminated on Tuesday. There is a God.

The milking site was actually very interesting, despite the fact that I got sprayed with milk and splatted with manure, as it continually hit the concrete. And I successfully milked a cow, which was easier than I thought it would be. Though I felt like I needed to stay after class and apologize to the cow for violating her. Wouldn’t you be pissed if some puke-smelling college students were tugging on your nipples all day long?

By this time we were finishing our tour and preparing to go home. I will always remember that day as one of my smelliest. And despite all my dixie-dreaming-farmgirl-fantasies, I am POSITIVE that I do NOT want to be a dairy farmer under any circumstances, nor do I care to ever visit a dairy farm again. Ever.

I love you and I miss you both.

Julie

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2 Comments

  • Reply Anna P. November 18, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Julie… your story telling abilities AMAZE me! This “note home” is hilarious 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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