Thursday, February 04, 2010

First He Killed His 51 Cows

And then himself.

See the story in today's NYTimes. Peter Applebone is fairly restrained in his piece on the suicide of a 59-year old dairyman north of New York City. The article says 51 cows is about the limit for a single person.  My uncle ran a similarly sized dairy by himself, at least until his barn burned and he had a heart attack. That tells me there's not been much productivity improvements over the last 60 years, except of course the cows these days probably produce 2-3 times the volume of milk.  But milking 51 cows, minus those dry, twice a day, every day of the year is an intimidating prospect.  It scared the hell out of me.  And at 59, and alone.  (Dairy isn't the most social occupation.)

I assume he raised his cows from calves and he knew them, knew their personalities.  That hurts. [Paragraph revised to clarify.]


George Buddy said...

Bill, as usual, an excellent story that you chose to highlight. Wasn't it possible for him to get some one to help, say5 10 am (or whenever the cows need milking). 51 cows sound like a lot of hard work to me, as you point out.

Bill Harshaw said...

George. Thank you--as for the help question, don't know. Dairying has really been in the pits the last couple years--high feed prices and low milk prices. Any cash outlay would be difficult, particularly if he was in debt for anything. I've the impression most help on dairy farms in the Northeast are Hispanic immigrants, probably getting room and board plus money.

If he was the strong, silent stoic type, which is the impression the story gives, hiring help might have seemed like failure. </end psychobabble.