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Brittney Thomas: A day in the life of a dairy farmer

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Brittney Thomas: A day in the life of a dairy farmer

Thomas handles hundreds of cows while also operating heavy machinery daily.

Thomas handles hundreds of cows while also operating heavy machinery daily.

Camille Baer

Thomas handles hundreds of cows while also operating heavy machinery daily.

Camille Baer

Camille Baer

Thomas handles hundreds of cows while also operating heavy machinery daily.

By Camille Baer, Contributing Writer

It’s 5:01 a.m. and the sky remains an inky blue with not so much as a beam of sunlight creeping up from the horizon. With no one on the road, it’s an eerie feeling seeing campus this time of day.

While most people are still in their beds, blissfully asleep, Brittney Thomas has already been awake for an hour, working up a sweat.

Camille Baer
Brittney Thomas has seen almost everything there is to be seen throughout her work with the dairy cattle

Down over by the Japanese Gardens, the Dairy Cattle Research Unit is the hub for producing milk on campus. Thomas has worked on the dairy farm for over eight years, beginning as an undergraduate student, and in the last three years she has been working full-time and promoted to assistant manager while simultaneously earning her master’s degree.

“I work full-time, and I’m also a part-time student,” Thomas said.

Camille Baer
Thomas’ maternal instincts often shine through in how she treats the animals.

Thomas’s sweet and easy-going demeanor is a refreshing change of pace. As a woman in the dairy industry, she’s proven herself as a force to be reckoned with. From handling hundreds of cows to operating heavy machinery every day, each task almost seems easy when she’s in charge.

“Some days I feed cows, some days I take care of the calves, some days I milk, some days I clean the barns — I literally do everything. Tuesday through Thursday I’m always milking the 4 a.m. shift,” Thomas said. “My day in the life of a dairy farmer is literally always changing.”

What’s even more impressive is that this past year, adding to her busy life, Thomas and her husband recently had a baby, a new addition to their family which brings them a lot of joy.

Camille Baer
Some of the cattle at the Dairy Cattle Research Unit move in and out of their positions without much trouble

As a new mother looking after her daughter, Thomas employs time management strategies to make adjustments throughout the day to ensure things run as smoothly as possible.

Back in the milking room, the cows move in an out of their positions like clockwork. Thomas occasionally has to intervene and slap cattle on their backsides to keep things moving smoothly.

Camille Baer
Brittney Thomas is an early riser, starting her work day as early as 5:00 am

Some of them she speaks to softly, coaxing them along like an old friend she’s known forever, sweet and conversational. The cows respond well to her, and there’s only ever a few moments where her guidance is needed.

The repetition from milking the cows is soothing; it is methodical and logical. Being a mother, milking cows appears to be second nature for Thomas as she moves from cow to cow, placing the milking claw onto each utter which pumps the milk to a large silver holding tank in the next room over.

Camille Baer
Brittney Thomas working up a sweat.

Thomas playfully slaps the backside of one of the cows as its leg kicks out abruptly, stomping back down and she giggles.

“That happens all the time,” she said.

From taking care of all the calves, to feeding the cows, to cleaning manure from the pens, there’s nothing that Thomas doesn’t do or hasn’t done before.

Camille Baer
Cows at the Dairy Cattle Research Unit early in the morning

“It’s basically management, health procedures, checking on our cows all the time, making sure they’re all healthy and things like that and making sure that everything I just said gets done on a daily basis,” Thomas explained. “I do all of it.”

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