Do Cows Like Daylight Saving Time?

Let’s be real. Pretty much everybody in Indiana has strong feelings about whether we should or shouldn’t be on Daylight Saving Time (or for that matter, whether we should be on central or eastern time). While I, as a pampered city slicker, enjoy the extra hour of sunlight in the evening so I can get my evening run in (ok, maybe an evening power walk… or stroll), dairy farmers face some challenges when switching to and from DST.

How is that possible, you ask? Don’t farmers just rise with the rooster’s crow no matter what time it is?

Well, first of all, most dairy farmers could wake the rooster up on their way back to the house from the morning milking, which on some farms starts as early as 3 a.m. Secondly, farms have to stay on the same time schedule as the rest of us. Say the milk truck comes at 9 a.m. every day and takes about an hour to collect the milk. That means that between 9 and 10 a.m. the farm cannot be milking cows (farms cannot put milk into a tank that is being unloaded–it’s the law). After the tank is empty, it has to be cleaned (again–it’s the law).

Of course the milk truck doesn’t come at exactly the same time every day, so farmers have to be flexible in case it’s early or late. Therefore, it would be a logistical nightmare to milk at 3 a.m. half the year and 4 a.m. the other half–add soccer games, PTA meetings, and other obligations and it just isn’t an option for farms to opt out of DST.

But it’s difficult to explain the theories of time to a cow, who pretty much expects to be fed and milked at the exact same time every day no matter what. So farmers have to ease cows in to daylight saving time changes–maybe by feeding and milking ten minutes earlier (or later) each day until the full hour is achieved.

Cows are creatures of habit and anything different is, in their minds, very bad. Switching cold turkey to daylight savings time could stress the cows. Cows who are stressed, just like stressed-out people, are more likely to get a cold and less likely to do a good job (a cow’s job, of course, is making milk!).