Cows, pigs, goats and chickens don't care that we gained an hour of daylight on Sunday — they just want to be fed on time.

And for farmers like Zach Bantle, general manager of Burnett Farm in Adams, there is still the same amount of chores to do in a day, regardless of where the sun sits in the sky.

"I'm up by 7 a.m.," Bantle said, now in his fourth season on the farm. "It's harder to get out of bed when the mornings are darker and colder and there's not too much light. But I prefer to get most of my work done in the morning."

While he agrees that daylight saving time can be advantageous for some chores, such as bailing hay in the early evening, he still prefers having the extra hour of light in the morning. Either way, he adapts, he said.

"We adapt to it no matter what," he said of himself and other farmers. "It was once a way to conserve electricity, but it's not necessary anymore. Our internal clocks get all messed up and we feel groggy for about a week, but you get used to it like anything else."

If you're like most, you were once told by a grandparent, teacher or read it somewhere that we gained an extra hour during daylight saving time on Sunday to help farmers get their work done during the summer months. But in reality, the change doesn't do much to help farmers like Bantle.

The American agriculture industry deeply opposed the time switch when it was first implemented on March 31, 1918, as a wartime measure for WWI to get more work done by daylight rather than burning valuable fuel, according to an article by Christopher Klein on the History Channel's website.

"The sun, not the clock, dictated farmers' schedules, so daylight saving time was very disruptive," Klein writes. "Farmers had to wait an extra hour for dew to evaporate to harvest hay, hired hands worked less since they still left at the same time for dinner and cows weren't ready to be milked an hour earlier to meet shipping schedules."

Following WWI, the national repeal of daylight saving time in 1919 allowed states to decide for themselves if they wanted to return to using standard time. DST returned in the 1940s for WWII, but was again repealed following the war.

"The confusing hodgepodge resumed," according to the article. "States and localities could start and end daylight saving whenever they pleased, a system that Time magazine described in 1963 as 'a chaos of clocks.' Order finally came in 1966 with the enactment of the Uniform Time Act, which standardized daylight saving time although states had the option of remaining on standard time year-round."

Since then, farmers and non-farmers have learned to adapt. Many farmers today are only mildly affected or they have found solutions to help them adjust to the time shift.

Plant-based farms don't see as much of a disruption in their day as farms with livestock do, but they still must plan their days to be optimally productive.

On Farm Girl Farm in Sheffield, farmer and owner Laura Meister uses her "extra hour" of daylight for chores at the end of the day.

"My business model requires very long days, starting with harvesting, then processing, then field work and deliveries," she said. After finishing deliveries, she said she often returns to the farm to sow micro greens or prune greenhouse tomatoes while taking advantage of the evening light in the cooler temperatures.

"I feel like I have 'more time' this way than if it were the other way around, because I would still start the day with harvesting and then have less time at the end of the day for other projects," she said.

Farm Girl Farm's growing season — in which Meister grows "a little bit of everything," but focuses on heirloom and specialty varieties of plants — lasts the duration of daylight saving time, beginning with greenhouse planting in early March and harvesting through November. If the warm weather persists, however, Meister said she often finds herself harvesting into December. This will be her 13th season in business.

While the plants don't seem to mind whether a clock is set an hour early or an hour later, animals are a bit more vocal about keeping to a schedule.

Because the cows at Burnett Farm are sold for beef and not dairy, Bantle doesn't have to worry about keeping a milking schedule.

"Dairy has to be time sensitive. You have to milk in 7- to 12-hour intervals," he said. Instead, his cows enjoy days hanging out in the barn or in the sunshine, eating or laying around. Around certain times of the day they can be found waiting by the fence for someone to escort them to another pasture. "They're creatures of habit," he said.

Dairy cows prefer to stick to a schedule for when it's time to eat and work. But DST forces many farms to try to milk cows earlier to keep up with pick-up and delivery schedules to ensure the end product gets to the stores on time. The American Farmers Association of Indiana Inc. suggests farmers ease cows into daylight saving time by feeding and milking 10 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," according to the association's webpage. "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."

But what if it were up to the cow to decide when it wanted to be fed and milked?

This was the idea behind the instillation of the Lely Astronaut robotic milking system at High Lawn Farm in Lee. With this system, the cows line up to be milked all on their own, day or night, said Roberto Laurens, general manager the farm, which produces milk, heavy cream, and ice cream with all natural ingredients.

High Lawn Farm has been processing milk since 1923, and the Lely Astronaut robotic milking system was installed in 2014. Each of the farm's 120 Jersey cows have their own unique collar, Laurens said, which helps keep track of when the cow last gave milk, how much milk it gave, and the quality of the milk. The cows enter a que to be relieved of their milk and to also receive a treat. If it's too soon for the cow to be milked again, the gate will swing open and the cow passes through. If it's time to be milked the gate remains shut and the process begins. The robot cleans the udders with spray and a brush to remove any dirt or debris. It then scans to locate the udders and gently latches on for milk to flow into the tubes until the udders are emptied.

The barn is mostly self-sustainable with its own machines to manage climate control, cleaning and nudging feed closer to the cows.

In this controlled environment, production can continue as normal, whether daylight saving time is being observed or not. Cows may be creatures of habit, but they do seem to enjoy choosing when they want to be milked and when they want to relax no matter what time it may be, according to Laurens.

For the farmers themselves, there are positives to the extra hour of sunlight on a personal level. Despite the long days, Meister doesn't seem to mind adjusting the clock if it means she can spend time with friends.

"I find it very pleasant and quintessentially summery to come to town after work and have a late dinner with friends, and to have it still be light when we sit down at, say 8 p.m.," she said. "There is just nothing better."

Jess Gamari can be reached at

Digital content creator

Jess Gamari has worked at The Berkshire Eagle since 2016. She was previously a Berkshires Week intern in 2013 and a North Adams Transcript summer intern in 2009.