You would think by now I would learn not to comment on posts on Facebook where people are just going to respond and say what I do for a living is terrible, but it seems I haven’t learned. Well today someone said shame on you to me for doing nothing but loving and treating my cows right. And for some reason it’s sticking with me. Because I am not and never will be ashamed of what I do. Nothing will ever convince me the last seven years of my life were wrong and shameful. But if love is shameful then fine, shame on me. If meeting my first cow and having an instant connection so much that she has been my best friend for the last seven years is shameful, then fine, shame on me. If sitting next to a dying nine month old cow that should still have been alive today except for the accident that no one could control, at fourteen years old, and realizing that I was never going to see her again after that night, and therefore having to grow up and become an adult at fourteen years old is shameful, then yeah shame on me. If being told I’m much more mature than any other kid my age, and having the only reason for it being because I learned to be responsible and take care of something other than myself because I had my cows is shameful, then fine shame on me. If having my first panic attack of my life because I thought one of my cows was going to run into the road is shameful, then yup shame on me. If seeing a calf be born dead and see the mother get worse and worse and then get better a bit only to get worse again and then we lose her, and because of this watching and needing updates and watching and checking on my cows every single time they’re pregnant because I can’t let it happen again is shameful, then shame on me. If having one of my cows do a backflip and fall over her head and not be able to breathe until I know whether or not she’s going to be ok, and then going to hide and cry in the bathroom in both relief and horror after what just happened is shameful, then shame on me. If having a heifer slip and fall on my ankle and almost break it, if not breaking it a little and going back into the barn after knowing I could walk on it and feeding the heifers because they needed it and it was time to feed them and never actually getting it checked out, resulting in me walking with a heavier foot fall and having my ankle hurt every time it’s humid, but not really caring because I’m used to it now is shameful, then shame on me. If losing a calf after only nine days, or after one day and having to go somewhere and pretend like everything is normal when it’s really not but it’s a feeling that can’t be put into words is shameful then shame on me. If losing a cow after five and a half years and months later still walking into the barn and feeling like there’s a hole in the world where she should be is shameful, then shame on me. If time and time again I found myself worrying about one or another of my cows for a different reason or another no matter what the results end up being is shameful, then shame on me. If you’ve never felt the love of a cow, if you’ve never had the experience of sitting down next to a cow and having them turn and their head and fall asleep on you, with both of you feeling absolutely safe and at peace and can sit there for hours, then you don’t know what you’re missing. If anything mentioned above seems shameful to you, then you will not understand ever and I’m sorry for you. You may say shame on me, but I will never be ashamed to love a cow.
As we have arrived at the last day of 2018, we have reached the day where people take time to reflect back on the year they had. My year has been a mix of good and bad; a lot more bad then I would’ve liked. The bad go something like this: my dog died, Flopsy the barn cat died, Eclipse died (see previous blog posts), my cat died, the events of September happened that everyone in my town and surrounding communities know about (once again see previous post), both of my grandmas fell and ended up in the hospital, and a friend of mine that I made last semester died of cancer.
Now the good things; my new dog, Dickens came, then our new cat, Mannix came. Our other cat got really depressed but she stayed around and got happier when the two new kids came. I finished my second semester of my freshman year, and my first semester of sophomore year. I joined my college newspaper, I started this blog, I met so many great new people and made many new friends. I published my first (and second) book. My grandmas recovered. Lunar Eclipse was born. I have two Jersey calves coming any day now.
Altogether the good definitely outnumber the bad, even though there were times in these last few months that it felt like the bad would never end. And of course there were some things that don’t fit in either category and are more nostalgic, my last year at the fair and two of my friends from the last five or six years moved to Michigan and onto a new future.
So here we are at the end of what was probably the weirdest year of my life. Things are looking up all the time and I feel more ready to move into the new year and the next semester of my college experience than I have in a long time. I probably felt the same at the beginning of this last year. It’s typical for one to say something like bring it on when going into a new year, and I probably did around this time last year. All I’m gonna say to 2019 is please be nice to me, and don’t be so weird. Into the next year we go.
Perseverance has got to be one of the most important qualities a dairy farmer, or any farmer for that matter, needs to have. A lot of the time things don’t go as planned, and when the unexpected happens it can be good sometimes, but also a lot of the time it’s not as you can probably tell from my other more depressing posts. But even though it can hurt for a long time, and maybe it’ll hurt forever, if farmers don’t keep going there would be no one left for the rest of the cows and then soon there would be no more farms. So when life gets you down, the most important thing to do, especially if you’re a farmer, is to keep going.
This might sound cheesy or cliche but things really do get better. Even when things get terrible, for example like when my Hazelnut died Acorn and eventually Lilly and Lydia came. Even though Acorn did pass too Lilly would not have become ours, and Lydia wouldn’t have been born. So when other things happen I force myself to think of that. And even though other things can happen, and do happen, (especially these days when I look back at some of the stuff that happened to me this summer), I do my best to tell myself that it had to have been for a reason, and that God is teaching me some sort of lesson that I just haven’t learned or figured out yet.
That following year Bingo had her first calf, that happened to be another one like Martha meaning she’s a half Jersey and half Holstein, but this time she was a dark brown so this time we decided she was a Jersey and kept her and I named her Gravity. I don’t really know why I named her this I just thought it was a cool name, which it is. Lilly also had her first calf which I named Lydia. I always thought this one was kind of funny because I’m not sure if it’s a thing most farms do really or if it’s just ours that usually does it, but normally mother cows and their calves are supposed to have names starting with the same letter and this was the first time I’d ever followed that rule. I haven’t done it since either which is why I think that was a funny coincidence. It also became time then for Jasmine’s first calf which came out looking almost exactly like Katy which was amazing for me, and I named her Sammy. Somewhere along the way Katy also had a boy calf that looked like her, but we sold him and I don’t fully remember when that was so I threw it in right now because I was thinking about it.
But anyway this was during my senior year of high school so with everything else ending that year I was immensely glad that I had been born at the right time that I was able to still have one more year in 4-H after this year. But anyway that year was also an exciting one because it was the first year I ever got a Grand Champion with my Sammy. It was still super awesome even though the only reason she got it was the fact that she was the only Lineback there, but of course that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have gotten it anyway, just like with Holly the year before. Also this year one of my neighboring friends’s cow had a calf in the middle of the barn which was super fun to sit and watch.
But also besides the fair, a few months before it Eclipse had her third calf which was super pretty with a number seven on her face. For a few days she was perfectly nice and looked completely normal, but nine days later she suddenly wasn’t drinking her milk and passed away. We still don’t know what happened there, we can only assume that there was some inside problem that we didn’t know about, like something didn’t develop right and it just wasn’t obvious.
But anyway the last full day of the fair that year Annabeth had her second calf, Charlie. The baby that was born at the fair was also a Milking Shorthorn, so we knew they would be in the same class at the fair the next year (which they were) so that was cool. So already by the end of the fair we had two calves planned for the next year, Charlie and Sammy because she was small and young enough. But also this year was just last year and it was my first year of college. Of course I went back and forth plenty of times during the year and I did my best to work with them when I could, but I didn’t get to practice as much as I would’ve liked. That turned out to be okay though, because it also turned out to be the year of the most well behaved calves I’d ever had since Katy. Besides Sammy and Charlie, Martha had her first calf, and to our surprise it turns out being half Jersey she was able to have a full Jersey. Well she was 75% Jersey anyway but she looked like a normal Jersey and we named her Hazel (after Hazelnut). Primmy also had another calf, the first one we ever kept, and we named her Rory.
During this year we managed to have a few more Lineback heifer calves born, but they all came out looking slightly funky to us. We did later find out that there were two types of Linebacks, Witrick and Gloucester, and the few weird ones we’d been having were Gloucester. We’d never seen them before so that’s why we weren’t used to them. Katy had her next calf, which I named Hope. Hope turned out to be her last calf because after her we tried to breed her again many times, and we decided just recently to stop trying because it wasn’t working. So Katy is now known as a pet cow, which I don’t think is a real thing in other places but it’s Katy so for us it is. Holly had her first calf too, but instead of a Lineback it came out looking like Gravity, but we kept her and named her Lindsey. The other calf that we had in this last year was out of Eclipse, (which would end up being her last one), and we named her Faith. She also looked like Rory, but since her line on her back wasn’t even we decided to leave her home instead of taking her to the fair. Of course now I wish I had.
Well that’s it. That’s my story, the rest I’ve already blogged about, and you already know it. I never really said fully what dairy farming means to me, but I hope after my four part story you understand without me spelling it out. Thanks so much for reading through it all, and of course I’ll end up blogging about what comes next so you’ll find out as it goes, just like I will.
Yesterday I ended with my first year as a Junior Superintendent so today I’m going to begin with a few stories of what happened that year. First off one of our main Junior Superintendent duties is/was collecting cans at nighttime when the fair was shutting down. One of these nights we had a man go running past us yelling “curse this fatness!” It was super random and funny so I still remember it. Other things that happened that year is that there was a long power outage that lasted pretty much all night and there was a fight on the midway causing us to lock down the barn for a while. So yeah, that was an interesting year.
Moving on to after the fair, it came time for Acorn to have her baby. Of course not having any major problems before this I was very excited. But what I didn’t know at the time was that the one we bred her to was related to her, because the other farmers weren’t very organized when it came to that. The baby was born dead, and a few weeks later Acorn was gone too. It was three years after Hazelnut, and since Acorn came to help me with dealing with that and it being my second time something like this happened it almost hurt worse this time.
Back a few months before that we got another Lineback cow at the same auction we got Annabeth from and we named this one Holly. Also during this year Annabeth had her first calf that we named Rey and Eclipse had her second baby that we named Neptune. Along with those three my sister decided that year to claim a Holstein and have me show her at the fair which she named Noel. A few months after she was born she got bloated which farmers can always fix by having the calf swallow dawn dish soap and with Noel being the first one I’d ever seen that happen to, from that day on her name became Bubbles. If that name sounds familiar it’s because a few posts ago I had the large Mishaps and Mayhem post that was mostly about her, especially since she almost broke my ankle. That fair year the most exciting thing was that Holly got Reserve Grand Champion Lineback in both shows, mainly because there was only two Linebacks that year but either way it was cool. I really don’t know how many posts this is going to turn into but it keeps getting really long and I guess I am going through seven years of my life so I guess that’s what happens.
Yesterday I ended with Hazelnut’s passing and how that set up so many other things that have happened since. So to continue with my story a few days later a neighboring farm offered us another Jersey which we went and saw and then got that weekend, and I named her Acorn. And even though it was still very soon after it happened Acorn did help to make it a bit better. A little while after that, with a few months of practicing with Annabeth and Acorn I decided to claim another of the family farm’s Holsteins, mainly because a Holstein that was born at the time that I was helping to feed as I got more involved on the farm reminded me of a dog. So I registered her in my name, and I named her Bingo. During this time I also had begun to help feed the heifers and sometimes scrape off the floor if it got dirty when the cows came in before milking time. With all of this happening it gave me a bit less time to work with my show cows, but I made it work.
Eventually we had to tell the family that gave us Hazelnut that she’d died, and they felt so bad that they let us have another one of their Jerseys for free. This one I names Lilly, and suddenly I had four show cows to bring to the fair that year, which is more than I’d ever had before. It was also my first fair that I ever got any big prizes in. Annabeth won Reserve Grand Champion Milking Shorthorn that year, and it was the first time that had ever happened for me, which was really exciting. So exciting in fact that I honestly don’t remember much else that happened that year.
Also during this time my other cows were getting older and it was time for them to start having calves. Unfortunately it turns out that Katy was born with or possibly developed over time a hormone problem, meaning we had to breed her nine times before she had her first calf. So then Jasmine was born, a fully white lineback which I thought was interesting. This was in November, and a few months later in March Eclipse had her first calf, Martha. Martha was a half Jersey and half Holstein, and usually our farm doesn’t keep those but we did for the first time. Primmy also had one like that, but we sold her calf to a farm close by, but I don’t really remember why we got rid of that one but kept Martha. So with these two in mind, along with Lilly still being of a small size, these three went with me to the fair that year. Nothing as exciting as the year before happened that year prize wise, but it was my first year as a Junior Superintendent, which I think I’ve mentioned before but in case I haven’t it just means that I helped the adults take care of the barn during the week, and I got to sleep in the barn. There were many stories that happened during that time, but I already feel that this post is going on really long, so I will begin part three with that tomorrow.
Mainly because I can’t think of anything else to write about today I decided to just go with a bit about what dairy farming means to me, but it might possibly turn into a rant because I don’t really know what I’m about to write…
So I probably have mentioned this before but I really got into dairy farming when I was in the eighth grade. It started the summer before when we stopped by the County Fair that would become my home for the next seven years of my life and I saw a few lineback cows that I believe I have also mentioned a few posts before. So a few months after that in February Katy was born and you could very easily say that my life was changed forever. Suddenly I was in the barn all the time with her, walking everywhere and going anywhere around the yard that we possibly could. Of course this was so long ago that there are many stories I could go into that I might not fully remember so I can’t really go into them.
But anyway after that first year and the first time I had a fair week and I loved it so much I decided to try to find more cows. Of course having a family farm full of Holsteins, they were what came next. This idea came to me shortly at the end of the fair, so of course August came next and a few weeks later Primrose was born. We shortened it down to Primmy after a while especially when she was bad, which when it came to walking and showing she was, and eventually we had to decide she just wasn’t a show cow and ended up not bringing her along to the fair the next time. But it was okay because there was still Katy and a few months later in October another Holstein was born that I decided I wanted to show, Eclipse (yes that Eclipse). So she joined my show cow group and she actually could figure out how to do it and became my third cow but my second show cow. Then one of my mom’s friends that she works with who was also a dairy farmer with a farm full of Jerseys which they sold to us. So then I had Hazelnut, my third show cow.
With those four cows/three show cows we went to the second fair of my life, which was as good as the first time. Once again there was many adventures that I can’t fully go into again because it was so long ago (maybe I have too much information in my head I don’t really know haha). Then August came again and we found out about a cow auction at a different county fair close by, and though it was unplanned we came home with my first Milking Shorthorn, Annabeth.
After all of this it was about the end of 2013, October specifically, and then through no fault of anyone in the barn, we lost Hazelnut. No one really knows what happened, only that we came in and she was lying on the floor. It was the day before Halloween and the next day she was gone. It was the first time anyone or anything close to me had died. I’ve been lucky in the aspect that I never lost a human close to me, and until recently I hadn’t lost a house dog or cat that I could remember. So this turned out to be an actually very important thing for me, even though it was terrible and I’ll never forget it until the day that I die. But I know now that it happened for a reason, because if it hadn’t so many things that have happened since probably wouldn’t have, and I know that God knew that. It might’ve taken me six or seven years to realize this, but I think that’s okay and that it might’ve had to happen that way. But anyway I feel like I’ve been going on about this a long time so I’m going to stop now, and just say that part two comes tomorrow.
Dear you, you the one I no longer see every day. The one I lost, the one that was found in the field with no explanation. The one I thought maybe I was finally starting to miss less, but who was I kidding it hasn’t even been a month yet. I miss you so much I can’t even make myself write your name in this post. I don’t know what brought this on really, just that I realized in a week it’ll have already been a month, and I swear it was only like a week ago. Or just when I can finally make myself look at the empty stall where you used to stand, and I can laugh at the cats sleeping in a pile in the hay that is all that is left. Did you know for a while I couldn’t even take the milker off of your neighbor when she was done because I couldn’t make myself stand up in there, let alone look at it. Did you ever get the feeling that something wasn’t right behind you, or like something was empty when it hasn’t been in a long time and it shouldn’t be? That’s what it was like for weeks. I sometimes like to imagine you running around in the field with Hazelnut who I don’t really know if you remember or not, but seeing as you’re with her now I’m sure you do. You’re up there with her, and with Cas who I know you remember seeing as she was your calf and she’s barely been gone over a year. Acorn is there with you too, though you never got to meet her. And I thought all of these names I listed would have been the worst, the ones that would hurt the most, but none of them have ever hurt as much as losing you did. I don’t know if it’s just that it’s more recent or what but there are days where it’s some small thing that has me on the verge of bawling my eyes out once again. And I don’t know if you went to heaven, because I don’t know where animals go when they die. I tell myself you do though, because I know that God put you on this earth for me for a reason, and he wouldn’t have done that if I was never going to see you again. It might not be for eighty or ninety years or so, but someday we will be together again. But right now, with this pain I still feel at random times during some random hour of some random day, well it sucks. And it sucks that some people still can’t see it, and they can’t see what dairy farmers go through and that they think of their animals as nothing more than objects, and that we are inhumane and don’t care when you die. Well I care. I care a lot, and it hurts and when I got up this morning and thought about what to say today I wasn’t planning on this but it seems to have happened. Eclipse, there I did it, I got your name in here, not that anyone reading this who knows me doesn’t know who I’m talking about, I miss you so much and it’s not fair that you got taken away, but eventually I’ll learn to accept it, even though this pain will never fully go away.
Until we meet again in eighty or ninety years, I will always and forever be your Sara.
Yesterday started out as a perfectly normal, pretty good day. I had slept in after the busy Saturday I’d had, and I had woken up doing everything I normally do to prepare for church on Sunday. Everything was fine, until it wasn’t. Yesterday morning my life came crashing down for the third time this summer. My dad was forced to come home once again with the news that one of my cows had died. I had always thought that when the younger ones died it was worse, but after five years and eight months of seeing my Eclipse every day when I came to the barn, it hurts so much more.
Anyone who hears the fake news about the dairy industry and hears that dairy farmers don’t care about their animals should’ve been there yesterday morning to see my parents and I standing and hugging in the walkway between my room, my sister’s room, the basement, the bathroom and the rest of the house. They should’ve been there to see us all sobbing and to see me barely getting through church yesterday, and having to continually run to the bathroom, crying, and not being able to sing along until the last song. Growing up as a Christian in the church I’ve always been told that everything happens for a reason, and that God always has a plan for us and he never gives us something we can’t handle. All the other times I’ve been able to see that. I’ve seen that when one of my other cows died it always lead to something else. Many things at the barn today wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t lost one of my other cows. It’s only been a day and I’m sure eventually I will see that this happened for a reason this time, like maybe since we’re bringing Eclipse’s granddaughter, Hazel, to the fair maybe this will make it more significant or special if she wins something. But for now it just plain hurts.
While dairy farming is our main farm source that my family has, we also have a small alpaca farm in our backyard, which is pretty cool and always fun to tell people. It started a few years ago, first meaning to be a new job for my mom when she temporarily lost her old one, but then since she got it back it became a bit more like a hobby.
We started out with seven of them, five from one farm and two brothers from a different farm. We’ve got four girls; Saber, Aurora, Silver Moon and Charmin, and then we had three boys; Zonji, Coal and Prince. A few years ago back when we were beginners Prince got worms which eventually made him so sick that he couldn’t even stand anymore. Of course since we were beginners we had no idea until it was too late and he passed away. Just lately Coal, the brother of Prince, also got these worms but since we know more know and were prepared for it we fixed him and today he’s fine.
Besides when they get sick alpacas have always seemed to me to be a much more low maintenance type of animal than cows are. Obviously they have the basic food and water needs, which basically consists of a bit of grain in the morning and more in the afternoon, a big water bucket in each barn that we fill up almost weekly or whenever it’s needed, and a supply of hay that we usually have to fill up daily. Besides those daily things there is an annual shearing day most of the time around June, when we get professionals to come in and give our kids a haircut. We then use this hair, typically called fleece to make yarn and knit or sometimes weave different things. And I’ve heard some try and say that shearing them hurts them, but it is just like a haircut for humans, and it makes them feel a lot better in the summer when their heavy coats are gone. Then during the year the fleece grows back so when winter comes again they have a lot of fleece again so they stay warm throughout. Another thing that happens during shearing day and a few other times if needed is that we give them shots to help keep away the worms and clip their toenails to help stop them from catching them on stuff in the field that they spend most of their day in.
Alpacas are kind of funny creatures but they can always make us laugh, and though they can be skiddish and are prey animals, (so like you can’t hug them or anything), they still show us love and we love and take care of them as much as we do cows.