A Review of the Year, A Review of the Decade

During this time every year, people look back and reflect on everything that happened over the past year. This year it’s even more special because it is also the end of the decade. And a lot of times at this point in the year I find myself looking back at only the bad things that happened. Sure there were a lot of things that happened this year, because a year is a very long time. They weren’t all good, and they weren’t all bad. And when reflecting back on the year in someone’s life, it is important to remember both.

This year began with our two boy alpacas getting sick with the same menengial worm that killed our other boy back in 2015. It’s weird to think that this was almost a year ago now, and that we were lucky enough that with experience and the help of God that we were able to save them, and that they are still here today.

Also this year was the first polar vortex in a long time, and possibly my life time. It resulted in my college closing for two days last January for the first time since I think the Civil War. Also during my college year I finished my junior year of college, made new friends, got even more involved in the newspaper, which at the beginning of the decade I never would’ve thought that I would be doing. And now as I head into next year I am somehow already a senior in college and also am looking at possibly becoming a co-editor in chief in my final semester.

Another thing that happened this year was that our family got ducks after we learned that they help to eat the snails and slugs that cause the menengial worm that almost killed our boy alpacas. Unfortunately we didn’t know that we also had hawks and that hawks can get ducks. So while we got the ducks in March, we lost all four of them by the beginning of December. We will be getting more next year when they return to Tractor Supply, and also after we figure out a better way to protect them from the hawks.

And now to the dairy farming part. Out of my special show cow heard I have only had one successful calf born this year, Kit, who is the granddaughter of my Katy. Since then a few have had bull calves, and others have had miscarriages. In October I thought we got lucky and we finally had another heifer calf, Jamey, but being born a week and a half early there was most likely something wrong inside that we couldn’t see. After about eight days she got bloated like calves sometimes do, but this time, for the first time that I’ve experienced, we couldn’t save her. It was heartbreaking.

Then came Charlie. She was born in July during my second to last year showing cows at the fair. She was a Milking Shorthorn, one of the three that we had in our barn. Just recently she became old enough to breed. Only when the vet came to check, he told us that she could never be bred and that she was likely to become dangerous. I had already seen weird and slightly spastic behavior from her, but I didn’t want to believe it. Only there was nothing to be done, and we had to get rid of her. This was only a few weeks before finals. Every time I lose a cow it’s different, and it hurts in a whole new, unique way that never completely goes away. I especially learned that after this year.

This year I learned what it was like to hold more responsibilities on the farm when my dad was diagnosed with cellulitis and congestive heart failure. Just two weeks ago he had to spend the night in the hospital after getting a defibrillator put in. I spent two nights home alone, watching and taking care of all of our animals. It was probably the two most stressful nights in my life. And then just last week my grandpa dislocated his hip for the third time in his life. We got lucky that it was the week after my dad’s surgery and not the week of. But this adds more work and stress to us on the farm, which we accept because we have to and because there’s no way we are going to let grandpa come back out to the barn for a while.

Other small things that happened include; I continued to practice my writing skills and am well on my way to writing my first novel, and also a cow stepped on my toe and my toenail fell off, which is not something I realized could happen until this year.

Altogether it is much easier to focus on the bad instead of the good when so many bad things happen in a year. But looking at the decade I see so many other good things that have happened. I grew up, and became the person I want to be. I got into dairy farming and got my own cows. I learned how to be responsible and love something so much more than I could ever love myself. I learned what it was like to lose, and also to win, both at the fair and in life in general. But even more than all that I learned how important it was to live this life. I learned what it was like to become an advocate for agriculture. I learned what it was like to have someone disagree with your lifestyle, even when you know that what you do is right. Dairy farming is important, in so many different ways. More than anything it, my cows, and all the rest of my animals made me who I am today. And no matter what comes in the next year, or the next decade, I know that I will still be found out in the barn among my cows and my animals, where I was always meant to be.

Decisions

One of the things that I hear so often that always gets me going on social media is that us dairy farmers don’t care about our cows, and its all only for the money. That is the number one thing that as soon as I see someone say that in a comment, I know for a fact that I am dealing with someone who actually has no idea what it’s like living this life.

I’ve probably said this a million times before, but if we really were only in it for the profit then why exactly do I find myself constantly curled up in a corner sobbing when things go wrong. As a dairy farmer, some days it feels like my cows are the only ones that understand me, and I’ve even referred to them as my best friends from time to time. And I know even to other dairy farmers that sounds ridiculous, but I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.

I do know that there are things that happen on a dairy farm that most likely look weird to people who don’t live and understand the life, that are all done to help benefit the cow, not the farmer. Most likely that’s why all the stigma around dairy farming started in the first place, one confused person looking and not understanding what was actually happening.

Another important thing that I constantly stress is that not all animals are the same, and animals are not humans. Animals are so much better than humans, but they also have different anatomies, and different ways of having a healthy and happy life. One example would be that most of the time people will take their kids to get a flu shot during flu season. Cows don’t need flu shots, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of another animal getting one either. But even more important than that, is I’ve seen people compare cows or calves to things like puppies. It doesn’t work to compare two completely different species and say that they are exactly the same. Dogs and cows need completely different things to be healthy and cared for. Would you give your dog cat food?

Where am I going with all of this you may ask? Well as I grow older and I find myself more involved with the goings on on the farm, lately I find things get harder. Just last month I lost a calf after only eight days of life, and there wasn’t anything I could do. And now, I find myself faced with a decision about one of my heifers.

The other day the vet came to the farm to do pregnancy checks, to see who all was officially pregnant or not. Every one of my cows who were supposed to be were, except for one, Charlie.

For constant followers of my blog, this name might seem familiar. I’ve talked about her a few times, especially during the blog posts from my last year at the fair when she was my Reserve Grand Champion Milking Shorthorn, just like her mother. Well recently her mother became unable to have more calves due to prolapse. Prolapse is a weird thing, and sometimes it can kill a cow, but other times it might even fade with time. But if we had bred her again, with her next calf she would have bled out internally. So we were relying on her daughters, Rey and Charlie, to keep bringing Milking Shorthorn calves to our farm.

Well the vet came, and before he even checked her, he said that she was dangerous and that we should get rid of her before she hurts someone. They had to have a halter on her to even be able to do the check. And then after the check the vet said she most likely will not breed ever, which is not good in humans and is definitely not good in dairy cows.

And so now I find myself stuck with a decision. When I was younger, things like this, though this hasn’t happened to me yet, but when bad things happen it was never down to me. It always happened to quickly or it had to happen or the cow would die. And now I’m older, and I make my own decisions. But I don’t want to have to make this one.

I’m in college, and the only thing I want to really be worrying about right now is my finals coming in two weeks. But I find myself having to sit here and write this out on the first day of Thanksgiving break before even trying to work on school stuff, because it’s all I can think about. And I don’t want to have to be thinking about it.

If dairy farmers were only in it for the profit, this decision would be a no brainer. She’s never going to give milk, so out the door she goes. Except that’s not how any of this works. Because we do care, we care a whole awful lot. And I know the vet said she was dangerous, and that she has the possibility of hurting someone. And I know we’re already struggling, just because dairy farms don’t bring in that much money in the first place, and we have more medical bills and stuff now because of what happened to my dad a few months ago. I know what the decision will most likely be, and will honestly probably have to be. But I don’t want to have to face it, and I don’t want to have to do it. Because I am a dairy farmer, and like it or not, or understand it or me or not, I and every other farmer like me, we care about our cows.