June Dairy Month

The number one thing that annoys me the most that almost every activist I’ve tried talking to has said to me is that dairy farmers are only in business for the profit and not because they care about the animals. This is the number one way to tell who has and hasn’t ever actually been on a farm before. No matter what or how many stories we tell them of things we’ve actually experienced, a lot of times they still refuse to see our side. So if you really want to know about how dairy farmers feel about their cows, well here is a story of something that happened to me just last month.

In order for this story to really be understood, we have to start at the beginning. For those who don’t know me, I showed cows with my local 4-H at the county fair from when I was thirteen years old to when I was nineteen years old. It all started with my lineback, Katy, but after her came two Holsteins, Primmy and Eclipse. About two years ago now, Eclipse passed away at the age of five and a half, which is getting up their in age for a cow. Think about that similar to dog years, and that will tell you just about how old she was. Since then, my cows that were related to her have come to mean a lot to me, those being her daughters and granddaughters and now great granddaughters. This story includes all three of them.

We have many animals on our farm, including alpacas. The story of last month begins with one of our alpacas once again getting what is called a menengial worm, that attacks them from the inside and makes it so they can’t get up. Both of our boy alpacas had this last year, and now one of them, Coal, caught it again. So last month was at first spent getting him back on his feet and getting the worm out of him.

Secondly, one of Eclipse’s daughters, Neptune, had her calf a week early. Sometimes this is ok to happen in cows, but a lot of times it isn’t, because a calf might not be fully developed yet or it might make the cow sick. I have had it happen a few months ago where a calf was born a week early and died eight days later, and then this time with Neptune, it hit her instead of her calf.

A disease that cows can commonly get is called milk fever. Milk fever is the reason that for certain cows who aren’t as strong as some are given calcium right after calving. It is usually caused by a temporary blood calcium deficiency. It is something that can and does happen often, and a lot of times can only be treated when you know for sure the cow has it. The biggest sign of this is the cow having trouble standing on her own.

Milk fever also most of the time only appears in cows that have had an unprecedented birth, such as having a calf a week early. If you have yet to see where I’m going with this, here it is. Neptune ended up getting milk fever not long after her calf was born, though not as badly as she could’ve gotten it.

The third thing happening last month happened to Neptune’s niece and Eclipse’s granddaughter, Hazel. I’m still not fully sure what exactly happened here, but somehow Hazel ended up falling and getting stuck on something and hurting her leg, so much so that she could no longer get up in her stall in the heifer barn. This was a few weeks before she was set to have her first calf. Originally the plan was to move her down to the main barn, because of her about to have a calf and also now because she couldn’t get up herself. But when we got her down to the main barn, she couldn’t get up there either. So she ended up being put in a closed off space outside while her leg healed.

Now I’m used to things happening to my animals all the time. In my experience that’s just a part of taking care of any animal. But never before have I found myself having to worry about three different animals at once. There were some days last month where I didn’t know if I could take it. One specific day I remember us trying to help get Neptune to stand, which is one of the most important things to do when one has milk fever, is to not let them become a down cow. A down cow is one who cannot get up at all and will probably never get up again, leading to eventual death. In my time with my specific cows, I have only had that happen once many years ago and it is not something that I ever wanted to see happen again. This specific day Neptune mooed when we were helping her up, a sound that struck me right to the heart, so much so that I had to go by myself into the milk house for a few minutes, as I was suddenly on the edge of having a panic attack. I’ve only had a few panic attacks in my life, and each one of them has been because of my animals in some way. It was that day when it struck me that I might lose them all.

But something that has always gotten me through the hard times is praying. I had been praying before, but that night I prayed even harder for all of them to be alright. And eventually things started to get better. Neptune got over her milk fever and she and her calf are completely fine. Hazel had her calf with no problems at all and while she still has to go outside every day and will continue to for a while, she is on the mend. And Coal just recently began to slowly be able to stand by himself, which led to walking by himself, which led to every so often being able to get up by himself.

So the moral of this story is actually a few things. 1) Prayer works. Don’t ever let yourself think that it doesn’t. 2) No matter what anyone else says, dairy farmers care and love their animals. We wouldn’t be outside caring for them 24/7 if we didn’t. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done last month if I had lost any of them, or worse all three of them. I would’ve been heartbroken to say the least, and not because it would mean a loss of profit on our farm, which if it did, it would’ve been barely any.

In case you didn’t know, June is Dairy Month. And this dairy month, if you really want to know more, go visit a local farm. Ask your local farmer questions about their work, or contact one through social media or the Internet. Most would and are happy to tell about what they do. Dairy month is an important month for so many. Celebrate it. Educate yourself. Talk to farmers, and don’t believe everything you hear from people who’ve never actually been on a farm.

Looking on the Bright Side

Everywhere around the world, this is currently a very stressful time. Even if one doesn’t have the COVID-19 virus, or know someone with it, they are affected in some way. Specifically for me, as a college student, a few days ago we were told like many others that the rest of the semester is being done online.

Now, I am not one to complain about being home for a longer period of time, especially as a dairy farmer, but it does mess up a lot of things to do with the college. So no, I’m not a huge fan of what has had to happen, but nobody is. It would be very weird if they were. The way I see it, the shutting down of universities and colleges, and now high schools in some areas too, is similar to the events of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In the book, kids at Hogwarts are being petrified by a Basilisk. Specifically those with non magical parents are the ones being petrified, but the professors were still going to close the school in order to keep all of the students safe. Safety is what is most important in this time. So when I hear people complaining about this whole situation, I sometimes have to resist the urge to yell at them. The only way that this virus is going to go away is through people being smart and I think when we look back on this years later we will be happy that in some ways we overreacted, and not underreacted. Though I still don’t understand the whole toilet paper shortage thing, but I’m not going to get into that now.

As a dairy farmer in a small town, it is pretty easy for me to self distance myself. In fact, as someone with a compromised immune system, I’m much more likely to get it out at my college then I am being home. And while I’m not too worried about myself getting it, I am very worried about members of my family getting it, especially since if they were, it would’ve probably come from me if I had gone back to college. As it is, things are a mess now and everyone is still trying to figure things out, but at least I know that I have a lot less of a risk of giving it to people that I love.

Now being in the barn is one of the only places over the last few days where I’ve had a break from hearing about the virus. But there has been extra stress for us over these last few days too. All of a sudden our one worker that we have that has been helping every day since December stopped showing up on certain days, and then told us randomly one day that they quit. A few days later they said they would come back, but then we completely lost contact with him, and he wouldn’t respond to our messages or anything. SO that being said, the barn has had it’s own stressors over the last few days since I’ve come home, since we really need help with my grandpa not being able to do as much with having hip problems, including having hip surgery last Monday. And then my dad has all of his heart and back problems can’t do as much either. So we were sort of left out to dry in a way that we really couldn’t be. But as of a few days ago we have gotten a new worker, and so far she has been amazing.

This last week has felt like three. But in this extremely stressful time for so many I have been trying to remind myself of the good things going on, not just the bad. Specific examples of that being our new batch of ducks that we got last weekend, and that my cow Jasmine had another beautiful girl calf a few days ago. While everything else is still a mess, I find focusing on things like this, along with really anything to do with my animals now that we have solved the main problem at the barn, has helped me a lot. I highly recommend finding at least two things each day to remind yourself to be happy during this time. It can even be something small, like the fact that spring starts soon and the weather is slowly getting warmer. Things like this serve as a reminder that while things are a mess, everything will be figured out in time. As Samwise Gamgee says in The Lord of the Rings, “There’s some good left in this world… And it’s worth fighting for.”

During stressful times, try to look on the bright side of things. I think you’ll find that things will start to look better when you do.

A Letter to My Ex Ag Teacher and FFA Advisor

Well I haven’t blogged in a while but so much has been happening lately that I really needed to take the time to write out how I feel and it had to do with agriculture so I got back on to my blog today. Because I needed to write out a letter. I was reminded this morning that being a writer it helps to write out my feelings, so that’s what I’m trying to do here, and maybe it’ll help me, at least a little bit I hope.

This is a letter to you. The one who I thought I could always count on. I don’t know if there’s even a chance you’ll ever see this, and I don’t really know if it matters whether or not you do. Because this is mostly for me.

I’d been hearing the whole year last year about how bad my old high school was getting. I’d seen it happening a little bit while I was still there, but through everything I’d seen and heard I always thought it would be okay because you would still be there. I always thought “it’ll be okay because no matter what the ag program and FFA will always be there.” And then my life was thrown sideways three days ago.

When it happened a few years ago I don’t think I was all that surprised. I don’t know if it’s just been long enough to have it been fully processed or if it was just something that was a bit more expected with the last time, but this time I don’t know how to process. The man I knew that had been my teacher, that I’ve known for over 75% of my life, someone who I’d looked at as almost like an uncle to me because all of my uncles live so far away, that man would never have done what you’ve been arrested for. Ugh I can’t even say it. I haven’t said it out loud, and I can’t even write it out either.

Travel back with me to my last day of senior year. I already knew when I walked in that I was going to be emotional that day, but it didn’t start until I walked out of that ag room for the last time. That ag room that had always been the one room I thought of as a sanctuary when I was having bad days.

I remember you always saying that year that you felt old or nostalgic that we were graduating that year, and how proud you were because we were the first class you’d ever had at that school. Maybe that’s when things went downhill for you, after we left, I don’t know.

I remember when you first took over the ag program. Before that I had tried to be in FFA and take ag classes before but they didn’t take for me then. I remember being so excited when you took it all over, and I remember thinking that maybe I could try it again. And that was a great decision at the time.

I learned so much from you, more than I can possibly put into words. I learned to public speak, to travel farther from home than I’d ever done before. There are so many adventures and lessons learned from FFA and you that it makes this ten times harder than if I hadn’t, if I had just been a kid in the school.

At first I was shocked, and in denial. I thought, there was no way that this is true, there’s got to be another explanation. Then the sobbing came. And then the anger. I took down my Greenhand degree that night from where it’s been hanging since I got it. I had been meaning to take it down for a while since my cat began jumping up on the place where it was and it got all ripped up, but I hadn’t. But that night I looked and I couldn’t even sit in the room when I could see your name right there in plain sight. So I took it down, and hid it in a drawer.

Then the next day my mom, my sister, and I went to see the movie Unbroken: Path to Redemption. I’d known the story of Louis Zamperini for years, but I think God knew that this was going to happen, and that I would need to see that movie yesterday. As I sat there and watched Zamperini forgive all of his captors that had tortured him for years, even the worst one, I knew that’s what I needed to do to.

And so yesterday I forgave you. Or at least I thought I had. I forgave what you made me feel, and it helped me to feel a bit less sick, and a little bit less like I might throw up. But then today I went to church where everyone was still talking about it, and I thought about your family, and what this has got to be doing to them. I thought about all of the kids in FFA right now, the boys I used to call my FFA brothers and sisters that were still there and had to worry about what came next. I thought about the Sherman FFA and how much we’d all done together and how bad they also feel.

So the tears came again. I went for a walk around the block during Sunday School to try and clear my head. But when I came back I don’t think it worked at all. Because the whole thing just hurts. Any time I thought of someone looking at child pornography or pedophilia it was always something from the news or television shows, or the big cities. Always one of those things that could never happen to me, could never actually affect my life. Until it was.

There’s a newer musical that came out about a year ago called Dear Evan Hansen, I know you are into musicals, heck we’ve been in some together, so maybe you know what I’m talking about, but maybe not. There’s a song in there called Requiem that the sister sings in the musical after her brother dies of an overdose on drugs. There’s a line in there that says “so don’t tell me that I didn’t have it right. Don’t tell me that it wasn’t black and white. After all you’ve put me through, don’t say it wasn’t true, that you were not the monster, that I knew…”

That part of the song is getting to me on so many levels at the moment, mainly because if you switch some words around it is almost exactly how I feel about this situation, and as I sit and write this I think I finally realized it. If you switch the words to “After all that we’ve been through, don’t say it wasn’t true, and that you were not a monster… that I knew.” I used to always think of pedophiles as monsters. But the man that I knew was not a monster, as far as I knew. I believe that it didn’t start until after I left, until I’d only seen you a few times over the year. And those few times I thought something was different, but at the time I didn’t notice, maybe because the last time I saw you I was in the middle of the fair and half asleep 24/7.

There are a few times I even find myself thinking how dare he?! How dare he do that to all of us?! But then I feel bad about that, like I shouldn’t feel that way, like I don’t have the right. But no matter what I do I can’t help feeling a little bit mad. And I can’t help but think that I hope you feel at least a little guilty, I hope you know what you did is wrong. And I hope that you get help, because you need it.

I may never see you again, and you may never read this, but I wrote this for me. And if you do see this, the one thing I want you to take away is that I forgive you. Maybe not completely yet, but I forgave you yesterday, and I will continue to every day for as long as it takes until I finally don’t feel sick anymore, and till I think I can finally tell someone about it without crying. And I don’t know what the future will bring, but I can only hope that somehow the Clymer FFA continues, that someone takes it over. I can only hope that you get the help you need, and that when you get your sentence, and when you get out of jail that you know that it’s terrible and you won’t even think about doing it again. I hope that your family can forgive you, and that the community can too. And I need you to know no matter how bad I feel I won’t let it ruin the memories. FFA was one of the only things I could hold onto during those years, and I refuse to look back on all those memories now and let this ruin it. Friday night I went to put on my pajamas and almost couldn’t because it was my FFA shirt from State Convention. That was when I decided something changed since then, and I’m not going to let this change the good times, and the good memories. Because those were some of the best days of my life, and I refuse to look back on them without anything but happiness, despite what you’ve done. But I’m praying for all of us to get through this, for you to get the help you need, for everyone to make it through this, and for everyone to find a way to forgive you. Because I’ve already tried, and slowly I think I’ve began to forgive you. And I hope you know how to forgive yourself, and that this one bad decision doesn’t ruin what has previously been the wonderful life you’ve led as far as I know. And I hope that you can make it back to the man you were before, the one that I knew.

Sincerely, me.

On Mishaps and Mayhem

When one lives on a dairy farm, things don’t always go the way you plan them to. A lot of the time this includes cows getting loose and running around wildly through the barn, sometimes knocking everything over and going to the bathroom where they’re not supposed to. But most mishaps happen while showing cows. I can’t even remember all the times something story worthy has happened while I’ve been practicing showing my cows, or getting them ready for the fair. Sometimes they can be rough, but other times the stories are really funny and my family and I laugh about them for years later.

One time during my second showing year while I was bringing Katy, my first ever cow, back into the barn the floor was wet, and of course I didn’t notice. So right when we entered the barn, we both slipped and suddenly I found us both on the floor. We both got back up immediately, looked around, and I took her back to her spot. Neither of us were hurt and it all happened in like two seconds, and it’s one of my favorite mishap stories to talk about.

This other story that I tell the most isn’t quite as funny as the last one. Actually I don’t really remember quite how this story came to be, I just know that it happened. It was about two years ago now while I was walking another one of my cows who we call Bubbles. She was always a bit more nervous than some of the others, meaning she was already harder to show with than the others. SO, this time as we were headed back into the barn we were passing under the machine that loads hay and straw bales into the straw mow. Next thing I know I’m on the ground and there’s this over fife-hundred pound cow right on top of my ankle. Somehow my ankle wasn’t broken as far as any of us could tell, cause we never actually went to the hospital, (maybe we should’ve but whatever too late now). My family got her off of me, and helped me off the ground and I was able to do all of my normal chores, just a bit slower than normal. And it may still hurt when it’s humid or when I’m tired and have been walking a long time, but in the end it all turned out fine.

I also just realized that cows seem to fall with me or on me a lot… (There was another time at the fair where a sick cow almost fell on me while I was sleeping, but that’s a story for another time.)

Okay, one last story which is also about Bubbles. This time we had her tied up to a tree as we were washing her before the fair. My aunt and I were washing her and we had turned around or backed up or something and before we knew it Bubbles was off and running. We both stood there for a moment, I guess we didn’t realize what was happening or were shocked or just frozen I don’t really remember. Then we ran after her, and found that she had gone right back into the heifer barn where my dad had caught her and he put her back for us.

These are not the only mayhem stories I have or could tell but those are the ones I remember the most about and I tell to the most people. And yes Bubbles was and still kind of is, a mess, haha.

P.S. I tried to find a picture of her to put on here but I didn’t have any good ones.

 

The Truth from a Dairy Farmer

In the world today there are many problems with the dairy industry. From losing money and the price of milk going down, to having to get rid of the farm all together, it seems like things continually get worse. And a lot of the time the problems are helped along by wrong thoughts, ideas and beliefs. But in many places farms are continuing on, despite all the hardships. I’ve been helping on my family dairy farm since I was in the eighth grade, and that was when I decided I wanted to be the one to take it over. Even though I plan on doing this, I also plan on writing my own stories and becoming a published author. Last year was my freshman year of college and when I told my new-found friends, professors, and bosses what my plan for my life was it was always met with surprise. It wasn’t a bad surprise, it was just that most of the time people wondered why I was in college when I was going to take over the farm, especially since I am a woman, and that I am also going to spend my time writing too. So that is my hope by starting this blog and telling stories I have seen with my own eyes and experienced myself I will hopefully remove some of the wrong ideas the world has about the dairy farming, and hopefully will make it less of a surprise for someone, specifically a woman, to be a dairy farmer and also an author.