Raising animals is not for the faint of heart, unfortunately there can be days like today that have us on bended knee and asking why.
I got a phone call on my way home from work that one of our cows had lost a set of twins. We had been taking bets on how many calves we thought she had inside of her because of her growing belly.
She had given us a set of twins a couple of years ago and we knew there was probably more than one calf inside of her based on her growing middle. Unfortunately, she wasn’t actually due until the end of May so these babies were born way too early, leaving us wondering why and what could have gone wrong.
So on a day like today I found myself on bended knee as I took the lifeless little bodies to the creek pasture to return them to the earth. I thanked the good Lord for giving us the opportunity to do our part, I asked for peace for their momma, and I asked for peace in our hearts as we struggle and wondered what we could have done differently.
Loss sucks, loss of life hurts us as producers, because there’s nothing better for us than seeing a live calf on the ground drinking from its mother and continuing the cycle of life. We work hard to take care of these animals in the cold, snow, mud, and on the sunny days, too.
Second, it’s hard for the mama to understand. She is out of sorts and unsure of what is going on. As I watched her tonight, she just wasn’t her usual self. She did get up and eat though which is a good sign that she is healthy.
Third, there is loss of income, in this case we lost two calves that would have grown to provide us with a paycheck and provide food for other families.
So tonight as I type this I keep reminding myself that this is nowhere near the tragedy that our friends to the west have been facing, but it is is a reminder that not all days on the farm are full of sunshine and roses.
By now you if you have been scrolling your social media
feeds you have seen numerous pictures of flooded fields, buried cattle, and
floating hogs scattered across farms in the Midwest. You have listened to the
reports of heroism and rescues that have occurred during this disastrous time
in our country. Human lives have been lost and the livelihoods of many
individuals have been ripped away as quickly as a band aid is ripped off of a
skinned knee, the problem is the loss of livelihood that has occurred won’t
recover like a skinned knee.
What I see when I look at the devastation in the pictures are farmers and ranchers ranging from 18 to 85 years old that have given their blood, sweat, and tears for generations to build a legacy for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and it is now floating away from them and there is nothing they can do to stop it. I am listening to news interviews and hearing them saying things like, “We have found 14 live hogs out of 700” or “We have lost our entire calf crop, but have found a few of our heifers.” For many that didn’t sell their crop that was harvested this fall it is now laying in a swamp of pooled, dirty water with nowhere to go. This legacy I speak of is near and dear to my heart. I see my own father in many of these news reports, I see stats that say the number of calls for mental health assistance to the Farm Aid Crisis Hotline rose 109 percent in 2018, and I can’t quit thinking about the hours of blood, sweat, and tears my own father has poured into his livelihood and legacy.
And here is the thing that the general population doesn’t understand and the discussion I had today with someone that prompted this post. My dad does it because he LOVES it. It is HIS livelihood. We do it because we love it! It is part of our livelihood. I challenge you to find any farmer or rancher that tells you different. Sure, there are hard times and the current markets reflect the worst of times. Back to what the person said to me, “If it is so horrible why don’t they just quit?” Quit what they love? Quit the only thing that brings them joy? Quit on that newborn calf that’s first time momma hid him in the long green grass to protect him from a predator? Quit on the people in this world that need to be fed? Quit on your favorite sow that always produces milk like a champ and raises a great litter of piglets? Quit on a livelihood that has raised 3 children to know a family that works together and loves each other. I call bull!
I asked the person that was questioning me what they would do if tomorrow when they arrived to their place of employment it had burned to the ground and their livelihood was gone. They chuckled and said, “Awesome, no more work.” I was grasping at straws at this point and the only thing I could say was that I remembered the date of Feb. 4, 1989 like it was yesterday. I was in 2nd grade and our local high school was burning. Now, what kid doesn’t flippantly make a comment at one point or another like, “I wish the school would burn so we didn’t have to go anymore?” I guarantee you no school age kid living in Rudd, Rockford, or Marble Rock at that time would say something like that after Feb. 4, 1989.
It was devastating to me as a 2nd grader and I tried to explain that while we might grumble and grunt about not wanting to work or not wanting to go to school when that is your livelihood and you are left with a bunch of melted coins from a pop machine or a pile of dead hogs as your souvenir there is nothing you want back more than your previous life. I call bull on that person that would be excited about no more work because their livelihood was destroyed. And I wholeheartedly call bull on that fact that any farmer or rancher would be happy that their livelihood and legacy floated away in a muddy mess of water.
So tonight as you stand in a cattle yard filled with manure
and melting ice or as you scroll through your social media feed from your warm
house and comfortable recliner, please remember to be grateful that you have
those cattle to feed or that comfy chair to sit in, remember the farmers and
ranchers that are dealing with the loss of their livelihood and the fact that
they may not recover and put yourself in their mud boots for a while.
First, if you know someone or are someone that could use someone to talk to about your current mental health status I beg you to reach out for help at 1-800-273-TALK
Second, if you feel called to donate to relief this article has a few different organizations.