Sunday, February 01, 2009

The life of a farmer

We got a call last night and an e-mail this morning detailing mom's day yesterday.

Hello girls and sister,

Finally I have the time to tell you the bad news. The barn roof collapsed today. Dad and I were at the barn early this morning and he came home about 8:00A.M. and I came home about about 9:00 A.M.
[ed. it was all okay then] Dad went back to the barn about 11:30 to plow in the back of the barn so he could get hay to the heifers before lunch.
He [saw that the barn had collapsed and] called me, Vaughan and 911 and he called Mario, who is a farmer, and Mario called his list of farmers, and within minutes the yard was full to capacity with vehicles and emergency trucks. There were so many people that it was overcrowded. Those farmers who helped during the flood were all here with cattle trucks and chain saws and everything. They were amazing. They worked along with the fire department to cut holes in the wall of the barn and rescued one cow at a time. There were a lot of cows that were trapped under the collapsed roof and we only lost a couple of cows that the vet had to put to sleep.
Some heifers were shipped to other farms, and at this point I do not know where they went, and we opened up the heifers area and put in bedding for the milking cows. I looked after getting the milk replacement ready and fed the calves and Audrey came and helped me. It is a good thing that I have been feeding the calves morning and night for a couple of weeks and knew what to do as the men were so busy, they did not have the time to look after the calves.

The cows were finished milking about 9:30 this evening. I was supposed to work at the Gilbert & Sullivan Dinner Theater this evening, but instead the ladies at the church brought some sandwiches and turkey soup and coffee for everyone. We also received some wonderful turkey salad sandwiches from Mama's Pub on the North side. The owner has horses and her heart went out to us. She wanted to help in any way she could. The sandwiches were delivered by her mom.

I had better get to bed because tomorrow is another day, I have to get up early to feed the calves and then go to church and distribute communion.
I am sure that some good will come out of this. I am so thankful to God that it happened on a nice warm day [ed. -3 is warm compared to the -30 we've had recently] as opposed to a very cold and windy day and that no one got hurt and that we only lost a few cows [ed. I think losing 3 cows is bad enough]. It could have been so much worse. On cold days everything freezes in the barn if the doors are opened for even a short time. Also dad was supposed to be installing some new lighting in the ceiling in that part of the barn that collapsed this morning, but the young guys who were supposed to come and help only came in the afternoon, so he was waiting for them to arrive to help him install the lighting. They could have been trapped in there too, if they had been in there. So even though we had a terrible thing happen, in the end maybe it is all for the best. Maybe we will get a new barn for the cows. Love you all and take care. Mamoo

The barn as it is now

Some farmers brought more tractors to help prop up the wall to prevent further collapse

The back door that the cows use to access the field in the summer.

The left side of the barn. As mom said, the cows that were in this part were easy to rescue. They just opened the gate and out they came. But you can see one cow that is still trapped.

Trapped cows. You can see two here.

They had to cut away whole sections of the walls to get to some of the cows.

Trapped cows. This poor gal had to be hauled out.

Once she was outside, she couldn't get up because her back legs were cramped. The vet gave her a shot for the pain and they covered her with warm blankets.

Dad getting a halter on a cow to lead her out.

Dad with one of the cows.

Many people showed up to help.

They had to cut through metal bars to rescue some of the cows.

The firemen put blankets and towels over the cows heads to protect them from the flying sparks.

Cow waiting to be freed. The man in the blue to the left is the vet.

Interior shot.

Another interior and more trapped cows.

More trapped cows.

This cow did not want to go back in the barn. I can't say where as I blame her.

Coffee time!

A well deserved bowl of turkey soup.

And you all remember the saga of the flood last spring and the evacuation of the cows? Because the cows were stressed, their milk production went down and was not expected to recover until each cow had calved again. The cows had begun to clave and the milk production had started to go up a little bit. Dairy farmers here have an agreement with the Milk Marketing Board that they will produce X amount of liters of milk. If they are over quota they get paid less for the milk that is over quota and if they are under quota they are fined. Because of the move during the flood and the stress that the cows endured, Dad has been under quota since last spring. The MMB has given him until the end of 2009 to make up the lost production or face a fine that is approximately the equivalent of one months production value. That would be a month in which all the the usual expenses occurred. Cows are rather expensive creatures to feed, house, and keep warm. Add to this the loss of production due to the poor quality of the hay that the cows are eating this year because last summer was so cool and wet. And add to that the fact that the 40 year old silos have deteriorated to the point where they are no longer used and have to be taken down.

Production is down so much that my parents are not even drinking their own milk. Because every drop now is precious, they are buying it from the store.

And now this.

More stress on the cows that will probably make the production drop even more. And the loss of three milking cows, which is probably 120 litres a day. It adds up.

And a couple of weeks ago during the cold snap that we had, three cows decided to calve early and did it outside! Poor dumb beasts. I believe that one of the calves froze before anyone found it and one had frostbite on its nose but survived.

So the next time that you go to the store, please don't complain about the price of milk. Just thank your lucky stars that there are people out there like my parents who keep producing it.


Anonymous said...

*in tears*


Julia said...

Farmers are special people who have more that enough chores to do on their own farms and have family commitments too but are always willing and ready to run to each other's help at a moment's notice when ever someone are hit by a disaster of any kind and they know exactly what to do. They are generous to a fault and have hearts of gold.

In our case those farmers who helped us are heros and and so are those fireman too.

Laritza said...

Oh dear girl my heart goes out to you and your parents. I know exactly how it goes, my Dad has a dairy farm in Colombia when it not one thing its another but he keeps at it. I hope the girls will recover soon and your parents can get a barn in place again.

TadMack said...

Farming seems like one of those jobs where if it's not one thing going wrong, it's another. All of that work, all the time, and you simply cannot predict if you'll have a good harvest, if you'll have all of the sheep make it through the lambing, if all of the cows will be yielding at once. So. Hard. It is SUCH a hard job.

And yet, your Mamoo seems like such an upbeat person. She is really made of awesome. I can see you're so proud of both your parents.

Dani said...

Oh Jackie, that is so terrible. Is there somewhere that we can donate, even if just a bit, to help out with some of the upcoming expenses?

DaviMack said...

Does anybody know why the barn collapsed? Too much snow?

What a terrible thing.

Valerie said...

Oh my goodness! I'm so sorry for your folks, to have one thing after another.

Dh's parents were dairy farmers....I never complain about the price of milk. However, dh complains about drinking store bought milk. He only uses it on cereal, the minimal amount to wet it down.

jackie said...

Tadmack, Mamoo is indeed made of awesome!I wish that everyone was as lucky as I in their mother.

Dani, No where to donate, but thanks for the offer. Insurance will hopefully take care of the cost of rebuilding.

Davimack, We have had more snow in previous winters. It is hard to say why the roof collapsed. I'm sure that the insurance people will investigate,

Valerie, My kids are complaining about the taste of store bought milk too. They don't complain too much because they know that there is no spare milk to be had. And even though it is store bought, they still drink a lot!

Kansas A said...

Oh BIG hugs to both your parents Jackie!! So sorry for all the terrible things that have happened lately. Hopefully there will be good news in the horizon and things will change for the good.

Julia said...

Thanks everyone for your kind words regarding our situation.

We found out today that our insurance does not cover for the collapse of our barn.

The excavator has already torn down most of the collapsed barn and will finish tearing the rest tomorrow. Then the clean up will begin. No small task.