let's talk farm animals

A change of plans

 by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

On the farm, nothing ever works the way you planned.  The quickest way to make a cow calve or something break is to make plans to leave the farm for a few hours.  We’ll have weeks of just staying around home with nothing on the agenda and everything will work perfectly for my husband.  We will start feeling comfortable and think “maybe this time will be different”.  A visit is arranged with an out-of-town family member or friend, or a trip to the city (an hour away) is planned. 

Everything is going great right up until the day of the outing, and suddenly BAM!  There’s a problem in the barn.

Take last September, for example.  The local fall fair was on, the whole weekend had been going well, and we had planned on spending Sunday at the fair watching the demolition derby and volunteering at a food booth.  Every year we go to the derby, and even though we knew there was a cow close to calving, we thought we still might be able to make it.

My husband said he would take care of our son while I worked at a food booth, and he would come into town and join me later for the derby.  It was a perfect plan, in theory.

When Sunday morning arrived, I left for the fair and left our 18 month old with my husband.  Near the end of the shift, the phone call came in.

“Pat, there are two cows close to calving.  I’m at the barn now with one, ready to deliver the calf, and the other one is a few hours off.”

So, I jumped in the car and drove home.  By the time I got there, the calf had been delivered, and my son was in his glory from seeing the birth.  My husband was getting started on the extra care the cow needs directly after calving, including milking her and feeding the rich colostrum to the calf.

Our fun day together at the fair as a family turned into an afternoon in the barn caring for a new calf and the cow. 
We are always given a hard time by friends for not being able to plan ahead, but it is next to impossible with the farm.  By the time you add in two small boys, it is a wonder we leave home at all.  Making and changing plans all of the time does get frustrating, but in the end it is all worth it when we see that new calf doing well, or the sick cow getting better, or the silo filled with good quality feed for the cattle.

Please be patient with us farmers when we cannot commit to something until the last possible day. And yes, we may still may change our plans right up to the last minute.  It is as frustrating for us as it is for you, but we will always put the animals and crops first, no matter what we may miss out on in the process.  It is a choice we made when we decided to farm.


Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 10th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Dairy cattle,Farm life
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