February 27, 2023 at 3:56 p.m.
ROCK VALLEY, Iowa – Christmas Day 2009 is a day that Steve Rozeboom and his family would just as soon forget.
Steve and his brother, Brian, and their father, Glenn, milk 600 cows on their farm located just a few miles south of Rock Valley. The Rozebooms grow corn and alfalfa on 650 acres.
“We had all just sat down for our noontime Christmas meal when one of our employees called to tell me that some bad things were happening out in our freestall barn,” Rozeboom said.
The Rock Valley area had recently received about a foot of wet, heavy snow. The weight of the snow proved to be too much for their freestall barn’s rafters to bear; the barn’s roof began to collapse.
The Rozeboom family hustled to their freestall barn only to discover a number of their cows had been trapped under the collapsed roof. A few head of cattle had been killed. Others had suffered deep cuts or were impaled and had to be put down due to the severity of their injuries.
“Everybody pitched in to do what we could to remove the wreckage,” Rozeboom said. “Word of the collapse spread to our neighbors, and several of them came over and began to help. One neighbor family even brought all of their kids. The response from our neighborhood was simply incredible. They gave up their Christmas Day plans to lend us a hand with the barn.”
Rozeboom, his family and his neighbors worked feverishly to extricate their trapped cows from the tangle of shattered rafters and twisted roofing steel, all of which was weighed down by several inches of dense, heavy snow. They used everything they had – skid loaders, telehandlers, payloaders, power tools, pry bars and even their bare hands – while struggling to cope with the chilly wintertime temperatures.
“We were worried that other parts of the barn’s roof might also come down, so we had to keep an eye on the situation at all times,” Rozeboom said. “You can replace a cow, but you can never replace a human life. Our top priority was to make sure that everybody stayed safe.”
The Rozeboom family and their volunteer crew of neighbors worked without stopping throughout that long afternoon, removing the wreckage and piling it off to the side.
“By the end of the day, we were able to function as a dairy once again,” Rozeboom said. “It was a bad deal and is certainly nothing we would ever want to repeat. But on the plus side, we learned once again how blessed we are to have such a unique neighborhood. We are very grateful for all of the help that our neighbors gave us. We couldn’t have gotten through it without their support.”
The Christmas Day freestall barn collapse marked the beginning of a long wintertime ordeal for the Rozebooms. Several other sheds on their farm would later be severely damaged due to excessive snow loads.
“The weather that winter was just relentless,” Rozeboom said. “The snowstorms kept on coming one after another and more of our buildings began to go down. By the time it was over, we had three separate buildings that had roof collapses. I pretty much ran on adrenaline that whole time. But as with any emergency, you just do what has to be done, try your best and keep on going.”
The Rozebooms’ facilities were eventually repaired, and the rhythms of daily life on their dairy farm gradually returned to normal. But one thing has changed in the wake of that very bad day on the Rozeboom farm.
“I now get really paranoid every time that it snows,” Rozeboom said. “Any time that we receive a substantial snowfall, we will hire guys to go up on our roofs to scoop off the snow. We never want to live through a repeat of Christmas Day 2009.”
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