Have you ever played cards and no matter who dealt them or how you cut the deck, the good cards just weren’t falling your way? You shuffle them longer and shorter, but the end result is not favorable. You deal them one, two or three at a time and nothing seems to help. If you happen to play for money, usually pennies or nickels, you expect that sooner or later your luck will change. But, no matter what you do, by the end of the night you are out of money. It is time to go home, and the pile of money of those playing with you just keeps on getting bigger. It’s the fun you had with the people you enjoy being with; that is what you will remember in the end. More important than winning or losing, though, is that you took the time to be with your friends, enjoy laughter and occasionally learn something new.
    Cards not falling your way seems to parallel with the falling milk prices. It has not been just a few days, weeks or months, but over three years worth of painful, hard-to-break-even prices. In the midst of such a slump, it seems like it will take forever for things to change. I have heard it said, “Adversity builds character.” Well if that is true then dairy farmers should be full of character. Whether it’s the daily grind of chores or the low milk prices, they can be named with a positive attitude and healthy lifestyles. No matter what the price is or how well or not things are going, we all have an inner need to fill by attending events and getting off the farm occasionally. Some of my best experiences were the result of me contemplating if I should go or stay home. Choosing to go required more effort, but I brought home more energy and an idea that was so timely for the situation I was presently dealing with.
    Calves, for the most part, have been doing well and on cruise control since last fall. Outside of the fact that too many of them have been bull calves in the last year, feeding them has been taken for granted as a fast, easy chore. The last month has been more of a wake-up call. I don’t know that we have lost any, but scouring, unthrifty appearance and poor appetites after a week of age have been all too common. Lots of electrolytes, a few IVs and way too much time has been spent with them. You beat your head over and over trying to find the source of the problem. You pray for the day when they will again buck the bottle out of your hands, and you even question yourself and if what you are doing is proving any good. God sends us wake up calls such as this to humble us and to remind us once again of who is really in control. After all, it is Lent isn’t it? Forty days of being tempted by Rota Corona, E. coli and Crypto bugs to see if we can eliminate these sins from our calf barns and create pure clean calves again.
    As timely as God is in our lives, a calf meeting, sponsored by Southern Minnesota Dairy Initiative Board, took place in Sleepy Eye, Minn., and was well attended. Throughout the discussion, it was apparent farmers were not alone in battling calf scours. Dr. Jeremy Scheffers said calf scours peak this time of the year due to the amount of moisture in the air and the constant swings in temperatures. He also stressed the importance of antibodies in a cow’s colostrum and the benefits of feeding small amounts for the first two weeks of a calf’s life. Feeding three quarts the first few hours is still the gold standard, but following that up with small amounts the next two weeks is the other half of the story that has gotten overlooked and underestimated. All too often we try to fix a problem with another drug, additive or nutritional pill that we think we need. We try to band-aid a short cut when in reality nature provides the perfect food. We just have to administer it over a longer period and capture the benefits of that all-important first milk.
    The knowledge we gained at that meeting, complimented by the fine lunch, and rubbing elbows with other neighbors battling the same problems, was worth more than the effort we put in to attend the meeting in the first place. Through it all, I admire Laura’s determination to overcome this bump in the road without becoming bitter and letting it get the best of her. At times, she admitted needing help but was appreciative when Mary, Patty or I helped to IV a calf or give that extra feeding of electrolytes. It is moments like this when we realize that alone we are limited, but together we can achieve so much more and share that with others in their time of need.
    To celebrate the calves returning to health, we spent last Sunday afternoon sledding on 6 inches of fresh snow. I, along with all of my kids, a few significant others and a few younger kids packed into a big sled to see how far the Gator could take us. The goal was to stay on the sled as long as possible despite Johnny’s crazy driving. The snow condition was perfect for snowballs and snow angels. The competitive kid in me decided to ride along rather than watch and let them have all the fun. The next morning I was reminded by a sore and achy body that I was no longer a kid anymore. The back pain was a reminder of the fun I had just experienced.     
    Nothing that time and a dose of Advil can’t fix, right?
    John Rosenhammer farms with his daughter Laura Scholtz and brother, Greg, on Roseview Dairy near Sleepy Eye, Minn. They milk 200 Holsteins and run 580 acres of cropland.