One of the greatest characteristics of the dairy community is that we always find ways to help each other in times of need. As I mentioned in my last column, sometimes the people who help us are family, friends and neighbors, sometimes those people are folks we hardly know.
A young lady we hardly knew stepped up to help Monika at the state fair. Back home, our family, friends and neighbors stepped up to help us out when we needed it most.
The 4-H dairy show is held on the first Saturday of the state fair. As one of our county’s chaperones, I was already there with Dan and Monika. Our friend, Ron, did Saturday morning milking so Glen and Daphne could ride down to the show with Glen’s mom – and bring a batch of TMR for the show cows.
We were in the Coliseum, enjoying the show, when Glen got a message from his brother about a possible tornado at home. Glen made several phone calls to his sister, Vicky, and our neighbors, but it was quite a bit before anyone answered.    
When he finally got through to Randy, our closest neighbor to the south, Randy confirmed that a severe storm had a just gone through. The storm had knocked out the electricity and temporarily disrupted cell phone service. But the worst news from Randy was: “Your cows are out. They’re in my soybean field.”
Talk about panic. Cows out at home when you’re two hours away ranks right up there with dairy farmers’ worst nightmares – even worse when they’re tromping on your neighbor’s crops.
Glen called Ron to ask if he could drive back out and help with the cows. Ron milks for us once a week, so he knows our farm well and our cows know him well. Ron said he’d go as soon as it was safe.
Glen decided he’d watch Monika show her heifer and then head home. Dan, our nieces, and nephew had already shown.
About the time Glen and Daphne left, our milk truck driver, Eric, called to say he couldn’t get into our yard because the power line that feeds our farm was lying on the county road.
Another great characteristic of the dairy community is that word travels fast – especially when there’s trouble.
Our friend, Lucas, was driving from the state fair to his farm in western Stearns County when he heard about the storm. He called and offered to stop and help. Since he was a good hour ahead of Glen, I took him up on his offer.
The next update I got was from Lucas. By the time he arrived at our farm, the cows were back in and our electric co-op was working on the downed line. He said we had lots of tree damage and a couple calf hutches tossed around, but it looked like all the buildings were fine. Vicky and her family were just leaving after checking over the farm, as well.
What we didn’t piece together until later was how the cows got out and got back in.
We figure that when the storm rolled in, the cows stampeded from the pasture to the barn. The pasture narrows into the lane that connects our pasture and our cow yard, creating a funnel of sorts. When the cows got to the lane, the convergence pushed a couple through the electric fence and into Randy’s soybean field.
Ron said only 30 cows veered into the field; the other 60 made it into the cow yard. By the time Ron got there, the 30 vagabonds were a half-mile south of our farm. When Ron hopped out of his truck and told the girls to go home, they turned around and marched north.
Randy and our neighbor, Joe, kept the cows off the road in their side-by-sides. Ron trekked up the road ditch behind the cows. When they reached our farm, Eric, our milk truck driver, opened the cow yard gate and helped usher them into the yard.
We’ve never been more grateful for help – and for cows accustomed to herding.
Glen’s first words to me after he got home were, “It sure looks different here.”
The storm – whether it was a tornado or a derecho or just a bad thunderstorm – uprooted or topped 18 trees in our front yard alone. Another half-dozen or so were damaged in the pastures. I haven’t counted the damaged trees in our windbreak. The solitary spruce by our silos missed falling on our skidloader by 6 inches.
Glen’s uncles came with chainsaws to help start the clean up process. My dad came the next weekend with his chainsaw. Before now, I couldn’t have comprehended how much mess 18 down trees can make in a yard.
We heard afterwards that wind speeds during the storm reached 75 miles per hour – which might explain why Randy found one of our empty calf hutches a half-mile away in his dry cow pasture.
By the end of the day, we had nothing to give but thanks. For Ron, Randy, Joe, and Eric, whose help with the cows was invaluable. For the linemen from our electric co-op, who had our power restored by 4:30 that evening so we could milk. And for everyone else who came to our aid. We truly are grateful for all of your help.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, 13, Monika, 11, and Daphne, 7. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.