Dairy Good Life

Full-spectrum fall

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We have experienced the full spectrum of fall weather so far this season: rain, snow, wind, clouds, and sun. 

Our cool, sunny, lovely fall turned cold and winter-like just in time for Halloween. We closed the pasture gate and brought the cows inside, for what I thought would be the remainder of the year.

Then, like the flip of a coin, the weather switched back to something September-like. So, we turned the cows back out to pasture. We did decide to keep the tiestall group separate from the sand barn group by sending each group to its own paddock. It took us almost as long as the cows had been inside to fine tune the groups; undoing all of that sorting would have been pointless.

We have also experienced a full spectrum of emotions this fall, often wavering between sorrow and joy as fast as the temperature rose and fell:

Resigned, which I always feel when the pasture gate is closed for the year.

Sorrow, as we mourned the passing of a dear family friend. Nancy was a true fairy godmother, filled with magic and energy. She made everyone feel welcome, loved, and cared for as she hemmed, altered, and transformed everything from business suits to princess dresses to musical costumes.

Hope, which came with the addition of a couple young people to our team. After Dan, Monika, and Daphne went back to school, we were more than a little shorthanded for a while, and it felt like we were falling a little more behind each day. The young women and men who joined us are wonderful to work with, and we are catching up on all of our should-do and could-do tasks.

Utter disappointment, when Shine, one of our favorite cows of all time, delivered a set of stillborn twin heifer calves to start her ninth lactation. We were really looking forward to another heifer calf from Shine. Thankfully, she cleaned right away and her transition is going well.

Heart-pounding excitement, with Dan’s first successful white-tailed deer hunting season. The well-grown, 9- or 10-point buck — depending upon whether you count the nubbin on his antlers as a point — showed up less than 20 yards from Dan’s stand. He said it felt like his heart was trying to break out of his chest while he waited for the buck to turn. One shot stocked our freezer with venison for the coming year.

Sadness and disappointment, again, as we said goodbye to Justice, the young Jersey cow who helped Daphne earn reserve champion junior showman at our county fair last summer. Justice, or perhaps a neighboring cow, stepped on her teat and she developed mastitis in that quarter. We’ve learned the hard way that it is difficult to cure mastitis in a quarter with a badly damaged teat end.

Happiness, with each showing of the musical that Monika performed in. Our high school has a fantastic theater department, and each fall they fill the auditorium for five performances over five days. This year’s show was “Matilda the Musical,” and it was both heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny. I loved watching Monika’s energy as she sang and danced across the stage.

Panic, fear, worry, and relief: Norbert, Daphne’s beloved black-and-white cat, is truly the most personable cat I’ve ever known. Daphne might claim him, but we all love him. Norbert lives in our house and sleeps at my feet, but he also enjoys hunting in the grove and hay shed. He was hit by a car last weekend while out hunting. When I first found him, his breathing sounded so horrible that I wasn’t sure he was going to make it. He stabilized, though, and it turned out he sustained only some broken ribs and a bruised lung. After a couple days of lying around and not eating, Norbert is now acting more like himself. It seems cats truly do have nine lives.

Joy, from seeing the cows on pasture again. These bonus grazing days are gifts.

Dismay, with the loss of another great cow. Steam was one of the highest-ranked cows in our herd and had several purple ribbons to her name as well, with our nephew on the halter. She developed a case of coliform mastitis, and the endotoxin load was just too much for her body. It was a solemn reminder that, despite all of the remedies that have worked in the past — and our darnedest efforts — we can’t save them all.

Surprise and delight, when Jon from Boehringer-Ingelheim stopped in to introduce himself as the territory manager for our area. This was the first time in 16 years of farming here that a representative from an animal health company has visited our farm. I fully understand why most companies who serve dairies often focus on farms much larger than ours, so it was especially nice for our small farm to be acknowledged by Jon. We had an enjoyable conversation, and, even better, Jon brought cinnamon rolls — just in time for Glen’s birthday. It’s good to know that B-I has great people behind their products.

Gratitude, most of all, because, through the many ups and downs that come our way, we have a beautiful family, a beautiful farm, and beautiful cows. We’re lucky to be doing what we love.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, Monika, and Daphne. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at [email protected]

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