It feels like a month passed by in the last 3 days. We are all glad we made it through one of the worst storms in 20 years.
I’m sure each and everyone of us could tell stories of harrowing situations. We could probably write a book! Maybe, I’ll tell just a couple.
Around 3pm, Sunday January 5, 2013, it seemed the storm has missed us. And yet, in just a few short hours everyone in Midwest knew this was big.
Suddenly, Leon, Eric, and Chris became Snowcat operators. The only problem was we were just in 4wd pickups. We had employees that needed rides home from work, and needed to make sure the next shift could to continue the care for our cows throughout the storm.
Keeping the roads clear near the dairy facilities became paramount. Bridgewater had Adam on our big John Deere 9630 tractor with a silage push blade. Adam made the snow storm at our Montpelier location look an inch of snow, from a transportation perspective. But the Sub-Zero temperatures were taking their toll at all 3 locations.
Bridgewater – Indiana Dairy in Fremont, Indiana and Oakshade Dairy in Lyons, Ohio weren’t as fortunate. Unfortunately, these two locations fought difficult road conditions and undersized equipment along with the challenges of sub-zero weather.
Amazingly, not one drop of milk was lost. The trucking companies went through heroic situations to get the milk out. Now, that may not seem that important to most, but let me explain. Not only is it our source of income, but it is also tied to the health of the animals and the morale of our employees. If we were to discontinue the routine process of assisting the mother cows let down their milk, they would quickly be subject to many types of infections. As any mother that has breast-fed a child knows that as the mammary gland gets full anticipating their child (calf’s) next feeding the pressure can be intense. Unless mom let’s her milk down, she will be prone to infection. But there are also baby calves that need fed, and mother cows that just calved, that also need TLC (Tender Loving Care). We love milk! We work hard for our cows, and care for the quality of our milk. When any employee witnesses good quality milk being poured down the drain it is one of the top 10 depressing things we see on a dairy. Even though our work during these times is about the cows health, if milk goes down the drain because a milk truck couldn’t make it to the farm, it can give everyone that is working through the frigid temperatures a major sense of loss.
Truthfully, If we are getting the cows taken care of during these times, that’s really all that matters, but keeping morale up is hard enough when faced with tough times!
Northrup Trucking, Bynum Transport, and Indian River Transport pushed hard into difficult situations to get the milk out. At one point at Bridgewater – Indiana, Moody and Crew Farms plowed a road through a farm field so a loaded milk truck could get to a better part of the road.
Not only were we dealing with logistics of employee’s and milk, we were dealing with wind chills of 30 below zero. We have great respect for the dairy farms in Kansas, North Dakota, and Wisconsin deal with this stuff all the time, but we are just not prepared for this type of extreme weather.
Over the last few weeks we have been preparing our water troughs, and other sensitive water lines for extremely cold temperatures, but in our area 0 degrees is extreme. 15 below zero is unthinkable! We barely survived the unthinkable. I don’t think any cows went with out water for longer than a few hours. If we wouldn’t have had hard working individuals working to keep the water flowing, some cows might have gone with out water for 2-3 days. Just imagine for a minute working with water outside for hours on end when the temperatures are below zero. “Hero’s!!”
Then, there are the calf feeders. hauling milk and feeding milk to calves. In frigid temperatures. The calves are protected, but the guys doing the work are not, they are faced with the elements while caring for these fragile little creatures.
I could go on and on, this is tough stuff. We worked hard and we have awesome teams at all three locations that dug in and helped us survive.
There were a lot of “Hero’s” through this storm, and we employ a lot of them!
As the dig out continued into Tuesday January 7, and Wednesday January 8, Bridgewater township was ecstatic to have Adam and the 9630 help clean some roads they couldn’t touch. In Morenci, Michigan we still had a couple key people who lived on roads that hadn’t been cleaned since Sunday. Since all the tasks at Oakshade had been accomplished, we sent our payloader out to help.
Yep it’s been a rough week. Below are some pictures of what Dairy Farming in Antartica looks like. We are ready to move back to Ohio!
I should add there are dozens of individuals that helped us at each location, and as time permits I may write more stories about the issues that they encountered.
Brian Shaw, Jason Bryant at Oakshade kept operations moving, despite a very limited crew.
Juan, Eric and Lowell (Butch) went above and beyond to keep everything clicking at Bridgewater Montpelier, Oh.
Eric, Guadalupe and Alejandro barely saw their families for three days as they kept Bridgewater-Indiana alive.
Again, it all comes down to people, and team work. I love these cows, and the people that make everything click.
These are just stories about our experience in Northwest Ohio during the storm. We are incredibly thankful for the road crews, emergency health professionals, fuel station attendants, hardware stores and all the individuals that helped keep our counties functioning! Thank You!
We are also aware that other dairy farms did not fare as well as we did. Their stories are important as well.
Please recognize that farmers all over the world are working hard to put food on your table.