After The Fire

We sold the milk cows.

Imagine taking a sharp knife and attempting to slice off all of the emotional aspects of a decision to make it easier. You won’t succeed.

After the fire at our shop, we were left with two facts that we could not ignore.

  1. On average, we spend an hour or more a day either repairing something we use daily on the farm or improving something. Flat tires, squeaky bearings, broken feed augers; and the list goes on. Every tool we owned was lost in the fire, from simple claw hammers to specialty tools, to the homemade necessities we had crafted over the years.
  2. There are four long conveyors that carry the silage from the silos to the feedway. All of these ran by our shop. The fire burned the closest conveyor from one end to the other and melted the belts apart on the remaining three. Until these are replaced and/or repaired we cannot feed silage.

Without quality silage, the cows would slowly drop in milk production. Without tools, we would find ourselves unable to repair even the most mundane problem. Caring for the milk cows over the weekend was a struggle under the circumstances, but we were all in agreement that we didn’t have to win every battle in order to win the war. The fire was only the beginning, it would seem.

Selling the cows would enable us the time to regroup and rebuild without them having to suffer as we tried to keep everything going. Monday afternoon after the fire, we milked the entire herd for the last time and loaded them up to go to a dairy auction.

I can imagine a new mother with no other options leaving an infant in a basket on a doorstep with deep feelings of abandonment and fear for her child. The cows are not my children, but as a farmer, the lines are often blurred. We have raised generations of dairy cows from birth to adulthood. We have fed them, nurtured them, and took pride in our girls as they joined the milk herd and had calves that succeeded them. Loading them one at a time, with the realization with each cow that we would never see them again, was a trauma repeated eighty times until the last trailer left the farm.


Dairy cow on trailer
Leaving the farm


As painful as that was, selling the milk cows was a different experience entirely. The girls sold individually at a dairy auction. As each came into the ring, I read off the date she calved and how much milk she produced from our monthly dairy records. I took pride with each cow as she paced and pranced for the crowd. Our cows were good cows, and the prices they brought reflected it.


Dairy Cow Auction


Today we are coming to terms with a new normal, one that doesn’t include rising early to milk the cows. We still have all of our heifers, calves, and dry cows to feed and care for daily. Will we use them and return to milking? Will we engage in a new enterprise on our farm? The Magic 8-ball says, “Reply hazy, try again.” In the meantime, we are exploring our options and preparing to rebuild.


Feeding Calves By Flashlight


30 thoughts on “After The Fire

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      1. like you said they are your girls, Just think your girls are helping some other farmer stay going.I wish you and your family the very very best.And if your young enough,Hang in there!!!

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  1. There are no words, Ryan. Only tears. Glen’s father and brother made the same decision after their shop and all of the equipment inside (tractors, TMR mixer, skid loader, etc.) were consumed by fire. We sat and watched the auction. Saying good bye to the cows is right up there with fire in terms of incomprehensible to those who have never experienced it. May your direction become clear as you contemplate the future.


  2. Our heart goes out to you for the tragedy of the fire and also for what you have to deal with in the days, weeks, months following. There is nothing more frightening on a farm than a fire. Our family knows all too well, as we not only had to bury 100 cows 6 years ago after an overnight fire of our original homestead’s barn, but we also lost a dear friend who was working as a firefighter in battling the smoldering fires in the days following. Time heals and you will always have the memories. xoxo

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  3. We lost our entire herd, but due to the PBB contamination in feed in the 70’s. I didn’t realize how much I retained of those scars as a child at the time, not until vets from the UK were talking about depopulated herds from FMD in 2004. Then images and emotions came back. I could visualize our EMPTY BARNS, in particular. We came back to dairying. However, our family was scared long-term and I’d dare say along the lines of PTSD/ “attachment disorder”. My support is with you & your family as you decide what is best for your future and your HEART.

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  4. I am so sorry for your losses. I know the terror of fire, especially when animals are involved. We don’t have a real dairy- just a family farm, but we also lost all of our tools and equipment, and too many animals. It does get easier. Eventually.

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  5. I can’t even imagine. As I read off their information I would have had tears running down my cheeks. I just can’t even. I’m sending you prayers and hugs. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I’m going to hug my girls a little tighter tonight 😦 Thank you for reminding me that life isn’t always fair, but you have to deal with it as it comes. Hoping the rebuild happens soon and your life will be back to normal.

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  6. I’m so so sorry. I can’t imagine the pain. Without sounding trite and flippant – for me I have to believe that when these things happen to us there is a greater reason. Sometimes we realize the purpose and other times we never will. Also, there are a lot of people watching to see what an amazing person and farmer you are. There are only so many of us that God dropped the farming seed into and I believe he gave us extra grace and strength to do the job. I will be praying for all of you for the decisions you are making.

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  7. I am an urban lady, but my eyes are wet with tears. Making the right decision for the cows was hard and that is why I hope and pray that you will return to your dairy business. You might choose a different aspect of it. ( I splurge on milk from Jersey cows, far too often for my budget–but it is better than a candy bar of or a bag of chips).

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  8. I am so sorry, we lost our dairy barn to a fire August 4th. We were able to get all the animals out buy it has been a battle to keep our cows milking and healthy. Don’t give up your dreams.

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  9. We lost 101 head to a fire, I can’t say it gets eaiser just learn to deal with it. We tried to build back but it just wasn’t the same. After a year and a half my father decided everything happens for a reason sold the few girls we had and took a job off the farm. My son now 7 has love and passion for animals and his heart is in it 100% and we couldn’t look at the empty barn anymore. We now have 6 heifers we bought at auction and will try and buil are heard back. Good luck to you and your family! Prayers to all.

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  10. I’m so sorry. What a hard decision to make – why can’t the right decisions be easy?

    Everyone who knows you knows how much you loved your ladies. You had their best interest at heart. Let time decide what is the best decision moving forward.

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  11. I can empathize, we had our own barn fire when I was a teen. I can still close my eyes and when I read of other barn fires it emerges from some where in my subconscious especially the black Belgian that broke loose from me to run back into its stall. That was 57 years ago.

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    1. That was part of the reason I wanted to write it all down. I wanted to record it while it was fresh in my mind. I will never forget the fire light into our windows that morning.


  12. Praying for you in your time of grief. I lost my brother to a fire twenty years ago. It is still something that is so very hard to deal with. My great grandfather had a barn fire, he lost every animal that was in that barn. Our community at the time banded together and built a bright new barn for my family. It was a time of great sadness, but also a time to celebrate the human race and just how resilient we are when the tough times come, we stand up and fight together as a family! God Bless your family! I pray that in time you will know the great blessings, family bonding, friends that are true, and wondrous love that will be seen, felt, and treasured through this tragedy. God DOES put on us more than we can bear, I know, I’ve felt it! We must remember that it is in those times He wants to carry us through the storm. Lean on the Lord and let Him carry you through. Prayers for you all!

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