A successful dairy farmer is a lot of things. For example, he or she must be a a caretaker, willing to sacrifice nights and weekends to be with an animal in need; a hard worker, someone that can toss a bale of hale in 90 degree weather; a mechanic, ready to deal with the constant problems that arise from working with heavy machinery.
I realized at a young age that I was not cut out to follow in my father and brother’s footsteps so I decided to pursue a career in agriculture business all the while being an advocate for an industry that I love. Those called to be a dairy farmer are truly an amazing group of individuals and I have had the honor to share many of their stories with you. They are committed to providing the consumer with a safe, wholesome product, milk. They often begin their day before the sun comes out and do not finish it until the stars do. What happens on the dairy when forecasters predict an “epic” blizzard? On the news we saw consumers flock to the store to pick up the basic necessities like bread, milk, eggs, etc. but how does a dairy farmer prepare?
Alban Farms is a 4th generation family farm located in Hamstead, Maryland where you will find Lisa (Alban) Myers, Scott and Joyce Alban (Lisa’s parents) and Earl Alban (Lisa’s Uncle). The past few days have been incredible stressful for the entire family. They have worked countless hours, doing the best they can, in some of the worst conditions while maintaining the utmost dedication to their animals. Here is their journey through the Jonas Blizzard which hit the East Coast January 22-23, 2016.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
The news outlets really start talking about the blizzard; early predictions for Hampstead, Maryland say 24 inches of snow along with 50 mph winds starting on Friday night.
Thursday, January 21, 2016
The weather forecasters continue to adjust their predictions but the snowfall forecast puts Lisa and her family right in the “bull’s eye”. The family works diligently to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
All of the calves received their usual amount of straw bedding plus a little more. The farm utilizes calf condos so the front of the pen is open to the elements.
The curtains in the freestall barn are put down to help with the blowing snow. The curtains are able to be raised and lowered depending upon the weather.
Something strange they do but have learned from previous big snows is they mix enough of their total mixed rations (TMR) to make it through the storm (so for this storm, 3 feedings.) They make a clean spot on the cement pad, run the feed off on the cement and cover it with large tarps. During the worst of the snow, they can uncover a portion; scoop it up with the skid loader (which has a heated cab) and put in the feed bunk without having to try and access the tractor and TMR mixer. They also do not have to clear a path to the ag bags until the storm is over.
Extra bedding is placed close to the barn, making it easy to access in the snow.
Friday, January 22nd
The day began with a beautiful sunrise but it came with a warning…. Red in the morning, sailor’s warning.
In the days prior, the family worked hard to be prepared. They continue on with their normal chores and hope the forecast is wrong.
The milk truck came and picked up their milk. Their milk gets picked up every other day; so it will not have to be picked-up again until Sunday. The farm can hold an extra milking in their tank – something they do not want to rely on.
8:00 pm – Lisa estimates around 6 inches of snow with no wind.
Saturday, January 23rd
8:00 am – Lisa checks in and estimates 19 inches of snow has fallen so far. The forecasters have increased the snow amount and are now saying up to 36 inches. So far, no wind.
7:00 pm – Lisa estimates 30 inches of snow on the ground and it has started to blow.
Joyce shares this picture of the freestall barn on Saturday night. There was snow everywhere. Scott and Joyce were at the farm all day today, doing chores during the worst of the storm. These two individuals worked very hard to make sure their herd was cared for until everyone else could safely make it back to the farm.
Sunday, January 24th
7:00 am – It has finally stopped snowing and the sun is out! People are saying as much as 29 inches of heavy snow was on the ground with drifts everywhere. The family is exhausted but they must start to dig out and pray the milk truck can make it to their farm today. All humans and animals made it through the storm healthy. The roads in the area are about 1 1/2 lanes plowed.
The snowed in freestall barn, which was built in 1970’s is a 3 sided barn so these nor eastern storms just whip right into.
Snowed in calf condo, do not worry it was an extra unused one, so they did not waste time cleaning it out. The next cow due to calve is not due for another month.
This is a picture of a few the snow drifts around the farm and in the cow yard adjacent to the freestall barn which they have not moved yet.
One concern with such a large amount of heavy snow is the risk of roofs collapsing. The Burall Family unfortunately experienced this but thankfully there were no injuries to the animals or humans.
Monday January 25th
The milktruck did not come overnight but the cow’s production was down significantly and they were able to squeeze this morning’s milking into the tank. The waiting game continues.
5:30 pm – the milk truck just got to their farm! They can now start the evening milking, only a few hours late.
During the storm, the Alban family did not miss a beat. They milked, fed and cared for their animals like they would any other day. See, dairy farmers are not allowed snow days. I appreciate them allowing me to share their story. There is still so much works to be done in the coming days. The roads will need to be cleared to allow trucks to access the farms for milk pickup and feed delivery. Roof structures needs to be monitored and prayers they do not collapse. Finally, please say a prayer for the farm families. These weather events are extremely stressful for everyone in the family.
I am not the first person to share how farmers care for their animals during the winter months, to learn more check out the following posts:
- Snow Day On A Dairy Farm – Farmer Bright
- Blizzard and Bullshit – Dairy Carrie
- Caring for Feedlot Cattle During a Winter Store – Agriculture Proud