It can be difficult to explain the tears and fears of farm life with out having experienced it first hand. While farmers often face heartache and loss due to uncontrollable circumstances, the sun usually begins to shine just after the worst part of the storm has hit home. The most challenging, yet rewarding part of my job is seeing death followed by new life and hope for the growth.
This past week was difficult on the farm. My dad decided to tear down and rebuild a barn he had built when he was 17 years old. We spent last weekend demolishing the barn only to find the foundation has cracked. My dad was filled with over whelming stress and fear this barn would take longer and cost more money than he had planned. Time is not on our side. Each week we are leaving around 12 to 15 sows out of the farrowing house who are due to give birth to their piglets with in the week since we can not put them in this barn. The past couple weeks there has been a sow give birth early in a gestation pen and we have lost some of her piglets because other sows in the pen with her accidentally laid on them. So it is crucial to finish this barn. I spent Monday evening in the pouring rain with my Dad, brother, his girlfriend and my boyfriend working on the barn. We had to remove the pens and flooring that lay above a pit. The flooring is slatted so manure can pass through and be stored in the pit and the pigs don’t have to lay in it. My dad removes the manure each season with a suction hose into a tank to be used as natural fertilizer. The pit was full since winter and you can imagine the difficulty in removing the flooring over it. The pens and flooring were so heavy form my brother and boyfriend to carry and the rain made it more difficult. We managed to save some mice that had been living in the barn, let’s just say the cats were pleased with their Monday dinner entree.
The evening was further difficult for me because I kept worrying about a litter of runt piglets in the barn. There were many runt piglets born last weekend, so I placed them all on one new mother so they could try to get the best milk and not compete against bigger piglets for milk. Some of them had to be less than a pound and were so weak. I gave them an oral dose of Fast Break, this is a nutritional supplement that can help them get the strength and energy to get up and nurse. I prayed for the best, but many of them died by Monday. I replaced them with other smaller piglets that were not getting enough milk on other mothers, but it seemed the mother had started to dry up in milk because the runts had been too weak to nurse on her. I was so worried all day the new piglets I gave her would not get milk and start starving too. I was also worried because this is her first litter and if all of her nipples aren’t nursed from and dry up, they could very well not produce milk in future litters.
I continued to have anxiety through the night about the litter and prayed for the mother and piglets constantly. She is now raising about 8 piglets when she could have raised 12 or 13 if there had been bigger piglets on her from the start. I only pray these piglets will nurse and get the nourishment they need to grow big and healthy. I dream about saving piglets nearly every night. It is a special feeling to know these animals depend on you and so heart wrenching when you try everything you can, yet some of them don’t make it. My dad has taught me to always try and make something good out of bad. If a sow aborts or looses piglets on her litter, I hope I can put new piglets on her that may not have gotten enough milk on other sows. Their lives are so precious and gift from God. We brought them into this world, and I must make sure they have the best life possible while they are here. A farmer’s bond to their animals is different from any other. We give life to the animals and they give life, meaning and purpose to us.
As it tells in Genisus 1:24, “And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so.” In Genisus 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Lets us make a man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
I believe in what Paul Harvey says here:
And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say,’Maybe next year,’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from an ash tree, shoe a horse with hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. Who, during planting time and harvest season will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, put in another 72 hours.” So God made the farmer.
God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the leg of a meadowlark.”
It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, and brake, and disk, and plow, and plant, and tie the fleece and strain the milk, . Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says that he wants to spend his life doing what Dad does. “So God made a farmer.”
It can be difficult to press through when trial and death strikes, but God made a farmer to press though and give new life to the earth year after year. God made a farmer, then He made the farmer’s sons and daughters to be by their side, as I will do as long as I can.