Turkey Tuesday: Heartache | On the Banks of Squaw Creek: Turkey Tuesday: Heartache
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Turkey Tuesday: Heartache

My husband works hard.  Really hard.

And in the course of a few hours, the fruits of his labor disappeared.

 

Yesterday was the hottest day of the summer so far (and pray that it was the hottest for the rest of the summer, too.)

The heat index was 115 with over 90% humidity.

 

Because of this, Bart spent the day doing odd jobs around the farm, while checking in on the turkeys regularly to see how they were handling the heat.  We have fourteen 48 inch fans in each building that suck air through, creating a 10 mph breeze.  We also have misters that spray water on the birds, keeping it moist, although that wasn’t much help with all of our humidity yesterday.  We do everything we can to keep the turkeys comfortable, although it’s hard to get the barns much cooler than it is outside.

But these measures worked.  Until about 6 PM.

Between 6PM and 10PM we lost approximately 2000 birds due to the heat. That is 10% of our flock, in just 4 hours.  Normally,85-90% of our birds live long enough to go to market.  10% gone in one day is a HUGE loss.  About 80,000 pounds of meat.

Bart has taken care of this flock for almost 4 months.  In a few short weeks, they would have gone to market.  Those 2,000 birds had hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of feed in them already.  And at 80,000 pounds, we will be losing out on thousands of dollars that would have been used to pay the feed bill, the electric bill, the construction loan, the equipment loans, and our mortgage.  With yesterday’s loss, we will be lucky if we break even with this flock.  More than likely, we will lose money.

But even bigger than the financial impact is the emotional impact.  Can you imagine what it must have been like for Bart last night?  The turkeys crowded against the walls of the building when they got hot.  (We don’t know why they do this, but they do.  Bart’s dad, at his farm down the road, let his turkeys out into a fenced in area, and they crowded the edge of the fence, too.)  When Bart noticed his birds crowding, he immediately began making passes up and down the walls, shooing them back to the middle of the building.  And no matter what he did, they crowded back, suffocating each other against the side of the building.

For 4 hours, he went up and down the .1 mile long buildings, trying to save the birds.  And for 4 hours, he watched as his birds died.

He came in, exhausted, around 10 PM.  He had not eaten since lunch, and felt sick to his stomach from stress and heartache.  Then, when he finally calmed enough to sleep, he was woken 3 times by alarms in the buildings.

Before 6 this morning, he went out to the barns with a couple high school kids, the skid loader, and a dump truck to clean up.

 

I was hesitant to post this.  Some animal rights group may come and say that we are mistreating our turkeys, blah, blah, blah.  But this post isn’t about the turkeys.  It’s about the men and women who work so hard to feed America, and really, the world.  And no matter what you think about farming, or meat, or whatever, I’m sure you can identify with the loss we are feeling right now.  I’m having trouble putting into words the heartache I feel for my husband.  He works so hard everyday.  Seven days a week, day and night. While Adam and I go to the zoo, he works.  While I sit here blogging, he works.  When all his friends are tailgating at the football games, he works.   And sometimes it pays off.  It just seems like that much hard work should ALWAYS pay off.  He doesn’t deserve this.

26 comments:

  1. Katie, that's TERRIBLE! I hope yesterday was the worst of it as well, and I'll certainly keep you guys in my prayers.

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  2. I can sympathize. While we don't have a huge flock of turkeys, we do have dairy cows. It is very hard to lose an animal, not just because of the lost income, but you feel you should have been able to save them. I also agree about your comment the animal rights people.We are not factory farms and it is called "animal husbandry" as in you are "married" to the operation and abusing your animals does nothing to help your bottom line. It is so sad that most people out there do not understand this and believe organizations like pita, that all farmers are cruel to their animals. We work hard and should be appreciated for feeding this country for little gain to ourselves compared to the amount of work we do. Sorry for rambling, just thought you should know there is someone out there who does understand. I wish for cooler weather for you.

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  3. My husband comes from a family that runs a dairy farm a very small dairy farm and America has no idea where there milk or their food even comes from. The small farms are dying and they can barely keep their heads up these days. I have watched them suffer and I know what hard work it is. Farmers of all kinds are not appreciated and I am so sorry that this has happened to you. I pray for cooler days and that things will be okay. Your blessed to have such a hard working husband who does all that he can to provide.

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  4. I'm so sorry to hear this ... I can totally understand and relate to what you guys are going through. My hubby is worried sick constantly that the pigs will overheat or that we will lose power and within just minutes lose a whole barn of pigs. It sounds like your hubby did everything he possibly could to help save the birds and he can't blame himself in this situation. I'd say just do your best to lift his spirits and encourage him to keep going. Cook his fav meal today and pass him a beer (or glass of wine) or whatev he likes :) Tomorrow will no doubt be a better (and hopefully cooler) day!

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  5. HUGS. That is heart breaking. I hope things cool off for you guys.

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  6. I am so sorry for you. I completely understand as my husband worries about our hogs all the time. The temperature alarms on our barns send him into a panic. Hang in there!

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  7. Oh, Katie, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss. Sometimes animals just do things that are inexplicable to humans and there's nothing you can do about it. And the heat certainly is an element to be dealt with. Hang in there. Give Bart a hug.

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  8. Oh. You sweetheart. My heart is breaking for you guys, and I'm literally crying. This must be so sad. To see something you have worked so hard for, and trying so hard.

    I'm so sorry. So very sorry.

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  9. I'm so sorry for your family's heartache. I know I can't fully understand the ache of your family . . . and your husband right now, I am sorry. I live in a farming community and I know farmers and their families pay a high cost for our benefit. Hoping their are signs of hope in the days to come.

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  10. How awful. I am so sorry for your family. Your poor husband. I can't imagine losing so much when he did everything he could to save them. I hope the weather becomes cooler and that you guys do not ever have to suffer this kind of loss again.

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  11. Oh Katie. I am sending lots of hugs your way. This is horrible and yet I completely understand. I hope things get better from here and from one farmer to another, I thank you and your husband for doing what you do.

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  12. oh, Katie, I hate to hear that for you and Bart. My heart hurts for you not only trying to mentally reconcile the monetary loss but also trying to be supportive of him. Here's hoping for some cooler weather and I'll say a special prayer for your family and your farm tonight. Sending you long distance hugs...

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  13. Prayers to you and Bart. Do not even give a thought to HSUS and the like. They have no clue what an investment we have in our animals and the care we take to keep them at their healthiest. I wish I could say and do more,, but please know that the farm community wraps its arms around you and your family in this challenging time.

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  14. So Sorry Katie! Our thoughts are prayers are with your family!

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  15. Thank you for your honesty in this post. Farming is an investment of your time, resources and heart. Most people don't realize the work and commitment that farmers daily put into their operation. With my family sheep farm the challenges are with cold winters while the ewes are lambing. I know this must be a challenging time for you all, but I also know God never gives us more than we can handle. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers!

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  16. katie, i don't even know what to say. i am do sorry for you and your husband and what you are going through right now emotionally and financially. your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

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  17. This is tough for me since I do not eat meat...but most of my reasons are because of animal cruelty issues in the big slaughterhouses, and of course that is not you and your husband. I really mourn the turkeys, they were probably trying to get themselves into a little corner because they didn't feel well. All animals do that when they are ill or scared...but I'm no expert, of course. I hope you are able to figure out a solution to this major set back and that you come back strong.

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  18. Katie,
    Thanks for sharing. I am sure this was a tough post. Wishing you cooler weather. It is hard when you lose your livestock...no matter how it happened or why...it just really sucks. Seems weird to grow things for the purpose of eating which means the ultimate sacrifice..but that is what we humans do....and for the nonfarming readers...Growing things for the ultimate sacrifice include vegetables...I give them the best of care providing and protecting them to the best of my ability...only to end up boiling them in pot of boiling water! It is the untimely events like yours that ruins our day. A vet friend of mine once said...growing livestock means learning to deal with dead stock.
    However..I have never learned to deal with it. Again..hoping for cooler weather and better days.

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  19. Oh Katie I am so sorry to hear that and it just breaks my heart as he has worked so hard caring for them and to have this happen, very sad. I'm keeping you all in my prayers Sweetie. I hope the heat cools down for you and that everything gets better really soon. Hugs!

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  20. I am so sorry! That is very heartbreaking.

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  21. I am sorry! That is horrible. I remember - it was incredibly hot that day in Omaha, too - the air conditioner in the office I work in broke. It didn't just break though - it blew. And while I've been complaining everyday since about having to work in an 89 degree office everyday (they still haven't fixed it), now I feel that I've been very petty - complaining about something as trivial as cool air when others are out working their butts off, day and night, in the heat. And yet still sustained such big losses. So thank you for posting this - for putting some things back in perspective for me, that there are others out there who have much bigger and more real worries than my trivial inconviences. And also thank you for posting this, because I want you to know that I am so, so sorry - I hope you and your husband can pull through this tough time together. And I truly hope that at some point, maybe down the road, there will be a silver lining to this cloud for you - that some good may come of it.

    Best wishes,
    ~Chelsea

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  22. I am so so sorry. I am sorry for the loss, for the fatigue, for the stress. I am sorry for it all.

    But, I was blessed to read about a wife who loves her husband so much that she hurts when he hurts.

    God bless you all..

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  23. My heart is aching for you. I know what a huge loss that is. You are right, most people do not have a clue what it takes to raise the food people simply purchase at the grocery store... so much is taken for granted. Raising turkeys is a back-breaking, nerve wrecking job. I know what it takes, my friends family raised them for years. They are "dumb" and it is hard to save them when their odd instincts kick in. I don't suppose there is any insurance for such loss? This heat and humidity is just awful. It sounds like tomorrow is going to be bad too. I will pray for you and hope you won't have to experience this again.

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  24. Katie, I'm really sorry to hear this story, but I'm glad you posted it. It's terrible to be helpless in any situation, but especially when animals are involved. I'm sorry you've had to go thru this!

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  25. I missed this post last week, so I'm just catching up. So sorry to hear of this loss. It must be devastating -- economically, emotionally and physcially. It's hard for me to imagine. Just know that I'm so sorry!

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  26. katie~
    i recently saw your comment on a simple country girl's blog and had to come visit..
    both my husband and i are 6th generation cattle ranchers and know devastation first hand...i don't think people realize how hard farmers/ranchers work at their livelihoods...we rely on mother nature and the animals for our way of life...no other way around it, if we don't take care of our animals our children don't eat...
    i will keep your family in my thoughts and prayers, please know that we do need you to carry on not only for our food but for our way of life that is slowly dying...

    prairie blessings,
    kristin

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