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Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.

Beautiful late fall day ends on sad note

We have been having a beautiful stretch of weather here in northwest Vermont. The usual dark days of November have been filled with sunshine and above average temperatures. We were spared the huge early snowstorm that did so much damage to the south and east of us. Animals and humans here at Howmars Farm are loving the extended spell of nice weather. While chatting with my niece, and new mom, Jamie, she was afraid we would "pay" for all this nice weather. I gave her my opinion that WE were being "paid back" for the record flooding this spring, the devastating damage from Irene, and the over 40 inches of rain our region has endured this year.

Today was another good one and had gone well for a Monday. We finished morning chores a bit early (maybe thanks to the time change over the weekend), and Karen, Yukon, and I went for a 3 1/2 -mile walk. After making some phone calls, I spread a couple of loads of manure before lunch. On my way out from lunch, I met Dad coming around the corner of the barn on the four-wheeler. That's when the day went sour.
 
Dad asked if the dead cow in the lane had been sick. What dead cow!? I exclaimed. I rushed the 200 feet down the side of the barn to the pasture lane. There I found Lily where she had dropped on her way back from the pasture. We assume she suffered a heart attack. She was 9 years old and this was quite a shock. She had been fine this morning at milking, coming in like she always does near the end of milking. She cleaned up her manger of grain and left the parlor happy. But a day on the farm can change in an instant. A piece of equipment can break down, a sudden storm can sweep into the area, or an animal can require immediate attention that changes the plan for the day. Finding Lily like this meant taking time to get her placed in a composting mound. That is how we handle the mortalities on the farm. An hour later, she was resting on a base of hay and sawdust, covered with 6-8 bucketloads of material that will heat and compost her body.
 
Now I didn't have time to do what I had planned for the afernoon, so I went to the house to make a cup of tea to bring to the barn with me for the afternoon milking. I felt pretty bad about Lily,. but I knew nobody was to blame It was just one of those things. I have had cows who I nursed and doctored for weeks only to lose them. They suffered and I suffered along with them. It was sad to lose a cow, and it was a monetary loss,too, but it was a quick loss and no one suffered. I always say that if you are in the business where you take care of livestock, you are going to lose animals no matter how good a job you do. Its part of the life called farming.

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Sorry to read of your lose. I've been in that situation, it is perplexing and frustrating at times. But, as you write, it is part of life ... called farming!
Blessings to you and your family.
China Lanier
E. TX

So sorry about Lily's sudden passing....may she rest in peace. As always, I enjoy reading the details of your daily activities, & your slideshows are beautiful!

So sad about Lily. Even though it is business, you do interact with the cows and they become a part of your life. Hope she went quickly.

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