Farmers with animals must keep working

March 19, 2020

We are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and we are being told to stay at home. Most people are working from home when they can, while many more are not able to do their job from home. Schools are closing, as are restaurants, libraries, conferences, and a whole list of other places where people congregate.

However, farmers involved in animal agriculture (dairy, sheep, cattle, etc.) must work even if they themselves are sick. Their animals must be taken care of several times a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. The livestock must be fed, watered, cleaned, stalls mucked, and the health of the animals checked on. Young animals are even born this time of the year and farmers and veterinarians need to attend to these births.

black cow facing camera with black and white cows in background

"Cow face" by is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Yesterday morning Kate Ziehm, editor of Morning Ag Clips, wrote an article from her recent personal experience. The story she tells speaks to the work ethic and the sense of responsibility of the farmers that produce our food. They must work to care for the animals that they are responsible for, whether they are sick or not. Kate’s story, “We work through it”:

I remember when Tyler turned 1-year-old … we all got the flu.

I know exactly when it hit; I was doing calf chores one morning, the snow was swirling, and my mother-in-law was inside taking care of the baby due to the weather conditions (ordinarily he was on my back).

The buckets got heavier with each trip out to the hutches from the barn. Leaning on the stainless steel sink all of a sudden became a necessity while I filled the buckets with hot water to mix up the milk replacer. Every swirl of the whisk made my eyes feel a little tranced and heavy, as heat flushed up above my brow and under my snow-covered hat. The fever came up, and the ache in my body set in.

I had all I could do to keep from falling over against the wind and the drifting snow as I trudged back and forth.  But the calves needed to be fed …

The flu hit like a freight-liner, both my husband and I and our baby … yet we still worked through it.

Making milk, making hay, making maple syrup … Mother Nature doesn’t wait for a cure, a vaccine, or a full recovery.

In fact, Mother Nature doesn’t understand “social distancing” and certainly doesn’t feel anything toward the heightened level of commentary that is overloading our news feeds and inboxes.

What Mother Nature does know is that animals need to be fed, and seeds need to be sewn.

Manure needs to be spread, babies need to be born, and barns need to be cleaned.

In illness, we work.

During good times and bad, we stick to task and to the routine of everyday chores. Hoping, with every boot clad step, the bug works its way out of our bodies.

Every cough, every sneeze, we cleanse, using that real, farm fresh air. Every breath, keeping us in touch with the daily rhythm of life and grounding any anxieties we may feel.

Humans need to be fed. We work.

As the world quiets around us, and we hunker in to slow down the spread of the virus, I can’t help but think about our livelihood in agriculture.

I am thankful for our resilience. I am thankful for our work ethic. I am thankful for our access to fresh air and dirt.

But most of all I am thankful for our connection with Mother Nature and the cycle of life.  It is a reminder, in the midst of all the insanity that is filtering through the news this week and will be in the weeks and months to come, that keeping the routine, caring for the animals, and being stewards to the land, will ultimately be the even keel that brings us back to a feeling of normal.

The work grounds us, like the anchor of a boat.

Our measure is to just keep on working.

And that’s what we will do.


Stay healthy my friends…

With love,


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