Was it an early Easter miracle or just another day on the farm? Michelle Ramseyer thinks it might have been a little bit of both.
Michelle and her husband Jeff raise around 200 cattle in an organic rotational grazing system with neighboring grain farmer, Dean McIlvaine. The Ramseyers provide the livestock and the labor while enhancing the fertility and controlling weeds on McIvaine’s farm ground for their Lone Pine Pastures operation in Wayne County, Michelle said.
“He actually owns the properties we have cattle on. We have 110 head of cattle and close to 80 calves on the ground now. We are a grass-fed operation. We started back in 2014 when we got the cattle. Dean is an organic crop farmer and all of the cattle are raised on organic grass. We do not feed anything other than hay and grass. Dean needed more fertility because his crops weren’t growing well. Jeff went to him and said ‘Hey we can get you more fertility, why don’t we start a grass fed operation?’ That is what we did,” Michelle said. “Our first 40 heifers were delivered in December of 2014 and we calved in March-April of 2015 and have gone from there. We graze on his cropland and we have about 200 acres of permanent pastures we will start here in another couple of weeks. We market our beef to Heinen’s Grocery Store and we have freezer beef we sell in the community though Facebook. We also have organic raised pork in an open barn with outside access.”
On Palm Sunday, Jeff and Michelle went out to the pastures to check for calves in the farm ATV.
“I go out with him a couple times a week. I attend ATI as a Dairy Science major, so I’m busy with that and we have four kids,” Michelle said. “It was Sunday and he wanted me to go out with him. We had had four calves that were born and he wanted to figure out which momma belonged to which calf and look at some of the cows.”
That is when something caught Michelle’s attention.
“We rolled up on the Kubota to a cow and a calf that were laying in an old hay pile. I said to Jeff, ‘She is laying on that calf.’ And he says, ‘No, she’s not. She’s fine.’ The momma jumped up as we got a little closer the calf just laid there,” she said. “Jeff jumped off the Kubota realizing, ‘Well, Michelle’s right.’ He ran to the calf and he picked the calf up and it was still warm. He kind of blew on its face and tried to shake it and I just went into ‘mom mode’ I think. I ran off the Kubota over to them and started mouth-to-mouth on this calf. Jeff said the first time I blew in the calf’s mouth his eyes about popped out of his head. Two more times I blew into his mouth and he started breathing on his own. He was laid out flat. His tongue was out — his tongue was blue.”
The timing was extremely fortunate.
“I just knew that he needed to start breathing and if he was still warm, he was suffocating. His head was under the cow and the rest of the body was not under the cow, his head was. So I knew he was suffocating, that’s the only reason he was like that. I just thought we got to get air into his lungs, and how else do you get air into lungs? I’ve taken child CPR courses and adult CPR courses. So I just did that and I also pounded on the side of his chest where I knew his heart was a couple times just to stimulate him and it must have worked because he’s up and viable now,” Michelle said. “So we happened upon this calf at the right time, because in our situation, normally what happens is we lose very little calves. But in any farming situation, you lose a calf and have no idea why this calf died. Especially beef. With dairy you usually know, but with beef all of the sudden you’ll happen on a calf and won’t know why it’s dead. So we’re very lucky.”
Since then, the calf seems to be doing remarkably well.
“It took him probably about 10 minutes after we got him going and he was up and wobbly and walked about 300 yards with his mom and started nursing. So we were excited we actually saved him and Jeff checked him yesterday and this morning and says he’s still nursing and he still looks good, so we’re hoping that there wasn’t any other damage,” Michelle said. “We really watch the health of our animals. It’s very important to us. I am a big softie when it comes to our calves. Those are my babies and they’re like my kids. They might not let me pet them, but we really watch our animals for care.”
And while calf CPR may be a bit out of the ordinary for the farm, doing whatever it takes to care for animals in the best possible way is standard procedure for the Ramseyers and for livestock farms in general.
“Right after that calf being revived, we were driving around again and the calves do this all the time — they’re laid out flat, you roll up to them and you’re like, ‘What happened?’ And they’re just laying in the sun sunning themselves,” she said. “Our hearts go in our throat every time we see an animal that is not doing well, or we think is not doing well. That type of situation happens on the farm.”
Whether large or small, extreme measures for animal care are a part of every successful livestock operation. Improper animal care is more than an emotional issue, it is simply bad business for the farm.
“We do it everyday. There are times when I get frustrated because we have to go check cows. Sometimes, the cows come before our family. That’s just the way it happens. There are dairy farmers out there that miss Christmas mornings. We miss family get-togethers because we have a situation at the farm we have to take care of and that’s first. We miss ball games because we have to go put fence up or we have to get cows in or we have a cow having a calf that needs assistance, and guess what, sorry kids, we’ll get you to your game but we might miss it. That’s our way of life, that’s what we do,” Michelle said. “For those people that don’t have that experience and have questions, I know not only us, but several farms that say, ‘Come, I’ll show you. I’ll show you what I do. Come to our farm. You have a question, we’ll show you what we do.’ We don’t have time to take tours every day, but we want people to realize that we take care of our animals. No matter what, we take care of our animals. That’s first. And sometimes it’s before family because that’s what pays our bills. It’s well worth it. We love what we do or we wouldn’t be doing it.”
The lifestyle on the farm requires hard work, steadfast dedication to the animals and their welfare and even, on occasion, some heroic CPR. But, miracle or not, it is just another day on the farm.