These are tough times in the dairy business, particularly for small operations. But the fact a livelihood is destroyed so quickly by a month of snow reveals the precipice on which many farmers stand.
The roof of the Hoffman family’s barn on their farm in Chatfield, Minn., collapsed on Tuesday, a few days after a first section fell, killing 10 of their cows. So the 2018 Olmsted County farm of the year owners sold off their 450 cows by Tuesday afternoon. Just like that, they’re out of the dairy business.
“We just decided it’s time to get these cows out of here and safe,” Gary Hoffman tells the Rochester Post-Bulletin. “We found a buyer, and they’re going to a real good home.”
With cold temperatures predicted and no barn to protect the animals, he didn’t have much choice.
“It’s the only thing we can do right now,” said Hoffman. “Maybe it’d be different if the weather was normal.”
The Hoffmans loved their animals, and it showed in the way they treated them on their last day together. The brothers could tell the animals apart by their faces, even though there were hundreds of them, and they talked to them like old friends.
One cow stumbled out-of-turn down the tunnel that led to an outside trailer, gunk dripping heavily from his nose.
“Hold on, snot,” said a half-smiling Corey Hoffman.
Without hesitation, the cow turned and went back into the barn.
Other farmers in the area showed up to provide some emotional and logistical support.
The Hoffmans might start over again on the farm that’s been in the family since 1905, but it’s too early to say.