By Dave Fredrick
Tribune Recorder Leader
All anyone had to do was take a drive past the de Vor dairy farm on Decker Road last Tuesday morning and it may have been fair to assume the worse, through all the turmoil. A ravaging tornado ripped through the 3,000 plus dairy farm operation Monday night, destroying numerous barns filled with cattle, along with equipment and other buildings.
Hundreds of neighbors, and even some who really didn’t know the de Vor family but wanted to help, responded to the catastrophic scene shortly after the storm had hit to access the damage. Area farmers with livestock trailers began responding to the farm, to help transport cattle that no longer had a barn to go to. Others scrambled to get electricity back so the large dairy could continue to milk what animals they could.
Veterinarians from around the county came to the scene to survey the damage to the cattle and begin treatment. Milk equipment companies rushed to the farm to help the de Vors get their operation back up and running. Amidst all the confusion, chaos and hurry to begin helping the de Vors were cows that were due to have newborn calves at any minute. Being that close to delivery times, within hours or a few days can prove to be troublesome if the cows are transported any great distance.
Many dairy farmers in Sanilac County offered their facilities to take cattle from the de Vor farm. Among those volunteering space for displaced cattle was Noll Dairy Farm of Croswell. Michael Noll said a phone call was made to offer help and assistance was accepted.
“We called up there and said we had some room,” he explained. “They said they’d be sending down some trailers. I told them we had room for about 50 head, and we ended up with 150. We were glad to help out. Just farmers helping out each other.”
The Nolls, who farm over 2,000 acres in southeast Sanilac County, had recently finished construction of a new 62 x 300 foot long barn to house dry cows at one of their locations. The barn, which already housed some of their own cattle, quickly became a straw-filled MASH unit and a maternity ward, all at the same time.
“We had a vet here treating some of the cattle that were hurt in the storm. There were some pretty significant injuries,” Michael stated. “There are some we have to keep an eye on. We’re not sure if they’ll make it or not.”
Along with the injured cattle were cows expecting calves, much to Noll’s surprise. “Within hours of being brought to our farm, we had one cow have a heifer calf born in an open pen with the other cows,” Nolls said. “We had some others born the first night here. So that changed our plans a bit.”
The calf, appropriately named Lucky, by Noll’s family and some nearby neighbors, was scooped up and transported to another location where she rested in her new surroundings in a calf hut, while mom was put with others to be milked. Lucky was quickly adopted and tended to by Tyler and Emma Noll along with Kristen, Jenna and Dana Gardner, nearby neighbors.
The news of the birth of Lucky, and several others born since the storm, spread quickly. The Tribune – Recorder – Leader posted a picture of Lucky along with the Noll and Gardner kids on facebook. The photo received nearly 85,000 views and more than 2,300 likes.
“That was kind of neat,” Noll said. “To have life be born in the midst of the tragedy the de Vor family suffered. It’s a tremendous loss. I can’t even imagine it. I just know if the tables had been turned, they would do the same for us. We wanted to help however we could.” Noll and other family members drove up to the farm last week to help with the storm clean-up as well.
Despite all of the devastation and tragedy, Lucky will undoubtedly bring a smile to the face of many as they reflect back on the events of last week’s tornado.