The wife of one of the dairy farmers affected by Sunday night’s fire was moved to tears as she saw a caravan of trailers full of dairy cattle pulled by trucks driven by neighbor farmers and friends to another dairy, where they can continue being housed, fed and milked.
“Our small town is amazing,” says Leah Birker, whose family is all right but struggling to deal with the impact of losing their milking parlor in a fire on Sunday night.
Leah was in her car when she saw the caravan, red lights blinking as the vehicles headed north. She had to stop to accommodate her tears.
“It was one of the most emotional things I have ever seen,” says Leah.
Birker, Inc. employees stayed up late Sunday, helping to load the cows into trailers, which hauled the animals to dairy farms between Independence and Jesup, owned by the Corkery family.
One of those farms was recently emptied, as its owner sought to retire.
“He just sold his cows a week ago,” says Jeff Birker,
While the fire and its impact pose a significant increase in work, from hauling feed to the dairies 30 miles or more north, to clean-up of the remains of the 43-year-old milking parlor, to dealing with insurance and rebuilding, Jeff says that all of the livestock were unharmed and nobody was hurt.
“At the end of the day, that’s all that matters,” he said.
The Birkers thanked all of the emergency personnel who aided them on Sunday, including several fire departments. The VFD also loaned the farm its large light trailer so they could more easily load the cattle. Firefighters battled the blazed in a heavy, wind-driven rain for several hours.
Workers noticed smoke and by the time they figured out what was happening, the building was in flames, Jeff said.
“We are so very thankful for the fire departments in Vinton, Shellsburg, Center Point, Urbana, Brandon, and Van Horne,” says Leah. “Thank you for all your volunteer hours to save our family farm. You did NOT have an easy job tonight with the wind and rain.”
Leah also offered personal thanks to close friends and family members who volunteered time and trailers to move the cows.
“I want to also thank my very close friends for being by our side and providing food and drink. We can’t say enough to thank you,” says Leah. “Going forward please pray for all the Birkers who have put their heart and soul into this dairy operation. We appreciate you! Family sticks together through the good and the bad. Also, please pray for our children who have seen this horrific event. It breaks our hearts to explain what has happened. Their hearts hurt and are so sad to see the cows go to another location.
Leah also asks those who pray to pray for Jeff, who will have to drive each day to feed the cattle.
“Going forward this means he will be away longer in a day. Prayers are needed,” Leah says.