By Heather Lang
Although the saying “Failure means you’re trying” is supposed to bring comfort, hearing it doesn’t always make it easier to accept our failures.
Failure happens, both on and off the farm. And it’s hard to shake.
Thinking back to a cold, early morning in October, I had just gotten to the barn to check on a sow that was supposed to farrow (give birth) soon. She was in her farrowing crate – to keep both her and her babies safe – and she had straw, along with heat lamps and heating pads for the piglets to keep them safe and warm. I walked in that morning to something a farmer never wants to see. The sow had decided to move all the straw out of her pen, so she was laying directly on the freezing cement floor (we don’t have heated floors in our barn) and then gave birth to many piglets.
I rushed over to the piglets, swooped them up in my arms, wiped them off, and put them on the heating pad that was under the heat lamps to try to get their body temperature up. After doing so, I went back over to the sow to watch her and noticed she was having trouble. This meant I needed to assist her in birthing the remaining piglets. She gave birth to 16 piglets, but because some of them were born on the frigid cement floor before I got there, only nine survived. Was this the outcome we wanted? No. Was it a failure? Not completely, as we were able to save the sow and nine piglets.
I was an emotional wreck afterward. I was mad. I was sad. I was heartbroken. I was tired. I completely understand the circle of life. I understand that things happen. But I often wonder why I get so emotional after losing an animal. Is it because of the cuteness of them? Is it because of all the time, work and energy we put into them? Sure it is, but pinpointing exactly why I get so emotional takes me back personally in time. I have suffered multiple miscarriages as an adult and it made me feel like a failure.
“Failure means you’re trying.” Yes. Hearing that doesn’t make it any easier. But you continue to fight.
So in those moments when I am fighting to keep animals alive, I fight like crazy. I try to make sure I am doing everything within my resources to make sure that our animals are safe and healthy.
Heather Lang, a farmer and Farm Bureau member in North Dakota, serves on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Promotion & Education Committee. This column originally appeared on North Dakota Farm Bureau’s On Your Table blog.