Honor farmers and all who just get the work done

Usually in this space I talk about animal health, animal environments and animal welfare. I enjoy my job as a veterinarian and hopefully am able to share that joy with readers of the Independent. My goal with this column is to not only educate livestock owners about health and welfare issues but also to shed some light on what really happens down on the farm for the many people who are not fortunate enough to have direct contact with farm animals. I love animals, but as I’ve said many times, my real focus is the person who gets up every day, holidays included, to clean, feed, bed and milk their charges. So this year-end column will be a little different — a celebration of those people who work while the rest of us are padding around, coffee in one hand and an excited child pulling the other, on Christmas morning.
It probably doesn’t have to be pointed out, but for dairy farmers and other livestock owners Christmas morning is like any other morning. Cows need to be milked, fed and taken care of. The alarm goes off at the same time, the same load of feed needs to be mixed; the baby calves still need their milk. Many of our Addison County farms are large enough to have a staff of workers so the work is shared, but the work is still there. Many of our Hispanic dairy farmworkers are also far, far from their families on Christmas morning. I hope that everyone who adds some cream to their coffee, sips some eggnog or enjoys some of our world-class Vermont cheese on Christmas Day says a silent thank you to the farmers who sacrificed some of their holiday to care for their animals.
Of course farmers aren’t the only people working on Christmas Day. Nurses, doctors, police and firefighters, our military, the list is endless. My wife is a nurse who for many years worked in the maternity department at Porter Hospital and now manages a midwifery practice. She and the midwives she works with consider it a blessing to be part of people’s lives during such a joyful time — holiday or not. First responders are ready at a moment’s notice to be available to help in an emergency. The risks they take every day, 365 days per year, were in evidence during the tragedy that shocked the nation last week in Connecticut.
When I am on duty Christmas Day and am called to a farm for an emergency, it almost feels like I’m a member of an exclusive club. I know when I’m called to see a sick animal or attend to a difficult birth I am really needed if it’s Christmas Day. No one really wants to work on Christmas and they appreciate the fact that I am available to care for their animal’s needs. The animals, of course, don’t read the calendar and have no idea that the day is special to you and me.
This Christmas as you enjoy the day with your family please keep everyone who is working in mind — whether they work in hospitals, on a military base, in a patrol car or in the barn caring for their animals. Merry Christmas everyone!
Dr. Joe Klopfenstein is a large animal veterinarian in Vergennes.

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