Dan Hanrahan can tell you how to care for a birthing cow at 2 a.m. and the story of how his family acquired their Madison County farmstead, following the Great Depression.

Last week I visited Dan, in search of cute baby calf TikToks and photos. I found the cute cows (see the video and photos below) and also was reminded of things you can’t always capture in short clips.

When farming is your life and livelihood (as it is for Dan and thousands of other farmers across Iowa), the farm isn’t just a functional workplace. It’s an ecosystem with a lesson-filled past that requires careful stewardship to support new life and ensure a sustainable future.

Dan told me he enjoys having new toddling calves on the farm during the spring calving season, but this time of year also represents the beginning of an annual renewal for the entire farm.

“Once we get the calves out here on the grass, everything’s just going to fall into place, and we’re just going to keep moving forward through the year as my family has done for a long time. That connection back is just a fantastic part of being involved in agriculture.”

“Moving forward through the year” isn’t always easy – especially when you’re checking on pregnant cows round-the-clock, helping a cow or calf through a difficult moment, or taking on one of the other daily challenges that come along with raising livestock in Iowa. But the renewal of spring and its reminder of our limited time here on Earth provides motivation for caretakers like Dan.

“We’re taking care of this cow herd. We’re trying to take care of the ground they graze. And we’re really trying to preserve it for the next person that comes along. It kind of reminds you that you’re here for a little while. You’re trying to do the best you can and improve things in the best way possible during your time.”

By Zach Bader. Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Digital Marketing Manager. Photos by Iowa Farm Bureau photographer Conrad Schmidt. 

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