Larson Acres provides home for flooded Illinois cows

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Thursday, July 29, 2010
— The Meier family is used to flooding at their farm, which sits on the Pecatonica River east of Freeport, Ill.

When you live in a river bottom, “you just know these things,” said Glen Meier, who owns Meier Farms with his two brothers, a sister and their families.

But that usual nervousness increased Saturday as the river continued to rise after Mother Nature delivered a dousing of rain to the Midwest late last week.

A dike surrounds the farm, but once water goes over it, the water rushes into the farm, Meier said. In just a matter of hours, cows were standing in knee- to waist-deep rushing water.

Neighbors offered to take a few cows—10 here, 15 there—but it was a long way to moving the 500 animals out as the water rose. The family crammed as much of their young stock into buildings at their other farm as they could.

The solution for saving the remaining cows came through a neighbor who commutes to a job in Madison, driving past Larson Acres daily along the way.

“I think they’re getting those buildings done. Why don’t you call them,” she suggested, knowing the Magnolia farm was expanding to double its herd.

A call early Saturday night to Mike Larson revealed the barn on Highway 59 was done, but not all the gates were up and the stalls lacked bedding. But Larson said he’d take a drive down to the Meier farm.

“I thought, ‘Good, he’ll see what we got,’” Meier said, as water continued to gush across the road and driveway at the time.

The mere sight of the farm left Larson concerned about the potential loss of cattle.

“It’s the worst thing I’ve seen in person as far as farms being flooded,” Larson said.

The strangers barely introduced themselves before help was offered.

“You’ve got to get them out of here,” Meier, choking up in emotion, recalls Larson saying.

“They were the best words I heard in my life.”

Larson headed home to get his crew in gear to fill the barn.

“I do not know him, and he did all that for me,” Meier said, choking up.

By 3 a.m. Sunday, the first semi-tractor trailer of cows arrived at its new temporary home. Water continued to fill the driveway, and fears increased it soon would be impassable. But by 9 a.m., crews had moved about 250 cows on eight semis up to Larson Acres, about 45 minutes northeast.

The last semi out the driveway has been the last truck in or out of the farm because it became too unsafe, Meier said.

“I was just glad that I was able to help them,” Larson said.

The Meiers have brought a crew up to Larson Acres to care for and milk the cows.

All they can do now is wait for the river to go down.

“My first estimate was two weeks,” Meier said of bringing the cows home. “Now it’s a month.”

Larson said the suddenly partially filled barn doesn’t change their expansion plans.

“We envision them being gone before we need the facility,” he said.

Meier said his family can’t praise the Larsons enough for helping out strangers.

“That’s what we farmers we do,” Larson said. “We stick together.”

Last updated: 2:14 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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