Disaster. Right in the middle of calving season at the Triple P Livestock Farm in Lone Rock, Wisconsin, last winter. A fire burned down the barn, leaving all the animals unprotected from freezing temperatures.
“It burned everything down Jan. 17, so we start calving cows like middle of late February,” Holly Poad, owner of Triple P Farm, told AccuWeather. “Usually what I had is a big area where I could run in the cows that we’re gonna calve, and we put a lot of bedding in there and I’d leave them in for maybe about a week, depending on the weather, where they could be under a roof in and out of the weather … So we hurried up and we were able to get up a canvas building, just temporary.”
But the canvas tent was no match for the harsh Wisconsin winter weather. Newborn calves’ ears are especially susceptible.
“The first year was pretty miserable,” Poad said. “It will get cold. We’ll have quite a few days when it’s below zero and the wind is blowing and you get snow on top of that. It’s hard on them,” she continued adding that the calves’ ears can suffer frostbite, and if that happens, the ears can fall off.
Desperate to keep the calves warm, Poad handed her aunt, Kim Ewers, a stretched-out pair of old earmuffs for cows she had found in a box and asked her to improve them.
“I’m like, ‘Hey, can you make me a pair of these … and try to make them adjustable or something because they just don’t fit right.’ And so she messed around with it for a while, and when she gave them back, she said, ‘I put this nylon material over the top because it could make it waterproof now.'”
Kim Ewers had created what the women called ‘Moo Muffs.’ which are nylon, waterproof earmuffs lined with fleece and tailor-made for calves.
“They’re really lightweight, so once they’re put on, the calf doesn’t really think two things about it. The cow notices it more than the calf. She’ll try to sometimes lick it off or check it out, but they can still drink and they can still eat and all that stuff so it doesn’t bother them,” Poad said.
The Moo Muffs worked so well on the calves, the women posted photos of them on Facebook, mostly as a lark. They couldn’t believe the overwhelming response.
“It was starting to get cold you know, like the talk of the polar vortex and stuff coming through, and I’m not kidding you, everybody starting buying them.”
The women had orders from all across the Midwest and to places like Texas and Florida. They were contacted by people from as far away as Ireland and, just this year, struck a distribution deal in Japan.
When the mercury drops, business skyrockets. Still, Poad says she’ll take warm over cold.
“I actually joked about this last year, I said ‘I don’t even care if I sell another earmuff if it would warm up a little bit,’ because it was just so cold for so long. But, yeah, I’m not gonna complain I guess, at least if it’s cold, I’m making something out of it.”