In late-March, tragedy struck the Briel farm in Barron County when 51-year-old Daniel Briel and his sons, 14-year-old David and 15-year-old Caleb, were trapped in a silo after an internal silage collapse. Caleb was able to escape, but Dan and David both died as a result of the accident.
The family decided to sell their herd of cows at Equity Livestock’s Horst Stables in Thorp earlier this month, and what started as a regular auction took an unexpected turn in the form of a small calf entering the sale ring.
“I had talked to the family beforehand about the lineup for their cows and as I went out there to get that figured out, the little calf was standing up and looking at me and I said ‘I’m going to sell you,’” said John Benninger, Equity Thorp sales manager.
Equity bought the calf and donated all the proceeds to the family.
Then, the calf sold again and the cycle continued 10 times, raising $2,500 for the family.
The cow has since been sold an 11th time, bringing the total to $2,700, Benninger said, after someone called and asked to buy it from the final bidder.
“I could have never imagined that it would go this far,” he said. “This $100 calf has brought $2,700, and I think it is going to keep going a bit.”
Benninger said he knows the calf, which has since been named D.D. after Dan and David, is in good hands and will go to a good place.
“It is a very cute calf and it has personality,” he said. “It may not know it is famous, but it kind of acts like it is.”
In addition to the herd dispersal and the proceeds raised from D.D., there were also tractors donated for the auction for the family.
Auction attendees were also treated to pizza and root beer floats, David’s and Dan’s favorite meal and drink.
“We had a local farm lady who came and made root beer floats and made so many, she had a blister on her hand,” Benninger said. “There were a lot of things, including cash, donated for the family. Just that day we had a total over $4,000, and it wasn’t just people in agriculture; it was everybody, from different states even.”
With all the hard times in the farm industry right now, Benninger said it was inspiring to see all the good that is still out there.
“Everybody pulled together and that is what we should do, we should all stick together,” he said. “No matter if you are a farmer or not, we all need to stick together and help each other.”
The good has continued to spread, reaching beyond the state line to Iowa farmer Steve Nolte, an administrator on the Facebook group “1/64 Farming Operations.” After hearing about the accident, he wanted to do something for the family.
“We are a strong toy community and most of us are somehow involved in real farming operations,” Nolte said. “We knew a situation like this could have happened to any one of us.”
They formed a committee with another Facebook group from Indiana, “Farmers Toy Store,” and came up with an idea to hold a farm toy auction with proceeds going to the family.
The auction has received donations from more than seven states, including from toy manufacturer SpecCast in Dyersville, Iowa.
The roughly 75 items were sold and Nolte said they expect to be well over their goal of $5,000.
“We had no idea what to expect in this, but we knew that people would step up and boy, did they ever,” he said. “Items are selling for double their retail value. If we stay on our current track, we may get closer to $10,000.”
Nolte said he hopes to be able to personally deliver the check to the family.
As of Friday, the family’s GoFundMe page had raised $103,514 from 1,452 donors, exceeding their initial $90,000 goal.
Jenessa Freidhof is a regional editor for The Country Today, a rural newspaper owned by APG Wisconsin.