LONE ROCK — Three years ago this January, the Poad family of Lone Rock suffered a fire at their farm that destroyed their barn and a shop used for their trucking business. However, the family was able to recover, erecting a hoop building for their calves and moving the trucking business into town, just five miles from Triple P Farm.
Holly Poad, who tends to the calves, many of which are raised to be show animals, had borrowed a warmer box from a neighbor during that time. Inside, he had left a pair of ear muffs, and an idea was sparked in the mind of Poad’s aunt Kim Ewers.
While there are other calf ear muffs on the market, it was Ewers who had the idea to put water-resistant material on the outside of the muffs and to make them have adjustable pieces for different-sized calves. Instead of having an ice pack on their heads during cold, damp stretches of Wisconsin winter weather, the newborn calves at Triple P started wearing modified ear muffs they playfully called ‘Moo Muffs,’ prototyped by Poad and Ewers.
“The first couple pairs we made didn’t stay on too good,” Poad said with a smile. “We had to adjust them a bit, but they really do work good. We had a pair on during the recent freezing rain, and aside from the outside being wet, the inside fleece was dry.”
Laughs could be heard over the hum of two sewing machines in the upstairs of GJ’s Service, where Poad and Ewers, along with friend and volunteer Deb White, were working on dozens of orders of Moo Muffs last week. They never imagined their modified invention would take off so quickly, and they’re making do with what they have after a TV news segment featuring their Moo Muffs went viral.
Poad explained that after a making a few Moo Muffs for her family to use on the farm, she posted about the muffs in a few Facebook groups to see if she could sell any. While her posts got a few shares, she was only averaging between five and 10 orders a week. And at $20 each, she figured it was an inexpensive purchase for someone to try.
That all changed after she returned from a stock show in Denver and a man that had purchased a pair from Poad and Ewers set them up with a TV reporter from Madison. Poad sent a small write-up with photos from the farm, and the reporter featured them on her Facebook page.
“Once the reporter posted the write-up, we went to 15 to 20 orders a week,” Poad said. “People from all over started to call.”
A news segment featuring the Moo Muffs aired recently, and since then, Poad and Ewers have been working to process more than 300 orders. The news segment was viewed more than 90,000 times on Facebook and shared more than 4,000 times, and customers from all over the country have been contacting Poad to get their pairs.
“It’s been insane,” she said. “I got a call from a journalist in Ireland who did a write-up. And our first international shipment is going to Canada next week.
“If I would have had 1,000 pairs on hand when this broke, I would have gotten rid of them all,” she continued. “Who would have thought?”
Customers have spanned from the East to the West Coast, with the majority of Moo Muffs going to North and South Dakota, Nebraska and some into Wyoming and Montana. Poad has been surprised that big ranches out West have contacted her about the muffs; it was a market she hadn’t considered before.
Four to five people have been helping Ewers with the sewing while an additional person has been helping Poad cut the pieces of fleece and nylon fabric. Ewers, who has owned her own embroidery business for more than 25 years, has gotten the process down to a few steps and is confident in showing others how to sew the pieces together.
“I still learn things new every time, just like anything,” she said. “And Holly has mastered the rotary cutter. I think it comes from her clipping skills with cattle.”
Ewers credits her grandma for teaching her how to sew.
“She was always really patient,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for Grandma.”
Ewers and Poad have had to find balance in business as both have jobs away from Moo Muff manufacturing. Along with her embroidery business, Ewers also drives school bus and Poad runs back and forth between the farm and the shop to check on the cows every few hours. Poad’s cows are calving at the farm right now too, so she’s really had to learn to manage her time.
“This whole week I think I’ve been cutting fabric in my sleep,” she joked.
However, the busy time hasn’t kept the duo from dreaming about what could come next. Poad would like to try selling to supply companies once she gets caught up on orders and Ewers has been thinking about expanding into other species of animals.
But with how busy the ladies have been so far this year, some of those ideas will have to wait until summer, when they anticipate they’ll have a little more downtime.
“I hope it keeps going like this, even over the summer,” Poad said. “It would be nice going into next winter with some inventory.”
While a website for Moo Muffs is still in the works, Poad said anyone interested in ordering a pair can contact her through the Triple P Farm Facebook page, which can be accessed at www.facebook.com/PPPShowCattle. She and Ewers are making the muffs as quickly as they can in the order they are received.