The Dairy Farm Adventures: International Herdsman

Posted Wednesday, August 21, 2013 in Features

The Dairy Farm Adventures: International Herdsman

by Lee-Rae Jordan-Oliver

In the winter of 2011, a young gentleman named Keran (pronounced key run) visited our dairy farm.  Recently becoming a U.S. Citizen, Keran had moved to Houlton after living in Canada for most of his life.  He had extensive experience working on a number of dairy operations ranging from forty-five to three hundred cows in Havelock, New Brunswick.   To our good fortune, he was looking for farm work as his young family settled into Houlton.

Keran began his employment on our farm by helping Matthew milk at night for a couple of weeks.  Matthew was impressed by his work ethic and vast knowledge of all aspects of a dairy operation.   Before long, Keran milked the cows two nights a week with Adam, a high school student who helped us with daily farm chores.   For the first time since we started farming, Matthew could relax and enjoy a supper without watching the clock to gear up for the nighttime milking.  Having a couple of nights off allowed him to snuggle in bed with the children and read them stories before tucking them in and turning off the light.   Winding down the day together was a priceless gift to our family.

Keran helped us navigate three giant moves we made to our expanding dairy operation in 2011. 

In less than a year, we more than doubled our dairy size, jumping to over  80 cows.   We also started raising our female calves for future replacements which added over thirty more animals to shelter, clean, and feed.  In addition, to trim feed costs, we put up our own hay instead of buying it from local hay farmers. 

At the time, I didn't fully comprehend how challenging these three big moves would be for us. Keran knew exactly what was in store for us, but he understood the reasoning behind our initiatives and did not discourage our progress.  Instead, he hunkered down and did what needed to be done.   Keran spoke his mind freely and offered suggestions, such as buying dependable equipment which wouldn't break down when we needed it the most. 

In the spring, Keran loaded and spread several tons of manure on our fields.  He harrowed and seeded in acres of alfalfa, barley, clover, and millet for future feed.  He'd fuel up a tractor and head out to the fields all day until the job was done.  When haying season started, Matthew and Keran worked fourteen to sixteen hour days, cutting, baling, loading, and wrapping large round bales of hay and silage.  When Matthew returned to the farm for the nighttime milking, Keran stayed in the fields using the tractor's headlights to work in the darkness.  The days were overwhelmingly busy with nonstop activity from dawn till well after dusk.  By midsummer, I started pining for winter just so the marathon hay season would end and our racing hearts could rest.

By June many of our cows had calved and the milk flowed to the brim of our  600 gallon bulk tank.  We bought two used 1,000 gallon bulk tanks from a local farm so we'd have more than enough room for larger volumes of milk.  Rick's construction crew returned to our farm and built an addition to our milk room for the new bulk tanks.   Before we could transport the bulk tanks to our farm, disaster struck when the milk compressor conked out.  The compressor keeps the milk temperature between 35-39 degrees.  If the milk's temperature rises above 45 degrees for any length of time, bacteria grows, and the milk has to be dumped.  Matthew and Keran dropped everything and scrambled to bring the giant cylinders to the farm along with the matching compressor systems.  Meanwhile, Blaine from Northern Refrigerator masterfully rigged up a temporary cooler  for our small bulk tank while he diligently worked to hook up the cooling system to one of the new “used” tanks.  Keran worked fervently beside Matthew, not leaving until he was satisfied the situation was under control. 

Keran attended school full time throughout the fall and winter months studying diesel/hydraulic technologies, truck driving, and welding.  He continued to work a couple weekends a month, giving our family an energizing break from the constant demands of dairy farming.  This spring he will begin working as an apprentice in his chosen field of study.  Hence, we will lose his horsepower. 

Our family will always be grateful for the time, sweat, and effort Keran expended on our farm.    One day Keran will utilize his acquired skills on his own farm.  He understands farming is a risky, challenging business filled with long, demanding days.  However, his genuine passion for farming far outweighs the complexities of operating a dairy farm.  At times I'm sure Keran shook his head in bewilderment at our “fly by the seat of your pants” greenhorn methods, but he recognized our resolve to succeed and jumped on our wild ride for a short spin.

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