A new venture 

Bartholome family hauls their own milk

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GOODHUE, Minn. – Due to increasing milk hauling prices and the taking away of subsidies, Jim and Lisa Bartholome began looking at the start of a new venture and researching the possibility of hauling their own milk to help offset costs and find a solution to some of the challenges dairy farmers face today.

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“It just made economic sense to do it ourselves,” Jim said.
Bartholome Farms, owned and operated by Jim and Lisa, is a fifth-generation family farm homesteaded in 1861. They have four children – Samantha, 21, Madison, 18, Austin, 15, and Dominic, 13 – who help on the family farm. Their farm is located near Goodhue, and they farm 520 acres of corn and alfalfa. They also harvest winter rye as a double crop. They are milking 500 cows three times a day and have been hauling their milk as Bartholome Transport for the past year.
They started transporting their own milk May 1, 2021, with one truck and trailer.
 “It has been a smooth transition for us overall,” Jim said. “We are very thankful to have a valuable employee who enjoys hauling milk and to have a good creamery that is willing to work with us.”
They are hauling full loads of milk to their creamery located 80 miles away in Le Sueur.  
“We are producing a full load of milk every 32 hours, and with us having two 4,000-gallon tanks on-site, we are hauling two days on, one day off, which provides some leverage for us,” Jim said.
 Currently, they have one employee, Victor Gonzalez, who does all the milk hauling for them. Lisa credits him with their success.
“His dedication and commitment are key to making it all work,” Lisa said.
To get started with milk hauling, both Jim and Gonzalez had to obtain their milk sampling licenses and continue learning about the processes involved in milk hauling both on the farm, which was familiar, but also at the creamery when unloading the milk.
Prior to pumping milk on the farm, they test each bulk tank for antibiotics, take milk samples and load the truck. At the plant, prior to unloading the milk, the creamery does an official antibiotic test. Once cleared, they begin to unload the milk. This process takes about 30 minutes to unload the milk and then another 30 minutes for washing the milk trailer. Once a week, they are hauling whey back from the creamery to feed their cows.  
Gonzalez has been working on the farm for six years, primarily feeding cows, and now adds milk hauling to his list of responsibilities.
“I enjoy driving and love my new job,” Gonzalez said.
Jim is appreciative of the work Gonzalez provides.  
“We are very fortunate and lucky to have Victor haul our milk because he truly loves and cares about what he does for work and understands the importance of hauling milk safely,” he said. “He takes pride in always doing a good job while keeping our truck and trailer sparkling clean.”
 Gonzalez starts feeding cows at 6 a.m. and is getting ready for milk hauling by 9 a.m. The milk hauling process takes about 5-6 hours each day; however, it can take longer on days when hauling whey back because those trips require an extra washing of the milk trailer.
When asked about challenges, Jim said, “It has been an interesting year, and with anything new, there is always a learning curve that goes along with it. We have learned a lot from other milk haulers throughout the process. The other truck drivers are really good at helping out or answering a question.”
Gonzalez agreed.
 “I remember my first day, and Jim had asked me to back up,” he said. “I was sweating because it was my first time backing up the new truck and trailer, and after a day or two, I felt good about it. I think the best way to learn is hands-on, and every day, I am learning something new.”
Lisa said another challenge they have faced is hauling milk in bad weather conditions, road construction or other unexpected delays.
Some of their favorite memories on the road include driving with their children, talking and interacting with others at the plant, and blowing the horn for a child with a disability who always waits on the side of the road in one of the towns they drive through.
“I remember my grandpa and dad talking about hauling milk with horses,” Jim said. “I never thought I would be hauling my own milk with trucks today.”
They plan to expand and use their trucks for other opportunities on the farm, such as fall harvest.
For other dairy farmers thinking about milk hauling, Jim said, “It has been a good investment for our farm, and if it fits into your operation, it is well worth it.”


     

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