Phil is in charge


The past few months were filled with farm meetings, conventions and overnight getaways.

I can’t control what happens when I am gone. It doesn’t make a difference if I am not able to answer that robot alarm. Anna, our daughter, will get it. If there is a scheduled herd health check, and I am not there, Anna will work with the vet to make sure it gets done. If a cow calves and is showing signs of milk fever, I don’t need to be there to IV or call the vet if it is more complicated; Anna can handle it. I know everything will be fine, because Anna is there.

We are all going to the Dairy Farmers of America annual convention in Kansas City, Missouri. This time, Duane, Anna and I are all leaving the farm together and handing the dairy barn over to our full-time herdsman, Phil. Normally, we work as a team. Anna and I somedays, and Phil and I the other days. This time it will be only Phil. He should be able to manage unless something wild happens.

We will be gone three full days, leaving early and returning late. I have been feeling the anxiety of leaving the farm with sleepless nights and days filled with lists that need to be completed. My list just got finished tonight, and hopefully, I will be able to sleep well and be able to be the driver when we head to the Milwaukee airport in the morning.

Phil has been here a long time, and he will be the one answering the robot alarms, doing the herd health check and dealing with the cows and heifers calving. The morning will be a rush of activities to get the cows fetched, calves fed and freestall barn scraped before the vet pulls in around noon. I have done what I can to help make it easier for him, and I know he will manage just fine. I called him to let him know so he has no worries. He is confident and loves to work with the cows and calves. He has farmed before, so this will be a piece of cake.

I have marked all of the cows that will need to be checked by the vet for the herd health appointment tomorrow. Oh, I will have to let the veterinarian know to call Phil ahead of time, so he will be able to set the headlocks a few minutes before he arrives. The pregnancy check list isn’t very long. We have a really good breeder, so the vet check is going to be easy. That is if there aren’t any cows calving or sick calves.

All the heifers and cows that are within two weeks of freshening are in the prefresh pen. I had one heifer calve tonight that was a week early and not showing much. There are four girls due in the next two days. I can only wish that they all wait to have their babies when we return. We have cameras on our phones and will be watching the pen when we know Phil will be doing all the other chores he will be handling.

The calves are all bedded, and the containers for milk replacer and calf pellets are full. We know that it can be frustrating when doing calf chores and the supplies need to be restocked to finish the feeding. Every calf is drinking out of a bucket in the calf barn, and only five bottle babies are in the warm floor shed. That should make it less stressful.

Duane has filled up the barn with feed for at least two days. With the weather cool again, it should not heat up too much. Phil will need to push it in with the skid loader. The normal feed pushers are Juno robots, and they will just get stuck with all the feed. Phil will know when to turn them back on after he gets tired of pushing it for the first day.

The chickens, turkeys and pheasants have enough food and water for the three days. If he wants to take eggs home, he will be welcome to gather them. The eggs should not freeze if he doesn’t need any.

The dogs will need to be let out in the morning, but it will be cold outside. They will not want to leave the warm house. I am certain that by lunch time, it will be easier to get them out of their dog beds and have them go to the office. Phil might have to give them a dog treat to reward them for leaving the house. These crazy dogs are with me every day all day long. I will miss them. They might hang with Phil.

I think I have all the bases covered and have thought of what I can do to make it easier for Phil, but really, it is making it easier for me. I should be able to sleep tonight and will feel more comfortable putting the farm in Phil’s hands. Phil is in charge for the next few days. I know he can handle it, and it will be a great opportunity for him to feel confident and know we trust him.

Tina Hinchley, her husband Duane and daughter Anna milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2,300 acres near Cambridge, Wisconsin. The Hinchleys have been hosting farm tours for over 25 years


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