This morning, I made my every-other-day run with my 1998 GMC shop truck to the local implement store to fill the 120-gallon DEF tote so the fuel guzzling chopper could keep running. As I drove, I thought how stupid I was to drive a $100 pickup to service close to a million dollar forage harvester. What is our problem as farmers that we have to wear that idiotic badge of honor that says we cannot drive new, safe vehicles?
    There is not much wrong with my GMC one-ton shop truck. It has a five-speed manual shift that comes in handy when I am teaching my grandsons how to drive a semi. Maybe I taught too many of them recently because now the clutch slips so bad that I need a quarter-mile clear of traffic before I dare cross an intersection. The truck also has a death wobble at certain speeds because it needs new ball joints in the front end. And the worst problem it has is the driver’s door will not open from the inside or the outside, so I have to crawl over the stick shift to get in or out of the passenger side door.
    Have you ever noticed the different company pickups that show up on your yard? Most salesmen, co-op elevator representatives and implement dealer pickups are fairly new and yet reasonably basic half-ton four-wheel drive vehicles with a gas engine. I am sure many are purchased with a fleet plan for under $30,000. They probably have some warranty and extended service plan so there are no expensive surprises. Those pickups can reliably get their respective drivers many miles every day so they can do their job. Every dairy farm of any size at all should have a newer pickup so anyone can jump into it and immediately be able to drive a 300-mile round trip for that part you need right now.
    Every time my daughter-in-law’s father, Tom Albrecht, comes to my farm to visit he teases me that I have too many pickups. All I have is the 1998 GMC shop truck, a 2000 F-350 with a 7.3 diesel that is permanently attached to a skidloader trailer, a 2002 F-350 diesel permanently attached to the cattle trailer, a 2011 F-150 Lariat for my going-to-church pickup and a 2019 F-150 XL rubber floored work truck that is my ultra-reliable daily driver. These do not include the five other pickups driven by Joe, Corey and Bryan.
    Maybe now is a good time to upgrade the transportation fleet on the dairy farm. Despite the record low mailbox milk price received in April and May, we have since also seen record high milk prices. There has also been some Coronavirus Food Assistance Program income received that has helped the bottom line. Going into winter and tax time, we are also looking at tax deductions that make long term sense. Using section 179 to upgrade equipment and save taxes has always been one of our strategies that works.
    We definitely have decided to order a new cow trailer to replace our smaller, 15-year-old one. This will also require a larger 1.5-ton pickup or flatbed type truck to pull it. I think we will get a truck with a 12-foot aluminum flatbed on it that we can also use to haul heavy seed totes, etc. The skidloader trailer we have is too small for our larger skidloader and our excavator, so we need to address that also. We will keep the old trailer because it’s such a handy tilt style that works great for lawn mowers.
    If we get a new truck to pull the new cow trailer, that leaves nothing left in the budget to replace the GMC shop truck. Maybe Corey can find the time this winter to fix it up a little so it’s easy to drive again. I was thinking of making the old 2002 F-350 into a shop truck, but with an extra flatbed trailer, we will need that permanently hooked up to that because nobody likes hooking and unhooking trailers. And besides, whenever trailers get hooked or unhooked, that is when mistakes and bad things happen. Now even I am a little confused as to how many pickups we will have next year, but it appears we might be adding one more to the fleet.
    Vander Kooi operates a 1,800-cow, 4,500 acre farm with his son, Joe, and daughter-in-law, Rita, near Worthington, Minnesota. Send him feedback at davevkooi@icloud.com. Follow him on Instagram, @davevanderkooi.