Unfortunately, I will not have any pictures for this blog posts since I am writing about my time visiting farms with a field rep and its sort of rude to take pictures of other farms, farmers are often weary of pictures due to the internet. Or maybe that’s just my grandpa who thinks that any picture of him taken ever will somehow go in a government data base.
Let me start out by saying that farmers truly care about the wellbeing of their cows and the quality of their milk. Getting to ride along with Bridget, one of MMPA’s field reps, was incredibly eye opening. Bridget’s territory is up in the thumb so it was interesting to see the landscaping up there and how everything is in the middle of nowhere basically. We stopped at several farms and each one was very different, I’ve only really seen MSU’s dairy farm since I work there.
The first farm we stopped at was the cutest little family farm where they milked 40 cows. The owner was happy to see us and eager to show Bridget the renovations he has been working on to improve and grow his farm. His wife was also very friendly along with his two kids, one in middle school and the other just graduating high school. The family was happy to show me around their farm since I told them I was there to learn. Their milking set up was very different than anything I had ever seen, it was very old fashioned. To milk they bring all their cows into the barn and put them in tie stalls and then run the milk machines through the barn. Usually farms have some sort of parlor system set up. During the inspection, it is the field reps job to check for anything that may be dangerous for the cows or tamper with the quality of the milk. MMPA has very high standards for their milk quality and checks up on farms regularly. If a farm is having a problem keeping their milk quality up then it is the field reps job to help them figure out the problem and a solution. Bridget said most farmers are very happy to comply and appreciate the help since it directly affects their paycheck. But some farmers do not like to make the changes and in result, MMPA will not market their milk. As we finished up the inspection we had to check all the cabinets to make sure there were no medications or milk being stored incorrectly, which felt a little invasive and weird to be going through the farmers things. After the inspection is finished, usually Bridget takes a moment to chat with the farmer or family and build a relationship so that they trust her. The younger son brought out his fair steers for us to see since he was very proud of how well they were walking and setting up. The daughter had recently rescued a fawn that’s mother was hit by a car so we also get to hold that. It was overall a pleasant experience and kind of my dream farm.
There was another farm that we went to which was a bit more…odd. From the road, it looked like a very run down and gross farm and I was skeptical on their milk quality. But once we entered their milk barn and parlor, it was easy to see how much the cared about the health of their cows. Their sand bed stalls very extremely clean, the parlor was up to date and sanitary, and they even had a large home testing kit to check their cows for any health issues. The family was less friendly than the previous but I think that’s just the way they were, nothing against Bridget or MMPA. In this case they were trying to have top quality milk so that they qualified for the premiums, but regardless, top quality milk will come from top quality cows. This is something that I wish consumers understood. Farmers cannot abuse their cows or else they will not give good milk! They would look at that farm and be fooled by the clutter. I wish that consumers would research farms and cooperative standards if they were that worried about cows getting the proper care. I also wish that people understood animal welfare. This does not mean your cows sleep on water beds with personal misters and fans at every stall and get daily massages. No, animal welfare depends on the animal and farm. If a farm doesn’t have brand new expensive shiny fencing, the cow is not going to notice. People need to understand the saying my “my cow is not your dog, your dog is not your brother” meaning that my cow needs different treatment. It doesn’t need to come in the house due to a snow storm or rain like a dog would, and a dog can sleep on the floor while you wouldn’t make your brother sleep on the floor.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience in the thumb, surprisingly, and learned a lot. Being a field rep is definitely a job I could see myself doing in the future but not long term. I think it would be a great way to become more familiar with the industry and learn more about what happens on the farm since I know more about what happens in the market.
I swear I do real work as well. This week I got assigned multiple projects. One helping with predicting next year’s milk prices based on various inputs. I am currently dissecting the dairy feed market and trying to figure out how much corn was planted for silage versus grains and predicting how much will be planted next year based on the market and demand for other crops. Honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing right now but I am going to be channeling my ABM 225 knowledge and I will get this figured out.