It’s Saturday night at 9:30 p.m.; the phone rings. A sense of dread falls over me. It’s the first really cold night we’ve had. Our staff reports there’s no water at the farm in the milking parlor. Lloyd jumps in the truck and is gone in a matter of minutes to check out this situation. He returns home at 2 a.m. and is up again at 4 a.m. when another call comes in that the problem, thought to be fixed, is now even worse. Not until 4 p.m. Sunday is everything back to normal. So after 18+ hours of tense, stressful operation, we survived.
We rely on many people to help us operate 24-7: plumbers, electricians, milking system experts, veterinarians and dairy plant field representatives. The four partners here each pitch in to work through the night and day when necessary, as we did to handle this emergency.
It’s an emergency because cows drink water and need 24 hour-access to it so they can continue to make milk. The average cow drinks a bathtub full of water each day. If you times that by 800 cows it is about 64,000 gallons. We rely on a 6,000-gallon repurposed milk tanker to be our water reservoir that fills all the waterers in the barns. We need hot water to mix milk replacer twice a day for our baby calves. We use cold well water to help chill the milk before it is pumped on the milk tankers. We wash about 5,000 washcloths a day that we use to clean the cows’ udders before milking. And, we need water to clean up the milking parlor and milk pipes about every eight hours.
That’s a lot of things that went “on hold” while we worked through it all. Our first call went out to the plumber who installed the well to check on the pump that brings water up from underground. We always have a spare pump and liquid end on hand, yet four hours into the problem the pipe broke due to cold weather and the spare well pump ended up down at the bottom of the reservoir!
A trip to a supplier more than an hour away Sunday morning at 6 a.m. got us a third pump that was installed and a few hours later, we had running water again. Two partners and a second plumber were at the farm by then to help with this installation. (It was about 10 degrees overnight and the pump is located outside.) By 8 a.m. we were on the phone with our dairy plant field representative to check in with them regarding milk quality. Our milk trucker was also flexible during this hectic weekend.
Our staff at the farm kept on doing the best they could and improvised where needed. Everyone stepped up to the plate and did whatever “extra” was needed to keep things running close to normal.
The outside people who helped us solve this problem are not just suppliers. They are key partners to our success and without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. They rise to the occasion and provide their expertise and know-how when called upon, day or night. So we want to thank them for their commitment to providing excellent service and just plain “knowing their stuff.”
Hats off to our partners, Tim and Jordan, as well as Tom, Dan, Phil, and Mike. We couldn’t farm without you!
As a side note, we had this same situation last February and we set forth a plan then to remedy the situation by drilling a second well to have as a backup. That well was drilled late this fall, but was not yet hooked up as we were waiting for all pumps, pressure tanks and plumbing to be installed in a small new building. Needless to say, that project is now on a fast track and we hope by years end all is set up to avoid this in the future. But there may just be another emergency of some kind we have not yet experienced waiting out there for us…that’s a challenge of being a farmer.