DHI Farm Service Technicians: More than a Milk Tester

One of the best parts of my role at Dairy One is having the opportunity to work with a variety of different business units. This requires committing a large amount of time to gaining a better understanding of how all the different pieces of the Dairy One puzzle fit together.

The first puzzle piece I have been focusing in on is Dairy One’s DHIA Record Services and DHIA Farm Service Technician role. For those who don’t use our DHIA Record Services, you may be asking a question similar to the one I first asked: What exactly does a Farm Service Technician do? The job description is as follows:

“Farm Service Technicians’ primary responsibility is to meet Dairy One customer needs with fast, accurate, useful information and to actively represent the Cooperative in the agricultural community through the sales and service of management information to member, non-member and agri-business accounts.

Primary responsibilities include collecting herd management data, weigh and sample milk during milking times, entering data into a computer, assisting customers with interpretation and application of data collected, and actively seeking opportunities to increase customer use of Dairy One testing and analytical services.”

I have had the pleasure of spending time in the field with two of our DHIA Farm Service Technician Trainers, Bernie Redmond and Darcie Hancock. Not only were they more than willing to take me out in the field with them, but they had me testing milk right alongside them in just a few visits.

Some people have the misconception that only large farms are testing with Dairy One. During my time with Bernie and Darcie I visited farms milking 45 to 1300 cows. While farms of varying sizes may find value in different aspects of the data and reports offered by their Farm Service Technician, they are all depending on the data and record keeping services their technician provides. Information is crucial to management decisions, regardless of herd size.

Farm Service Technicians are also on the farm for the entire milking process, during whatever milking is most convenient for the farm. While we were headed to our first farm at 3:40 am, Darcie waved to the milk truck passing us. “You start to know the other people who are out on the road this early. The milk truckers look out for me, especially in this crazy winter weather,” Darcie explains. It should be noted that technicians visit many of their farms at different times from month to month. One month it may be the morning milking, the next month the evening. This accounts for any differences that may occur from morning to evening.

Not only do they hit the ground running at all hours of the day, in any weather condition, but they do it with smiles on their faces. Despite the cold and dark of the early morning, Bernie and Darcie got right to work upon arrival at the farm, often joking and catching up with whoever was milking for that day.

Any changes in the herd since the last test are recorded, meters are set-up, bottles are numbered, and then the actual testing begins. For those who are not familiar with how milk testing works, a milk sample is taken from each cow. The cow’s ID number, sample bottle number, and milk weight are recorded. When milking is completed, the meters are washed and reports are printed for the farm. These reports vary depending on farmer requests and can include information pertaining to projected dry off dates, milk weights, previous month’s somatic cell count, and vet lists.

At some point during our time on the farms, we would usually see the owner’s family. Bernie shared stories of the various baked goods he has been greeted with in the past and we were even treated with chocolate cupcakes for one evening test. Darcie recalled the numerous times she had been invited to graduations and school events. When scheduling a farm visit I asked Darcie about the “bring M&Ms” note she had made for a farm the following week. “The youngest son has a gluten intolerance” she explained, “I always forget that he can’t eat the cookies I bring, I don’t want him to feel left out.”

“I love my job,” Darcie said when I asked her about the odd hours the job can require, “I love my farms. I was not expecting to become a part of these families. It’s not hard to go to work when you love what you do.” The Farm Service Technicians do so much more than collect samples and enter data. They play a crucial role in management, often of the herd and farm. Many are a trusted resource to our customers, providing valuable feedback and tailored reports. The part of the job you won’t find in the description is that technicians make a real difference.  They often become a valued friend and even member of the family to many of our customers.