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Hiring Hoosiers: Dairy industry facing lack of labor force

Posted at 5:30 AM, Nov 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-18 09:10:22-05

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FORT WAYNE — Hiring Hoosiers is connecting you to jobs in high demand, regardless of how dirty they might be. The dairy industry is a workforce in transition, as there are now fewer farms but more cows on them.

It is a staple in most diets, milk. A power house of nutrition with more than nine essential vitamins and nutrients, dairy is part of every-day consumption. To get the milk to the table though, takes work and it gets messy.

"It gets very dirty at times but we always try to keep everything as clean as you can but sometimes you just can't help getting a little dirty like I am right now," said Andrew Kuehnert, a manager at Kuehnert Dairy Farm.

Andrew Kuehnert is a fifth generation dairy farmer at his family-owned farm in Fort Wayne. The cows there are part of his family too.

"Every single one they each have their own personality," Kuehnert said.

While being around the animals all day can be fun, it is a job that comes with hard work.

"With chores we will start milking about 5, 5:30 in the morning and then we get done till about eight, nine o’clock at night, just depends on when we can get stuff done," Kuehnert said. "So it turns into long days and long hours but we got to truly enjoy what we do."

In Indiana, Hoosier farmers produce around four billion pounds of dairy per year, ranking Indiana the 15th highest in dairy production in the US.

"Every other day we go through about 6,000 gallons is what we produce so we get that shipped to Prairie Farms and they take that and get that to the grocery store right away," Kuehnert said.

Each cow here at the Keuhnert Dairy Farm produces on average about 10 gallons of milk a day.

Milking does not need to be done by hand any longer, instead the cows line up several times a day to get milked by this machine.

"With this, it is nice because they can come in and get milked and the cleaning process is the same, the hook up process is the same every single time and it is neat that the cows want to come in," Kuehnert said. "The cows keep telling us what they want nad they tell us they want to get milked."

Although labor does not include hand-milking, there is still a lot of work to be done across the farm.

"We are pretty much everything around here," Kuehnert said. "Farmers, electricians, construction, our own bosses CEOs and we have to do all that on the dairy farm."

Well-rounded experts in everything that pertains to the farm. According to the American Dairy Association Indiana Inc, one of the largest problems facing the industry is finding labor that is prepared for the work. But the jobs, they are still there, even though there are fewer farms, there are still just as many cows.

"It is hard to find extra labor and that is partly why we have so many family members that work here, it is just the fact that we can do all the work with it and we can take care of the animals," says Kuehnert.

For Kuehnert, the long days are worth it, and he hopes others can step up to fill the shoes of the very much needed dairy farmers.

You can learn more about Kuehnert Dairy Farms on their website and American Dairy Association, Inc. on their website.

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