Follow the Mitchell family throughout the year. Each month, look for updates on family members and the decisions they make on their farm.
WINNEBAGO, Ill. – Summer interns for Phibro Animal Health prepare for their summer jobs during an on-farm training day at Mitchell Dairy Farm.
Phibro Animal Health interns traveled to northern Illinois across the United States.
“We have interns from New York to California here to teach them Phibro’s approved way of being on the farm, handling cows and safety as well as industry standards for farm management,” said Erica Varner, Senior Account Manager for Phibro Animal Health.
The two-day training session began with a day of instruction at a hotel.
“We went through safety, educated them on the products, field expectations and sales training so they knew how to talk to people on the farms,” Varner said. “We also gave them an insight into Phibro – who we are and why we do what we do.”
At the dairy farm, trainees observed cows and dairy facilities to learn about a variety of management criteria such as body condition scoring, manure scoring, chewing, cow comfort, stocking density, respiration rates, proper TMR consistency and urine pH testing. .
“Our interns take care of the cows and we give them projects,” Varner said. “We help them, but we allow them to carry out their projects independently.”
Phibro interns will carry out projects such as heat stress assessments or global agricultural stress assessments.
“All the interns will meet in August to present their projects and all the information they have found to the group of interns and the management team at Phibro,” said Varner, who is also the intern coordinator.
“They asked me for advice on courtesy on a farm,” said John Mitchell, who along with his brother, Aaron, are partners at Mitchell Dairy and Grain LLC. “I don’t think I’ve come across any other company that sends interns to train on a farm.”
Phibro interns not only gain valuable work experience, but they are also paid for their work during the summer.
“Our goal since we started this program was to be the best and most sought-after internship in the dairy industry,” Varner said.
“We go to the best agricultural schools in the United States and we interview a lot of students,” she said. “We select only the best students to be part of our program and expect a lot from them.”
Roommates at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Katie Yahnke and Rachel Skinner are two of Phibro’s interns for the summer.
“We found out in November that we were interns and I was looking forward to that all spring semester,” said Yahnke, who will be in senior year in the fall to study dairy science and agricultural business.
“We’re both friends with one of the interns from last year and she highly recommended the job and talked about all the great things she did last summer, so I’m excited,” he said. said Skinner, who will also be entering her senior year in the fall to complete her dairy science degree.
“The great thing about internships is that you can try it out for three months and see if it’s really for you or not and you see all the different parts of the dairy industry without fully committing to it. “
“John is so welcoming, he allowed us to pass by and work with the cows,” Varner said. “We really appreciate that he opened up the farm to us.”
Mitchell fed a Phibro product, Animate, to his dry cows for about three years.
“Animate is an all-natural mineral product that is fed for at least 21 days to pre-fresh cows,” said Varner, who provides on-farm support for the product with the Mitchells and their nutritionist.
Animate is integrated with TMR.
“It’s an anionic salt and its purpose is to help cows achieve proper calcium metabolism,” Mitchell said. “The aim is to prevent milk fever and this has an effect on retained placenta and metritis.”
Research shows that even if a cow does not have milk fever, a subclinical problem with calcium levels after cows calve can cause milk production to start slowly, Mitchell said.
“Usually with this type of product it’s not very palatable, so if you overfeed it the cows won’t eat,” he said. “It’s important that it’s set perfectly, so Erica comes to the farm and measures the pH of the urine to see if we’re feeding it properly.”
Varner visits the northern Illinois farm every one to two months.
“Usually by the time you see a problem in fresh cows, the problem was really a few weeks ago,” Mitchell said. “So we try to stay on top.”
Phibro offers an Animate app to help dairy farmers track the performance of their pre-fresh cows.
“The app is cool, my nutritionist uses it to watch urine pH,” Mitchell said. “We can follow trends, look at standard deviations or averages. It contains historical data, so we can look at successes or failures.
The few days of 90 degree temperatures in May impacted the registered Holstein herd of 400 cows.
“Milk production has dropped by about five pounds per cow,” Mitchell said. “After that, the cows went through the spring surge that we normally see when it warms up, so we had higher production, but lower components. Milk production was 91 pounds, it went down to 86 pounds and now the cows are back up to 92 or 93 pounds.
However, the hot and dry days also made it possible to complete the first cut of alfalfa, as well as the harvest of cereal rye.
“Alfalfa quality was pretty good, the first test we got of the green sample was 182 RFV and my nutritionist took some more samples today,” Mitchell said of the silage that was put in a bunker. “The yield was quite good considering that about half the acres were seeded in the fall.
The grain rye yield was higher than Mitchell expected.
“It’s probably the best returns we’ve had in the six years we’ve done it,” he said. “Grain rye went into our smallest bunker and filled almost three bags.”
Last year, grain rye filled two storage bags which were not as long as this year’s bags.
“We had an additional 20 acres of grain rye this year,” Mitchell said. “So hopefully we’re sitting pretty strong on that inventory.”