Column: Warner Dairy internship leaves impression

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Farm Forum

This guest column was written by William Schanus, a junior at the University of Minnesota from Howard Lake, Minn.

Sunlight streamed across the cornfields as a steady sweat dampened my brow in the early hours of the morning. Working this summer as a dairy management intern for the Craig and Cindy Achen family at the 1,200-cow Warner Dairy this summer was the best experience a college student could ask for.

I am a 2012 high school graduate from Howard Lake, Minn. I am entering my junior year this fall semester at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, studying animal science with an emphasis in pre-veterinary medicine.

At the beginning of the internship farm manager Jacob Achen established a set of expectations and goals that were to be completed during the course of my employment:

• creating a research project;

• shadowing the herd manager during pregnancy and fresh cow checks;

• building a new 900-stall barn and completing cow-comfort projects like installing sprinklers in the barns;

• replacing the rear walls of the calf hutches with wire panels;

• and incorporating new 52-inch fans in the barns, milking parlor and alley-ways.

During this early meeting I presented Jacob with a personal set of expectations and goals that would continue my education of animal handling, dairy cattle health and reproduction. Through a combination of projects and work assignments, we were able to equally accommodate each other’s wishes to make a productive and exciting internship experience.

Jacob also implemented fun and interesting home improvement and employee-friendly projects to promote a productive and lively work environment. Working together, we planted and maintained a vegetable garden, built a volleyball court and a soccer field.

Recording each day’s activities allowed me to track the progress of each project accurately and efficiently. Ensuring accurate records was necessary to prepare a scholastic presentation for the Minnesota’s Gopher Dairy Club to secure internship credits for the work completed. This presentation will be conducted in October at Minnesota.

This internship proved to be a maturing experience internally, but required faith to delve into uncertain territories, hard work in body and spirit, and perseverance to successfully make it through the summer.

The majority of the goals Jacob laid out at the start of the internship were completed by summer’s end, with the exception of the research project and new barn construction. Leaving midway through construction was difficult knowing that a sizable amount of hard labor was necessary before cattle could be brought on farm for herd expansion before the end of the autumn months.

Beams of a setting sun laced the farmland to the west at the close of my last day working for the Achen family. A sinking sting of sadness struck deep within upon turning out of the farm’s driveway for the last time. Looking ahead, the dusty road seemed to unwind into the sunset’s crimson rays as the words of American singer John Phillips sparked my memory.

“It’s been a great adventure, everything I hoped for. But it’s time to go home. I miss my family.”

Thank you Achen family for an incredible summer. May God’s peace and blessings be with you all.