May snow nearly cripples Ellsworth dairy farm

6:39 AM, May 4, 2013   |    comments
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ELLSWORTH, Wis. - The heavy snowfall that derailed spring hopes for thousands of Minnesotans was more than an inconvenience. It was life and death for a farmer and his herd.

Kipp Hinz, 23, has been dairy farming just east of Ellsworth only since October. The 4th generation farmer just moved from his family operation in Osceola. The young farmer has not obtained a portable generator as yet. That lack of power proved critical on Thursday.

"We got so much wet heavy snow that we had power lines, transmission lines fall and our substation went down about 4 o'clock yesterday morning," said Hinz. "That was right about the time I was going to start milking."

Hinz and his hand, Gary Malone, normally milk the 60 holsteins three times daily, at 4am, noon and 8pm. The loss of power meant the herd went unmilked for 23 hours.

"With no power the cows had no water, the well couldn't run," said Hinz. "We couldn't feed the cows. Not being able to milk, they were under an enormous amount of stress. It is kind of like not being able to go to the bathroom for an entire day. They are not capable of releasing it themselves. So, their udders stretch and they stood for a whole day."

Hinz and Malone were busy at the noon milking on Friday putting green-colored ointment on several of the cows' udders. "It is called 'Udder Comfort'." Said Hinz. "It is a peppermint cream. It is like a 'icy hot' for a cow. We are hoping that it takes care of most of the cows."

The dairy barn normally produces 5,000 pounds of milk every day. When the milk truck arrived to accept the load Thursday night, they had something to pick up because Hinz finally had power.

He and Malone had made a mad dash around the area to try to find a generator Thursday morning, but it was Hinz father and friend Rick Boucher who brought the machine by driving 75 miles from Osceola to save Hinz's herd.

"Sometimes words can't express how much gratitude one can express for somebody," said Hinz. "It was not scary. It was just kind of stressful and very heartbreaking."

Hinz said he hates to see his animals in that kind of distress. The power came back about midnight and other than the snowy, muddy mess in the yard, the near disaster was over. Now, Kipp Hinz can go back to planning for his June wedding.

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