Arnold Kaemingh, 41, rises before 5 a.m. each morning, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Depending on the weather, he’ll get on his snowmobile or four-wheeler to cross the road to his Devlin dairy farm trailed by Princess, the family’s four-month-old German shepherd.
He’ll work anywhere from eight to 16 hours a day.
Kaemingh will begin by sanitizing the milking equipment, cups, and cows’ udders before he milks his 35-head herd.
He’s usually done by 7:30 a.m. and returns to the house for breakfast. A couple of hours later, Kaemingh is back in the barn doing chores, including cleaning out the barn, laying beds for the cows, and feeding the horses.
He returns to the house about 3:30 p.m. to spend time with his wife, Cindy, and their five children, Alyssa, Denise, Leanne, Erin, and Ryan, for an hour. Then it’s back to the barn for milking and more chores until 6 p.m.
But Kaemingh is always on call. In fact, there’s a camera in the barn and a monitor in his bedroom in case there are any calving problems.
Kaemingh’s farm is the average size for Ontario but slightly larger than the district norm. According to the 1996 census, there were 10,122 dairy farms in Ontario and most were the size of Kaemingh’s.
His parent’s house sits on the 500-acre farm, while his is across the road. His parents moved from southern Ontario in 1972 and started farming in Devlin shortly afterwards.
He took over from his father and expanded it a little bit.
Kaemingh was a mechanic and worked at the John Deere store in Emo. He also worked in Thunder Bay for a while but returned to Devlin on the weekends to help out on the farm.
He also was caretaker of the nearby school for about 11 years. “It helped us get established,” Kaemingh said.
His father still helps occasionally, and his three eldest daughters help with milking after school. The two youngest children will help when they’re old enough, too.
“We grew up on the farm,” Kaemingh said.
He feels it was natural to take over the farm but while his children grew up there, he’s unsure if any of them will follow in his footsteps.
“Sometimes you don’t wish it on them,” he admitted.
It was tough starting out and he said he can see why people left farming in the 1980s with the high interest rates. There were 35-40 dairy farmers in Rainy River District 12 years ago—now there are just 18.
The barn has two rows of stalls in the front. The calves will spend some time in the comfort of the back of the barn before they’re old enough to endure winter conditions.
There’s also a cage of rabbits and several barn cats to protect the feed from mice.
The cows milk for nine months and calve at 12-14 months. They’re then bred back for six weeks’ rest. They’re calved all year.
The Kaeminghs keep track of their own bills and then send them off to the accountant. Along with chores, there are worries about mastitis, milk fever, and phosphorus fever.
Kaemingh lost a cow to milk fever recently and said the replacement cost can run anywhere from $1,000-$2,000. Some cows can cost up to $3,000-$4,000.
But Kaemingh is philosophical. “Livestock is dead stock,” he deadpanned.
Kaemingh also is the dairy chair for the area. This week, he’ll be attending the Dairy Producers of Ontario meeting in Toronto. In the fall, there are producer meetings.
The farm brings in anywhere from $12,00-$14,000 a month but feed and supplements alone cost $2,500—$4,500 a month.
Then there are vet bills. On average, a veterinarian will need to visit the farm once or twice a year, which will cost at least $100. Surgery will cost $200.
Kaemingh has a bull but also artificially inseminates. Semen is shipped to his farm from the American Breeder Service and is stored in liquid nitrogen.