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How I work: The cow-milking, embryo-transferring sales and marketing manager

Jeremy Howard for Progressive Dairyman Published on 24 February 2017
Jeremy Howard's milk cow Wendy

One of the things I like about my job as sales and marketing manager for Simplot Animal Sciences is the variety of activities I can be involved in. My office is located on a 400-acre Idaho ranch stocked with 350 cows we use as recipients for our in vitro fertilization (IVF) research and other assisted reproductive technologies.

Our team is small, so at times, in addition to my duties associated with sales and marketing of our IVF-produced embryos, I help with research projects or routine ranch work. My day may consist of corporate marketing strategy meetings in the morning and a Western-style branding that afternoon, or fixing fence at the ranch and visiting dairies in the area talking about IVF.

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Today is going to be one of those split days. I have a meeting in Boise at Simplot’s corporate headquarters with our digital team to discuss some changes to our website and then return back to the ranch to help with the embryo transfers we have scheduled for the day.

Generally, if I am not traveling on a sales trip, my days begin in the wee hours of the morning like most people involved in the agriculture industry. Years ago, I promised my wife, Sharilyn, that we could have a family milk cow like she had growing up, and I have a daughter who wanted a dairy 4-H project. So we purchased a little Jersey heifer for her to show which became the family milk cow.

Today, my alarm blares at 4:30 a.m., letting me know it is time to milk the cow with Sharilyn’s great-grandpa’s antique Surge belly milker. I get up and prepare to be out in the cold and snowy conditions and head out the door.

I first feed the horses and head to another pen in the corral to halter Wendy, the cow, for our journey through the snow to the milking stanchion. While my wife milks, I begin the task of feeding and watering the other animals that make up our small farm.

By the time we finish, it is around 5:30 a.m. and time for us to get in the house and wake up our five children. They catch the bus to school in about an hour. By this time, we have received 5 inches of snow overnight and it is still snowing. The thought goes through my head that they may cancel school again.

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After getting the kids up and getting them breakfast, my cellphone begins ringing. This could mean only one thing: School is cancelled once again due to poor road conditions from the 10-plus inches of snow we received over the last 48 hours. As we send the kids back to bed, lights and power flicker – and then go out.

I get on my cellphone and look at the power company’s website, and the whole town and others in the area are out of power. It may be a while before the power is restored, and my wife and I need to get to work. We switch gears and put the kids in the room that is heated using propane.

When we get done with this, it is around 6:30 a.m. and time for my wife to head to the dairy next door where she maintains their new robot milking barn. I then begin gathering my things to get out the door to the office to accomplish a few things before I have to make the 45-minute trek from my office to corporate headquarters.

I grab my iPad, backpack and cellphones, put my 16-year-old son in charge of his siblings and head out to the pickup to make the 15-mile trek from New Plymouth to my office in Emmett. On the drive over, the roads are good, just snow-covered, but I do notice that there are no lights on in the houses or farmyards. When I arrive to the office, my suspicions are confirmed – the power is out there too.

With the power out at the office, I cannot print the item I wanted for my meeting, but I am able to grab a couple of other things. I also decide that I will need more time than normal to reach downtown Boise.

A little over an hour later, I arrive in downtown Boise at the Simplot headquarters. I am a little late due to an accident on the freeway, but I made it. I sign in at reception and rush to the meeting room just down the hall.

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We make some brief introductions and immediately get started discussing who Simplot Animal Sciences is and what we do for some of the new members of the group, and then we move into a discussion about changing our digital presence.

I leave the meeting excited about what the future holds for our digital presence on the web. I then stop by a couple of other offices at headquarters and do some follow up on other ongoing projects. I climb back into the pickup to travel back to Emmett.

After learning that the office has not started doing embryo transfers yet because of the power outage, I decide to grab lunch on the way back and to stop at another division of Simplot called Simplot Western Stockmens and grab some feed we had ran out of at home earlier that day.

After running my errands, I arrive at the office and find the power has been restored. Our crew then prepares to be in the sub-zero temperatures for the next few hours working cattle and doing transfers. We are very lucky though; our chute is in a building that is heated and we can open and shut doors to minimize our exposure to the cold.

We have about 30 transfers to do today. The lab technicians choose the IVF embryos that we are going to use, and we move all of our equipment needed from the office to the chute room.

Once we are ready, we start moving cattle through our working facilities and doing transfers. Any animals that do not have a corpus luteum go one direction. Those that have a corpus luteum receive an embryo, are painted with green tail chalk and moved in a different pen. They will then be ultrasounded for pregnancy around 30 days later.

We move through the animals fairly quickly and are finished in a few hours. We clean up the chute room and move all of the equipment back to the office.

It is now quitting time; I check my email one last time before shutting it off. I start my pickup to let it warm up while I pack to head home. I return a call from our salesman in California, who had called with some questions. We visit while I get everything collected to leave.

I arrive home and, with the help of my son, unload the feed I got for the animals. I then prepare to have dinner with the family and discuss plans for the coming day and what needs to be accomplished still today. Sometimes the days are long, but they are worth it.  end mark

PHOTO: Howard begins his work day at home in the early morning hours, doing chores on his farm with his wife. They milk one cow, a Jersey named Wendy. Photo provided by Jeremy Howard.

Jeremy Howard
  • Jeremy Howard

  • Sales and Marketing Manager
  • J.R. Simplot

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