The Reinhardt Family

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Josh and Emily Reinhardt are the 2017 Young Cooperator Vice Chaircouple and members of Prairie Farms Dairy. Josh’s grandparents started the farm in 1954 after receiving a dozen chickens and two mules as a wedding gift. Today, the farm is located outside of Red Bud, Ill., where the Reinhardts milk 240 Holsteins and farm about 1,000 acres. In March 2016, they moved into a new barn equipped with DeLaval robots. They’re currently focusing on genetics, and strive to produce heifers that mature into robot-compatible cows with high yields.

What do you like the most – and the least – about working as a dairy farmer?

The thing we like the most is the sense of accomplishment we feel over so many different little things. We get excited about that extra one or two pounds of milk per cow. We enjoy watching our calves and heifers grow. It’s a sense of pride you feel in being able to say: “That’s my herd.” We mostly enjoy the opportunity we have to be able to work together and share the same goals for our future and the farm.
Though there aren’t many dislikes, it is not uncommon that they sometimes seem to outweigh the positives. These include the difficulty in following through with plans, the late-night calls when the robots break down, and the failures that are bound to come when dealing with so many animals.

Describe how the work on the farm is shared or divided up in your family?

Emily and I take care of the barn and almost everything that goes on inside it. Every day we are treating cows, breeding cows, and pushing those that are past due for milking. Emily also takes care of all the calves, and does her best to keep them healthy. I handle most of the technical issues that we have with the robots. My father typically takes care of all the feeding first thing in the morning, as well as anything else that needs to be done. My mother takes care of the bookwork and comes down to the farm if needed. When we get busy in the field, the workload is shared so that we can finish as efficiently as possible.

How do you think your farm’s business plan will change 10 years from now?

We are currently focused on paying off our expansion and robots while still trying to better our herd and slowly make it more robot friendly. Depending on milk prices, we think in 10 years we could possibly be thinking about another expansion. As Emily and I look to start a family someday, that will mean more mouths to feed. We want to be able to hand our children a sustainable business.

During those days when things aren’t going well, what do you do to keep a positive attitude?

When those days come, I find myself thinking about how lucky I am to have a job that I enjoy and don’t dread going to every morning. We also think about how grateful we are to work with each other and my father. We try to stay positive and remember that tomorrow is a new day. I also think of the number of bad days my grandparents and parents have had in the past. Without those bad days, I wouldn’t be able to have the great days that I get to share with my wife and parents.

What would you be doing if you were not a dairy farmer?

If I wasn’t a dairy farmer, I would probably be an ag teacher at my local high school. I currently hold my substitute teacher license, so I kind of get to have the best of both worlds.
Before Emily moved to Red Bud and started farming with us full time, she was a researcher for the Weed Science Department at Southern Illinois University. She enjoyed the work she did there and would more than likely still be working for the department or doing something similar.