The University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association are in search of short-term workers to help small dairy farms during the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers are needed in the event that farmers who run smaller scale operations and don’t have back-up labor get sick with COVID-19, according to Richard Kersbergen, extension professor with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

This is for small dairy farmers that are one or two person operations,” Kersbergen said during a phone call Wednesday. “If those people get sick, someone needs to step in to take over the operations. Dairy farming doesn’t just stop.”

Kersbergen said the extension and MOFGA are looking for workers with experience in dairy farming and particularly in milking.

The names and contact info of workers who are interested will be collected by the UMaine Extension Waldo County Office and shared with dairy farmers who request assistance.

“Cows need to be milked at least twice a day,” Kersbergen said. “They need to be fed. Things happen on the farm all the time. Dairy is the kind of business that can’t shut down. It’s a 24-hour job.”

If a cow goes without milking, it runs the risk of developing inflammation caused by blocked ducts that can result in infection known as mastitis, Kersbergen said.

“The cows would ‘leak’ milk, creating an environment for mastitis organisms to grow and infect the cows’ udder through milk saturated bedding,” Kersbergen said in an email. “… It would also be a huge financial impact on the farmer.”

A Jersey milk cow awaits farmworker Kyle Masse on Thursday at the Two Loons Farm dairy in South China. Masse said he was cleaning cows at the dairy. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

Spencer Aitel and Paige Tyson are a husband and wife team who own Two Loons Farm, a 550-acre dairy farm in South China that currently milks more than 50 cows.

Aitel and Tyson run the farm full-time with the help of three part-time employees.

Aitel said the coronavirus pandemic is worrisome because the business relies on him and Tyson.

“If one of us gets the virus, we’d have to rely on others to do the job,” Aitel said during a phone interview Wednesday. “There’s no one who can do what we do. We could have some people fill in short term, but really it’s the husband and wife team that keeps it going …”

Aitel said he and Tyson would consider getting workers from the program depending on how long the coronavirus pandemic lasts.

“It really depends on how long this goes for … it is a worry,” Aitel said.  

Kersbergen said the extension has already received inquiries from a few volunteers.

For information or to participate call 342-5971

Friday Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention had confirmed 168 cases and the state’s first death from COVID-19, a 80-year-old man from Cumberland County.


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