Amanda and Markus Helhi are a young couple, operating the Helhi Family dairy operation near Rimbey, Alberta. Markus has been working side by side with his father, Heini Helhi, for his entire life, and they are now in the process of succession planning as Markus and Amanda transition into the driver’s seat of the family operation.
When we visited Markus and Amanda last month to do some filming at the dairy, we arrived at about 5:15am and they were already hard at work in the milking parlour. As each cow finished being milked the next would be brought into the double 6 flat parlour system, and you could see that even though they’d been through the motions a thousand times before, Amanda and Markus took great care with each and every animal. Every teat was carefully cleaned and prepped, and Markus several times would stop to jot down notes on his notepad, tracking details that help him to maximize production and also watch out for the health and welfare of the animals.
Later in the day, Markus shared with us a story that I cannot imagine having to cope with. A few years ago during an extreme winter snow storm, their dairy barn’s roof collapsed under the heavy snow load, in the middle of the night. The way that the Helhi family and their friends and neighbours jumped into action and rallied together to first of all save the animals, and then carry on their operation and rebuild with a new and improved barn, is just inspiring.
How did the barn collapse?
“From one end to the other was down, the whole barn. But because it happened in the middle of the night, the cows were in their stalls and the roof rested on the stalls. So they were trapped and couldn’t get up, but they were okay.”
“It was minus 25C, and we had come out prepared to milk, so we went back and got dressed warmer, grabbed flashlights and called a few neighbours. We thought about calling the fire department but decided not to, because once they’re there, it’s their scene and they’re most concerned for human safety, where we were more worried about the cows.”
“We had tractors right outside, so we took the stalls apart and then put halters on the cows and brought them out where they could get up and walk on their own, chased them into the holding pen, milked them, then put them along the outside of the barn. Our parlour was ok, so we were able to milk. Had the parlour gone done we wouldn’t have been able to milk.”
Where did the cows stay while the new barn was being built?
“It took 3 tractors all day to clean out the hay barn. We put all the hay and straw outside, and then bedded it up and somebody brought over some panels and got a bunch of tarps and tarped it all off. So it was really good, people were just right there to help.”
We all know that farmers work hard, and dairy farmers in particular have that reputation for dependability and determination, as those traits are basically built right into the job description and the demands of their milking schedule. Markus and Amanda’s story is one that we hope will inspire many young people in agriculture to carry on, no matter what obstacles get in the way.
If you liked Markus and Amanda’s story, check out the rest of the#Farmvoice Stories here.