Thursday will be a big day for Birker, Inc., the rural Vinton dairy farm owned by Ken and Bob Birker and operated by many members of the Birker family.
Nine months after a fire destroyed their milking parlor, the dairy farm’s employees will resume milking in a brand new, hydraulic-powered milking station. The first cows are expected to return late in the morning.
An electrical fire on Nov. 27 destroyed the old milking facility, but farm employees, with the help of friends, neighbors and other farmers, were able to save all the cows and find them temporary homes on Buchanan County dairy farms while the family began the process of rebuilding.
The Birkers plan an open house sometime in the next several weeks. Ken Birker says the farm’s 250 cows produce an average of 93 pounds of milk per cow per day
The farm had nine employees at the time of the fire; its staff is now reduced to five. Restoring the milking operation that will produce more than 23,000 pounds of milk per day, as well as caring for and feeding 250 cows and their calves will require hiring four new employees.
Jenni Birker, the wife of Scott, says that experience is not necessary.
“We are looking for people who are willing to work hard, and show up,” says Jenni. Experience and degrees in agriculture are not necessary, adds Jenni, who says she grew up in a home where the only animals were dogs or cats before marrying into the Birker family.
Ken Birker says there is a long list of people to thank for getting the family through this crisis.
“There would be 40 to 50 people on that list,” he said on Wednesday.
On the night of the fire, several friends, neighbors and other farmers offered trucks, tractors or trailers to help at the scene of the fire, or to move the cows to another location.