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Death of a dairy farm

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farmerjan

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It is happening here too. It is breaking my heart as a milk tester, to see the farmers who simply cannot see a way out with the milk prices so low. This area did not go through the problem of losing the milk contract like the ones that dean food cut off, but most are seeing daily costs continuing to rise, and milk prices are well below the break even point. The older ones are saying enough, the younger generations don't want to work 24/7 for less than a living wage and no one can blame them anymore. And the ones that are willing to live the lifestyle, simply can't when they cannot make enough to even pay their basic bills.
The farms that are not carrying alot of debt are struggling. The older farmers that felt that when it came time to retire, they would sell their cows and have some decent money to maybe just go to crop farming or run some beef cows, are not making enough off the sale of the cows to reinvest in beef cattle. A springing heifer ready to calve used to bring 1500 to 2200 average, in the 90's and early 2000's . Now you are lucky to get 1000 for her. It costs you more than that to feed her, breed her and get her ready to come into the milking herd. For the first time that I can ever remember, holstein heifer calves are barely bringing 50 at the stockyard. Bull calves are bringing 75 to 150. I can NEVER remember a bull calf bringing more than a heifer.

And prices are higher for everything than they were 20 years ago, yet the return on investment is less. It cannot pencil out.

It is not only the dairy farmers themselves that are losing out. All the support industies are suffering and it will continue to trickle down. The fewer the farms, the bigger the farms, they will buy direct from companies instead of going through "suppliers". There will be fewer companies that will supply things like detergents, etc for the pipeline , teat dip and things that the farmer needed on a daily/weekly basis. Fewer needs for vets and the routine services they provide. Fewer equipment dealers, fewer part dealers, fewer on call guys for breakdowns in the dairy barns. This is translating to fewer companies that will stay in business. So all these people will have to find work elsewhere. The smaller towns that supported the dairy farmer will start to die off as people move elsewhere for jobs. Land values will drop in some areas, but in areas like around here, it will go up as more houses are built and the urban sprawl continues outward. These people all seem to work in "town jobs" and can afford the mortgage on their little 1-2-5 acre place. Then the truth of a generation that is further removed from the farm will continue to perpetuate and become the norm.

What happens when all the farms that "migrate" to the west and such, that buy all their feed and run 5-10-50,000 cows and tap all the aquifers, and they start to run out of water as the aquifers are not replenished fast enough? What happens when there is too much competition for water for both human and animal populations? What happens when there is not enough water to do all this irrigating for the crops that are required? What happens when there is any type of disease that can run rampant through a large population that is confined in such close proximity? What happens to the genetic diversity and longevity when the average lifespan of a dairy cow is less than 2 lactations? How do you breed for something that the breed no longer will ever be able to try to achieve?

Dairies are unique in that you cannot put off til next week to get in the crop and sell it. They have to be milked every day. A beef farmer has flexibility and if he can't get them in this week, prices are off, he can usually hold them for a week or two or so. His crop ( calves) will not get sick and die or get mastitis or something, if they have to wait a week or two to go to market. They are not perishable if they aren't refridgerated immediately. There is some flexibility with most all other types of farming. If it is raining, you wait to cut hay until it is calling for better weather....or you do things like wrap it. A grain farmer can wait a week if it is wet, for the next dry spell. He might lose some of the crop or the quality will suffer like overmature hay....but a dairy farmer just doesn't have that option. And with the milk markets being pulled out from under them, they had no options because you can't milk cows and dump it down the drain because nothing is paying the bills. Even if it is all their own feed, there is electricity to pay for to run the operation.

A beef farmer can sell his "crop" of calves at a stockyard auction. Grain can be sold on the commodities market. Hay auctions are around. Sale of vegetables can be farmers markets, and there are wholesale veg and flower markets.....but where can you sell your milk? If you are in a raw milk "unfriendly state" there is not even that option although in a state that allows it, it is still next to impossible to find enough outlet for the quantity that some farmers make. There are not any real viable options.

I don't know if there is an answer anymore. We are losing something that is a very tangible part of our fiber and that fiber will continue to weaken as more and more threads are removed or replaced by fewer threads.
 
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hurleyjd

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I grew up in a dairying family and had uncles and cousins that had dairies. I have owned and operated dairies and finally said had it and sold everything and quit. I was not on dhia but at one time when the prices did not seem to keep us ahead I did go through and weigh the cows milk. I divided all expenses for each cow electricity feed and any thing else that the farm needed to keep going. When I went through I found that about 60% were making their way and 40% were not paying their way. I did not sell the 40% I sold all of them and quit the dairy all together. This was in 1981 then I bought and grew a beef herd after taking a job that paid very good. Would not have to pay a whole lot to better than what we had going. Wife was already working when the dairy was being operated. Looking back I should have sold all land and equipment and declared myself a failure and moved to town. As it was we still worked seven days a week. I did not have any debt at all. But here I am today with a beef operation and using other investments and pensions to fund it. Living the country life is not for everyone but we keep going even doing things that are not profitable.
 

Jeanne - Simme Valley

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I think the poor price of replacement heifer calves is SEXED semen. Dairymen are not needing to buy calves, they are producing an abundant supply flooding the sale market. That is what is happening around here.
 

skyhightree1

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Sad the American farmers are going through this. I bet if he could sell to general public he would make it just fine.
 

Till-Hill

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Jeanne - Simme Valley":npynqdvt said:
I think the poor price of replacement heifer calves is SEXED semen. Dairymen are not needing to buy calves, they are producing an abundant supply flooding the sale market. That is what is happening around here.
In this area I would say that is false. I have wanted for the last 10 years just enough heifers to maintain our herd size. I have changed our heifer breeding scheme to AI once sexed Holstein then 3-4 days later I haul them to the beef bull.

I hope to achieve 60% conception with 90% chance of heifers so a 54% heifer crop out of our heifers. Cows about 90% get conventional Holstein semen for 2-3 services. Everyone 4th service and above get beef. 10% of questionable or poor cows get beef semen until culled.

Holstein heifers are not worth anything because nobody wants to feed them out. Freemartins won't even bring 50% of a same size steer.
 

Lucky

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The last privately owned dairy farm that I know of in our area was forclosed on this year. It’s sad these are hard working people that got put out by big business. I think it will be harder for them to get the commercial cattleman but you never know.
 

HDRider

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skyhightree1":2l9s8o2g said:
Sad the American farmers are going through this. I bet if he could sell to general public he would make it just fine.
There is a lot of truth in that.
 

TexasBred

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Supa Dexta":112884c9 said:
Wouldnt be allowed to sell milk up here with facilities like that.
Don't pay any attention to the facility or the dirt, mud and manure on the outside of the animals and equipment. The insides is almost sterile or they would not be allowing them to ship their milk. Every load is tested for bacteria, temperature, somatic cell count and many other things. The minute that milk is loaded on the tanker the quality begins to drop. That ice cold, hearty creamy milk that was loaded becomes little more than white water when processed and packaged.
 

greybeard

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TexasBred":3hkqqvq3 said:
Supa Dexta":3hkqqvq3 said:
Wouldnt be allowed to sell milk up here with facilities like that.
Don't pay any attention to the facility or the dirt, mud and manure on the outside of the animals and equipment. The insides is almost sterile or they would not be allowing them to ship their milk. Every load is tested for bacteria, temperature, somatic cell count and many other things. The minute that milk is loaded on the tanker the quality begins to drop. That ice cold, hearty creamy milk that was loaded becomes little more than white water when processed and packaged.

My uncle, decades ago, had a dairy out near Sweetwater Tx. Outside, it didn't look like much. Inside was spotless.
 

Ky hills

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Used to buy dairy calves from a couple dairies in northeastern Ky around 80 to 100 calves a year. One farm sold the heifer calves to me and then would buy most of them back at breeding age. When I first started doing it the calves were relatively inexpensive but then the heifers went to $400 dollars and at that time at the local stockyards there I think they would bring more than that. Both dairies went out one retired from it and went to beef cattle the other went to raising more corn and soybeans. I was told that in a county there at the time I was doing that there were over 200 dairies and as of a few years ago the number was down to around 10. No doubt it has had an impact on agribusiness in that area.
 

Jeanne - Simme Valley

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Till-Hill":2vtp26r1 said:
Jeanne - Simme Valley":2vtp26r1 said:
I think the poor price of replacement heifer calves is SEXED semen. Dairymen are not needing to buy calves, they are producing an abundant supply flooding the sale market. That is what is happening around here.
In this area I would say that is false. I have wanted for the last 10 years just enough heifers to maintain our herd size. I have changed our heifer breeding scheme to AI once sexed Holstein then 3-4 days later I haul them to the beef bull.

I hope to achieve 60% conception with 90% chance of heifers so a 54% heifer crop out of our heifers. Cows about 90% get conventional Holstein semen for 2-3 services. Everyone 4th service and above get beef. 10% of questionable or poor cows get beef semen until culled.

Holstein heifers are not worth anything because nobody wants to feed them out. Freemartins won't even bring 50% of a same size steer.
It's hard to believe, but agriculture is the number one industry in NY. And Dairy is the largest sector. NYS is the 3rd largest dairy state (I believe it still is - has been for as long as I have lived here - which is pretty amazing!)
The majority of dairymen out here breed to sexed semen - no bulls. So, they are having 90% heifer crops.
 
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