In the ever-changing world of dairy farming, we find ourselves in the midst of a perfect storm. We are under immense stress as we face a multitude of challenges that have seemed to come upon us all at once. From distressingly low milk prices due to oversupply, weak domestic and global demand, to drought conditions for many of us, as well as the inability to find reliable help, our resiliency is being tested like never before.
We can’t help but worry about the prices we receive for our milk. The market’s unpredictable nature combined with global supply and imbalances have caused a steady decline in price, with spot loads of milk being sold at $8, $10, and even $12 under class, leaving us struggling to make ends meet. In the past couple of weeks, things seem to have been improving slightly, but there is obviously no guarantee that this improvement will continue.
We rely heavily on skilled and dedicated help to support us in our daily tasks. However, finding good help has become a hurdle. Most of us grew up on farms, and the long hours and physically demanding work without weekends off is something to which we are accustomed. However, that is not always the case with those that are looking to work on a dairy farm. The scarcity of qualified workers forces us to take on additional responsibilities, stretching our already limited time and energy.
In addition to our labor challenges, we have cheese plants that are not able to operate at full capacity because they are not fully staffed. Each day a plant is closed is a day that loads of milk are not being sold and utilized, which adds to our problems. This drives prices down even further and has caused milk to be dumped throughout the Upper Midwest. Our milk marketing division, Family Dairies, has not dumped any milk but has been forced to sell at well under class price.
Nature hasn’t been kind to us lately. Depending on your location, drought conditions continue to affect our fields and pastures. Where I live in southeastern Wisconsin, the sporadic rains we have gotten have not been enough to significantly improve crop and pasture conditions. Feed costs are already one of our largest expenses, and we are waiting to see how this drought affects the markets and the cost of feed as a result.
The DMC program has been paying out and definitely has been a help this year. However – it does not reflect or take into account the dumping of milk or how much all our input costs have increased. The DMC program accounts for feed costs but hasn’t kept up with those changes. That is why it’s important that FarmFirst is advocating for changes in the DMC program, LGM and the DRP to make sure they work more effectively for dairy producers.
In the midst of these challenges, I often find myself questioning why we farmers continue doing what we do. I’m sure you have done the same. Especially when it seems as if we are being hit with one issue after another that affects our bottom line. However, amidst the stress and turmoil, there is one thing that remains constant: our resiliency. Farming isn’t merely a job for us; it’s a way of life ingrained in our identity. We draw strength from our connection to our land, our animals, and the communities we live in and serve. It is this passion that fuels us and keeps us going, even when the odds seem insurmountable. We tap into our resourcefulness, finding innovative ways to adapt and overcome the challenges that threaten our livelihoods. We persist because farming is what we know, what we do well, and we have the resilience to push forward. We will get through this together and learn from and support each other along the way. And that is something that should make us all proud.
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