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Monday, June 15, 2009

the plight of the dairyman

Pinga with one of J's Jersey heifers at last year's county fair.

We have a neighbor we'll call J who owns a dairy farm. J took over from his father a few years ago, and gradually started converting the herd from Holsteins over to Jerseys. He thinks they're beautiful cows (because they are), but the reason he switched is for the higher butterfat in Jersey milk, and because Jerseys convert feed to milk more efficiently.

Last night John was over talking to J, and he was telling John how business is so bad right now that dairy farmers are losing $800 a day per 1000 cows. Everyone in the area is locked in a game of Dairy Farmer Survivor to see who goes out of business first. As dairies go under, the farmers will sell or slaughter their cows and possibly lose their farms. Eventually so many dairies will have disappeared that the supply/demand pendulum will swing back, and anybody who's left will be able to start making money again. So everybody wants to be the last man standing, and they're losing money hand over fist to get there.

Here's a piece about this same subject over on Food Woolf that you might want to read.

J is a little better situated than some because he's got a small dairy. He's not paying for a bunch of dairy equipment, and if things got really terrible he could fire all of his employees and do everything himself for a while. He doesn't sell raw milk, or I would buy from him. Not that I don't love Johnny's Dairy, because I do. J's just a little closer to home, and I like spending my dollars locally when possible before I widen my net.

If it's an option for you, buy from a local dairy, or buy a local dairy's products at your grocery store. Here's a link to a list on cheesemaking.com of milk suppliers throughout the country, as well as a few places outside the US. In our area Winder Dairy and Rosehill Dairy do delivery, and from what I can ascertain they get your milk from whatever dairy is nearest you. It's more expensive than the grocery store--we pay $4 a gallon for our raw milk from Johnny's--but I'm always holding forth about how people don't understand the true cost of food, and it's an opportunity for me to live by my preaching.

5 comments:

tipsybaker said...

Would you pay $14 a gallon for local, organic milk like people do in New York City?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/magazine/14food-t-000.html

Layne said...

Yikes. I have enough crises of conscience of my own here in the boonies--I can't imagine how hard it would be to serve the dueling gods of thrift and ethics if I lived there.

BTW--yes, I did actually vomit onto my plate that time. I was committed to the craft.

tipsybaker said...

Did you read the story? I would never have walked away with that $35 chicken. Never.

As to the vomiting -- wow! What were they trying to feed you?

Layne said...

No, that's stupidness. Without even looking very hard you can find mail-order, free-range chicken for about $15 a bird. If the local guys are screwing you, then you shouldn't buy from them. Especially if their product is inferior.

I remember that it was meat loaf that I barfed onto my plate. I'm pretty sure it was a bad recipe, but even if it had been good, I was not in a place, emotionally or developmentally, in which I could handle a loaf of meat. Now I love it--I use Ina Garten's recipe.

THE WILKER CLAN said...

Winder Dairy is where we go for our milk...there sure is a difference in taste we will never again buy in a store...our fresh eggs are great also!