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Emmetsburg Dairy Farmer Asks, ‘What Happened to the Land of Opportunity?’

By Staff | Jun 9, 2020

To the Editor:

One year ago there were three dairy farms left in Palo Alto County. Now there is one left with nowhere to sell our milk.

Associated Milk Producers Incorporated (AMPI) came into the area years back, bought up all the small milk processing plants, and closed them down to get rid of the competition.

The field man said we would all get paid more for our milk from a big company. Such was not the case as more and more producers got tired of a lot of work for little pay and quit.

AMPI sends out newsletters with each milk check saying it’s hard to pay more for milk yet have a profit of 16-18 million dollars after expenses at years end while producers struggle to make ends meet.

Last summer, the third producer had enough and sold out. Within a week AMPI raised the haul rate from $1 per hundredweight to $2 for us and from $1.40 to $3 for the guys near Clear Lake.

By the end of the year the second producer was talking about selling in April. We got a call from the field man in March saying if that producer had his sale on April 18, the next day would be the last the truck would pick up our milk. Our route was not cost effective, they said, yet they closed plants in Rochester and Arlington and are hauling some of that milk to Sanborn.

Our driver said that our milk sat for three days on the truck because milk was being hauled in from Idaho. Cost effective?

What do we do?

Milk prices have fallen from $21 per hundred in December to $10 per hundred now so who will want milk cows?

The nearest dairy sale barn is over 90 miles away with once a month sales. The sale barn says the packers like to buy cattle 3-4 months from having a calf for the blood plasma from the calf to spray on milk replacer for an immunity. I don’t want to sell bred cows to be slaughtered.

Our family has milked for over 100 years and these cows are our friends.

With COVID-19, you might only get $500 out of a good cow that should be worth at least twice that.

An average cow will yield 500-600 pounds of hamburger that sells for over $5/pound in the store. I guess an opportunity for someone just not the producer.

I don’t want to sell out as we did with hogs in the 90s when the same thing happened. Big business took over the hog industry and all the buying stations went away. Our $300 sows got sold for $33. I don’t intend to sell the cows the same way. We have been breeding to get some beautiful red cattle and I can’t make them into hamburger .

For now we are chopping corn stalks and putting the milk on to feed back to the cows. This is a source of protein as we can’t buy distiller grain like before because of COVID-19. Where is the Land of Opportunity? Hope things get better.

(signed) Roger Walker

Emmetsburg resident