Skip to comments.Calif. expected to lose 100 dairy farms
Posted on 10/14/2012 11:23:39 AM PDT by thecodont
The nation's drought and high corn prices are devastating California's $8 billion dairy industry to the point where farmers can't afford to feed their cows - and their professional trade organization has been regularly referring despondent dairymen to suicide hotlines.
Experts in the industry estimate that by year's end California, the largest dairy state in the nation, will have lost more than 100 dairies to bankruptcies, foreclosures and sales. Milk cows are being slaughtered at the fastest rate in more than 25 years because farmers need to save on corn costs. According to the Western United Dairymen, a California trade group, three dairy farmers have committed suicide since 2009, despairing over losing their family's dairies.
"I've never seen it as dire as it is now," said Frank Mendonsa, a Tulare dairyman who serves on the Western United Dairymen board. "Pride is just eating these guys up. People are calling me and asking me what to do. It becomes like a counseling session to stop people from hurting themselves. But it's not just losing our jobs that is driving the desperation. We're losing our houses, in some cases the same houses that our grandparents lived in, and we're losing our entire identities."
The problems started in 2009, when milk prices bottomed out and grain prices soared, partly due to the government's ethanol mandate. Congress is requiring that gasoline producers blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol, made from corn, into the nation's gas supply by 2015. Dairy farmers were forced to borrow against their land and cows to make their bills.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Calif-expected-to-lose-100-dairy-farms-3946897.php#ixzz29IaSB7WG
(Excerpt) Read more at sfgate.com ...
This will make it that much easier to apply UN Agenda 21 to those farms.
So much for those happy cows.
Law of unintended consequences. The ethanol and milk price supports created this situation.
No mention of the highest taxes in the nation and high regulations on these farmers.
Let’s not tell the truth. That would be too easy.
I know I'm "Hoping for a Change" (Actually Praying for a Change) come Nov 6th!
Californians don’t need milk, let them drink Merlot.
The loss of dairies is a necessary sacrifice to the goddess Gaea.
“No mention of the highest taxes in the nation and high regulations on these farmers.Lets not tell the truth. That would be too easy.”
And just how do you know this? Please provide some specifics! Most regulation on farming is at the Federal level, so show us where the State is involved. As the article points out, California is THE LARGEST DAIRY STATE in the country! Where are you going to get your milk if it goes bust? You must be a sorry excuse for a human being if you relish this kind of personal distress, but it appears that you do!
It’s so ironic. CA has both oil and cows, gov’t won’t let them have either.
Dairy farming was once a major industry in Southern California. In 1960, there were nothing but dairy farms for miles along Goldenwest St. in Huntington Beach, an area that is today filled with shopping centers, office buildings, etc. Many of their owners had Dutch names.
The last dairies in Southern California, in the Chino Valley, are rapidly disappearing.
Many of the Texas cattle ranchers lost their cattle and ranches, after last year's drought. I don't recall the rancher's being referred to a suicide hotline, though.
“Californians dont need milk, let them drink Merlot.”
Keep your stinkling hands off of my 5 gallons of whole milk a week!!!!!
We don’t need these greedy, fly producing polluters.
We can get all the milk we need at the grocery store.
Soy Milk, Almond Milk
When you burn your food in your gas tank, this is what you get.
The dairy farmers can rest easy now, a Dairy Future Task Force has been formed to study the problem, gather information, make field trips, interview stake holders and other concerned persons.
When the subject has been thoroughly examined a report will assembled and given a public comment period, any changes discussed and a final draft prepared for the legislature and the last two dairy farmers in California to consider.
Final issue date unknown.
Government intervention in a free market never works. It only makes things worse.
In the end, everybody gets screwed -- the suppliers, the processors, the consumers. Not to mention the taxpayers, who pay for the subsidies.
Hmm, the government forces me to burn corn in my car while putting dairies out of business due to high corn prices. Nice work.
I’m surprised California doesn’t refer them to an assisted suicide hotline.
Locally there's a big ad campaign for Meatless Mondays. The ads say that cattle are being treated inhumanely and contribute to environmental pollution, so people should skip eating meat once a week.
The MM Web site cites the health and environmental benefits angle only. The environmental reasons cited are: carbon footprint, water usage, and dependence on fossil fuels.
Vette 6387, I can’t tell whether you live in CA as you have not identified a state of residence. I do live in CA, and I can tell you that dairy farmers are being pushed out of this state by both population expansion, state regulation and state taxes.
The San Gabriel Valley used to be full of dairy farms. I worked in an electronics company located on Arden Drive in El Monte which was formerly the Arden Dairy ranch. Those dairies then moved out to Chino. Once Interstate 15 was built, tract homes were built surrounding the dairy ranches. So, the dairy farms moved farther out to areas in the Hemet Valley where once again tract homes are being built next to the ranches.
As with the agricultural farming in the Central Valley which is being driven out by absurd State of California water regulations, so too will the CA dairy ranches eventually migrate out of state. Just one more industry killed by CA politicians.
As a farmer myself this makes me want to cry.
The drought this summer has devasted a lot of corn,soybean,
and alfalfa fields.Know a guy who raised alfalfa in
Arizona for sold to California dairies.Said hes glad
he sold the farm 8 years ago and moved here to Tn
We`re seeing the slow death of agriculture in California
NO Problem ALL OF Mexifornia is being MILKED by the democrats..
Mexifornia is indeed animal farm <<- you know like in the book!..
If you say what book.. then you are one of the Cows.. and not a Donkey at all..
” Most regulation on farming is at the Federal level, so show us where the State is involved.”
Farming is not an easy job and Americans are still doing it. The dairy business is the hardest of all, 24/7, rain or shine and Americans are still doing it. When we tax and regulate our farmers out of existence we will become subject to the whims of politicians and foreign producers. There will be no attraction for Americans to become dairy farmers. Wake up America.
Calif. expected to lose 100 dairy farms,
but gains 100 fairy farms in San Francisco.
Calif. expected to lose 100 dairy farms,
but gains 100 fairy farms in San Francisco.
When the San Gabriel River Freeway (Rte. 605) opened in 1966, it ran through dozens of square miles of dairy farms in the lower San Gabriel Valley. Cerritos used to be known as Dairy Valley, and La Palma was Dairyland until the late 1960's. By the early '70's, all the dairy farms were gone.
Because the dairies attracted so many flies, newly-established housing tracts in dairy country were soon followed by lawsuits by the new homeowners against the farmers. In the 1960's and 1970's, a lawyer who effectively represented the farmers in such cases gained a reputation as the "fly attorney," but he was ultimately unable to save the dairies.
Safeway has its’ $5 Fridays. This Friday it was ribeye for 5 bucks a pound. This $21 “Value Pack”had 3 HUGE steaks in it. With 2 glasses of that merlot I ate a whole one-about 1 and a third pounds. Delicious. I can still do it!
There's also a hemp seed milk--an opporunity for those marijuana farmers of Mendocino County to cash in.
I believe in choice. The government should just give every family a cow and be done with it. Then, it’s your choice — milk or steak.
That’s because the ranchers can come back. As long as they still retain some herd genetics and the land, they can rebuild. Many of those Texas ranchers didn’t lose their land - they own that outright and they own a bunch of land.
The California dairy model is so capital-intensive that most of these guys are pretty heavily leveraged and they depend on making a pretty thin margin on a very big cash flow. In many cases, they have a note on the land, which they’ve used to build more buildings or facilities, a revolver they use for month-to-month expenses like feed and with the prices of feed. When the margin on that monstrous cash flow goes negative, they’re bleeding like stuck pigs - and not all at once in a seasonal event like the rancher. I’m talking every single day, they’re bleeding cash out their eyeballs.
When we sold hay to California dairymen, the hay would leave our outfit at about $140/ton, then get $40/ton of haulage tacked onto it, or about $170 to $190 by the time it got to the dairies.
Right now, thanks to the feed shortage across the entire western US, even rough hay is up near $200/ton, and to get hot alfalfa hay into those dairies, you’re looking at prices over $260/ton. And, NB, this is the CHEAP time of year on hay. Come February, when hay stocks start getting low, the price will go up - and this year, I’d expect dairy quality hay in Chino to be upwards of $350/ton, delivered, assuming diesel prices stay stable, which they’re not.
Now, let’s talk about diesel costs: Diesel costs hit the dairyman to get his milk hauled off and hay and feed trucked in. Ranchers get hit on diesel costs while putting up their own hay, getting hay trucked in (usually only once/year) and shipping their cattle (usually only once/year). Dairies have to haul in hay there in California every week. Those 8,000 cow dairies don’t have a lot of land on which they can store hay, so they have a few “trainloads” (double trailer) pulled in every couple of days. Every dairy cow eats somewhere about 20 to 30lbs of hay per day, so if you’re running a 8,000 head dairy, that comes to 120 tons/day, or about four double-trailer trucks of hay per day. Ranchers don’t have that kind of cash bleed.
Now the diesel cost spikes are kicking you in the head - hard.
Here in Colorado, I’ve seen on-road #2 diesel go from $4.09 to $4.39/gal in three days. The last jump was from $4.24 to $4.39 overnight. When diesel goes over $4/gal, the US economy shifts into low gear in a hurry. The moron economists blather on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about gasoline prices.
Well, here’s the hard truth that none of these moron academics realizes or admits:
Come Thanksgiving, you get to Grandma’s house on gasoline.
The turkey gets there on diesel fuel.
Right now, diesel costs are going to kick a whole lot of small businesses in the head - hard.
When we got into farming, I didn’t know whether we wanted to be in row crops or field crops (we eventually chose dairy hay), but the one thing I was really sure of was that I never wanted to be a diaryman.
Being a dairyman is the closest thing to slavery we have left in the US. You’re wed to those cows three times a day, every day, come rain, shine, getting sick, being injured, you name it, the cows have to be tended to. The only day when you can throw down your hands is the day after you shipped the last cow.
Congress mandates ethanol in gas —> Dairy farmers committing suicide.
Please forgive my ignorance and thank you in advance for your patience. Dairy farmers then don't have the acreage or extra cash to devote to hay/alfalfa production, right? Ranchers don't have the feed expense because their cattle are range-raised and then finished with corn in the feedlot, correct?
If there is a hay shortage by February, what about corn silage, or is that still used? What effect, if any, do the ethanol laws have on the production of corn silage for cows?
That happy cow stuff is propaganda. I visited California in May and observed several dairies. They are actually cow prisons. The cows are restricted to a fairly large fenced area in which they ate and crapped and gave milk. The ground is churned mix of mud and crap surrounding large feeding sheds....... deplorable.
Out side the fence are large, very large, immense, hay storage areas.
I was of the opinion the cows ate hay, not corn. The hay storage and visible hay in the sheds gave no indication of corn.
The cows that escaped from Wisconsin escaped into slavery of deplorable conditions
“Save a Cow - Ban Ethanol”
“Eat Corn, Drink Milk, Ban Ethanol”
I used to work on a dairy farm here in Michigan. The cows mostly ate hay with a bit of silage. The cows were pretty happy because the silage was corn mash from a distillery.
Yes, everything politicians tinker with eventually turns to crap. Of course, just try ending either ethanol mandates or milk price supports and see how far you get, and Republican farm state pols are just as bad as the Democrats on this score.
California dairies are typically highly intensive operations where they don’t raise much of their own feed. Whereas the midwest and northeast dairy model is more classic (ie, 200 to 300 cows is a “big” dairy in the older midwest/northeast business model), and these smaller, more classic dairies raise their own feed for their own operations and supplant that with purchased feed, the California dairies (sometimes called the “California Dutch dairy model”) has a huge number of cows, uses only AI (no bulls), outsources the replacement heifer, feed and silage production. Their land costs are too high to just have the land sitting in crop production. The Dutch dairymen sharpened their pencil three decades ago and figured out that if they let everyone else to the “other things” in dairying and they concentrated on getting the most revenue out of every cow, they’d make a lot more money.
So that’s what they did. Like highly leveraged bankers, they’re learning the dangers of depending on leverage and outsourcing. Integrated operations have lots of advantages and flexibility when the crap hits the fan.
Ranchers, especially in the west, often have to buy a bit of feed to get over the winter, but ranchers are usually in the business of either producing a crop of calves every year (and usually shipping them from November to backgrounders or feedlots), so they have to feed only their cows and bulls over the winter. Calves (before this drought) would often be shipped to Texas or the south to pasture up to about 800 to 900 lbs (from 450 to 500 when shipped), and this is called “backgrounding.” After 850 to 900 lbs, the cattle are shipped to a feedlot for “finishing” where they’re put on grain or distiller’s grains (the remains of corn after ethanol production is pretty good feed). Other things you see in feedlots will be cottonseed hulls, sugarbeet waste, disposed produce, silage, haylage, etc. Cows can eat a great many things. Corn gets you the fastest gain because it has the highest metabolic energy per pound of feed, but barley works well, as do distiller’s grains, etc. Beef cattle don’t need super-nice feed. They need good energy in their feed in the winter, and they need a bunch of fiber in colder climates to produce heat to stay alive.
Dairymen, on the other hand, are in the business of feeding “fresh” cows - cows who are just about to drop a calf or who have just dropped a calf. They need wickedly high protein levels. Corn doesn’t have a huge amount of protein, it has metabolic energy - sugars and starches. This is good when the cows are starting to dry off or when they need to put on a bit of fat before being bred again. What dairy cows need most when producing milk is protein - and highly available protein. Alfalfa is still the best, most available protein for dairy cattle their is. Soybean meal is perhaps second. If you fed dairy hay to a beef cow, the beef cow would bloat up like a beach ball and be dead in about 30 minutes. Beef cattle don’t know what to do with the wickedly high levels of protein the California dairy model calls for feeding to a Holstein cow to produce over 22,000 lbs of milk per year. In the midwest model, they’re often happen with only 18,000 lbs of milk per cow per year.
Corn silage is used in the midwest and in some places in California, but corn silage this year will be highly regional in availability due to the drought. Silage doesn’t transport well due to the high moisture content, so it’s something that is produced locally and fed locally. Ethanol production might have effect on silage production, but it would be regional. If the ethanol plant quit buying grain corn before harvest or all the way back in September, some farmers who have cattle on their operation might chop some of the corn that would have gone to the ethanol plant.
The thing about silage that really limits it’s use to feeding very close to the point of production is that it doesn’t transport well. It’s very high in moisture, so about half the load you’d be sending down the road in silage is water. It makes more sense to haul foodstuffs that are dry - water you can get almost anywhere. Kernel corn, when dried down, is at about 10 to 14% moisture - any higher and the farmer starts getting docked on the moisture content when they take it to a terminal or ethanol plant.
The ethanol issue is mostly a non-issue for cattle on feed. Corn waste from ethanol distillation makes fine feed, and in many cases, better feed than just plain corn. Plain corn still has lots of available sugars in it which cause acidosis in cattle, so you have to convert a cow’s diet to corn slowly, lest it suffer from acidosis. Distiller’s grains still have a lot of complex carbs left in the aftermath without the sugars that have been fermented away. The problem is that distiller’s grains become expensive with the high price of diesel, and as the price of gasoline goes up, if the price of corn stays down, the profit spread on ethanol goes up. If corn prices go high enough, the ethanol plants will cut back because they’ll start losing money on the tight or negative spread on corn vs. gasoline.
The reason why I make a big deal about the cost of diesel is that US ag, being specialized as it is, requires cheap diesel to make it go. From planting to harvesting and everything in between, diesel goes into farming like you breath air and drink water.
You’re reasonably close to the truth. I’ve seen 3,000 cows on a half-section in some places in CA, and it’s pretty ripe, that’s for sure.
The California diary model requires a cow nutrionist to look at milk levels and then tweek the diet inputs. Hay is always required, but those California Dutchmen are clever - they’re always buying hay of this, that and some other feed level. Some hays have more fiber, others more protein, etc. They will mix hay, bean meal, a little corn and whatever else into what are known as “TMR” total mixed rations, which are put into a big tub grinder and then doled out into the feed bunk for the cattle.
The California dairy model is probably doomed along with several other business models that assumed easy money at cheap rates with a positive yield curve.
Thank you for your comprehensive answer, NVDave. I learned a lot today.
The scariest thing is how our dairy, cattle and farming industries are on the quick path to being socialized. As a previous poster mentioned...Wake up, America!!
-——The California dairy model is probably doomed——
Strangely believe it, I first saw such dairies in Saudi Arabia. I was astounded to see them in California. The technique was exported. In Saudi Arabia, they have no pastures but can raise irrigated hay
They don’t drink milk like we do but they do produce it and they are specially fond of ice cream
Here’s another little factoid or two to impress people if you’re out and about:
Alfalfa comes from the region we now call Iran, at higher elevations.
Alfalfa was the only crop introduced into the US that spread from west to east. Alfalfa doesn’t like having “wet feet” - it is a plant truly adapted for deserts, and can send down roots quite far into the soil.
Somewhere I have a paper written by the early researchers in Nevada at Elko, showing an alfalfa stand that punched roots down 87+ feet into the soil, where the roots then came out in the roof of a gold mine.
it’s an amazing plant, but it is the only plant that allows such highly forced production of milk from a cow. Because it’s a legume (like peas, beans, etc) it can cause bloat, but because it’s a legume, it also fixed nitrogen into the soil.
The other thing the California dairy model depends on is the production of wickedly “hot” alfalfa hay. When you see alfalfa back east, you see fairly typical alfalfa. But in high desert situations, with chemigation through the pivot irrigation rigs (ie, injecting fertilizer into the irrigation water), you can grow alfalfa with lower fiber in the stem (which is what fills a cow up) and higher crude protein (which comes from having leaves the size of a quarter dollar). It’s not easy to grow that kind of alfalfa outside a high desert environment, where the nights are cold and the days warm.
As much as miss farming, I have to admit that as diesel costs rocket upwards (which takes all other inputs with them - fertilizer, parts, seed, etc) profits for a lot of farmers are going to become highly uncertain.
I didn't know alfalfa was a perennial.
Safeway grocery stores sell "Lucerne" (European name for alfalfa) as their house brand of milk and dairy products.
I'm sure I've seen this little plant (I thought it was a sort of clover) in some roadside weedy areas (seed pods probably took a ride on the cuff of someone's pants).
well I’ll be damned........ that was a great truly post.
We will have to do without milk.
Yes, alfalfa is a perennial. A very hardy one, too. It has been adapted to change it’s dormancy onset to allow it to grow nearly year-round in the low deserts (eg, Imperial Valley, CA, Arizona) and go dormant early in places like Wyoming and Montana (which are usually two-cutting seasons). All by selective breeding over the last 80 years or so.
The plants you pictured are indeed alfalfa - the flowers can be white, creamy white, yellow, light purple, vivid purple (what you have there) and blue-ish. That picture is what “normal” alfalfa looks like: thinner leaves, a pretty upright growth habit, etc. The alfalfa we grew had much, much larger leaves than what you see in your pic - because of optimizing the soil nutrient load, irrigation which kept the soil moisture in the optimum range during the early growth periods, etc.
There are literally hundreds of varieties of alfalfa now; it is one of the most widely bred plants in US agriculture, with breedings that resist various insects, root nematodes, root rot, poor nutrition... you name it. There are varieties that will resist Roundup herbicide, altho I’m here to tell you that you could grow Roundup-resistant alfalfa simply by growing alfalfa in a very arid environment, waiting until it is slightly drought stressed and then spraying it. The plants that don’t die (which will be about 1/3rd of the total plant stand) will be somewhat resistant to Roundup. Harvest the seed off those plants, plant a new patch and in two years, repeat the drought stress and spraying. Within 10 years, you’ll have Roundup-Ready alfalfa without genetic modification. It’s one tough plant.
As for seeing on the sides of the road: What you’re seeing is seed dropped by hay trucks as they speed along. The alfalfa seed is literally about the size of a large pinhead - not quite as fine as coriander seed, but more like a poppy seed, only slightly smaller. If you allow a stand of alfalfa to go to seed and you have leafcutter bees for pollination, you will get hundreds of pounds of live seed per acre.
It’s called the “Queen of Forages” for a reason. It is without a doubt, one of the most flexible crops out there with some of the highest food value. In the western hay business, we called alfalfa “Ice Cream in the making...” hence the pun about Lucerne milk branding.
While alfalfa is a perennial, it does need to be re-planted occasionally. In Nevada, when we’d be cutting the stands for dairy quality, we’d have to re-plant every 5 to 7 years. A stand doesn’t reach full production for two years. If you aren’t cutting for dairy quality and you’d cutting when the plant is in bloom as in your pictures, I think you could probably get 15 to 20 years out of a stand.