Agriculture is difficult at best, perilous at worst

The economic status of the nation's dairy farms could be summed up by "Difficult at Best, Perilous at Worst". The same can be said for many of the businesses that support a dairy farm's day-to-day operation. No one is immune from the trickle-down effects of the current milk price trough, which began last January. They're -- or rather, we're all affected in one way or another: farm employees, service providers, banks, feed companies, local municipalities, and consumers.

On the other hand, I've heard "the flip side" too; new milking center installations, the purchase of good cows for bargain prices, or farm purchases. But those reports are more often the exception, and not the rule.

Because of the all the press in dairy circles -- especially now, I regularly visit web sites like Dairy Today or Dairy Business, which are popular trade magazines with helpful, "just in time" information.

Recently I discovered a master's thesis from the American Society of Animal Production dating back to1939. I was astounded at the number of references to the future of dairy farming as though the author were describing 2009.

Dairy farming, like "Topsy," the cow, has just grown up during the past quarter of a century. Today, however, the basic shift in agriculture, made necessary by the loss of world trade, a factor in today's case, is likely to cause some very definite changes in the basic organization of dairy farming. There is a continued struggle of dairy farmers of higher cost areas to produce milk at the prices likely to prevail or their eventual elimination.

When the mere milk man (or grocery store owner), who sets the bottle of milk on the doorstep or in the dairy case, receives more for this service than the farmer receives for the milk in the bottle, ... it may well be questioned whether the whole system of distribution as now used may not be in for a very radical overhauling in the near future.

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