Sep 29, 2009 6:34 AM by John Romero

Dairy farmers hitting tough times

You may have noticed you're paying a lot less than you're used to for milk. These days it may save you a few bucks, but it's an unfortunate sign of the times for Southern Colorado's dairy farmers. Will McConnell has owned the Rainbow Park Dairy farm in Florence for the past 20 years. He's part of a dwindling number of dairy farmers. "We're pretty close to dire straits here." he says, "It's very serious."

With dairy prices so low right now, many dairy farmers are selling their herds to slaughter. It's part of a herd retirement program through a group called "Cooperatives Working Together" that started in 2003. "It works to raise the price of milk at the farm level because we remove cows from service, which reduces producing units and production capability." explains McConnell. It seemed to be working until this year when foreign markets started failing, leaving farmers with an overabundance of milk they would normally export. "Last year we exported 10%, this year we're going to export about 3.5% so we have 6.5% of our total production back home. That's just too much for the consumers to consume." he says.

Dairy farmers are looking to the futures market which points towards a milk price recovery in 2010. For McConnell, it's a glimmer of hope for the future of his families business. "I have a son who is actively involved in the dairy. I'd like for him to be able to take on a growing concern, a business that has a future. I think that's a possibility, but not if we continue on like we are right now." says McConnell.

A few farms in Colorado have already sold off their herds into the retirement program, including one near Calhan.



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