How can we better support our dairy farmers?

I used to hear about the old days. I never really understood that, but I’m starting to now. I saw my grandparents operate a dairy farm by growing their hay and silage, by milking and breeding their cows, and by selling their milk. Although I don’t remember when my grandparents pasteurized their own milk, I do remember going up north and getting pasteurized, but not homogenized, milk from Shetler’s Dairy. The milk from Shetler’s Dairy came in glass bottles and was not homogenized; meaning, the cream rose to the top of the bottle creating two inches of cream on top of the milk.

Dairy farming is labor intensive and hard work. The work is hard but you know your animals and they know you. It has become increasingly difficult to find quality, dedicated, and willing workers to work on a dairy farm.  In addition, fewer people are willing to do the kind of hard work dairy farming requires.

Shetler’s Dairy Farm closed in August. Nationwide in 2018 more than 2,700 dairy farms have closed across the country. Michigan has 1500 dairy farms, 97 percent being family owned.  Only 1.7 percent of the U. S. population produces the food for our world. What does this mean for Michigan dairy farmers?

I am concerned about the future of dairy farming and the future of our dairy food supply.  What will we do when our dairy farms are few in number? What will happen to the iconic farms we as a community are used to seeing in our rural landscape? What will happen to the fabric of our rural communities as our small farms, often the backbone of their communities, diminish in number? How do we continue to generate demand for the nutrient rich white milk only dairy cows can provide?  What will we have to pay for milk? Will we have enough milk to meet society’s demand?  Will we end up being forced to drink white vegetable juice someone wants us to believe is an acceptable alternative to real dairy milk, which contains nine essential nutrients?   As the number of dairy producers decrease, how is our production going to be maintained?

Jonathan Sayles

Query:  How can we better support dairy farmers in their businesses, how do we attract employees for dairy farms, and how do we maintain supply of such a basic staple of our nutritional needs?  What do you think? I think I am concerned and I am missing the good old days already.