Holstein Switzerland has announced its new Master Breeders for 2020! The Holstein Switzerland Master Breeder Award is celebrating it’s 10-year Anniversary this year. Over the course of the 10 years, 56 exceptional and deserving herds have been presented with their Master Breeder Shield.
Congratulations to the 2020 Master Breeder Recipients!
On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange milk futures closed higher again Thursday again supported by trade optimism brought with the passage of the USMCA. Class III milk futures months traded 22 cents higher in February, 14 stronger in March, and 8 better in April. Remaining months in 2020 were moderately higher. Class IV received a little shot in the arm as well ranging from 4-16 cents higher in all months.
Dry whey down $0.0025 at $0.3625. Blocks up $0.0525 at $1.94. Barrels up $0.0450 at $1.53. Nine trades were made at $1.4950 and $1.53. Butter down $0.01 at $1.8975. One trade was made at that price. Nonfat dry milk up $0.0025 at $1.2850. Four trades were made at $1.2850 and $1.2875.
The grain complex was pummeled on Thursday following the Phase One deal that was signed on Wednesday with reality not meeting expectations. Corn dropped 12 cents in old crop and 8.5 in new crop. Soybeans fell 4 cents while the wheat complex softened 8 in Chicago, 11.5 in Kansas City, and Minneapolis was also down 4.
With six agricultural giants on the verge of merging into three separate companies, consumers and farmers are feeling uneasy about the global implications and how it might impact the food system.
Top executives from Bayer, Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta today (Sept. 20) testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, making a case for why federal regulators should approve the mega-mergers, which stand to fundamentally reorganize global agriculture. (Executives from the sixth company involved in the consolidation, China National Chemical Corp., declined an invitation to appear at the hearing.)
The executives in attendance argued that the proposed mergers would combine their companies’ expertise and allow for greater efficiency in serving farmers and consumers. But whether that efficiency is worth the side effects of massive consolidation—possible price hikes and less competition in the marketplace—is an open question. In essence, should people put faith in three big companies to shepherd consumers and farmers into a world that can responsibly feed a growing global population?
On July 20, shareholders at Dow Chemical and DuPont agreed to a $59 billion merger that would bring under one umbrella two of the largest US chemical makers. The deal is awaiting US antitrust clearance.
On Aug. 22, Chinese state-owned China National Chemical Corp. was cleared by US regulators to proceed with its $42 billion purchase of Swiss chemical and seeds company Syngenta. The deal, subject to US scrutiny because of Sygenta’s American business interests, marks the largest purchase of a foreign firm in Chinese history.
On Sept. 14, Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and chemical giant, said it had reached an agreement to purchase US seed company Monsanto for $66 billion. If the deal is approved by US regulators, it would create the world’s largest seed and agriculture chemicals company.
The consolidation of these six highly competitive companies into three juggernauts has left many farmers and consumers uneasy. Consumers advocates say they worry the mergers will usher in a “new era of sterile crops soaked in dangerous pesticides.” Farmers worry that less competition in the marketplace will give the merged companies an ability to increase prices of seeds and chemicals—something that would be particularly harmful during a time when US farm incomes are dropping.
That’s part of the case that National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson made to senators, warning that approval of the mergers would lead not only to higher prices, but also less innovation and fewer products from which farmers can choose. Even the mighty American Farm Bureau lobby expressed some trepidation.
“Any one of these [merger and acquisition] activities could certainly be well understood; all of them occurring at the same time is the challenge,” said Bob Young, chief economist for the lobby. “Obviously you’d rather have six companies…but if the economics aren’t there to justify six companies, it just won’t happen.”
The corporate perspective
For their part, the company executives stressed that, in a world where internet companies such as Google can quickly pivot to manufacturing driverless cars and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos can invest in rockets, the nimbleness of agriculture will be paramount.
“Change can be rough for farmers,” testified Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer. “But in our industry, it is changing. Farmers are best served with companies investing more in new technology.”
Fraley noted that 15 years ago, Monsanto invested $300 million in research and development; this year it has invested $1.5 billion. By way of comparison, he said big-name technology firms such as Apple are spending upwards of $10 billion a year on R&D.
Left unsaid by the companies was that, with the exception of Bayer, the US and European giants have experienced shrinking sales. As Republican senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina put it, Dow’s numbers “look like the EKG of a heart attack patient.”
From that perspective, the mergers are as much about maintaining profit and staying financially healthy as they are about the development of new technologies. It’s not just a case of American farmers needing more technologically advanced tools; it’s also a white flag from big agribusiness companies struggling with the fact that, despite all their efficiencies and inventions, the US market is demanding supplies that let farmers grow more profitable and less complicated organic and all-natural foods.
Whether that trend continues remains to be seen. For now, the mergers are a clear sign that companies that invest in high-tech seeds and chemicals are going through a rough patch, and they think consolidation is their way out of it.
The offenders would have needed to use a large vehicle to transport the animals
The police are appealing for information after a herd of cattle was stolen from a barn in Somerset.
The barn door was forced open and 11 cattle were taken from the remote location of Summer Lane, Hinton St George.
It’s thought the cattle were taken between 4pm on January 12 and 8am the following morning.
PC Simon Reeves, the area’s neighbourhood beat manager, said: “Each of the cattle, which were a mixture of British Friesian, Hereford Cross, and British Blue, would have had a yellow ear tag containing the reference UK342697.
“The number and size of the animals taken means the offenders would have needed to use a large vehicle.
“We would ask any members of the public who have any information relating to the theft, or have been offered animals for sale, to contact the police.
“We also would like to hear from anybody should they see cattle being transported late at night. It is extremely unusual to move cattle after dark at this time of year.”
Anyone with information about the cattle theft is asked to call 101 and quote reference number 5220010016, or to contact the police online.
Anybody concerned about rural crime is advised to sign up to the force’s Farm Watch scheme.
Information on the scheme can be found here and on the Rural Crime Avon and Somerset Police Facebook page.
Practical advice is available to deter criminals and reduce crime in rural districts.
Today’s signing of the Phase One trade agreement with China makes important advances on nontariff issues harming U.S. dairy trade. While promises of additional Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural products in the next two years are encouraging, the benefits for the dairy industry remain unclear. Given that China’s retaliatory tariffs remain a significant impediment to U.S. dairy sales in China, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) stress that work with China is not complete until the retaliatory tariffs against all U.S. dairy exports are fully lifted.
“Today’s announcement of a deal that makes progress on regulatory restrictions and other nontariff barriers hindering dairy trade is a positive step forward. These are important deliverables that USDEC has been pressing China for over the course of the last few years,” said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC. “We need to continue to work with our government, China’s government and our customers to finish the job by lifting the remaining Chinese retaliatory tariffs against our exports.”
“America’s dairy farmers have been disproportionally harmed by China’s retaliatory tariffs, and we cannot ask our farmers to continue operating under this financial uncertainty,” said Randy Mooney, dairy farmer from Rogersville, MO and Chairman of NMPF, who joined President Trump and administration officials at the White House signing ceremony on Wednesday. “We appreciate the hard work invested by both the U.S. and Chinese governments, but we urge China to swiftly lift all retaliatory tariffs against U.S. dairy products and work with U.S. suppliers to fulfill their purchasing commitment.”
The Phase One deal with China makes progress on nontariff barriers important to U.S. dairy, such as:
Tackling facility and product registration steps that have stymied firms seeking to export to China for several years;
Improving the regulatory pathway for exports of infant formula and fluid milk (including extended shelf life milk) to China;
Creating new transparency and due process obligations regarding geographical indications and common food names; and
Promises of increased purchases of U.S. agricultural goods, including dairy.
Left to be fully resolved is how China will fulfill its commitment to purchase large quantities of U.S. agriculture products, including dairy.
China remains a valuable export market for U.S. dairy products, despite retaliatory tariffs. Over the 12-month period spanning December 2018 – November 2019, U.S. dairy exports to China totaled $377 million in sales. However, retaliatory tariffs on U.S. dairy products have steeply disadvantaged the U.S. industry compared to its competitors and contributed to 47 percent decline in U.S. exports to China over that same period, harming U.S. farmers, manufacturers and exporters.
The National Milk Producers Federation, based in Arlington, VA, develops and carries out policies that advance dairy producers and the cooperatives they own. NMPF’s member cooperatives produce more than two-thirds of U.S. milk, making NMPF dairy’s voice on Capitol Hill and with government agencies. For more, visit www.nmpf.org.
The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) is a non-profit, independent membership organization that represents the global trade interests of U.S. dairy producers, proprietary processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders. Its mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and assist the U.S. industry to increase its global dairy ingredient sales and exports of U.S. dairy products.
The annual Education Award is part of Holstein Canada’s commitment to supporting dairy producers across the country, no matter what their age. The $1000 scholarships are awarded to six recipients from across the country: two from Ontario, two from Quebec, one from the Western provinces, and one from the Maritimes.
The Young Leader Advisory Committee evaluated the worthy candidates from this year’s bundle of applications based on their farm and work involvement; youth and community involvement; career choice; scholastic achievements; and, new this year, an essay question based on Holstein Canada’s services. This year’s Education Award winners are:
Christina Boonstoppel, Grunthal, Manitoba
Hannah Woodhouse, Guelph, Ontario
Jaime Wilson, Port Perry, Ontario
Jonathan Pelletier, Saint-Gervais, Quebec
Leslie Mackinnon, Coaticook, Quebec
Grace Hughes, Bonshaw, P.E.I.
The goal of the Education Award is to select and award well-rounded individuals in the Canadian dairy industry that have made a commitment to their career, community, schooling, and the industry at large. The initiative falls under Pillar Three of “Awards and Recognition” in the Young Leaders Program.
On behalf of the Selection Committee, I would like to congratulate this year’s winners for being exceptional candidates that have bright futures in agriculture.
The company said: “We are working closely with Dairy Crest Direct [DCD] to gather information on best practice so we can use this transitionary period to help our farmers manage the challenge and seek appropriate solutions”.
DCD chairman Stephen Bone said: “We have outlined a timeline. There are still a lot of details that we will be working on to try to alleviate any potential problems on farm.”
The main issue producers are concerned about is what will happen if their farm is placed under TB standstill once the new rule comes into effect, Mr Bone said, meaning calves could not leave the holding.
Saputo UK is the third-largest milk buyer, after Arla and Muller, to take steps to phase out the practice of shooting healthy but unprofitable calves.
It is still selectively recruiting additional farmers to its roster, as well as encouraging existing suppliers to increase production following a £85m investment in 2018 to expand its processing capacity.
Japanese exports on U.S. cheese and other dairy have already increased since tariffs on U.S. goods have dropped.
As part of phase one of the U.S.-Japan trade pact, Japanese tariffs on hard cheeses dropped from 29.8 percent to 26 percent on Jan. 1. On April 1, the rate will go down to 24.2 percent.
According to Agri-Pulse, the thing Senior VP of Trade Policy at the U.S. Dairy Export Council is most proud is the level playing field the United States is now on with Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.
“Yes, we’re expanding, but the critical element for dairy is that we’re not going to lose our market share (in Japan),” he said.
The Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is facing a lawsuit over allegations its Cabool, Missouri, facility is unlawfully discharging pollutants.
The city of Cabool filed a complaint Jan. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri against the DFA, alleging violation of the Clean Water Act.
The DFA operates a dairy plant containing a wastewater treatment unit located in Cabool. The city alleges that since Feb. 12, 2018, the DFA has been illegally discharging “toxic pollutants” in the city’s licensed wastewater treatment facility and subsequently into a tributary to the Big Piney River.
The city claims the DFA does not have a discharge permit issued under the Clean Water Act and that the defendant will cause harm to the Big Piney River unless abated.
The city seeks injunctive, monetary and all other just relief. It is represented by Thomas Loraine of Loraine & Associates LLC in Osage Beach, Missouri, and Ivan Schraeder of The Schraeder Law Firm in St. Louis.
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri Central Division case number 6:20-CV-03003-BP
The prestigious 2019 President’s Medal Award was presented today by Holstein UK to Andrew Neilson from the Scotland Holstein Young Breeders Club. Andrew has won an engraved medal and a trip to the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, kindly funded by HYB’s principal sponsor, Semex, later this year. Holstein UK would also like to congratulate the two runners up: Cari Thomas from the Cornwall Club and Frances Griffiths from the Yorkshire Club.
Sponsored by Semex, the Holstein UK President’s Medal is regarded as an ‘Oscar’ of the dairy world; it recognises and rewards young talent and highlights individuals who are the dairy farmers of the future. The Award, presented at the Semex Conference in Glasgow, recognises a HYB member who has made an outstanding contribution to the breed, Holstein Young Breeders, and, in particular, their own Club.
The entry process started with each HYB Club being asked to nominate one young breeder aged between 23 and 26 years of age. Six young breeders were shortlisted for interview with the panel of judges, including Bryan Thomas (Holstein UK President), Lynette Steel (Industry Representative) and Rodger Mather (Semex Representative) following the submission of an essay entitled “What can all of us, as breeders who work in the UK dairy industry, do to reverse the trend of consumers choosing cows’ milk alternatives?”. Following the interviews, the final three were selected and the winner was officially announced.
Holstein UK President, Bryan Thomas, was one of the judges and commented on the winner, “All three candidates were very impressive and will undoubtedly be great ambassadors for the breed and the industry going forward. The other judges and I were very impressed with the standard of essays and the important points they all made regarding the future of the dairy industry.”
Hannah Williams, Head of Events & Marketing for Holstein UK, added, “We are very proud of our three finalists and would like to offer our congratulations to all of them. On behalf of Holstein UK and HYB I would also like to thank our principal sponsor Semex UK who continue to make a significant financial contribution to the advancement and success of Holstein Young Breeders.”
A creamy-white truck with black cow spots weaves through a west Boise neighborhood on a Wednesday night. Kris Wilson drives cautiously — there’s fragile cargo on board — but not too slowly. He has 100 deliveries to make in the next six hours.
The truck halts outside a house for the first delivery of the night.
Inside, someone knows: The milkman is here.
Two gallons of milk is the order — Wilson already knows that. Most orders are the same every week.
“Sometimes they add something, and try to throw you for a loop,” says Wilson, a Meridian resident.
But not tonight.
Wearing a hooded sweatshirt, beanie and dark pants, the 35-year-old collects the order from the back of the truck and approaches the house shortly after 9 p.m. Without a word or a knock, he drops the jugs near the front door. On most deliveries, he’ll put the milk in a box, but there isn’t one at this house.
“She’s one of my usuals that comes out,” he says.
Almost on cue, a woman opens the front door and picks up her milk.
“Thank you,” she says to Wilson.
“Have a good one,” he replies, and it’s off to the next delivery.
Wilson said when he tells people he’s a milkman they often are surprised. “Huh? Are you serious? They still do that?” they ask.
“Yes, they do, and it’s quite fun,” Wilson said. “It’s just like the 1950s all over again. The only difference is, we don’t wear the all-white jumpsuits and the bow tie.”
Wilson works for Reed’s Dairy, a 68-year-old, family-owned business based in Idaho Falls. Reed’s has been delivering milk in eastern Idaho since 1962 — when jumpsuits and bow ties were still in vogue — but its delivery service didn’t expand to western Idaho until about 2013.
Boise Milk delivered Reed’s products to Treasure Valley homes until 2016, when Reed’s bought Boise Milk and hired its own drivers, including Wilson. Today, four Reed’s drivers deliver milk and other groceries to 1,800 customers in the valley from Boise to Emmett. And almost all of those customers place weekly orders, according to Reed’s Dairy co-owner Alan Reed, a second-generation Reed now running the business that was started by his father and two uncles.
The dairy has 185 Hoisteins cows, which provide milk for the delivery service in eastern and western Idaho and for dairy products, including ice cream, at four retail locations in Idaho Falls, Ammon, Boise and Meridian.
There are two reasons those customers choose to have their groceries delivered, Reed said in an email.
“One, they save money because they do not have to take their time to travel and stand in line at the grocery store. Then, when in the store, they are not buying things they really do not need,” he said. “Two is, they appreciate knowing where their milk and dairy products come from. (They) are buying directly from the dairy farm. It is true farm-to-table in the most pure sense.”
The service is $2.50 per delivery. Most customers order more than just milk, Wilson said at a warehouse where the groceries are stored. They can choose from Reed’s dairy products, including cheese curds and heavy cream, as well as other local products, such as eggs and meat from Vogel Farms in Kuna and croissants from Gaston’s Bakery in Boise.
Most products delivered in the Treasure Valley are made, baked and grown in the Treasure Valley, Reed said.
“We are the ultimate farmers market on wheels,” he said.
But customers also can order goods not made in Idaho, such as a bag of Snyder’s mini pretzels or a gallon of Tropicana orange juice.
“It’s not the best place to grow oranges, I guess,” Wilson said.
On Wednesday, Wilson arrived at work around 8 p.m. His night starts at a Boar’s Head meats warehouse in Boise, where Reed’s rents refrigeration space for its delivery products. The milk is delivered to the warehouse every Monday, after being bottled and shipped from the Idaho Falls dairy. The milk is dated to expire two weeks after bottling, Reed said.
With the truck backed up to a loading dock, Wilson started loading milk crates. The 2% milk was first, then whole milk, 1% and skim. Reed’s milk is all “100% wholesome goodness,” according to Wilson.
Mr. James Lemuel Edward Dalling was born in Chamber Settlement on September 28, 1938, he was the son of the late John Edward and Dorothy Eileen (Adair) Dalling and the husband of the late Irene Dalling who passed away in 2011.
In 1949, Irene’s parents purchased the farm that Edward owns to this day, currently Dalling Vale Jersey’s Ltd.
In 1957, Edward married Irene Anderson at St. John’s United Church in Sussex Corner and that same year, Edward and Irene purchased the farm from her parents. They started their family at this time which included Bill, Norma, Douglas, Eugene and Ashley.
In 1970, they purchased 40 purebred Jersey cows and started the dairy farm which Irene, Edward and their family built up to the successful farm it is today.
Jeremy was the first grandchild and ten more were to follow in the coming years. He loved his grandchildren and great grandchildren and enjoyed spending time with them.
Edward and Irene managed to do a bit of traveling. They made their way to Victoria, BC in 1979 to visit with Reverend Reynolds who had married them and also spent time with Irene’s brother, Harry, in Vernon, BC. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s including England, Switzerland, Holland, Germany and France plus a trip through the United States to British Columbia with their friends, Ruby and Leo Beck. In 2007, Edward and Irene celebrated 50 years of marriage.
Edward was very active and always stayed busy with his various groups. He was president and founder of Dalling Vale Jersey Ltd., the past master of LOL Waterford LOL #78, County Master Kings East, Grand Lecturer for NB, Secretary of LOL #78, Treasurer of NB LOL, President of the Jersey Assoc of NB and a member of St. Paul’s United Church Session for over 35 years. He loved to attend card parties and greatly enjoyed time spent visiting with people.
Edward will be lovingly remembered by his friend Anne Livingstone; his children: Bill and his wife Lisa of Vernon, BC, Norma of Waterford, Doug and his wife Donna of Anagance, Eugene and his wife Jane of Waterford; his grandchildren: Jeremy (Suzette), Ryan (Kristin), Edwin (Aimee), Jeb (Rianna), Krista (Eric), Nicole (TJ), Emily (Trevor), Colton (Rachelle), Cassie (Tom) and Jenna; his great grandchildren: Tia, Isarel, Myanna, Luke, Jayden, Owen, Blair, Memphis, Mannix, Van, Autumn, Jack, Eli, Myles, Stella, Addy, Quinn and Elliott.
his sisters: Ruth Gallagher and husband Gerald of PEI, June Robinson and husband Noble of Wards Creek, Dorothy Betteridge and husband John of Cedar Camp and Marlene Arsenault and her husband Bob of Cornhill; his brother, John and his wife Linda of Chamber Settlement; his foster sister, Verna Adair of Ontario; as well as several nieces and nephews.
Mr. Edward Dalling of Waterford passed away at the Sussex Health Center on January 5, 2020 at the age of 81.
Along with his parents and his loving wife, Edward is predeceased by his son, Ashley; three infant triplets: Emery, Audrey and Aubrey; his grandson, Cody; his great grandson, Liam; as well as his foster brother, Brian Adair.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the compassionate care of Wallace Funeral Home, 34 Sunnyside Drive, Sussex, (506-433-1176) where visitation will be held on Thursday from 1-3 and 7-9pm. A service celebrating Edward’s life will be held from Wallace Community Chapel on Friday, January 10, 2020 at 11:00am.
Emily Harris takes a final look at most of her herd as the truck leaves to carry the herd to new farms. Emily and her wife, Brandi Harris, sold their cows and gave up dairy farming.
One by one, Emily and Brandi Harris removed the leather collars from their Jersey dairy cows as the final round of milking on their farm wound down.
They spoke little as the cows quietly munched on organic hay, a milking-time ritual at Wylymar Farms for the better part of a decade. Brandi lingered with the cows, giving her “babies” some extra attention. A barn cat, Arnold, took it all in from his perch above the milking stanchions.
Emily reached for a cigarette, something she’d sworn off — but not too far off.
“It’s been so stressful for the last year,” she said.
Outside the century-old barn, the wind picked up and rain started to come down, a fitting backdrop for the end of yet another Wisconsin dairy operation.
As if on cue, a pickup truck with New York license plates pulled into the farmstead, hauling a livestock trailer. The driver came to a stop, then backed down a muddy hill to the barn.
Ed Flood, a cattle buyer for 45 years, was there to pick up the cows.
More farms calling it quits
A worldwide surplus of milk has driven down the price farmers receive to the point where many have lost money for months, or even several years, at a time.
Nearly 3,000 U.S. dairy farms folded in 2018, about a 6.5% decline, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures.
Wisconsin lost nearly 700 last year — almost two a day — as even dairy farmers used to enduring hard times called it quits in a downturn now headed into its fifth year.
The fallout continues as farmers, on the cusp of spring planting, decide whether to invest in seed, chemicals, fertilizer and other supplies needed to raise the crops they feed to their cattle. More than 300 Wisconsin dairy farms shut down between January and May, including 90 — three a day — in April alone.
Some will find the decision is out of their hands as banks refuse to extend them credit.
More on the economics of dairy
“It’s enough to test even the most optimistic farmer limping out to the fields,” said Ronald Wirtz, regional outreach director for the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, which regulates banks in parts of six states, including northwest Wisconsin, and keeps close tabs on agricultural lending trends.
In 2018, for the third straight year, Wisconsin led the nation in farm bankruptcies. The state’s smaller average farm size, particularly in dairy, is at least partly the reason, Wirtz said.
The farm economy in the Upper Midwest “might generously be described as struggling to tread water,” he added.
Some dairy farmers say they’ve been getting around $15 for every hundred pounds of milk they produce — roughly 12 gallons — but their costs are between $17 and $22. Many families have exhausted their savings and credit to remain in business; a large number have at least one non-farm income to help meet the needs of their families.
“If you’re 100% dependent on farm income, you’re being squeezed really bad,” said Mark Stephenson, director of the Center for Dairy Profitability at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For all the rural romanticism attached to it, dairy farming has long been a demanding business. Cows must be milked twice a day, 365 days a year, regardless of milk prices or farm costs.
Today, family dairy farms are at the mercy of trade wars, economies of scale and a complex, often opaque pricing system. Farmers don’t know what they’ll be paid until weeks after their milk leaves the farm. Sometimes the only way to stay in business is to put off much-needed farm improvements and produce ever-higher amounts of milk — which adds to the surplus. The economic forces are more powerful and unforgiving than ever.
“If this downturn is the new normal, then what’s the endgame? There’s not a day goes by when I’m not worried about this whole situation because it’s not sustainable,” said Hans Breitenmoser Jr., who milks 350 cows on his dairy farm in Lincoln County.
Breitenmoser has been through tough times, including a fire in 2014 that destroyed his century-old barn.
“We are more or less wired to roll with the punches,” he said of dairy farmers. “But when the whole economics of the industry have changed, and not for the better, you just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore.”
Lean times on the farm
At the kitchen table of their 1890s farmhouse in Jefferson County, the Mess family mulled the finances of their dairy operation, Mesa Farms.
Clem and Cathy Mess along with their son, Patrick, and his wife, Carrie, milk 100 cows on a farm Clem Mess purchased after returning from the Vietnam War in 1971. For years, the farm generated enough income to provide his family a comfortable living, though Clem says he and Cathy worked “morning, noon and night” to make that happen.
Now, old buildings and equipment remain in service years after they should have been replaced.
Under better circumstances, the Mess family would have built a new barn at a cost of about $750,000. They also would have spent several hundred thousand dollars on robotic milking equipment and a manure storage system to keep the farm efficient and in sync with better ways of doing things.
But these are not better circumstances.
Last year, the Mess family purchased $167,194 in cattle feed, in addition to the feed grown on the farm, and spent $88,351 on hired labor. They also spent $44,505 on milk hauling and more than $30,000 on repairs to buildings and machinery — and that was just to hold things together.
All told, the farm had more than $603,000 in expenses for the year and net income of about $19,000.
The family is thankful it didn’t borrow heavily to make improvements when milk prices were higher and banks were eager to extend credit. “If we had pulled the trigger and signed the papers then, we’d be done now because there’s no way we could make the payments,” Patrick said.
He and Carrie would like to leave Mesa Farms to their two young children someday, provided they want it and the farm is still in business. But they are realistic about the disruption going on in dairy farming.
“As times change, farms have to change, too. We love the idyllic red barn with the stanchions and cows. I grew up with that. But the reality is it’s not the business model you can make a profit on now,” Patrick said. “Businesses in town change, too. You no longer have the seamstress, the cobbler and the blacksmith.”
Recently, Mesa Farms lost a truck and a feed mixer in a fire. With insurance coverage not known at the time, and the cost of replacing that equipment potentially reaching $125,000, the Mess family pulled an old feed mixer out of the weeds and put it back in service.
It’s the kind of improvisation farmers do regularly these days.
Ultimately, insurance covered part of the replacement costs, but the episode reinforced how close to the edge they operate. “If we hadn’t had that (spare) mixer, and our operating loan had been maxed out, the truck fire could have meant the end of the farm,” Carrie said.
Patrick gave up a $60,000-a-year job to farm full time. He loves the work, though it takes a lot out of him physically and emotionally. Sometimes he thinks about returning to a non-farm job where he wouldn’t have to worry so much about how next month’s bills will be paid.
“You question yourself on a weekly basis,” he said. “It’s like watching a train coming straight at you and you hope it switches tracks before you’re run over.”
Losing money every day
With the sale of their 40-cow herd of Jerseys, Emily and Brandi Harris shut down their organic dairy operation. Saddled with roughly $400,000 in farm debt, they kept the barn, their house and their 92 acres of farmland.
Emily, a fourth-generation farmer and U.S. Navy veteran, took a job as a heavy equipment operator. Brandi, a city kid who had come to feel at home sharing her partner’s dream, continues in her administrative job at Blackhawk Technical College in Monroe.
“I wanted to milk organic Jersey cows in the worst way,” Emily said. “It took me 10 years to get them, and I got to do it for nearly 10 years.”
Some dairy farmers have turned to organic operations — using feed grown without chemicals and pesticides — to get paid more for their products. But it can take three years for even a small farm to make the transition, and what had been a profitable niche has become big business, attracting mega-sized farms in places like West Texas.
The resulting ocean of organic milk has sunk some farmers’ prices and hopes for getting through the dairy crisis.
At one time, Emily said, her farm was profitable. Then her milk price fell by about a third under a new contract that went into effect May 1. With no other milk buyer to be found, the farm was losing money every day she and Brandi remained in dairy.
In a scenario repeated across the state, it was no longer a matter of how Wylymar Farms would endure another year of financial hardship, but how Emily and Brandi would exit the business quickly and with the least pain and financial loss.
Trying other ventures
Just as the Harrises tried to find success by farming organically, some farmers have turned to other ventures to make money, such as an on-farm creamery or cheese-making operation. It’s a lot of additional work and expense that comes with its own risks, said George Crave of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Co. of Waterloo.
His operation started more than 40 years ago with 57 cows in a rented barn; today, it uses milk from 1,500 cows on the family farm.
Crave is a licensed cheesemaker. His wife, Debbie, is president of the family business and spent 16 years in marketing at the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Crave Brothers has been making cheese on the farm for 18 years.
“The first couple of years were very trying, but we made it through and found some flagship (retail) companies to work with. That’s what it takes,” George Crave said.
Now the market is saturated with artisan cheesemakers, and it’s tough to break in.
“I don’t envision too many banks having ears for that type of conversation right now,” he said. “There are a lot of big companies making very good artisan dairy products, and they have everything in place to go to the marketplace with them.”
This spring, even as supermarkets were selling cheese at high prices, dairy producers were getting only about 25% of the average retail price — the lowest level since April 2012, according to the American Dairy Coalition based in Green Bay.
If dairy farmers could get an extra 20 cents from every pound of cheese that sells for $5 per pound at the grocery store, it would keep many of them from going broke, Crave said.
“It’s not a very good business model to have prosperity on one end of the supply chain and poverty on the other end,” he said. “That’s not sustainable.”
Quantum change in dairy industry
Rewind five years and rising global milk sales had sent prices soaring.
“We were in our heyday. Farmers had some money in their pockets” and were pumping out record amounts of milk, said Kevin Bernhardt, an agriculture professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
China had stepped up its purchases of powdered milk from the U.S. and Europe. In early 2014, U.S. cheese exports had reached a record high fueled by a 100% increase to China, a 142% increase to Australia and a 48% increase to Mexico.
It takes about a gallon of milk to make a pound of hard cheese, so Wisconsin dairy farmers were running at full throttle to keep up with demand.
Then markets tumbled.
China realized it had imported too much milk powder. Russia, for political reasons, banned most food imports from the United States and Western Europe. The domestic market was awash in milk, and it didn’t help that consumer tastes were changing to favor a wide range of other beverages such as sports drinks.
Agriculture, like other businesses, is cyclical. In dairy that has usually meant a year of high prices, followed by a year of average prices, then a year of poor prices.
“All farmers know the good times end and the bad times come,” said Paul Mitchell, director of the Renk Agribusiness Institute at UW-Madison.
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Still, milk production kept climbing, urged on by government programs that bolstered farm expansions and encouraged dairy farmers to step up their game.
As production has remained high, even with the loss of farms, prices haven’t rebounded much. Some economists predict an uptick later this year, but there’s no clear end in sight to the devastating downturn.
“There has been a quantum change in the dairy industry. We are no longer seeing the typical cycles of high and low prices,” said Richard Bylsma, dairy sales director for the National Farmers Organization, a trade group based in Ames, Iowa.
How the downturn took hold
Gary Sipiorski, dairy development manager for Vita Plus, a Madison-based livestock nutrition company, opened up the financial records of another Wisconsin farm — with the owner’s permission — to show how the downturn took hold.
The farm milked 500 cows and supported three generations of a family. The first generation, a couple who started it in 1953 with a dozen Holsteins, has moved into a retirement home. Their children, nearing retirement years, have been phasing out of the operation. Their grandchildren — the third generation — wanted a bigger stake.
In addition to the family, six employees relied on the farm for income. Some had worked there for more than 20 years.
In 2014, the farm had $939,000 in net income, a highly profitable year because the milk price didn’t tumble until the fall. By the end of 2015, the farm’s net income was down 47%, and by the end of 2016 it was down 78%.
With farm milk prices eroding steadily, the dairy operation had a projected loss of $150,000 in 2018 as the price it received was no longer covering the cost of production.
“How do you recoup that? Either you don’t pay your bills or you borrow more money to keep operating. As each month ticks by … equity slips away from the balance sheets,” Sipiorski said.
Even the cows have lost value. As recently as 2017, dairy cows sold for about $1,500 or more in Wisconsin. Today they sometimes don’t even fetch $1,000, and farmers who used to rely on selling heifers and calves to supplement their income have lost much of that revenue.
Bull calves aren’t even worth enough to raise; they are often killed at birth, a practice farmers and non-farmers alike hate.
Many lenders, Sipiorski said, aren’t lowering the value of cows as collateral on loans as much as they could. “They don’t want to trash the farmer’s balance sheet,” he said.
Still, rural banks are under increased scrutiny from regulators worried that farmers won’t be able to repay what they owe. It’s not unusual for even a small dairy farm to have $500,000 or more in debt, and for bigger farms, it’s in the millions.
“Every year of poor prices makes it more difficult for the farmer to make payments, and for the banker to keep extending credit — even though both of them want to,” Wirtz said.
In Newport, Sarah Lloyd says this could be the last year for the dairy farm that she and her husband run. The farm near Wisconsin Dells has been in their family for more than a century.
Sarah has a doctorate in rural sociology from UW-Madison; her dissertation examined agricultural sustainability in rural communities.
“We milk 350 cows and we’re going broke,” she said. “And I am tired of being told, as a farmer, that I just have to tighten my belt and be a better business person. I cannot make a living if I have to interact with a market that’s stacked against me.”
‘A system falling apart at the seams’
The route that milk takes from the farm to the grocery store is fairly straightforward. And fresh milk, unlike corn, soybeans or other farm commodities, can’t be placed in storage while farmers wait for higher prices.
Those prices are based on a complicated patchwork system of formulas and rules dating back to the 1930s. The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets minimum prices based on the value of the products made from milk. There are four categories, or classes, in the system. Class I milk is for beverage products. Class II is for soft dairy items, such as yogurt, ice cream, sour cream and cottage cheese. Class III is for hard cheeses. Class IV is for butter and powder products such as nonfat dry milk.
Calculating the prices begins with valuing cheese, dry whey, nonfat dry milk and butter using weekly average wholesale marketplace trends monitored by the USDA. The actual minimum price received by farmers is a blend of prices weighted by the percentage of milk used in each class.
Farmers often receive premiums over the minimum price based on the value of various milk components, such as the amount of butterfat and protein.
The full picture includes optional programs in which farmers can lock in advance prices through “forward contracting,” thereby reducing risks but limiting the upside should market prices rise more than expected. Farmers also can purchase insurance that helps when the gap between milk prices and livestock feed costs widens to a certain point.
The process, fraught with risks and rewards, leaves most farmers frustrated in not knowing what they’ll be paid until a month after their milk is shipped to the processor. It even bewilders dairy economists at times.
“If farmers could truly understand how and why they got paid what they did, then we could go forward and work on changing it. But the way it is now … it’s a system falling apart at the seams,” Patrick Mess said.
There is little consensus on how to reform the system.
Some large farming operations collect “enormous sums” in government subsidies and crop insurance, but for average farmers, subsidies are just one of many factors that might keep their heads above water, said Kara O’Connor, government relations director for Wisconsin Farmers Union, a Chippewa Falls-based trade group.
“The farmers I know would rather receive fair prices for their products at the farm gate than having to live with the stress of volatile markets and the unknowns of whether emergency relief and insurance will kick in,” O’Connor said.
While there is a sense of urgency, there are no easy solutions in sight.
“Is there a policy change that could save a dairy farmer who’s on the edge right now? It probably doesn’t happen that fast, unfortunately,” said Karen Gefvert, executive director of governmental relations for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest farm group.
‘We’ve been producing too much’
With anywhere from 1,000 cows or more, large farms benefit from economies of scale — meaning they can negotiate lower prices for necessities such as animal feed and are better financed to weather a downturn. They have lower costs of production, per hundred pounds of milk, than most smaller farms.
What’s more, farmers who have invested heavily in their milking operation can’t afford to just turn off the spigot, and the bigger the farm, the bigger the investment. As profit margins shrink, they squeeze out ever-higher amounts of milk to cover their costs — even if it adds to the surplus.
“It’s simple economics. We’ve been producing too much,” said Bylsma with the National Farmers Organization.
Some big farms have closed in Michigan, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. Overall, though, the nation’s milk supply remains high as cows taken from farms shutting down are moved to farms that are expanding. Compounding the problem, an average cow today produces about four times more milk than it would have in the 1950s, thanks to advancements in genetics and feed science.
“The production per cow is amazing. Cows that were exceptional 50 years ago — today they’d be called ‘hamburger,’ ” Bylsma said.
Some in the dairy industry predict that less than 20 years from now about half of today’s dairy farms will have disappeared. That would put the total number, nationwide, at around 18,000. Wisconsin alone had more dairy farms than that as recently as 2001.
All of this comes amid warning signs throughout U.S. agriculture. The average age of the American farmer is now 57.
“We’ve got older farmers, fewer farms and fewer farm families on the land. None of that is positive for American agriculture or our rural communities,” said Roger Johnson, president of National Farmers Union.
The recently released U.S. Census of Agriculture showed that more than half of American farms had negative cash farm income in 2017. Many of them were smaller operations barely hanging on. The average farm income, including farms of all sizes, was $43,053.
“Since 1970 we have already lost two-thirds of our smaller family farms. At the same time, we have seen a 268% increase in the number of farms with more than 2,000 cows. That’s a dramatic change in our industry,” Bylsma said.
“The stress levels on our farms has never been this intense,” he added.
Bylsma places part of the blame on programs that encouraged farmers to ramp up milk production more than markets could bear.
“It’s accelerated the demise of the family farm,” he said.
In 2012, for example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced an incentive plan to produce, as a state, 30 billion pounds of milk a year by 2020 — a 15% increase. The state offered farmers grants for updating their business and required them to put up their own money as well.
Dairy farmers reached 30 billion pounds in 2016 — four years ahead of schedule.
By then, the market had turned and many family farms were in trouble.
Now, Darin Von Ruden, a dairy farmer from Westby and president of Wisconsin Farmers Union, worries that dairy is headed the way of pork and poultry, where much of the livestock is owned or controlled by a few corporations.
“For us, as a nation, do we want to see that? It scares the heck out of me,” he said.
Tariffs worsen crisis
The dairy crisis worsened last year when China and Mexico imposed steep tariffs on U.S. dairy products in retaliation for President Donald Trump slapping tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel.
Trump’s criticisms of Mexico, the largest foreign market for American dairy products, heightened trade tensions. When the president threatened to close the Mexican border, it alarmed former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, now president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
Closing the border would be a “gut punch” that could set the dairy industry back 20 years, Vilsack said.
More than one in seven days’ worth of U.S. milk ends up in products sold in foreign countries. Trade wars, and the failure of the United States, Mexico and Canada to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement — meant to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement — worries the industry.
“We shipped $1.4 billion in dairy products to Mexico last year, which accounts for more than one-fourth of U.S. dairy exports,” Vilsack said. “Without a trade treaty with Mexico in place, the dairy industry would be hard-pressed to maintain and expand these sales, as our competitors in Europe are expected to implement a lucrative trade deal with Mexico by next year.”
Wisconsin farmers have received more than $10 million in payments from a Trump program meant to help producers of milk, pork, soybeans, corn and other commodities who have seen prices tumble in trade disputes.
That’s about $725 for a 55-cow dairy which probably lost between $36,000 and $48,000 in income in 2018 from low milk prices, according to Wisconsin Farmers Union. A 290-cow dairy stood to receive $4,905 but would have lost several hundred thousand dollars in income.
The Mess family said the payment they received didn’t even cover 10% of what they had to borrow to remain in business.
“We want trade, not aid,” Carrie Mess said.
No one argues that trade isn’t important for dairy farmers, but some worry about depending too much on it.
“We are deluding ourselves if we think that exports alone will forge a viable future for America’s dairy farm families,” said Von Ruden with Wisconsin Farmers Union.
“We’ve had 25 years of steadily increasing trade and look where it’s gotten us: 352 Wisconsin dairy farms lost in 2016, 465 Wisconsin dairy farms lost in 2017 and 691 Wisconsin dairy farms lost in 2018,” he said.
“The ‘more exports’ mantra is not getting the job done for America’s Dairyland. The sooner we start exploring some other options, the sooner we’ll start to turn the tide of devastating farm losses in Wisconsin and all across the country.”
Ed Flood, the livestock broker who came for the Wylymar Farms’ cows, lives in Ellenburg Center near the junction of New York, Vermont and Canada. Lately, he’s been to scores of dairy farms in New York and Pennsylvania where farmers facing insurmountable hardships have called it quits.
This was his first time in Wisconsin. He bought the cows from Emily and Brandi Harris sight unseen, something he’d never done before.
“I was scared to death, to be honest with you. But these gals did a heck of a job with these cows and I just had a place for them,” he said. “It turned out well.”
That’s a matter of perspective.
The barn at Wylymar Farms was built in the late 1800s, then expanded in the 1940s and again in the ’70s. Its roof has started to go bad, a death knell for some old farm buildings.
The farm’s newest tractor is more than 50 years old, is nearly worn out and there’s no money for a replacement.
“A new tractor would cost $250,000. That’s never going to happen here,” Emily Harris said. Even after the cows are gone, “it’s going to be really tight for us just to keep the farm.”
Rural economy feels the strain
Wisconsin still has about 1.3 million cows spread across nearly 8,000 dairy farms, more than any other state. The dairy industry contributes $43.4 billion to Wisconsin’s economy each year, or more than $82,500 per minute.
Dairy farming supports 215,000 full-time jobs in the state, according to industry figures, enough to fill Miller Park, Camp Randall Stadium and Lambeau Field at the same time.
Still, the financial strain that farmers are under now has been felt throughout the rural economy. Farm implement dealerships, hardware stores, animal health clinics, car dealerships, restaurants, all kinds of shops on Main Street suffer when some of their customers — like the Harrises and the Mess family — close their wallets.
Right now, dairy farmers are only buying what they absolutely need, said Dan Stroinski, owner of D&J Farm and Home, a hardware store and farm supplies business in Thorp, a city of about 1,700 in Clark County.
“I don’t have to extend them credit,” he said. “They just aren’t buying.”
Thorp has 35 colorful “Amazing Grazing Cow” statues throughout town and is the home of Marieke Gouda cheese, which has won global honors.
Clark County also is the home of the Town of Colby, where Colby cheese was created in 1885. Nearly half of the jobs in the county are agriculture-related.
“If farmers are hurting, other businesses are hurting,” said Richard Halopka, a University of Wisconsin-Extension agent in the county.
He quit full-time farming after having too many aches and pains from milking cows and doing other farm chores.
“I was only in my early thirties, but my body was wearing out,” he said.
Halopka endured the farm crisis of the 1980s, when thousands of U.S. farms were wiped out in one of the worst periods in agriculture since the Great Depression.
“We saw a lot of the same things then that we’re seeing now, such as farmer suicides,” he said.
He cautions farmers not to let their emotions get the best of them when it comes to fighting for a farm that doesn’t have much of a future.
“You always hear that farming is a way of life. Well, no, farming is a business that everybody in a family is involved in. But it is a business,” he said.
Halopka also gets frustrated when farmers wait too long to reach out for help. “They’re just tough people … but often when I get a call from someone, it’s two years too late,” he said.
Trying to buck the odds
Bruce Drinkman, 56, is one of those farmers for whom time ran out.
Yet today, nearly a decade after losing his Glenwood City dairy farm, he’s turning back the clock with a new farm he’s named “Tryin’ Again Dairy.”
It’s only 30 minutes from his old place, “Desperation Acres.” He and his wife, Mari, used her retirement fund to pay off loans and keep that farm afloat when it hit a rough patch, but it wasn’t enough. The bank foreclosed on it a few days before Christmas 2010.
Drinkman worked on another dairy farm for a while but quit after the owner complained about him taking three weeks off to care for Mari, who was struggling with leukemia.
“I just walked away,” he said.
Mari died Christmas Eve 2017 at age 59.
Earlier this year, Drinkman’s 30-year-old son Joshua was killed in an accident at the lumber yard where he worked.
Now, emerging from some of the darkest periods in his life, he’s returning to what he knows best.
“I am a touch nervous,” Drinkman said. “But it’s going back to what I truly know, and the fact of the matter is I survived almost 40 years of milking cows, so I couldn’t have been all that bad at it.”
Drinkman is starting with 40 acres, 30 cows and a farmhouse that needs a lot of repairs. But his mortgage is only $120,000.
“Unfortunately, too many farmers are deeper in debt than they should be right now,” he said. “And mostly it’s through no fault of their own because they’ve had to borrow against their equity to keep going.”
He’s lined up a milk buyer and, aside from startup costs, he expects the farm to break even or net a small profit this year.
“It’s make-or-break time for a lot of people. Many farmers are backed in a corner now and are being told ‘Which way do you want to lose your pants? One leg at a time or all in one shot?’ ”
Venting frustration and moving on
For Emily and Brandi Harris, the way out of the corner was to sell their cows on Craigslist.
Emily wanted to avoid the public spectacle of a farm auction.
“I didn’t want a bunch of rednecks poking around here a week early looking at everything,” she said. “With two women on the farm, that would be a hot mess.”
A farmer from East Troy wanted the cows but couldn’t find a milk buyer.
And so early this month, Emily and Brandi helped load most of their herd onto Ed Flood’s trailer. About a mile up the road, the cows were transferred to a double-decker rig for the trip to dairy farms in Indiana and New York.
Emily vented her frustration over the low milk prices that forced her to quit, even as milk was being trucked in from out of state: “I’m only 10 minutes from a cheese factory and they can’t pay me more? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Brandi had mixed emotions.
“I will miss the cows themselves, but I don’t know that I will miss the amount of work that’s involved and the time commitment,” she said. On a typical day, she would help Emily with farm chores and then head to her day job. Weekends were filled with more farm work.
Emily’s daily routine typically took 13 hours, often longer during spring planting and fall harvest. Unable to find affordable hired help, she’s filled a grain silo herself, dragged logs out of the woods and cut them up for firewood to heat the farmhouse.
Still, she’s not complaining about that.
“I think the part I will miss the most is being self-employed. I am happy here,” she said.
She and Brandi kept a few cows — one too old to make the trip, a couple with bad hooves. They are raising some “family cows” for people who want their own milk. And they will grow some crops for other farmers.
But it’s not the same as having a full-time dairy farm.
“I don’t know how the transition will go. … I don’t want to have too much time to think about all this right now,” Emily said.
As Ed Flood’s truck pulled away, she waved and called out, “Bye babies.”
Then she had to get to the bank, cash the check and get on with her life.
About this series
This story is part of a yearlong effort by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin to examine the plight of the state’s dairy industry. Journalists from newsrooms across the state are exploring how sagging milk prices, economic factors and global forces are driving hundreds of farmers out of one of the state’s most important industries.
“A gun dealer was told to get as much ammunition as he could to shoot sheep and wildlife,” said Kevin Butler, the founder and president of the volunteer rural bushfire recovery organisation BlazeAid. “He left [mainland SA] with 50,000 rounds and he ran out of ammunition.
“One farmer lost 7,000 first-cross ewes. The whole lot, gone.”
BlazeAid has volunteers standing by to go to Kangaroo Island, once the fire, which is still flaring up, has been declared safe. It organises between 20,000 and 100,000 volunteers nationally to help farmers replace fencing and other infrastructure.
Similar volunteer camps will be set up in East Gippsland, and north-east Victoria, southern New South Wales and other regions hit by the New Year’s Eve fires. Eighteen other camps have already been established to help rebuild after earlier fires in the Adelaide Hills and northern NSW.
“I have got farmers ringing up now that have just walked in with a rifle from shooting sheep,” Butler said. “If we don’t get help in there quick, something bad is going to happen.”
The Kangaroo Island mayor, Michael Pengilly, said the exact number of sheep killed had not been counted, but “I don’t think there’s any doubt that we have probably lost 100,000 sheep”.
The cattle population fared better, but some were still found burned.
Pengilly said ammunition ran low in the days immediately following the fire, but the department of primary industries helped ensure animals were euthanised in a timely manner.
“I had 800 rounds of .22 at home and I just gave that to a bloke who needed them, and that helped him out,” he said.
There were between 600,000 and 700,000 merino and crossbred sheep on Kangaroo Island. Some farmers lost their entire flock when the fire flared up on 2 and 3 January.
“I know one bloke who is my age, he lost every head of sheep on the place,” Pengilly said. “He lost 9,000. And that is pretty common.”
Pengilly said he feels guilty that his own farm did not burn.
At least 13,120 head of livestock have been euthanised or confirmed dead as a result of bushfires in NSW, the NSW Farmers Association said. Early estimates from Victoria are for a similar number of losses, but both figures are expected to rise.
About 6,000 beehives have also been lost, and a further 10,000 damaged.
The oyster industry is also facing losses due to water quality and transport issues and the horticultural industry is still assessing the level of damage to orchards.
Much of that fodder was sent from Victoria, where the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has begun a fodder drive to support farmers in East Gippsland and the upper Murray region.
“The generosity of some of our people who are in drought themselves and have offered to send fodder from all over the state is amazing,” the NSW Farmers Association president, James Jackson, said. “There’s a real community and a unity of purpose if you like. These crises bring out the best in people.”
That included dairy farmers in the southern highlands who clubbed together to donate $1m to the bushfire effort, and a schoolgirl in Victoria who raised $500 from a cake stall and donated the proceeds to the VFF’s fodder fund.
A2 Milk’s chief technical officer (CTO), Phil Rybinski, has resigned his position as management is further shuffled at the milk and infant formula group.
Mr Rybinski, who had joined the business from Parmalat, was recruited by the recently departed chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka and only took up the CTO role at the business in May.
A2 Milk said Mr Rybinski was leaving the company to pursue other interests and until a replacement was found, chief operations officer Shareef Khan would assume responsibilities for all technical functions, the company said in a statement to the stock exchange.
The departure comes on the same day as former Qantas Airlines chief financial officer Race Strauss begins his new job as the company’s chief financial officer, with previous CFO Craig Louttit becoming his deputy.
The new-look leadership team includes former a2 boss Geoffrey Babidge, who returned to the top job in December when Ms Hrdlicka, a former CEO of Jetstar and Bain & Co managing consulting partner who had been in the CEO role less than 18 months, agreed to step down.
The company has also been scouting for a new marketing head, after its inaugural chief marketing officer Susan Massasso announced in November she would be leaving the company in mid 2020.
Critics of Ms Hrdlicka believed she was too willing to spend on consultants as part of her vision of trying to build an »in-country» presence in China for a2 formula, rather than relying on the capricious daigou trade, which had bought up tins of formula in locally to sell online in China.
Spending on consultants had reached $NZ20 million ($19.4 million) by last June 30, while marketing costs hits $NZ135 million.
In an interview at the time of his re-appointment to the top job, Mr Babidge said he would evaluate the spending on consultants, wanting to satisfy himself that the output of the consultants justified the cost.
The company has been one of the best growth stocks on the ASX in the last five years, going from only 56¢ to more than $14.
But in June fears were sparked amongst investors in infant formula companies, when China’s National Development and Reform Commission released a plan to bolster the amount of Chinese-produce formula from 47 per cent of the market to 60 per cent.
At the time it resulted in a significant share price fall for the company, going from a high of more than $17 in June to $11.30 in November, but since then it has bounced back to be trading around $14.30.
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(Address by Herbert Hoover, U.S. Food Administrator, to the National Milk and Dairy Farm Exposition, Grand Central Palace, New York City, May 23, 1918. Published in Farm and Dairy, May 31, 1918.)
If you could stand in the middle of Germany today and survey the land to the borders of Europe, you would discover its whole population of 400,000,000 human beings short of food. Where Germany has overrun its borders, millions of people in Poland, Finland, Serbia, Armenia, and Russia are actually dying of starvation, and other millions are suffering from under-nutrition. Still others of these millions outside the German lines — that is, our allies and neutrals — are living on the barest margins that will support life and strength.
This, the most appalling and dreadful thing that has come to humanity since the dawn of civilization, is to me the outstanding creation of German militarism. Yet the Germans themselves are not the worst sufferers. They are extorting at the cannon’s mouth the harvest and cattle of the people they have overrun, leaving them in desolation. I am convinced that if the war were to cease tomorrow the toll of actual dead from starvation and its attendant diseases within the German lines would double or treble the 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 of men who have been actually killed by Germany and her allies in arms. The 10,000,000 people in occupied Belgium and northern France would have died of starvation had it not been for the action of the nations at war with Germany in the maintenance for these people of a pitiable relief. But this is only one part of the whole story of misery, for the sinking of the world’s shipping is reverberating privation in some direction into every corner of the globe.
The plight of European dairy
Of all the food industries of Europe there is none which has been so stricken by the war as the dairy produce. The human race through scores of thousands of years has developed a total dependency upon cattle for the rearing of its young. No greater catastrophe can happen to a people than the loss of its dairy herds, for the total loss of dairy produce means the ultimate extinction of a people. The German people supported their herd by the import of feedstuffs from their neighbors. This being cut off by war, their produce in meat and milk would have fallen to a low ebb indeed had they not supported themselves to a considerable degree by stealing the cattle of the populations they have overrun.
I have had Polish and Serbian cattle in German pastures pointed out to me with pride by German officers. I witnessed for years the stealing of Belgian and French cattle. In Belgium alone, the herd diminished from 1,800,000 to 700,000 in three months of German occupation. At that point, the protests of the Relief Commission held it in check. But in northern France absolutely all of the cattle were taken before the Relief Commission arrived. The French men had been drafted out of this region, and there was therefore an undue proportion of women and children. There were, in fact, over 800,000 children under 12 years of age and, in addition, many old people who had to have the most careful sustenance.
One of the first duties of the relief was to undertake the import of milk in order that these children might be saved. We found that in the terror under which these people lived the average period of breastfeeding was under four months.
There has been scarcely a child born in the north of France, and many in Belgium, whose continued life has not been dependent during all this period upon American condensed milk.
We have, therefore, for nearly four years been sending them American condensed milk, not in single cans but by scores of thousands of tons. There has been scarcely a child born in the north of France, and many in Belgium, whose continued life has not been dependent during all this period upon American condensed milk. Every American would be thrilled could he but see the gratitude which French mothers daily express over the pitiable ration which enables their children to survive. This stealing of neighboring cattle by Germany will now, with Russia at her mercy, go on with an accelerated pace. Do not let us deceive ourselves that any shortage of her own cattle will bring the war to an end.
All this is an exhibit of the character of forces from which we are struggling to purge the world. To do this, therefore, we must concern ourselves daily with the food situation in the allied countries. Our obligations to them are not only as a matter of humanity but as a matter of their maintenance in our common struggle. It is worse than folly to put 5,000,000 of our boys into France if the civilian population of our allies are not also to be maintained in strength and morale with our food. We are also interested in the neutral countries from the point of common humanity.
The allied countries before the war supplied their dairy products from imports as well as domestic production. Their imports came from Holland, Denmark, Siberia, Australia, the Argentine, New Zealand, to some extent from Canada, but comparatively nothing from the United States. The exports from Holland and Denmark have been largely cut off by our embargo against the import of feeding stuffs to those nations in order to prevent their also supplying Germany; Siberia, is, of course, isolated. Australia, New Zealand, and the Argentine represent journeys which require from two to three times as much tonnage of ships as do our own market to bring the same quantities. Dairy products still flow from these remote markets to the allies, although the transport of grain has been largely abandoned. But the growing shortage of shipping, the increased demands to transport the American Army, might at any time necessitate such final economy in shipping us would drive these demands upon us.
The shipping problem has, however, had a wider influence than the jeopardy of direct imports of dairy products in its effect upon allied supplies, for their own cattle are much dependent upon the import of feed from overseas. In the struggle of all European populations to maintain or increase their bread grains in the face of a shortage in labor, it has been necessary for them to diminish their production of feed for their animals.
By the destruction of shipping it has been impossible for them to maintain the volume of their feed imports. In order to reduce this drain on shipping and to find immediate meat supplies, there has been an enormous reduction in the number of cattle in all of the countries at war. Every nation in Europe has, however, endeavored to protect its dairy herd, but the reduction in feeding stuffs has necessitated the placing of cattle on rations of a more drastic proportion than that of human beings. The result has been that while the actual number of dairy cattle shows less proportional diminution than that of the total cattle, the actual reduction in the milk production is of much larger proportions. I doubt whether today the dairy production of Europe as a whole is 30 percent of the pre-war normal; that of the allies 50 percent of normal.
In consequence of all these forces, the dairy supplies of the allies are much diminished. They have met this situation by drastic reduction in consumption of dairy products by driving the fresh milk into the hands of the children and by the substitution of margarine for butter. Their position is not yet acute, and, while it represents privation of many individuals of their usual food, they are sacrificing it willingly to the common cause.
During this fiscal year, of the foodstuffs imported by the allies, approximately 50 percent in nutritive value will have been supplied from North America, 50 percent coming from more remote markets. Before the war we contributed probably less than 10 percent. The shipping situation or the war situation might develop to a point where all shipping must be withdrawn from the long journeys to the nearest market — our own. If that became necessary, and if we could supply the food, the allied food-carrying fleet could be diminished by 1,500,000 tons and still feed our associates in the war. This contingency may not arise; but if it should arise, and we are unprepared to meet this demand for a doubling of the whole of the food exports from this country, it might result in the losing of the war. If these ships should by force of necessity come to our shores, they must be loaded.
No one knows how long the war will last. If we are to win, we will with four collateral weapons — men, munitions, ships, and food. It may require years to win it, and we intend to fight it out on this line — not if it takes all summer but if it takes all of your lifetime and mine. We can not anticipate that the animal situation in Europe will improve during the war. The enormous destruction must go on until the end. Through the whole of the course of the war there will be continued destruction of cattle and diminishing dairy products. There will be steady creeping of jeopardy toward the children of the allies. North America stands unique in one great particular in this situation. We are independent of sea transport for feeding stuffs for our animals; we grow them side by side. Here lies the great economic difference in these foods between ourselves and Europe, and here also the one reason why we can and must be the great final reservoir of supplies.
There falls, therefore, upon us an increasing duty in the provision of food. To provide supplies we must build up reserves. The first reserve in meat and dairy products is the maintenance of our herd. The second is to build up stocks in our warehouses in seasons of surplus production. If we can maintain our herds and our production we can, in any emergency, reduce the consumption of our own people without damaging our health by margins of such an amount as will provide for the allies.
We are today in the season of the largest dairy production and we have a minor surplus. I do not look upon this with alarm, but with satisfaction. One result is the increase of our butter and condensed milk in storage. I wish it were larger.
Food must be viewed from the new viewpoint of ammunition to win the war.
It is a factor of safety in the war situation that can not be overestimated. We must not take risks in war. It may turn out that we get too much butter into storage. But a general at the front who should find himself with more shells than were needed to win a battle would be in a far different state from the general who found himself short of the necessary amount. Food must be viewed from the new viewpoint of ammunition to win the war. Therefore it is up to us as a part of our national food strategy to accumulate stocks in as large a degree as possible for any emergency that might come.
I believe that the call for condensed milk, cheese and butter supplies for the allies and our Army and Navy will be on an increasing scale. With one-third of the world’s population on short rations in food, and most of this one-third with less than one-half of their normal dairy products, this is no time to begrudge the minor stocks that arc accumulating in our warehouse nor is this a time to stimulate unnecessary consumption or waste.
Turning for the moment to our domestic problems, there is no other agricultural industry of such economic complexity. These complexities arise from the fact that in a considerable part of the industry the raw material in feeds, the labor, land, and equipment employed are by-products of other major agricultural operations, and the commodities produced are all in different circumstances by-products to each other. This complexity is again confounded by the fact that the by-product is different in different localities and at different seasons of the year. For instance, butter and cheese may be a by-product to city milk production; they are the major product in creamery regions. It is an industry to certain products of which attach a peculiarly large amount of sentimental value; fluid milk is the absolute foodstuff of our babies and is equally a necessity to the very poor as to the rich. The consequence is that a rise in the price of milk may provoke more blind and fanatical opposition than any other of the food industries, not even excepting bread. Again, fluid milk is the most perishable of all the food commodities and the easiest subjected to infection and adulteration. It is an industry thus susceptible to an extraordinary degree to the varying economic winds. The varying production of roughage, the varying prices of concentrates, the lack of balance in prices of milk, butter, and cheese all make the dairyman’s life an exciting if not a merry one.
Prior to the European war our dairy industry was practically a matter of domestic interest only. Since the war there have been increasing demands for contribution to the world’s shortage of foods. This is, however, not the only pressure of war on this industry, because an industry of so complex an economic character is peculiarly subject to the shocks of commercial dislocation that have penetrated into all quarters of our national life. It is these war dislocations that gave birth to the Food Administration and it is with these problems that the Government is called upon to deal. I should like to emphasize this point. The Food Administration is not a busybody, searching for opportunities to interfere in industry and trade. Its sole preoccupation is, so far as is physically possible, to soften the shocks of war that the food supplies of our own people and the allies may be maintained. I can perhaps illustrate this by a review of only one or two war dislocations which have affected the industry and the steps taken by the Food Administration to ameliorate it.
At the time of the establishment of the Food Administration last summer, we were confronted with a price level in feeding stuffs for animals that had not been witnessed in the United States since the Civil war. Heavy exports to Europe of all character of foodstuffs during the previous 12 months had drained the country of its surplus production of food supplies but had also even exhausted our normal annual carry over from one harvest to another. The consequence was that we entered upon the harvest of 1917 with a less supply of all kinds of feeding stuffs than at any similar period in 15 years. In fact, had the harvest been a total failure, the human beings and the animals in this country would scarcely have survived for 60 days. A situation thus exposed is not only pregnant with speculation and high prices, but positive national danger through lack of supplies to equalize short production in any direction.
The dairyman was caught between two forces — a low price in milk held down by inherent opposition of the consumers, and high price in feeding stuffs and labor. No doubt in the long run, if matters had been allowed to take their course, the dairy cattle would have decreased to a point where a shortage in milk supplies would have compelled the necessary increase in milk prices.
The dairyman was caught between two forces — a low price in milk held down by inherent opposition of the consumers, and high price in feeding stuffs and labor.
Some day these milk prices would have risen to a point that would have again restimulated the industry and in the course of years the number of dairy cattle would have been restored and an equilibrium again established.
These are not times, however, when we can run the risk of sapping the root of our production and wait years for its regrowth. We had all hoped for a considerable time that the unusually large promise of feeding stuffs last harvest would result in decreased prices in feeds and that the dairymen’s position could have been saved without material increase in the price of milk to the consumer. We worried along until November, when there developed so great a car shortage by the war demands upon the railways that it became evident that the crop would not move with sufficient rapidity to remedy feed prices before spring. We therefore determined that some action would be necessary in protection of the producer. To make matters worse, you will recollect we came into an unparalleled period of storm weather, extending from the first of December until the middle of February, that further paralyzed our railways and created a situation of practical famine prices of feedstuffs in those parts dependent on railway movement. Up to the middle of February, the movement of corn by rail had been 150,000,000 bushels less than normal and of all other feeding stuffs correspondingly less quantities. There were immense stocks in the hands of our feeding stuffs producers, but it could not, through railway strangulation, reach the consumer. We had, therefore, to suffer from continuously ascending prices, until the railways were able to offer a freer movement. Within a month after that wider movement began to take place this spring, the price levels of feeding stuffs began to fall more nearly to ratios comparable with the supplies and the outlook from now on is for more reasonable prices.
Here is, therefore, one issue upon which the dairy industry has been directly disrupted by the war, and if we were not to witness a large selling of dairy cattle for meat, some increase in the price of milk was vital or the city milk industry would be imperiled. Proposals to increase these prices brought about conflict between producers, distributors, and consumers, not only of the most acrimonious character, but in which the law was invoked in various directions, and a practical deadlock resulted.
Furthermore, I had also long held the view that various associations amongst producers were the foundations upon which a better marketing system must arise in the United States in the interest of both producer and consumer, and that, growing out of the bitter quarrels in various parts of the country, the existence of producers’ associations were being endangered. I also realized that any increase in price meant fearful hardship and suffering upon some sections of the community, and, furthermore, that any interference with the ordinary course of trade meant a series of incidental reactions, all of which would be disagreeable enough, but yet none of which would be so disastrous to the community as no action at all.
In other words, like all cases of interference in the normal course of supply and demand, it became the choice of evils. The issues at stake were not only from the point of view of the feeding of our own populations but the broader issues of our reserves to meet the demands of the allies. With the view to securing as favorable a settlement as possible, that should, as much as possible, be acceptable to all interests, the Food Administration appointed commissions to arbitrate a settlement in the larger cities, these commissions embracing representatives of the producer, the consumer, and the distributor. The decisions of these commissions have been constructive, have been thoughtful, considerate, and I believe you will agree with me that in the long run they are in the interests of both producer and consumer. The reactions that have grown out of this situation are interesting from an economic point of view, and they deserve close observation for future guidance.
The first and most immediate reaction was that with an increase in price, there was a great fall in consumption, and therefore a damming back of the surplus on the hands of the producer and distributor. In other words, the poorer sections of the community spent the same sum on milk and took a less quantity. There was thus the heartbreaking reaction of diminished milk feeding of our own children. That has been more or less overcome by propaganda in these sections as to the necessity for milk for children. This has led to a larger consumption. I am informed that it is now again about normal, and we wish to continue the insistence as to its superior value to all other foods for the little ones.
Another reaction of the war has been the decrease in shipping space that temporarily can be allotted to exports of condensed milk while the transportation of the American Army is in progress. There has been some damming back of supplies, but we have taken such measures as I believe will prevent any great damage.
I could review many other minor incidents of the dislocation of war in this industry, but these will be sufficient to show that we are not in normal times. We are not yet through the war. It may extend for many years. I wish to warn you that unexpected and difficult and disturbing problems will arise not only so long as the war lasts but probably for some time after. These dislocations will give rise to anxiety and criticism. All measures in their amelioration are a choice of evils. The tests of capacity in administration connected with this industry must, however, be: First, has our dairy herd been safeguarded by reasonable returns to the dairyman that he can serve his purpose of feeding our own people and the allies? Second, have the allies been fed? Third, have our own consumers received their products at prices as reasonable as the situation warrants? Our herd is intact today. The allies have been fed. Reasonable returns are being received by the dairymen.
About the consumer, our authority extends to his protection from profiteering. I do not believe any branch of the industry wishes to profiteer upon this world necessity. We have instituted measures which I believe have the support of the vast majority of middlemen, and directed to make profiteering and speculation in these foods by a minority impossible. Nor do I believe the dairyman has either right or wish to receive more than necessities from this situation.
You and I have gone over this Nation and selected our strongest, our best, those just on the threshold of life and hope, and we have said to them, “Go to France. Sacrifice your life that justice may be done in the world, that those of us who stay at home may be free men.” Have you and I any right to say we failed to do our part because some one did not pay us a profit? You and I will do our duty as service, not for profit.
One difficulty to both our producers and consumers is that our marketing system in dairy products is inherently a wasteful and expensive system. Our consumers need relief from the present high price levels of milk. This relief may partly come through cheaper feeds, but, it appears to me, must be to a larger degree in reduced cost of distribution. It is a matter of vital importance to the health of the children of our poor. The enormous duplication and waste in present chaotic distribution methods need no detailed description from me. They have been ventilated by a long train of private and public investigations and by the distributors themselves.
The careful inquiries and decisions of the various committees which we established to arbitrate prices as between producers, distributors, and consumers, have set the charge for distribution at, I believe, just levels as between all three parties, so far as it can be done under the present system. Yet here is a commodity in which, in New York, from 40 percent to 60 percent of the price is absorbed in distribution. I can see but one remedy that will save the position between all these vital interests, and that is complete reorganization of distribution methods. These are matters for local initiative. I do not believe in Federal paternalism. The interest of the Federal Government in these matters must extend no further than assistance to remedy evils of national character through the incidence of a national war. The inspiration of such reorganization must come from the producer. It might be said that the consumer should be joined in this. He should be, but I despair of any consumers’ organization getting results. The producer’s whole interest is milk, while it is but one of many interests of the consumer.
That something can be done is evidenced by the work of Prof. King and his associates at Philadelphia, where the producer today receives about the same price as at New York, yet the consumer secures his milk for from 1 to 2 cents per quart less.
The distribution of milk to our city population is just as vital as the distribution of water. To have 10 independent water systems cumbering our streets would be no more chaotic than our present milk distribution.
The distribution of milk to our city population is just as vital as the distribution of water.
In maintaining our dairy herds that they may be ready for any demand, you face one paramount difficulty — that is, labor. More men will be drafted to war, more will be required to furnish them munitions. There is only one ultimate solution in this industry; that is, by the increased efforts of our men and the additional efforts of our women. Our women are ready and willing to stand with our men in this struggle.
Far beyond our domestic difficulties, however, is our world duty. Parallel with this enormous and continuing destruction in Europe we must build our food resources so as to stand ready for any demands upon us by our allies. It is of no purpose to us to send millions of our best to France if we fail to maintain the strength of their men, women, and children on our lines of communication. After the war the time will come when we will need to replenish their herds from our own cattle. The United States is the last reservoir of men, the last reservoir of ships, the last reservoir of munitions, and the last reservoir of food upon which the allied world must depend if Germany is to be defeated and if we are to be free men.
It therefore devolves upon us to maintain our present great potential strength in herds, for they can not be reestablished for many years if once lost. Not only must they be maintained as a guarantee to our allies, but they will be vital in the world’s regeneration. The day may yet come when the child life of the world will be in your hands. I place this before you on the high plane of service to the world. It is the duty of the Government just so far as we are able to maintain economic equilibrium in the industry so that it can go on without hardship to those who engage in it; but should the impact of war so dislocate the industry as to cause temporary periods when loss faces you. It is the duty of every dairyman to stand by with that courage that comes from the knowledge that he is a part of the world’s reserve Army that may, at any moment, be called into battle for our existence and the existence of the next generation.
Until the full story started to emerge last summer, Constant seemed like one of the best things to come out of Chillicothe since those first pre-cut loaves appeared on store shelves 90 years ago.
He made a good living buying and selling organic grain. He raised tilapia by the ton inside a former Walmart, shipping the farm-raised fish to Whole Foods and hundreds of other supermarkets nationwide.
What the magazine’s editors didn’t know was that Constant was already being closely watched. On a humid Tuesday morning later that same month, a line of black SUVs rolled down Oaklawn Drive and parked outside the four-bedroom, Cape Cod-style house that Constant shared with his wife, Pam.
“We have a search warrant,” agents from the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Agriculture said as they appeared at the couple’s front door around 9:30.
For five and a half hours, investigators sorted through records from Constant’s business and personal life. There was a lot of material to process because Constant had quite inexplicably become one of the biggest sellers of “certified organic” feed grain in the entire country.
Records showed that in 2016 he sold 7 percent of all the corn labeled organic and 8 percent of all the soybeans carrying that designation. More than $19 million worth that year, $24 million the year before and so on every year before that back to 2010 at least.
It was impossible for him to have done that legitimately. He didn’t have access to enough organic crop acres to supply so many bushels.
“Somebody who was competing with him in the organic market noticed that he was flooding the market with too much grain and at too low of a price for what organic grain should be sold for,” federal prosecutor Anthony Morfitt told The Star.
That’s what got the whole thing started. A tip rather than the government’s flawed oversight program for the organic food industry. For many years, that inspection system had failed to detect Constant’s fraudulent scheme. Now the feds were onto him.
A growing appetite for organic
There was plenty of temptation to cheat. Organic grain costs more to produce per bushel than conventionally grown crops and therefore demands a higher price. After processing, it is fed to cattle and chickens, whose meat is also sold at a premium in stores and restaurants because a growing number of consumers are willing to pay more for protein that comes from animals raised on a natural, organic diet.
There’s no proof that the meat is any better for you, but some people believe it is and others have philosophical or environmental reasons for preferring it.
To earn the National Organic Seal, the plants from which organic grain is harvested cannot have been genetically modified. And they must be grown without help from chemical fertilizers or synthetic weed or bug killers. But for decades the government’s system for ensuring that consumers get what they are paying for has been inadequate.
It largely depends on trusting that organic farmers are honest and that the private inspectors who monitor their operations are thorough in reviewing the paperwork because there is no test to determine whether an ear of field corn, say, is organic or not.
A clever and unethical seller can successfully pass off cheaper conventionally grown grain for the more expensive organic kind and make a huge profit, if they sell a lot of it.
The agents suspected Randy Constant of doing just that.
With the FBI’s assistance, the USDA would go on to prove that Constant was a swindler on a grand scale: More than $140 million in fraudulent sales between 2010 and 2017 for grain that was likely worth half that.
The Star’s subsequent reporting found that, in fact, his scheme stretched back further than that, to 2007 or 2006.
Constant scammed grain buyers, meat producers and millions of American consumers for a decade or more. The organic beef and poultry countless Americans were eating during those years wasn’t organic after all.
It was just like any other meat. All thanks to Randy Constant, who squandered the profits on a fish farm that failed, travel and a secret, double life that was shockingly at odds with his good-guy image in Chillicothe.
As his family members wept during his sentencing hearing for wire fraud in an Iowa courtroom last August, prosecutors disclosed the scandalous ways Constant had spent some of the ill-gotten profits.
Not only did he bankroll extravagant family vacations every summer — counting kids and grandkids, he’d treat a dozen to stays at luxury resorts like Hilton Head, South Carolina — Constant also admitted to using the grain sales money to pay for sex with prostitutes and wagering at casinos.
He took more than 20 trips to Las Vegas, often alone, during the seven-year period covered in his indictment. There he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal profits on gambling on the Vegas strip, hiring female escorts and providing financial support to three women with whom he had extramarital affairs.
He shared a bank account with one of them, and spent $110,000 on her car payments and other bills, a trip to Spain and surgery to enhance her breasts.
“During a roughly seven-month period in the course of the scheme,” Constant admitted in court records, “another account in my name and under my control incurred more than $250,000 in Las Vegas-related expenses.”
The revelations stunned those who had befriended the onetime high school football star and local Future Farmers of America president. They still find it hard to grasp that someone who once seemed to believe strongly in the value of growing food organically would betray that industry, not to mention business associates, friends and family.
“I knew a different Randy than what I read about in the papers,” said former Missouri organic farmer Maryann Kohl, now retired in Palm Springs, California. “Everything about him seemed good and legitimate.”
Who was Randy Constant? When did he go astray and how did he get away with his scam for so long? The Star spent more than a month finding answers to those questions by reviewing court, business and government records, as well as conducting interviews with regulators, industry officials and those who knew him.
The most intriguing question of all may never be answered. Only Randy Constant knows why he did what he did, but at age 60 he took his own life last August. Three days earlier he’d been sentenced to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. He was ordered to forfeit $128 million, a fine that he almost certainly never would have been able to pay off.
“I know Randy was deeply ashamed of his conduct,” his widow said soon after his passing.
She and other family members were unwilling to discuss with a reporter anything more about the man or his many mistakes.
Despite Constant’s faults, former business partner Glen Borgerding remains sympathetic and remembers him fondly.
“The reaction you get from people after hearing of his suicide is that he deserved what he got,” he said. “But I don’t feel that way. There was a lot of good in Randy and the real tragedy is that he went down this path.”
‘Good boy’ goes bad
While many sellers have been hit with civil penalties for engaging in organic food fraud, only a few bad actors have ever been prosecuted criminally.
One of the first was a Texas farmer sentenced in 2010 to two years in prison for fraudulently mislabeling three kinds of beans and millions of pounds of milo as organic. The next year, two California fertilizer suppliers and an Oregon grain farmer got prison time for falsely claiming their products were organic.
And more recently, Bernard Saul of Bliss, Idaho, was sentenced in 2016 to three years in federal custody and three years probation for selling far more “organic” alfalfa seed than his organic farm could have produced.
But these cases were small potatoes compared to Constant’s scheme, the disclosure of which stunned the organic food industry both for its scale and how it exposed the shortcomings in the government’s organic certification program.
“We have been sitting on a ticking time bomb for years,” Margaret Scoles, the executive director of the International Organic Inspectors Association, said in prepared remarks at an industry conference in October.
“We just didn’t know the name of it — Randy Constant. This is a failure on all of our heads. Our system of managing organic integrity proved inadequate.”
“Which is interesting, isn’t it?” Scoles told The Star. “That we were all looking at the Turkish grain fraud and we were all upset because that horrible imported grain was depressing organic grain prices in this country, and really what was happening was the largest fraud of all was being perpetrated right in the Midwest heartland where everybody’s honest.”
A 90-minute drive northeast of Kansas City, Chillicothe is about the same size today — population 9,500 — as it was when Jack and JoAnn Constant welcomed into the world the third of their four children. Randall Jay Constant was born two weeks before Christmas in 1958.
When he was growing up, Chillicothe was the kind of close-knit, rural community where the local newspaper would print kids’ letters to Santa Claus every Christmas season. Randy’s first appeared in print when he was 7 and then another made the paper two years later, in December 1967.
“Santa, I have tried to be a good boy this year,” the third-grader wrote. “I want a BB gun, a ball, a catcher’s mitt, a bat and a dart game. Please remember my family. Your friend, Randy Constant, Chillicothe, Mo.”
In the decade that followed, his name would appear dozens of times in the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune. Most often it was in the high school sports report. At 6 feet, 175 pounds, he was an all-conference defensive end/linebacker his senior year on the football squad, one of two Chillicothe Hornets players selected that spring to play in Missouri’s first-ever Lions All-State Football Game in 1977.
He was a good student and a leader off the field. After attending the Boys State leadership program the summer after his junior year, he finished high school, often wearing his blue jacket as president of the local Future Farmers of America chapter.
Constant went on to study agricultural economics at Mizzou, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi — motto: “men of principle” — the same fraternity where years earlier Kenneth Lay, founder of Enron Corp., was a member. Constant married his high school sweetheart ahead of graduation in 1981.
Over the next dozen years, they had three kids and Randy’s job assignments for his ag industry employers (Archer Daniels Midlands, then Scoular Grain Co. and Pfister Seeds) had the young family moving from town to town across the Midwest. They never stayed in one place for long, from Decatur, Illinois, to Salina, Kansas, with stops in Nebraska, Iowa and the Kansas City suburbs.
Growing food organically was a tiny, but fast-growing industry back then, and there was a lot of confusion over terminology. Definitions differed over what constituted “organic’’ when producing fruits, vegetables, meat, grains and the products made from them.
That was around the time Glen Borgerding met Constant. Borgerding was a crop consultant from Minnesota who specialized in organic farming methods. Constant was farming some on his own and was the farm manager for an organic soybean brokerage company that was selling soybeans to the Japanese.
“They had hired Randy to run their Missouri operations,’’ said Borgerding, who the company brought on as a consultant.
When Borgerding’s contract with the firm ended a year later, he suggested to Constant that they go into business together and Organic Land Management LLC was born in January of 2001.
“We clicked really well,” Borgerding said. “We both had skill sets that really complimented each other.”
Borgerding’s role was as the strategic thinker, focusing on soil fertility management and doing the paperwork necessary to maintain their croplands’ organic certification. Constant was out in the fields taking care of day-to-day management of the acres they owned or rented in Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska, while Borgerding oversaw operations in Minnesota and North Dakota.
Things went well those first five years, but then trouble came out of nowhere.
“We doubled our net worth every year until 2006, when we suddenly had a flat year,” Borgerding said. “This led to our operating-loan lender pulling out on us at the last minute, which left us pretty financially desperate for the 2007 crop year.”
He couldn’t figure it out. The yield estimates had been good throughout the growing season. The weather cooperated for the most part.
But without access to adequate credit, the joint operation couldn’t survive, and so they split up.
It wasn’t until several months after they parted that Borgerding’s suspicions were raised when he got a phone call from a customer who he wasn’t aware of ever doing business with. The man wanted to finish up some paperwork business with Constant.
That’s when Borgerding began to think that the down year in 2006 had nothing to do with poor yields. Rather he suspected that Constant was diverting Organic Land Management grain through a different company that Constant had formed without his knowledge.
“My gut feeling was that through OLM we were only tracking about one third of what he was actually selling as organic in 2006,” Borgerding said.
Years later he was stunned when he read about Constant’s long-running con and sordid double life in Vegas.
“When I heard that, I thought to myself, ‘damn, Randy,’ ” Borgerding said. “That would have been a helluva ride.”
He seemed honest
Maryann Kohl met Constant in the 1990s, when both were active in the Missouri Organic Association, which promoted the value of growing crops organically.
“He was a very outgoing and well-spoken person,” she said. “Anything he could do to help another person with what they were working on, he would do.”
Her family’s farm was near Vandalia, about 150 miles east of Chillicothe. They had become acquainted at association events, but a friendship grew when they, along with Constant’s youngest daughter and two other farmers, visited the United Kingdom in 2004 on a trade mission sponsored by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
“He was fun and very much a gentleman,” Kohl said. He seemed devoted to his family and appeared to believe in the value of growing food organically.
She had no reason to doubt back then that he was complying with all the rules that a farmer must follow to maintain organic certification for his crops.
Organic farmers must hire private companies approved by the government to cross-check their books and inspect their farms annually. A few years after that trip to England, Kohl worked for Constant’s certifier, industry-leader Quality Assurance International, and by chance was chosen to inspect his operation, she said.
“I was there to make sure he was doing everything right, and as far as I could tell, he certainly was,” she said. “If he was hiding something, he was hiding it very well.”
But there are ways to cheat, such as keeping a second set of books. Tests for chemical residues were not mandatory at the time and are even now sporadic.
Was Randy Constant cheating even back then, when they drove hundreds of miles to inspect the certified organic farm ground he owned and rented in Missouri, Iowa and Colorado?
Kohl can’t help but wonder, but if so she chalks it up to his cleverness, rather than anything she did wrong.
“I wasn’t lenient on Randy because I knew him.”
She can’t be sure, but believes the year was either 2007 or 2008.
But it was around that time, in Nevada, that questions first arose about Constant’s business ethics.
Early sign of trouble
An article in the June 2007 issue of an obscure publication, The Organic and Non-GMO Report, focused on the mystery surrounding a railcar full of organic soybeans.
Constant had sold the beans to Nevada Soy Product, which turned them into soybean oil. One of Nevada Soy’s customers canceled the sale after their tests showed the soybeans had come from genetically modified plants. While there is no test to determine whether a plant was grown organically, it can be determined in a lab whether that plant’s genes have been tinkered with.
When Nevada Soy co-owner Bob Rewinkle double checked the grain samples, “sure enough it was positive,” he told The Star last month.
According to the 2007 article, one of the scientists who tested the beans said there were only two explanations. Either there was an unintentional mixup, “or someone is trying to make money quick” by mixing genetically modified soybeans with the organic variety.
Constant denied wrongdoing, but Rewinkle wanted answers. The spoiled shipment was a $100,000 hit to his bottom line.
“As soon as that happened, I went into our certifiers, which at the time happened to be the state of Nevada, and told them what had happened, and they started an investigation,” Rewinkle said.
But nothing came of it. He never heard a thing from the USDA, and a spokeswoman at the Nevada Department of Agriculture told The Star that the agency has no record of what happened. The USDA would not speak specifically to this case, but said it had more funding now to investigate complaints than it did back then.
Rewinkle is still disgusted with the lack of followup by the USDA.
“If you’re the big overseer of the organic program, why don’t you do your job?” he said of the USDA. He then told The Star’s reporter, “You’re the first person that ever contacted me about this.”
Rewinkle wasn’t the only one finding fault with the federal National Organic Program during that time for failing to uphold the integrity of the organic food certification system.
The USDA’s Office of Inspector General issued a searing 2010 audit faulting the organic program’s oversight efforts. Complaints were rarely followed up on, and when they were it sometimes took years to resolve them.
The inspection system was also inadequate, the report said. Twenty years after Congress had required that crops be tested periodically for traces of chemical residues, no strict regulations to that effect were on the books.
Out of four certifying agents the OIG reviewed, none was conducting tests on the 5,000 organic farms and other operations they were responsible for.
It was in this environment that Randy Constant thrived.
“I think he figured out that, there’s just no checks and balances to determine really whether or not a No. 2 corn was actually raised organically or not,” said Clarence Mock, a Nebraska defense attorney who represented one of Constant’s co-conspirators in the criminal case.
“They can test for GMO (genetically modified organisms) … but corn that’s not GMO, you can’t tell whether it’s been sprayed or not sprayed.”
Technically, you can, but you’re not likely to get a positive result unless the inspector hits it just right and collects a plant sample before the residues wash away.
The inspectors never hit it just right when it came to Randy Constant. And he learned from that close call with that 2007 shipment to never try passing off genetically modified grain as organic again.
During the first two thirds of the past decade, Constant sold more than 11.5 million bushels of non-GMO corn and soybeans, and almost all of it was falsely labeled as organic.
It was the paperwork, not the government’s inspection system, that finally tripped him up.
From the documents they seized, the feds were able to analyze the full scope of his operation. At a minimum, he conspired with three Nebraska farmers and one in Missouri to commingle large shipments of conventionally grown grain with the organic kind and get a higher price for all of it. The four co-conspirators all pleaded guilty to their roles and were sent to prison.
The criminal cases against Constant and those four farmers centered mostly on those transactions.
But the extent of his illegal dealings were larger than that, The Star learned from searching Missouri court records. In one lawsuit, he admitted through an attorney that he also bought millions of dollars worth of non-GMO corn from another Missouri farmer and resold it as organic. Those sales were not part of the criminal case.
John Heinecke was one of his bigger suppliers of corn and soybeans, going back to 2004. Last March, while Constant was awaiting sentencing, a judge ordered him to pay Heinecke $2.5 million that he owed him for grain.
The judge overlooked arguments from Constant’s Kansas City-area attorney that Heinecke shouldn’t be paid because he was allegedly another one of Constant’s accomplices.
In a court filing, attorney Kent Dryer said Heinecke knew what Constant was up to and did more than turn a blind eye.
“The Constant defendants will seek to prove at trial,” the court record said, “that Mr. Heinecke was well aware that the corn he was selling to Mr. Constant was being resold as organic when it was in fact not organic and that Mr. Heinecke was receiving a split — a split that he bargained hard to get — of Mr. Constant’s illegal profits.”
The case never went to trial. In an interview, Heinecke said federal agents subpoenaed his business records but he has not been charged with a crime. He denied any prior knowledge of Constant’s scheme.
“They pointed fingers at me,” he said, “but I’ve done everything by law. I didn’t do anything illegal because it (the grain sales) didn’t have nothing to do with organic stuff.”
Heinecke still hasn’t been paid and could use the money Constant owed him, he said, because he is going through a bankruptcy. Among Heinecke’s creditors are farmers that he bought grain from and resold to Constant.
But like many who Constant owed money to when his scheme collapsed, Heinecke won’t likely be made whole.
Creditors big and small will have to write off the debts, including those who supplied his aptly named aquaculture operation, Quixotic Farming LLC, which Constant called “a spectacular failure” that lost “many millions of dollars.”
There are simply no assets left to go after.
“I don’t know if these folks will ever get any money,” said Troy Dietrich, an attorney for an Arkansas farming operation that has an outstanding judgment totaling $1,025,768 against Constant and entities he controlled.
Are reforms enough?
Constant’s life ended four months shy of his 61st birthday at the duplex he’d rented for himself and his wife on the edge of Chillicothe.
They had sold the Cape Cod to pay bills. While awaiting sentencing, he had earned a living working on a disaster relief crew that took him out of state a lot. Last summer, she had felt fortunate to get her old teaching job back.
The new school term had begun that Monday. Randy was home by himself. Constant’s 93-year-old neighbor in the adjoining unit believes he waited until she was away before he pulled his pickup into the side-by-side garage, closed the door behind him and left the engine running.
The neighbor said the carbon monoxide detector in her basement was beeping when she got home later that afternoon.
“A sad situation, sad, sad, sad,” said the woman, who did not want her name published.
Three days earlier, a federal judge had handed him a stiff sentence, ignoring 70 letters from Chillicothe residents attesting to his character and the many good deeds he’d done for his church and community.
“We loved him,” one close friend told The Star last week. “He was a great guy, down to earth.”
Constant’s defense attorney had argued that no one was harmed by the fraudulent sales of $142 million worth of fake organic grain, as did Mock, who represented one of the Nebraska co-conspirators.
“One of the ironic aspects of all this is that nobody really lost any money,” Mock told The Star. “They turned around and sold their product, right?”
The grain buyers lost nothing. They got paid by the feed mills. The feed mills got theirs when the farmers bought the product. The farmers got their share from the distributors, who did business with the supermarkets and restaurants.
As for the shoppers who bought organic meat and poultry that wasn’t technically organic, it’s not like their health was harmed in any way, Mock said. They enjoyed their meals, even if they paid more than they should have for them.
He said there’s no way to tell whether a cow or chicken was fed organic grain or the regular kind.
“I mean, how do you know? Is it somewhere in their tissue, in their bloodstream?”
Judge C.J. Williams in Cedar Rapids did not agree that Constant committed a victimless crime. In sentencing him to a decade of imprisonment, Williams said Constant caused “incalculable damage” to consumers and the organic food industry.
Those who make their living farming organically say it’s important that consumers be confident that they are getting what they pay for when they buy certified organic food.
Government prosecutors said Constant’s case was meant to reassure the public and the organic food industry that fraud of this type will not be tolerated. New steps are being taken to root out corruption.
“They have tightened down even more and stepped up their inspection and audit procedures to prevent that from happening again,” said Derek Davis, president of the Missouri-based Mid-America Organic Association.
The organic certifier service that put its stamp of approval on Constant’s operation for more than a decade, Quality Assurance International, told The Star its inspectors were tripped up by Constant’s “highly-organized and sophisticated enterprise.”
Constant, said Sarah Krol at QAI’s parent company, NSF International, “went to great lengths to deceive certifiers, regulators and ultimately consumers.”
But neither she, nor government prosecutors nor the USDA will specify what those great lengths entailed. Some of the reforms that will make up a new, proposed regulation currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget provide some clues.
The rules include requiring more testing for residues, said Jennifer Tucker, deputy administrator of the federal Agricultural Marketing Service, which runs the National Organic Program.
In an interview, she said the proposed set of rules is based on a risk-based enforcement approach that will allow inspectors to focus the most attention on farms and businesses where the greatest potential for fraud exists.
“In order to really catch these bad guys, you have to understand the complete supply chain,” she said. Greater cooperation and pooled sales data will help accomplish that, she believes.
“I think we’ve seen a profound cultural shift where instead of just confirming compliance, people are really finding the fraudsters and they’re doing it through tools like trace back and information sharing during investigations,” she said.
People associated with the organic industry hope she’s right. But between the documented instances in recent years of whole shiploads of phony organic grain being unloaded at American ports and the Randy Constant scandal, there’s understandable skepticism.
The organic food business is now a $50 billion industry within the United States, more than double its size a decade ago, and it continues to grow. When there’s that much money at stake, people are sometimes willing to take a risk that they, too, can beat the system. At least for awhile.
One of Constant’s competitors, grain broker Matt Keegan at CapRock Grain, is thankful the scandal helped spur some reforms.
“Certifiers have gotten more stringent,” he said. “I think there’s movement to help resolve some of this.’’
But he’s not one who believes there aren’t other Randy Constants out there who still pose a threat to the industry.
“I’m convinced that the activity is still going on,” he said. “We need all these bad actors to get out of the marketplace.”
Alfred Krocak came to Minnesota from what is now the Czech Republic and started farming this land in the late 1800s. He followed the rhythms of the seasons and passed on what he knew to his children. The land and hard work sustained generations of Krocaks and all the people who drank millions of gallons of Krocak milk.
Then came last year, and the family had no alternative but to sell off the dairy herd. The debt had become crushing.
Bob and Liz, in their 60s, and their eldest son, Marty, and his wife, Sarah, and their children were one more family in crisis, among the country’s 2 million farms. The historic floods that disrupted the natural cycle of planting; the collapse of milk prices; the tumult of President Trump’s trade wars — it had all come crashing down.
Yet they still had their land. Surely, they could coax something else from it. Spring would come, as it always did.
Maybe corn and soybeans; that they knew how to grow. More organic crops, a heritage breed of pigs that could bring a higher price per pound. The state farm counselor, whom the Krocaks consulted on their quest to stave off bankruptcy, thought that was a plan. Then the fields flooded and turned to lakes. There were a lot of nights working in the dark, running equipment, fixing this and that. Bob let his 7-year-old grandson Logan watch how to repair the disc harrow for tilling the fields. But the chickens kept laying. Katie, 5, and Daniel, 9, could proudly bring their mother an egg carton that was a paintbox of colors.
Amid the moments of wonder were the hours of worry. Sarah, the daughter of a rancher who fell for her husband in high school, and Marty kept suppertime as family time. But struggle crept in. She worried about her husband. His father, Bob, was an optimist, with a hope in the unseen that most farmers need. Bob got to the point where he could walk around the milking barn again, even though the cows sold for a fraction of what they produced. The fancy pigs were healthy and happy. He loved having his grandchildren close.
But Marty was the fifth generation of Krocaks, the heir to the burden of family and expectations. It was wholly unclear what would work out this time.
Liz wasn’t born into a farming family either. She and Bob built a close family. Most of their five kids live nearby, in this part of Minnesota where the winters are wretched and the summers are a golden balm. Dinnertime is a movable feast, with the family gathering for group meals at different homes.
Earlier this year, the family gathered to celebrate the 100th birthday of Bob’s late father, Vladamir, who always wore blue- and white-striped “Dickies” overalls and carried candy corn in a chewing-tobacco can to hand out to his grandchildren.
At one point, there were more than 200 dairy farmers in Le Sueur County, where the Krocaks live. Now there are just a handful, and Bob says he can see most of them from the top of his silo. More than 300 dairy farmers went out of business in Minnesota last year, part of 2,700 nationwide, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. That’s a nearly 7 percent drop.
This spring, the Krocaks were full of practical ideas about coaxing a living out of their land.
Anything that could go wrong did.
It poured, too much too late.
Any time they had a clear night, they planted. The equipment they borrowed didn’t function. They lost $15,000 trying to sell last year’s corn as storms grounded trade routes for grain by rail and the Mississippi River.
The kids made a playhouse out of the hopper.
Summer is another season of opportunity, for a family of optimistic farmers.
“Everywhere you turn there’s a new battle,” Liz said. “I’m pretty sure God doesn’t like farmers this year.”
Summer came to Minnesota, and the sun dried the wet fields. The crops struggled to grow, especially the corn, so the whole extended Krocak family took to the fields. Weeding the plants, to give them room to breathe, became one of the most important chores. Marty walked the fields and saw with dismay that in some places the corn was chest high, but other rows came only to his knees.
After historic rain, the Krocaks finally got more than 200 acres planted and began cutting hay to feed their animals for the coming winter. But everything was coming in late, and their next worry, in a season of worries, was that an early frost would cut the growing season at the other end. They weren’t alone; the record-setting rainfall caused a widespread agricultural disaster across the country, preventing nearly 20 million acres of crops from being planted across the country, a record, according to the USDA.
By the end of July, the Krocaks were still waiting for the golden tassels atop their corn to appear.
Some days it seemed like they were well on their way from moving on from their family dairy business, sold last year after a downturn in milk prices left them deeply in debt. Marty and Sarah were determined to help his parents in retirement while making a success of their new farm, growing organic crops and meats — despite the lingering pain from losing the dairy operation, which had been in the Krocak family since 1888.
Marty and Sarah, the next generation of Krocaks to take over the farm, live in the original farmhouse with their four kids — Danny, 9, Ella, 7, Katie, 5 and Delaney, 3. But reminders of the past are everywhere, like the shadow of an old Chevy 1946 truck in the field — nicknamed “Louie” — and the antique butter churn still in place in front of their old “milking parlor.”
After the chaos and long days and nights of planting time, there was time in summer to take a breath and relax, to laze on top of a hay bale at sunset, as granddaughter Eden did one July evening. In late July came the annual Kolacky Days festival, which celebrates their town’s Czech heritage and its famous fruit-stuffed pastry. Marty put on a tux for Friday night’s Kolacky Days pageant — where a queen is chosen and gets a shiny tiara — because this year they honored local farmers.
“Do I pass?” he asked Sarah.
“You look great,” she said, and reached up to straighten his clip-on tie.
Summer also meant it was time to butcher the chickens, part of Sarah’s experiment to expand the farming operation into the sale of organic meat. The former dairy farmers had never butchered so many birds at once — some 100 or so Red Rangers that had free range of the organic farm for months. Danny drove the ATV into the fields as some of the grandkids chased the chickens, scooping them up to deliver them to their fate. After Liz and Sarah lopped off their heads, blood spurted and the still flopping birds were covered in hot water and run through a plucking machine, then cleaned and packed to be frozen. “What’s inside?” Ella asked, and then got an anatomy lesson from her grandmother.
But the pressure of this make-or-break-year for the farm never seemed to go away. “I got a second chance here, and the bank is sticking with us, and I’m [messing] this up, too,” an exhausted Marty told his parents at one point during the tough planting season. Marty and Sarah had to go back to the bank to ask to extend their operating loan after last season’s corn brought in less money than expected. It was a sobering moment.
The Krocaks keep going because no one can seem to fathom life without the farm. “It’s a great place to raise a family,” Marty tells friends, recalling fondly the way his littlest, Delaney, had no fear when she grabbed and held the biggest Red Ranger of the bunch.
“None of us can contemplate the idea of not being here,” Sarah said, adding somewhat grimly: “So this better work.”
The air turned crisp and the trees turned fiery against the lush grass. The peppers and squash that survived the wettest spring on record were still on the vine when the blizzard warning came. The forecast called for an unseasonably early two feet of snow in the Dakotas and plummeting temperatures across the north Midwest. A hard frost could endanger the Krocaks’ crops, a potential $30,000 loss. Everybody hurried to prepare, picking the kitchen garden clean and moving livestock fencing, all while listening to the weather report.
Snow came, lacing the fields in white. Danny hit his mother with the first snowball of the season as the Krocaks traipsed through the corn rows early one morning, surveying the damage. They had hoped for a few more weeks of good weather to let the crop mature.
It was good news: Sarah let out a whoop after she peeled back the husks and saw the tell-tale “black layer” mark on the kernels, an indicator the cob had matured. Most of their corn would survive.
“That’s a relief! I think I’m finally excited for harvest now,” she said. “It’s like one thing that might be okay.”
Before harvest could begin, there were so many chores to be done, with Marty so stressed he jogged from task to task. “Historic” cold and snow in early October: another cruel and unexpected deadline for a family already fighting to save their farm. Marty and Sarah brought the cattle they kept after selling the dairy herd back from a far pasture for the winter.
Harvest was long and brutal. They worked past night many nights. Exhaustion stole over everyone.
The kids helped when they could, climbing up into the grain bin in darkness one evening to help level the soybeans so they could dry evenly. One night, oblivious to the cold, Marty and Danny napped in the tractor cab as they waited for another load of corn to unload from the combine.
The fields stretched to St. John’s Catholic Church and cemetery, where four generations of Krocaks are buried, a constant reminder of the family’s deep roots in this land.
As the long days and nights ran together, tension rose. Marty, Sarah and Bob argued over the best way to go about their massive undertaking: which acres of corn and soybeans to harvest in what order. The argument was a bit of an epiphany for Bob in this first season after fully turning over the farm’s operations to his eldest.
“You know, Marty is a good son, and Sarah is a good daughter-in-law,” Bob said later. “I just need to realize I’m not in charge anymore.”
On Nov. 6, the snow came in earnest, beautiful but ominous, a harbinger of the hard winter ahead.
Some of the corn was still too wet to sell, but they caught a break. A neighboring farmer said he’d buy it out of the field, to chop and feed to his herd.
The soybeans were fine, but would the corn fetch a decent enough price? Would the harvest be enough to pay back their loans and to sustain the family through the coming year?
By year’s end, winter cold became the one constant, and much else remained precarious. The family discovered that, with everything they had to do, nobody had time to chop or gather wood for the boiler that heats the farmhouse and workshop. Bob and his four boys spent a blissful day after Thanksgiving gathering wind-fallen trees from a pasture, enough oak and ash and basswood and maple to burn for nearly two months. When another storm threatened, Bob rushed to put the wood through the chopper, stopping to rest only when he was out of breath.
The past year has been hard on Bob. He has continued to struggle with feelings of failure after losing the dairy herd in 2018. “Things didn’t go right for us, and it’s a big change for me, especially because I did it all my life,” Bob said. “I’m still not over it.”
But he realizes as well that there is more to life than dairy farming, notably his sprawling, loving and healthy family. Bob and Liz welcomed their 11th grandchild in May — little Sierra, the first child for his second-to-youngest son, Bobby.
The younger generation of Krocaks on the farm, Marty and Sarah, continued to juggle farm, family and work. Marty had taken a day job at an equipment manufacturer, and that was an adjustment. One afternoon, Delaney and her mother went to the window to watch for him to come home.
Marty and Sarah waited anxiously to meet with their financial counselor and get a final verdict on the year. Farmers across the country had bad seasons, combatting poor crop prices, record weather and the continued effects of Trump’s trade war with China, which played havoc on exports. The Krocaks were no exception. Their straggly corn hadn’t fetched as good a price at market as they had hoped. In the end, when they ran the numbers, they were in the hole $50,000.
It was a blow — especially for Marty, who, like his father, began struggling with feelings of failure anew.
Instead of enjoying the holidays, they were faced with putting a crisis plan in place. “Everything must go,” said Sarah, at least as far as the cattle was concerned. The Angus beef herd they had hoped to raise for custom steaks now had to be sold, at a time when beef prices were down. Marty has a talent for custom repair work, and he thought he could take on some of that. But he was so overworked already.
The Krocaks had adhered to their budget, tried to do everything right. Bob had worriedly tracked the precipitation the old-fashioned way, with pen to paper, reading his rain gauge daily. In the end, it was the historic rainfall, the wettest year on record in that part of Minnesota, that had doomed them. It delayed the corn planting, complicating the plant’s maturity and the harvest.
“We were hopeful for a decent crop to take the pressure off Marty and Sarah,” Liz said. “That just didn’t happen. It was a very bad year. I’ve talked to so many farmers who say this was the worst year they have ever had. Prices are bad; the weather was a struggle. Everything was a struggle.”
Larger questions were still unanswered. They still carried some $1.3 million in debt from the dairy operation. Would they have to declare bankruptcy on the farm and begin selling some of their land?
And would Sarah and Marty, trying to keep the farm going for the next generation, be able to get another operating loan for their organic crop operation? They wouldn’t find out until spring.
“You think: ‘I’ll do the right things and put the work in and it will work out,’ and when it doesn’t, that’s hard. But there’s always hope,” Sarah said. “Farmers are the biggest gamblers you’ll ever come across.”
In early December, the entire family went to the torchlight parade down the main street in downtown Montgomery, the kickoff for the Christmas season. It was a beautiful night. Santa arrived on top of a fire truck. Fireworks colored the dark sky.
Back home, work beckoned. Chores on the farm wouldn’t stop just because of troubled finances, especially through the cold months. The pigs, chickens and the Welsh pony named Dixie still had to be sheltered and kept warm. There was always more to do, to keep the home fires burning.
Bill Daugherty rises at 3 a.m. to start milking 132 cows on the farm that has been in his family since 1876.
His 89-year-old father Martin joins in the morning milking at the double-4 herringbone parlor that was installed 50 years ago in a barn built in 1875. It was built to handle 50 cows.
“We get done about 8:30 with everything,” said Bill.
Farm hands include Kyle, 21 — representing the sixth generation of the family to work the 1,500-acre farm about 80 miles northeast of Columbus — a hired man, and four high school boys who help with milking in the evening.
Come March, if all goes according to schedule, the job of milking will be turned over to four robots awaiting installation at the center of a 360-by-132-foot barn that is under construction.
Bill declined to discuss the cost of the project, will also includes construction of three manure pits with a total capacity of eight million gallons, except to say that it cost “a lot.” He hopes to pay off the loans in 15 to 20 years.
“We’ve bought farms, but this is by far our largest investment in the future,” Bill said. “But we felt, for us to stay in the dairy industry, we needed to do something and needed to do something large enough that the next several generations could continue if we wanted to do it.”
He sees an advantage in getting robots to take over some of the work currently done by employees.
“They quit. And you have holidays and you have vacation. You have sick days. Robots will break down once in a while, but they don’t take any of those days off,” Bill said. “The robots don’t shut down except to wash.”
The Daughertys plan to learn to do as much maintenance as possible on the robots.
The cows, too, will need training. They’ll have to learn to use the robots, according to Glenn Carlisle of Carlisle Dairy + Forage Consulting, LLC, of Dover.
“Once they get used to the robot — the cows go into the robots freely — the robot cleans teats, stimulates milk flow, attaches the unit, and removes the unit when milk flow stops,” Carlisle said in an email message.
“They are fed a balanced dairy pelleted feed according to their milk production level. There is no holding pen where they wait their turn to be milked in groups (as) in a regular milking parlor.
“They get rewarded for entering the robotic milker by the feed system delivering a meal of pelleted feed to the cow according to their production.
“Without being moved and grouped together, the cows are really relaxed and able to focus on high milk production and long productive lives,” Carlisle said.
“We hope cows will milk, on an average, around three times a day,” Bill said.
“Cows that are just fresh have more milk and they want milked more often,” Caroline said.
“We’ll milk fresh cows three to five times a day,” Bill said. “Cows that are about to go dry, we’ll milk one or two times.”
Kyle is comfortable with the robots, the Astronaut A5 model from Netherlands-based manufacturer Lely. He is expected to take on more responsibility on the farm as his parents, Bill and Caroline, get older.
“They’ve been milking with robots in Europe since the ’90s,” said Kyle. “Robots are not new. This is this company’s fifth robot that they came out with. The old ones had bugs. They fixed the bugs and they just continued to update them.”
“We’ve heard a lot of good things about them, not many bad things at all, really,” said Kyle. who has a degree in dairy cow production and management from The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster.
“I’ve been around cows my whole life, and I’ve been a full-time employee for as long as I can remember,” Kyle said. “I’m looking forward to the future. This is something that I’ve wanted to do. This really gives us flexibility.”
Caroline hopes the robots will allow Kyle to have a good work-life balance. He’s planning to marry Samantha Priest in April and move to her Chili home.
“Getting married, I won’t be tied down here all the time,” said Kyle, seated in the kitchen of the family’s home. “I can go home and spend some time with my wife.”
Somewhere between 2% and 3% of the approximately 36,000 dairy farms in the U.S. use automated milking systems, according to Douglas J. Reinemann, professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Most are on farms with fewer than 500 cows.
“The 20-year trend in the US is that the number of cows milked with robots has been doubling about every 3 to 4 years,” Reinemann said in an email. “It is likely to pick up because of the trend in larger farms adopting robots.
“That means that in 3 years we will have something like 5% of cows milked with robots and 10% in 6 years,” wrote Reinemann, who is the U.S. representative and chair of the International Dairy Federation’s working group on machine milking.
Bill Daugherty expects to see increased milk production due to the robotic milkers and the new barn, where the cows will be cooled by hilltop breezes, 40 fans and sprayed with water mist. He expects to have 240 cows milking when the upgrade and expansion is complete.
He’s had plenty of help with the project. The barn was largely designed by Kyle. Dr. Rick L. Daugherty (no relation) of the Sugarcreek Veterinary Clinic helped to pick the site. W.G. Dairy Supply, Inc., of Creston is the robot dealer and general contractor. Other contractors are MJ Excavating of Sugarcreek and Harold’s Equipment of Dundee.
Even with the robots, the Daughertys won’t run out of chores.
“We still have to feed the cows, breed the cows, keep the cows comfortable,” Bill said. “We have to do all the things that we’re doing now. It’s just we won’t have to milk five hours every morning. We won’t have to have high school boys milk four hours every night. That part’s taken care of, and continuously.”
Once the robots start working, Caroline hopes Bill can accompany her to Sunday school. He gets to services because he takes a nap after the morning milking.
Jersey Australia and Global Impact Supremacy have joined forces to launch a fundraiser for the Salway family and other farmers devasted by the country’s bushfires.
Robert Salway, 63, a long-term Jersey Australia member, was killed alongside his son Patrick, 29, as they were trying to protect their farm at Cobargo NSW.
Funds raised during the drive at International Dairy Week (IDW) will be donated to the Salway family and the Dairy Industry Bushfire Relief Support Fund.
Jersey Australia CEO Glen Barrett said there had been strong industry and member support through the donation of products, including animals, semen, cheese hampers and other goods.
“These fires have been devastating for all Australians and particularly hard for farming communities,” Mr Barrett said.
“Robert and Patrick Salway were much loved members of the Jersey family and this is the least we can do to support their families,” he said.
“And our concern goes beyond our membership and the Jersey breed. Our entire dairy and farming communities have been devastated by the impact of these fires.”
At the start of the Global Impact Supremacy Sale at IDW on January 21, a Casino pregnancy due in July out of Lightning Ridge Tequila Fernleaf VG87 will be auctioned, with 100 per cent of proceeds donated to the Salway family. The consignment was donated by Frank and Diane Borba, Callum Moscript and Declan Patten.
There will also be a silent auction running through IDW from January 19-23 with support from Dairy Livestock Services and Elite Livestock Auctions. Proceeds will be shared between the Salway family and the Dairy Industry Bushfire Relief Support Fund
Support has been overwhelming and there have been dozens of donations to the auction. The items will be listed at elitelivestockauctions.com.au
Anyone wishing to donate to the silent auction can contact Mr Barrett on 0418 466 371 or Declan Patten from Global Impact Supremacy on 0499 949292.
A charitable account has been set up with NAB Agribusiness and people can make a cash donation to 2020 Bush Fire Support BSB 083-894, account 49-781-1553.
The annual Wisconsin Junior Holstein Convention was hosted by the Clark County juniors in Stevens Point at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Convention Center, Jan. 3-5.
More than 400 Holstein members, chaperones and volunteers were in attendance to help make the weekend a success.
Throughout the convention junior members participated in numerous contests, including speaking, arts and crafts, photography, Dairy Jeopardy and Dairy Bowl. The largest competition of the weekend was Dairy Bowl, in which 27 junior, 18 senior and 10 rookie teams competed.
More than 50 volunteers helped coordinate Dairy Bowl matches, Dairy Jeopardy contests and the speaking contest. The Manitowoc/Calumet County team took first place in the senior Dairy Bowl contest with Brown County Team 1 coming in second place. The winner of the junior division was Wood County with Iowa County Team 1 taking second.
Team members on the senior Manitowoc/Calumet County team include Clarissa Ulness, Garrett Ulness, Lauren Siemers and Brianna Meyer. The Wood County junior team consisted of Wyatt Dorshorst, Sarah Dorshorst, Emma Bangart and Maddie Hensel.
Manitowoc/Calumet and Wood Counties will represent Wisconsin at the National Holstein Convention in Lancaster, Pa. in June 2019.
Rounding out the top five for the junior division were Brown Team 1, Shawano Team 1 and Fond du Lac Team 2, respectively. Finishing in third through fifth place in the senior division were Green County, Dodge County and Door County.
All juniors at convention had the chance to compete in the Dairy Jeopardy competition. The top competitor in each of three age brackets has the opportunity to compete at the national level. Winning the junior division was Logan Harbaugh, Shawano County; second was earned by Austin Meyer, Calumet County; and third went to Cathryn Gunst, Waupaca/Waushara County.
In the intermediate division, Coltin Coffeen of Brown County topped the group with Brianna Meyer, Calumet County, and Marissa Vosberg, Green County, placing second and third, respectively. Lauren Siemers, Manitowoc County, was the winning contestant in the senior division, Mason Jauquet of Shawano County placed second and McKenna Coffeen of Brown County took home third place.
In the speaking contest, Wisconsin can send up to three delegates in each division to compete at National Convention. To compete, youth must prepare a speech on a topic related to the dairy industry at a length assigned to their specific age division.
Heading to National Convention this year in the junior division are Austin Meyer, Calumet County; Christopher Gunst, Waupaca/Waushara County; and Madison Wiese, Brown County.
In the intermediate division, Matthew Gunst, Dodge County, took home top honors. Abby Meyer of Calumet County placed second, and Elizabeth Gunst, Dodge County, placed third.
Winning the senior division was Brianna Meyer of Calumet County with Hannah Ullom, Chippewa County, taking second, and Lauren Siemers of Manitowoc County placing third.
On Saturday evening, the annual banquet was held to honor outstanding juniors in the association. Colin Uecker of Jefferson County and Kalista Hodorff of Fond du Lac County claimed the most prestigious honor, being named Outstanding Holstein Boy and Girl.
These individuals have excelled in their Holstein projects, and have been an asset to the association and dairy industry as a whole. Also receiving honors were 14 other Distinguished Junior Members, 12 Young Distinguished Junior Member winners, and 10 Twelve & Under Recognition winners, all of which excelled in their Wisconsin Holstein activities in 2019.
In addition to Uecker and Hodorff, 2019 Distinguished Junior Members (DJM) included Jenna Broege, Rock County; Nicole Broege, Rock County; McKenna Coffeen, Brown County; Eliza Endres, Dane County; Hannah Hockerman, Marquette County; Kaianne Hodorff, Fond du Lac County; Mason Jauquet, Shawano County; Ben Kronberg, Rock County; Rachel McCullough, Green County; Hannah Nelson, Pierce County; Dawson Nickels, Dodge County; Lauren Siemers, Manitowoc County; Fritzy Ullom, Chippewa County; and Hannah Ullom, Chippewa County.
The Young Distinguished Junior Holstein Members (YDJM) included: Ashley Brandel, Jefferson County; Colton Brandel, Jefferson County; Ava Endres, Dane County; Cathryn Gunst, Waupaca/Waushara County; Christopher Gunst, Waupaca/Waushara County; Elizabeth Gunst, Dodge County; Jacob Harbaugh, Shawano County; Kaydence Hodorff, Fond du Lac County; Emily Stumpf, Fond du Lac County; Kaelyn Weigel, Grant County; Kenadee Weigel, Grant County; and Grady Wendorf, Dodge County.
Lastly, Twelve & Under Member Recognition was awarded to Justin Brandel, Jefferson County; Katie Brandel, Jefferson County; Christina Buttles, Grant County; Logan Harbaugh, Shawano County; Vivian Lichty, Dodge County; Abby Meyer, Calumet County; Ella Raatz, Clark County; Cameron Ryan, Fond du Lac County; Dylan Ryan, Fond du Lac County; and Payton Sarbacker, Dane County.
Of the exceptional youth recognized, four representatives in the DJM and the YDJM categories were selected to submit award forms to the national level with hopes of being honored at the National Convention. Mason Jauquet, Rachel McCullough, Hannah Nelson and Colin Uecker all were chosen to represent Wisconsin as DJMs. The YDJM delegates include Ashley Brandel, Colton Brandel, Ava Endres and Jacob Harbaugh.
The 2020 Wisconsin Holstein Princess and Attendant also were crowned at the banquet on Saturday evening. This year, Hannah Ullom of Chippewa County will serve as the WHA Princess, and Roslind Anderson of Pierce County will join her as the WHA Princess Attendant.
The WHY Leadership Merit award was created this year to recognize youth who excel in leadership at a local level. They are nominated by an advisor or fellow junior member by means of an application on their behalf. This year’s award recipients include: Hannah Hensel, Wood County; Katie Biese, Brown County; Josh Gerbitz, Rock County; and Ainsley Noble, Grant County.
Special recognition is given to youth leaders that have been nominated by youth in the Junior Holstein Association. This year’s WHY (Wisconsin Holstein Youth) Friends were honored in the more than five years of service category. Receiving awards were Peggy Coffeen from Brown County and Linda Behling from Dodge County.
Wisconsin Holstein awarded more than $15,500 in scholarships this year, and an auction was held to raise funds for future awards. Donated items auctioned included:
• UW Badgers Men’s Basketball tickets, donated by Rob and Karla Rippchen, and Corey Geiger and Krista Knigge.
• Farmgirl photography session, donated by Danae Bauer.
• A stay at Dr. Daluge’s Ski House in Montreal, Wis., donated by Rick and Peggy Daluge.
• UW Badgers Men’s Hockey tickets, donated by Eric Olstad and Todd Kronberg.
• Green Bay Packers tickets, donated by Kevin Jorgensen.
Funds from these items are put into the WHA scholarship fund, and $3,050 was added this year. High school seniors, short course, and two- and four-year college students that are members of WHA all are eligible for these scholarships.
Throughout the convention, youth were recognized for other outstanding achievements, including Junior Progressive Breeder and Long-Range Production. Those receiving Junior Progressive Breeder Awards include:
• Tessa and Stella Schmocker, Jefferson County.
• Nathan Cordes, Wood County.
• Katie Brandel, Jefferson County.
• Colton, Ashley, Katie and Justin Brandel, Jefferson County.
• Dylan and Cameron Ryan, Fond du Lac County.
• Gracin and Chesney Speich, Rock County.
• Jared and Macie Abraham, Sheboygan County.
• Brooke, Luke and Dane Trustem, Rock County.
• Brooke Trustem, Rock County.
• Luke Trustem, Rock County.
• Matthew, Elizabeth, Cathryn and Christopher Gunst, Dodge and Waupaca/Waushara Counties.
• Cathryn and Christopher Gunst, Waupaca/Waushara County.
• Christopher Gunst, Waupaca/Waushara County.
• Christina Buttles, Grant County.
• Emily Stumpf, Fond du Lac County.
• Jacob, Logan and Madison Harbaugh, and Adella Loehr, Shawano County.
• McKenna and Coltin Coffeen, and Breya Pollack, Brown County.
• Collin Wille, Barron County.
Long Range Production recognizes owners of cows that have produced more than 100,000 pounds in their lifetime. In the over 100,000 pounds category:
• Brooke, Luke and Dane Trustem, Rock County.
• Jared and Macie Abraham, Sheboygan County.
• Hannah Hensel, Wood County.
• Jacob, Logan and Madison Harbaugh, Shawano County.
• Brooke Trustem, Rock County.
• Christina Buttles, Grant County.
• Dylan and Cameron Ryan, Fond du Lac County.
• Colton, Ashley, Katie and Justin Brandel, Jefferson County.
In the over 150,000-pound category are:
• Christina Buttles, Grant County.
• Colton, Ashley, Katie and Justin Brandel, Jefferson County.
• Collin Wille, Barron County.
• Kalista, Kaianne and Kaydence Hodorff, Fond du Lac.
• McKenna and Coltin Coffeen, and Breya Pollack, Brown County.
Lastly, in the over 200,000-pound category are:
• Kalista, Kaianne and Kaydence Hodorff, Fond du Lac County.
• Emily Stumpf, Fond du Lac County.
• Dane Trustem, Rock County.
The convention concluded Sunday morning with an awards breakfast and the annual business meeting, where four new Junior Activities Committee (JAC) members were elected. The JAC group is responsible for coordinating and overseeing all junior events within the Wisconsin Holstein Association.
Selected this year for the southwest district was Hannah Hockerman of District 5, Emma Dorshorst of Wood County for the northwest district, Nicole Broege of Rock County for the southeast, and Elise Bleck of Sheboygan County for the northeast district. These members will serve a two-year term on the JAC, and join second-year members Matthew Gunst, Dodge County; McKenna Coffeen, Brown County; Hannah Nelson, Pierce County; and Nathan Daniels, Iowa County.
The contest room is an excellent way to show off projects completed by junior members throughout the year. Members participate in photography, drawing and painting, crafts, and folding display contests. Results are as follows:
First and People’s Choice: Ella Raatz, Clark County.
Second: Natalie Ott, Green County.
Third: Cathryn Gunst, Waupaca/Waushara County.
First and People’s Choice: Ella Raatz, Clark County.
Second: Jacob Raatz, Clark County.
Third: Kenadee Weigel, Grant County.
Junior Farm Scene
First: Jacob Raatz, Clark County.
Second: Christina Buttles, Grant County.
Third: Ella Raatz, Clark County.
People’s Choice: Kenadee Weigel, Grant County.
First: Kaelyn Weigel, Grant County.
Second: Kaelyn Weigel, Grant County.
Third: Elena Jarvey, Shawano County.
People’s Choice: Tie — Elena Jarvey, Shawano County and Emily Stumpf, Fond du Lac County.
First and People’s Choice: Hannah Hensel, Wood County.
Second: Laurianna Dannenberg, Iowa County.
Third: Hannah Hensel, Wood County.
Senior Farm Scene
First: Hannah Hensel, Wood County.
Second and People’s Choice: Kaelyn Weigel, Grant County.
Third: Kaelyn Weigel, Grant County.
First and People’s Choice: Hannah Hensel, Wood County.
Second: Payton Sarbacker, Dane County.
Third: Payton Sarbacker, Dane County.
First and People’s Choice: Kaelyn, Kenadee and Keegan Weigel, Grant County.
Second: Elise Bleck, Sheboygan County.
Third: Jenna Broege, Rock County.
Folding Display Contest
First and People’s Choice: Cathryn Gunst, Waupaca/Waushara County.
Second: Christopher Gunst, Waupaca/Waushara County.
Third: Ella Raatz, Clark County.
First and People’s Choice: Lily Jenson, Iowa County.
First: Payton Sarbacker, Dane County.
Second and People’s Choice: Grace Hensel, Wood County.
Third: Grace Hensel, Wood County.
Drawing & Painting Contest
First: Maddy Hensel, Wood County.
Second and People’s Choice: Callie Behling, Marathon County.
Third: Payton Sarbacker, Dane County.
First: Brianna Meyer, Calumet County.
Second and People’s Choice: Elena Jarvey, Shawano County.
Third: Brianna Meyer, Calumet County.
The annual essay contest encourages members to write about assigned topics relating to today’s dairy industry. In this year’s junior division, taking top honors was Aubrey Behling, Marathon County; second was awarded to Kenadee Weigel, Grant County; and third to Keegan Weigel, Grant County. Kaelyn Weigel, Grant County, took first in the senior division with Tyler Schroepfer of Langlade County placing second.
One of the most coveted awards, based on participation throughout the year and enthusiasm, is the Spirit Award, which was given to Grant County. Winner of the Bell-R-Ring contest was Fond du Lac County.
Amy Gerhardt, Neillsville, was this year’s winner of the calf raffle.
Weigland Holsteins and KHW Genetics donated the Registered Holstein heifer for this year’s raffle.
The following businesses donated additional prizes: Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, Country Today, CentralStar Cooperative, NASCO, Cattle Connection, Badger Dairy Club, UW-Platteville Pioneer Dairy Club, World Dairy Expo, Hoard’s Dairyman, STgenetics, UW-River Falls Dairy Club, Alta Genetics, and Bonnie Mohr.
The Wisconsin Holstein Association commends the Clark County Junior Holstein Association members and chaperones, and extends a special thank you to all volunteers that helped make the weekend a success. The 2021 Wisconsin Junior Holstein Convention will be hosted by Waupauca/Waushara County.
For more information visit the WHA website at www.wisholsteins.com or call the office at 1-800-223-4269.
Wisconsin Holstein is a not-for-profit membership organization with the purpose of promoting the Wisconsin Registered Holstein Breed, and its breeders and owners.
Dairy farms impacted by bushfires may need to temporarily relocate milking cows to an alternative farm where they can continue to be milked. This can be a short term emergency arrangement or a longer term business agreement.
Bega Cheese and Saputo Dairy Australia have agreed to facilitate cow parking arrangements between farms in fire-affected areas. Farmers with milking cows requiring relocation or farms able to offer cow parking for milking cows should contact these processing companies directly.
Cow parking carries a high risk of introducing mastitis bacteria and/or other animal diseases and should be avoided wherever possible. However during crisis situations it may be the only viable option to get cows milked.
Read this fact sheet with information on milk quality and animal health considerations associated with cow parking (including vaccinations and traceability requirements).
If you require assistance with cow parking or can offer this service, please contact:
Bega Cheese T: 02 6491 7787
Saputo Dairy Australia T: 03 9040 5000
Requests and offers for agistment of non-milking animals in Victoria should be directed to Victorian Farmers Federation T: 1300 882 833
For information on more support services for farmers affected by bushfires, please click here.
Applications are now open for places on the five-strong Australian team that will compete at the European Young Breeders School in Battice, Belgium, in September 2020 with young dairy men and women representing all breeds encouraged to apply.
An Australian team competed at the European Breeders School for the first time in 2019, with all team members finishing in the top third of the results, three in the top fifteen. For 2020 the team will be led by Justin Johnston and 2019 team member, Julia Paulger.
“Planning for 2020 started as soon as we returned home,” says Mr Johnston. “For anyone looking to pursue a career in the dairy industry this is an incredible opportunity. The European Young Breeders School is the international reference point for training and show preparation, with almost 200 competitors from around the world expected to take part next year.”
Leadership development is at the heart of Australia’s EYBS program according to Julia Paulger, who will be returning to Belgium as joint team leader.
“Standing alongside four friends as the first Australian team was an unbelievable experience – one I won’t forget. The memories and friendships we made and the experience we gained will last us a lifetime. It’s a real privilege to go back in this new role. Based on my own experience I can see this initiative playing a really important part in developing and broadening the horizons for Australian dairy youth for many years to come,” says Ms Paulger.
Backed by The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, Holstein Australia, Jersey Australia and a growing number of dairy industry businesses, applications are open to 18 to 25 year olds planning a future career in the industry. As well as competing at the School, the Australian team will take part in an educational tour through Holland and Belgium.
Brad Jenkins, RASV Chief Executive Officer, says: “The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria are proud to offer our support of the Australian youth delegation to the 2020 European Young Breeders School.
“Now in our second year of partnering with Holstein Australia and Jersey Australia to deliver this program, we are excited to assist emerging leaders in the dairy industry to develop valuable leadership skills and importantly, create support networks that will last a lifetime.”
“The European Young Breeders School offers a unique educational experience and we encourage eligible participants to apply for this tremendous opportunity to assist greatly in their development as emerging leaders in the dairy industry.”
The annual five-day event, run by the Association Wallonne de l’Elevage, involves hands-on workshops including bedding, showmanship & clipping, as well as classroom-based sessions such as marketing and herd promotion. After three days of workshops and practice, participants put their skills to the test in stock judging, showmanship & calf classes.
Graeme Gillan, Holstein Australia Chief Executive Officer says: “We are really excited to get behind this great youth initiative again in 2020. The response to Australia’s first European Young Breeders School opportunity in 2019 is I think a real testament to the calibre of our young dairy men and women and our Australian dairy youth programs.
“We are a truly global industry, and this program presents a unique opportunity to experience that first hand and start building international relationships early on in one’s career. You have to be in it to win it, so if you are setting out on a dairy career, apply today.”
Glen Barrett, Jersey Australia General Manager says: ”EYBS is an exciting opportunity for Australia’s young dairy women and men and with this year’s plans to build on the success of 2019 Jersey Australia is delighted to continue and expand on our support in partnership with the RASV and Holstein Australia for the program.
“The intent to provide personal development opportunities to build on the team members’ personal development outside of the show ring adds increasing value to the program and future opportunities to team members and the dairy industry.”
In addition to RASV, Holstein Australia and Jersey Australia, team supporters so far for 2020 include the Gardiner Dairy Foundation, Genetics Australia, ST Genetics, KEENAN, Alltech Lienert Australia and WFI Insurance.
Applications are now open and close Friday 31st January 2020.
Who can enter?
Entry is open to Australian residents aged 18 to 25 years on 2nd September 2020. Applicants must have a track record that demonstrates a high level of skill and expertise in the preparation of cattle for showing and an intention to continue working or develop a career in the dairy industry.
Applications are invited from people representing all dairy breeds from all states and territories. To be eligible for the trip applicants must be able to travel between 28th August and 10th September 2020. Team members from 2019 are ineligible for the 2020 team.
How to enter?
Application should be made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by the closing date of Friday 31st January 2020. Applications must include a covering letter covering the points below and resume, to include both a personal and dairy industry referee. The covering letter must demonstrate:
Your intention to pursue or continue a career in the dairy industry.
Why you believe you should be chosen to represent Australia at the European Young Breeders School.
What you hope to learn from taking part in the European Young Breeders School and educational tour.
Entries must be received by 5pm on Friday 31st January 2020. Interviews for shortlisted candidates will take place shortly afterwards with the successful applicants announced in late February. The European Young Breeders School takes place in Battice, Belgium, from 2nd to 6th September 2020, preceded by a three-day educational tour taking in some of Holland and Belgium’s premium dairy regions. Dates of travel to and from Australia are to be confirmed.
Aaron Salway, with his nephew Harley Salway, 2. Just behind them is the ridge where Aaron’s father Robert, and brother Patrick Salway died protecting their property in Wandella. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Now, with Patrick’s blond-haired two-year-old son, Harley, sitting with him on his quad bike, he was back on the farm fencing, trying to keep his emotions in check and slowly, painstakingly, attempting keep the family together and preserve what little was left.
“We’re all feeling numb, to be honest,” he said.
“We’re hurting bad. And we’ve cried. But we’ve got to keep going.”
He looked down at his young nephew immediately, who sat contentedly, waving the flies from his face.
There was an unspoken, awful emotional burden to be lifted here and Aaron Salway was stepping up, ready to do the heavy lifting.
He now had not one, but three farms to run. His grief would have to wait.
Like many farmers in the once-lush Bega Valley, for decades a rich source of the dairy products put on the tables of tens of thousands of people all over NSW and the ACT, Aaron Salway is back at work.
Behind him, in the base of the valley, is a ribbon of green grass he’s now fencing to serve as future feed for his cattle.
“People here, neighbours and friends, have been wonderful. They’ve all just pitched in to help. There’s been a lot of kindness and support,” he said.
Further up the hill, the grass is razed to bare earth by the fireballs that rolled out of the mountains to the west and bounced “like fire bombs” around the hillsides.
The Salways, three boys and three girls, are fifth-generation farmers in the valley.
They are closely knitted into the fabric of this small community, and known by all. The Cobargo agricultural show, now cancelled, was happening next month and everyone was getting ready for the big day. The show chooks, the horses, the cattle; they were all being prepped for Cobargo’s biggest social event on the calendar. Now the entire town is in shock.
“Dad always said that with bush, you need to burn it before it burns you. And he was right. It got him.”
He said his grandfather used to run cattle in the bush of the mountains behind Wandella and in doing so, they would fell and clear the bush to keep the fire risk down.
But as restrictions were imposed, they stuck to their farms and would look up to the high ridgelines above them where the uncontrolled bush grew thick and deep. Every year that passed, the risk and the forest fuel increased.
And when it came, it came without warning.
Patrick and Robert Salway died trying to protect their home but the intensity of the fire was simply too much. No one quite knows what happened but they were overwhelmed, some 60 metres downhill from their home, perhaps in a last-ditch effort to flee.
“They were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Mr Salway said. “I think they, like a lot of people around here, thought could fight it.
“But this was no ordinary bushfire. This was something else again, something unbelievable.”
He described the New Year’s Eve attack as like a warzone, where a series of firebombs bounced and boomed across the countryside, exploding and shattering trees and sucking the oxygen out of the air.
“There were a mob of cattle which ran up the ridge just over there,” he said, pointing across the valley.
“They just all keeled over and died, starved of oxygen.”
With 90 per cent of his fencing gone, every day of the past week has been long and busy just trying to set posts and strainers and string barbed wire to protect his stock from wandering onto the road.
“We have just got to keep strong and do our best,” he said.
In late December 2019, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies’ voted in favor of a reform to the Ley de la Propiedad Industrial (“Industrial and Federal Property of Consumer Protection law”), which would make regulations on misleading advertising more stringent. This prohibition will have an impact on plant-based alternatives that currently use dairy terms, such as “soymilk” or “almond yogurt.”
The next step is for Mexico’s Chamber of Senators to review the amendments to the Industrial and Federal Property of Consumer Protection law. Ron noted that the law would also apply to other products, like sugar-based syrup products that depict honeybees on their packaging, which confuses and misleads consumers. We will continue to monitor any developments.
In late December 2019, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies’ voted in favor of a reform to the Ley de la Propiedad Industrial (“Industrial and Federal Property of Consumer Protection law”), which would make regulations on misleading advertising more stringent. This prohibition will have an impact on plant-based alternatives that currently use dairy terms, such as “soymilk” or “almond yogurt.” The reform would amend articles 90 and 95 of the Industrial and Federal Property of Consumer Protection law, which would expand what constitutes false or misleading language, including the composition of products. The president of the Livestock Commission, Eduardo Ron, noted that the draft bill “represents hope for thousands of small, medium, and large milk producers, who everyday face unfair practices in the market.” The next step is for Mexico’s Chamber of Senators to review the amendments to the Industrial and Federal Property of Consumer Protection law. Ron noted that the law would also apply to other products, like sugar-based syrup products that depict honeybees on their packaging, which confuses and misleads consumers. We will continue to monitor any developments.
A billboard recently placed along Ashland Avenue in Green Bay has people talking. Kris Schuller reports that’s especially true for dairy producers who the billboard appears to be targeting.
Near the corner of Ashland and Lombardi a billboard sits with a message directed at the dairy industry. Just three short words – “Dairy is Scary.”
The billboard was ordered by an individual named Rosco Perez – who we’ve been trying to contact with no luck. But the message isn’t appreciated by a dairy producer on this farm.
“I think it’s poor judgement to go out and spread inflammatory words like that,” said Dan Diederich who owns Diederich Farms.
Diederich has been a dairy producer since 2005, managing a herd of 540 dairy cattle in De Pere. He says his dairy isn’t scary and he is committed to caring for his animals.
“I don’t wake up at two in the morning to take care of a difficult calving because I don’t like animals – I care,” Diederich said.
Similar billboards have appeared in places like California, signs urging people to give up dairy products. But according to this dairyman – for all the wrong reasons.
“They are alluding to either one of two things. One that dairy isn’t good for you, which isn’t true. Talk to any registered dietician that has gone to school and learned that dairy is very good for you. Or they think our methods are wrong and cruel, which is also incorrect,” he said.
Diederich says it’s an attack on his career that is allowed under the First Amendment. But he wishes those who had a problem with dairy would express their concerns in face-to-face discussion.
“It’s very unfortunate that somebody would target one of the main economic drivers in our area and something that is quite frankly, a very nutritious and delicious food,” he said.
Milk makes its way through a collection system. The milk flows down from the automatic cow milking machine. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times
The local dairy cooperative that lost its contract to sell milk to Kraft last month found a temporary solution that should bring in revenue, albeit less than usual.
But the group of almost 30 local farmers united through Jefferson County Bulk Milk Cooperative has still been searching for a longer-term buyer for its milk that would also pay a normal price.
Upstate Niagara Cooperative had previously agreed to purchase about 30 percent of what the local co-op’s member farmers typically produce, which the company has used to make yogurt at its North Lawrence plant. The group, however, still needed to find a home for the rest of the milk.
In the evening of Dec. 31, the last day of the co-op’s existing contract with Kraft, member farmer Lynn A. Murray, co-owner of Murcrest Farm, Copenhagen, said he received a call from the group’s broker telling him they found a short-term home for the group’s milk. Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative, Reston, Va., purchased the local co-ops milk for two days, Mr. Murray said. The local co-op received below market value for its milk because it was collected as surplus for production. Even with a lower price and higher transportation costs, Mr. Murray said the deal served better than earning nothing and having to dump the milk.
“It was the closest market we could find in those two days,” he said.
After New Year’s Day, the local co-op took to the spot market, in which processors seek to buy extra milk for short periods, and secured deals to sell and transport milk to three New York plants through Sunday.
Kraft, the same company that rejected the local co-op’s bid for a year-long contract, purchased milk to have sent to its Lowville and Walton plants, and Cayuga Milk Ingredients purchased milk for its Auburn plant, Mr. Murray said. Both larger cooperatives, like the one in Virginia, bought the local group’s milk for less than normal price, as they also considered it surplus supply.
“Between those three spots (and the North Lawrence plant), we were able to market all of our milk,” Mr. Murray said, “and we haven’t dumped any milk so far.”
The co-op will most likely have to return to the spot market on Thursday to strike more short-term deals, unless its broker can find a buyer willing to pay a normal price for a longer period of time.
While the temporary deals with Kraft and Cayuga Milk provide revenue, as opposed to earning none from having to dump milk, Mr. Murray said bringing back less money for his farmers because they have to accept a lower than average price, at a time when milk prices fall short of the cost of production, has been “emotionally hard to do.” He said he hopes the group’s broker can find buyers willing to pay the normal price other farmer groups receive for a month or a couple months until they can strike a deal similar to the contract with Kraft.
This co-op has worked hard to find a market and worked hard to make sure its farmer members stay in business,” said Jay M. Matteson, agricultural coordinator for Jefferson County Economic Development. “We’ve stayed in touch. We’re willing to do whatever we can to try to assist them.”
Kraft, which had been the sole buyer for the local co-op’s milk last year, notified the group of its decision to no longer purchase its milk on Dec. 2, which left little time for Mr. Murray and his fellow farmers to find a new buyer. Unlike its Jefferson County counterpart, Lowville Producers Dairy Cooperative received a year-long contract to sell its milk to Kraft.
“All of our farmers are important to our industry. All of our dairy farmers are important to the local economy,” Mr. Matteson said. “Every farm contributes to the tax base and brings outside revenue to the community.”
Everyone at The Bullvine would like to send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Caleb McGee.
Caleb B. McGee, 19, of Clearfield, died on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
He was born on April 21, 2000 in State College, a son of Brian N. and Becky A. (Mohr) McGee of Clearfield.
Caleb was a member of the Community Baptist Church, Curwensville. He was currently a sophomore at Penn State University where he was studying Animal Science. At Penn State, he was a member of the Penn State Dairy Science Club. As Caleb had a love of cows, he was also a member of the Morrisons Cove Dairy 4-H Club and has shown dairy cows most all of his life.
Caleb was also a gifted musician and had an extreme love of music. He was involved with the Clearfield High School music department as a member of the band and choir. He was recognized in several district, regional and state music festivals, even having the distinguished honor of singing as a Tenor 2 with the All National Choir.
In addition to his parents, Caleb is survived by a brother, Jonathan McGee of Clearfield; a maternal grandfather, Andy Mohr of New Enterprise; uncles Loren McGee, companion Lisa Pruznak and cousins Eric and Amber of Altoona, and uncle Scott Mohr, aunt Susie and cousin Sam of New Enterprise.
Caleb was preceded in death by a maternal grandmother, Sara Mohr; and paternal grandparents, Wallace and Pat McGee.
Funeral services will be held at the Community Baptist Church, Curwensville on Sunday at 2 PM with Pastor Todd Hogue officiating. Interment will be in Crown Crest Memorial Park, Hyde.
Friends will be received at Community Baptist Church, Curwensville on Sunday from 1-2 PM.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial contributions be made to Community Baptist Church, PO Box 202, Curwensville, PA, 16833; or the PA Holstein Association (Juniors) 839 Benner Pike, State College, PA 16801; or the Morrisons Cove 4-H Dairy Club, C/O Robyn Bechtel, 147 Bechtel Lane, Martinsburg, PA 16662.
Beardsley Funeral Home and Crematory, Clearfield is in charge of arrangements.
Home milk deliveries from local dairies and creameries used to be a part of the daily routine for many families up to the 1950s and ’60s. However as it became easier and cheaper to purchase milk from the store, the milkman began to disappear.
However as many Millenials shift to more sustainable ways of living, avoiding unnecessary plastic and waste, the milkmen and women of London UK- are making a come back.
It turns out that many will pay a little more for a service, if it’s better bid to help the environment.
Milk&More and Parker Dairies of London UK have both seen a dramatic increase in their demand for glass bottles since 2018. Claiming that David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II is the catalyst for the uptake.
With close to a 25 percent increase in two-years – figures estimate that doorstep deliveries make up 3 percent of all milk sales in the UK. Which is around 1 million pints per day.
Depot manager, Paul Lough of Parker Dairies thinks this interest in glass bottles is “absolutely phenomenal”. In less than a year, he gained 382 new customers, and of these new calls – 95 percent are getting glass bottles.
Paul says: “People are much more environmentally conscious and so they are asking if we do glass,”. Since glass milk bottles can be reused up to 25 times before they are recycled into new bottles, it’s a favorable way to decrease waste. Plus, everything just tastes better when it comes from a cold glass bottle.
In addition to milk deliveries, Paul has started to offer other services to his customers, he knows that the glass bottle dairy has attracted a younger crowd, and so he is working alongside the demographic, improving their product list to also include things like sourdough bread and local honey.
Meanwhile, a fellow company Milk&More says that it has gained more than 2,500 customers in just one month. With an equivalent of up to five new milk rounds, 90 percent of these customers are also requesting the iconic glass bottles.
Patrick Müller, managing director of Milk&More, said: “The glass bottle is an exciting product… We think that it has a future.” It’s no longer just a thing of the past. “We believe the tradition of the milkman has some fantastic elements that are relevant now. They are a reliable presence for pre-breakfast delivery, they offer an exciting product range including locally sourced produce, and can be a part of the community.
“We just have to make them relevant for the modern consumer.”
Patrick says his new customers are aged around 35 years old, many with young families with a double income.
“It’s popular with families, so people that care about the local community and local produce. They want the story behind their produce but they don’t have the time to get it.
“We talked with customers and they said they enjoy the experience of the glass bottle – the childhood memories – and they want to reduce their plastic wastage.”
Farm groups say devastating fires that have torn through two of Australia’s key dairy production areas will cause a further decline in the country’s already decades-low milk production levels.
Shaughn Morgan, CEO of the industry group Dairy Connect, said about 30 to 40 farmers on the NSW South Coast had been affected, with some reporting they had lost the bulk of their livestock.
He said the fires were another stress for an industry already under “enormous pressure” from drought, high feed prices, “unfair” milk supply agreements and, in many instances, farm-gate milk prices that did not cover their costs of production.
Amid these pressures, Australian dairy production fell to less than 9 billion litres last financial year – the lowest volume since 1996 – and Dairy Australia expects production to fall another 3 to 5 per cent this year.
“If we’re not cautious and we continue to lose dairy farmers at the rate that we’ve got, then the amount of milk production will continue to decrease and if it decreases it means we’ll need to source milk elsewhere,” Mr Morgan said. “It questions food security in the long-term.”
The NSW Department of Primary Industries estimates about 3900 head of livestock have been killed or euthanised due to bushfires in the state this summer.
United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Paul Mumford said early estimates from Gippsland and northern Victoria were that up to 13,000 beef and dairy cows have been lost to fire, with the heaviest casualties among one- and two-year-old cows.
“They’re our generation for next year’s milk production and the year after, so it’s going to be quite problematic for farmers. It’s going to leave a hole in their long-term planing,” Mr Mumford said.
He said even cows that survived would produce less milk due to the stress of the fires.
Mr Mumford said the fires would have a substantial impact on the national milk pool, but not enough to cause a shortage for consumers. However, he said it would keep a brake on any recovery in national production levels for the next year or longer.
The industry groups said the priority now was to ensure farmers could run generators and milk their cows, and had access to feed where required.
Farm-gate milk prices are at record highs on the back of high global prices and demand and reduced local supply, as farmers are hit with high feed costs and drought.
Shares in Australian dairy giant Bega Cheese fell 9.3 per cent on Monday amid fears over its milk supply and a potential further increase in milk prices.
So idk about you, but I’ve spent a significant amount of some time thinking about how I would do my entrance if I ever went on The Bachelor. However, no amount of my time or planning could have topped the most magnificent entrance on tonight’s premiere of Peter Weber’s season. And real ones will know that I’m *obviously* talking about Jenna, the incredible contestant who brought Peter a cow.
Cow in hand, Jenna walks up to Peter, says that Ashley P is her “emotional support cow,” and then walks off, leaving Peter with Ashley. Honestly, it was amazing, and Ashley P is now the only Bachelor contestant who will ever matter to me. In fact, I’m hoping that Ashley makes it to the finals because we’re on the 24th season of this show and really what better way to switch it up? Not only does Ashely P have some lovely curves, but she seems friendly and downright cuddly. I mean, just look at this lady:
Twitter obviously went wild for our girl Ash, and to quote one very astute user, “Ashley P isn’t the contestant we want she’s the contestant we need.”
Ashley P isn’t the contestant we want she’s the contestant we need. #bachelor
Despite positive trade news of late, USDA could soon announce another tranche of tariff relief payments to reimburse producers for last year’s financial losses.
The department has promised up to $14.5 billion in direct aid for 2019 production (on top of $8.6 billion provided for 2018 losses), and officials haven’t ruled out an entirely new program for 2020, reports POLITICO.
Trade aid and other government payments were largely responsible for keeping net farm income afloat in 2019. The bailout has faced growing scrutiny from ag economists and lawmakers who have questioned the fairness of how the money is distributed across the industry.
But there’s been little effort by Congress to interfere with the program, widely seen as a lifeline for farmers amid Trump’s trade storm.
Source: Wisconsin Ag Connection
A southern Missouri city alleges in a lawsuit that a Dairy Farmers of America plant is regularly releasing untreated wastewater into a river.
Cabool is seeking $1.2 million in reimbursement, claiming in the suit that it has to spend more money with its own wastewater treatment to address the problem. The suit also seeks other compensation and for the court to order DFA to stop releasing untreated wastewater into the Big Piney River, the Springfield News-Leader reports.
The city says it first became aware of the potential issue in February 2018. The lawsuit mentions 26 specific dates, most recently Aug. 21, 2019.
The suit says the dairy’s actions damage the quality of the river and open the city to violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
Court documents filed in the case say the Missouri Department of Natural Resources found the DFA in violation of its treatment permit in July.
Dairy Farmers of America said in a written statement that although it believes the allegations are “unfounded,” it has been implementing improvement to its wastewater system. The statement said many of those improvements were previously planned.
The Big Piney River is 110 miles (177.03 kilometers) long and is a tributary of the Gasconade River.
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The Federal Agriculture Minister fears stock losses from the recent Australian bushfires will exceed 100,000, as farmers around the country begin to assess the fires’ impacts to their properties and livestock.
Farmers are having to shoot stock too badly injured by bushfire to survive
Nine per cent of the national cattle herd and 12 per cent of the national sheep flock live in areas impacted by the fires
The Government has arranged 100 veterinarians to help with livestock assessments
WARNING: This article contains content which some readers may find distressing.
On the last day of 2019, a fire burnt towards Belinda Attree’s property in the Nariel Valley, near Corryong in Victoria’s north.
Like many other farmers, her family made the decision to open the farm gates to give their cattle the best chance of escaping the blaze, but many did not survive.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.
“The cattle were just dead in the paddock and my husband was just trying to put them all in one place to dispose of them.
“Having to pick them up on the forks of the tractor — he said they just fall apart.
“They just cook on the inside and explode.”
The race to treat those injured in the fires has started and it is understood many more livestock will need to be euthanised.
“We had cows with calves at foot,” Ms Attree said.
“Their teats are all burnt and they can’t feed their calves.
“Walking these cows down to the yard — there were calves just dropping, falling down and not able to walk, and we were having to go back and shoot them.”
Vets to assess stock
The Federal Government has made 100 veterinarians available to assist in assessing the livestock left standing, in similar situations across the country.
The Federal Agriculture Minister, Bridget McKenzie, said they were working with State Governments to understand the level of catastrophe.
“Last week I was out on the ground looking at the Corryong fire impact, and there were thousands of head dead there,” she said.
“In the South Australian fires — the Adelaide Hills — there would have been a little over 3,000 head deceased as a result of the fires directly, but in the subsequent weeks we’ve seen stock really dying because of heat stress and smoke inhalation.
“The Kangaroo Island fires, they’re talking tens of thousands of sheep and cattle so it’s going to be quite devasting on the national heard.”
Ms McKenzie said with active fires still burning, delivering fodder and disposing of the deceased animals had been prioritised.
“When we are talking to state farming organisations, they are saying first and foremost we need to get fodder into these herds, and they also need clear water,” she said.
“The second thing they are asking is around access back to property and the fencing recovery task … and mental health issues that will be ongoing.”
“We know the disposal of livestock deceased from the fires is of paramount urgency,” she said.
“We know communities and farmers are struggling to deal with what are massive stock losses.”
Full extent of the loss won’t be known for months
A map put together by agriculture market analyst company Mecardo found about 8.6 million head of sheep and 2.3 million cattle live in areas impacted by the bushfires across Victoria and New South Wales, making up about 12 per cent of the sheep flock and nine per cent of the national cattle herd.
Senior market analyst Matt Dalgleish said because of the size of the area impacted, it could be months before the exact figures on stock losses were known.
“It’s a far bigger area than what was impacted by the Queensland floods, and that took about 3 months before we knew about the amount of cattle impacted,” he said.
Mr Dalgleish said alongside the initial stock loss there would be issues with feeding animals that survived.
“A lot of these areas have been fairly heavily drought impacted,” he said.
“You’ve got farmers that have been paying a lot of money to bring feed in to try and sustain the animals.
“Now this fire has potentially taken away all that investment they’ve made in trying to keep their flock or herd alive.”
Mr Dalgliesh said Australia was already facing a tight season for cattle and sheep numbers around the country.
“When we do get a reasonable enough turn in the weather it’s going to be a big scramble for those that want to get back in [to livestock production],” he said.
“It’s going to cost a lot of money to rebuild animal numbers.”
He said the sector, particularly around Bega, had already faced turbulent times prior to the fires.
“They’re now facing a situation where they have not been able to milk their animals for 48 to 60 hours because of the fires, and that also starts to impact the production of milk,” Mr Dalgliesh said.
“The supply chain from the farm and to the processors is also going to be disrupted by road closures.”
Ms McKenzie said power outages had also impacted dairy farms in the region.
“Because of the perishable nature of the product, a lot of them were very well prepared with generators, but now those generators after a week, and as the power shortages continue, will be needing to be fuelled,” she said.
Meanwhile in Victoria, Ms Attree said she knew of farms where milk supply that had been left to waste.
“The milk trucks can’t get in, they’re still having to milk their cows and feed their cows,” she said.
“And then they’re having to open up the vat and let the milk run out because it can’t get collected.
Victorians have generously chipped in with cash donations, clothes and food for the many people suffering the impacts of the state’s devastating bushfires.
But a very particular form of charity is proving especially welcome among the farmers in east and north-east Victoria.
The saleyards at Bairnsdale, the gateway to fire-ravaged East Gippsland, have been transformed into a kind of clearing house for donated farm fodder.
Thousands of bales of hay have been transported into the region with trucks arriving often unannounced from near and far.
On Sunday community leaders and emergency workers at the saleyards took advantage of cooler conditions and clearer skies to help direct trucks to fire-affected areas where animals were in dire need of food.
Many cows, beef cattle and sheep have been killed in the fires, especially in the hills of east and north-east Victoria. Of those that survived, many have been without food for days.
A clearly moved East Gippsland mayor John White told The Age how trucks full of hay had rolled into Bairnsdale like cavalry over the horizon in a mid-century western.
He said he was not sure where all the trucks had come from but some were from far away including from the distant Western District. “It’s incredible, it’s overwhelmed us,” said Cr White.
“Some animals haven’t had anything to eat since New Year’s Eve.”
Cr White said it was hard to explain how farmers from other areas knew where to send the hay. “It’s the good old bush telegraph,” he said.
Speaking from the Bairnsdale saleyards on Sunday local federal MP Darren Chester said the donations of hay from other farming communities had taken him aback.
“I’m standing here watching truckload after truckload of fodder pass by.”
Mr Chester described the fires as “of a scale we haven’t seen before in terms of the vast area that has been burned”.
It was still unclear exactly how many farm animals have died.
The convoys of hay may well be the difference between life and death for many of those that have survived.
Source: The Ag
A Fonterra Australia spokesperson says however, it is keeping a close eye on developments.
“Thankfully, the areas where our factories and farmers are located remain largely unaffected…..with no immediate end to the fires in sight and with the continued dry conditions as a result of the drought, we are staying close to any emerging risks and our priority is to ensure our people and farmers are safe,” she says.
“With the huge challenges that these communities face, we are looking at what we can do to support them, as well as working with the dairy industry to enable support for affected farmers.
“As a first and immediate step, we have donated milk powder to our charity partner Foodbank which will go into emergency relief packs for those in need.”
Holstein Canada closed out a ten-year period of innovation and partnership in record-setting style, celebrating five consecutive years of growth in Registrations and three in Classifications.
Holstein Canada ended the decade with record numbers in both Registrations and Classifications. Producers submitted 316,302 Registrations by end-of-year 2019, 11,159 more than 2018’s record high. The Field team classified 272,976 animals – 1,704 more than in 2018 – and assessed an additional 83,789 animals for proAction® animal care.
These new benchmarks were made possible by the belief of Canadian producers in the value of our core services and the innovative Holstein Canada team. Since 2010, electronic Registrations went from 80% of all Registrations submitted to 95%. The revamp of our website in 2013 made it easier for producers to access and submit information.
“The more information you have on your herd the better management and breeding decisions you can make for future progress,” said Linda Markle, Manager of Herdbook & Genotyping Services. “Registration is a fundamental first step in the information gathering process, and it is why the percentage of registered Holsteins continues to increase in Canada year over year.”
Classification numbers have also increased over the last ten years. The Holstein Canada classifiers examined 17,000 more animals in 2019 than they did in 2010 from all breeds. More than 15,000 of these were Holstein animals.
“We require more from our cow today than in 2010, and the need to build a herd that is sustainable and healthy is more important than ever,” said Brad Eggink, Manager of Classification and Field Services. “Increased Classification numbers is a continued testament to our Canadian dairy producer utilizing their performance data to build a herd that is functionally optimal and suited to their environmental and management needs.”
Diversifying our services was not something we could have done alone. We began the period with the launch of the National Genomic Testing Service in partnership with Semex Alliance. In 2016, Holstein Canada became the service provider for Animal Care Assessments as part of the Dairy Farmers of Canada proAction Initiative. We ended the decade with the release of Compass, a herd management software designed and implemented with Lactanet and Zoetis. 930 Canadian producers now actively use this free program, with more signing on every week.
Holstein Canada was also pleased to begin collaborations with other breed organizations across the country. On top of in-office support and services, our Association began registering other breeds: Canadienne animals in 2013, Ayrshire in 2014, and Brown Swiss, Guernsey and Milking Shorthorn in 2016.
None of the success we have experienced could have been accomplished without a passionate and dedicated membership base, the dairy producers across Canada, and our industry partners. We look forward to a future of collaboration with the entire dairy industry, providing a healthy and sustainable industry for all.
The announcement of the Master Breeder recipients has become an annual tradition at Holstein Canada. This tradition is now in its 90th year, and we are pleased to announce the Master Breeders who will be honoured at the National Holstein Convention Master Breeder Gala in Regina, Saskatchewan on Saturday, April 18, 2020.
Of the breeders who received exciting news today, 11 (58%) are first-time recipients of a Shield. Two breeders are receiving it for the third time. The winners come from five provinces: eight breeders are from Quebec; four are from Ontario and British Columbia each; two are from Prince Edward Island.; and one is from Manitoba.
Congratulations to the 2019 Master Breeder Recipients:
Contact information for the winning producers is available on the Holstein Canada website. For more information, contact Steven Spriensma at 519-756-8300 ext. 234 or email@example.com.
Since its beginning in 1929, the Master Breeder program has become the most coveted Holstein Canada award. Including this year’s winners, 1088 Master Breeder shields have been handed out since 1930 (for the year 1929). We recognize these breeders for having mastered the art of breeding balanced cattle – high production and outstanding conformation with great reproduction, health and longevity. Congratulations to the Master Breeders who joined the ranks of the most elite breeders across Canada in 2019!
The Coca-Cola Company today announced that it has acquired the remaining stake in fairlife LLC from its joint venture partner Select Milk Producers. Coca-Cola now owns 100% of fairlife, up from its previous 42.5% minority stake. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
fairlife LLC, which launched in 2012, started with a high-protein milk shake called Core Power and has grown to offer a broad portfolio of products in the fast-growing value-added dairy category in North America.
fairlife will continue to operate as a stand-alone business based in Chicago.
“We are excited for the next chapter of fairlife’s growth and innovation and look forward to continuing to work with our partners across the Coca-Cola system to meet fast-changing consumer needs in a vibrant category,” fairlife CEO Tim Doelman said. “We set out in 2012 to harness the power and nutrition of dairy and give people great-tasting products that provide the nutrition they are looking for. Our innovative product lines will continue to grow and improve with the strength and scale of The Coca-Cola Company.”
Value-added dairy products have been growing steadily in the United States, in contrast to the traditional fluid milk category, with great-tasting, nutrient-dense fairlife milk products playing a significant role in that growth.
fairlife® ultra-filtered milk debuted in 2014, and sales have grown sharply since then, with strong double-digit growth each year since launch. According to Nielsen AMC, fairlife surpassed $500 million in retail sales last year.
fairlife’s continued growth has been supported by new product innovation ranging from delicious lactose-free, ultra-filtered milk with less sugar and more protein than competing brands, to high-protein recovery and nutrition shakes and drinkable snacks.
The brand also has been supported by the reach of Coca-Cola’s U.S. system with products distributed both through the Minute Maid distribution system, as well as by Coca-Cola bottlers across the country. In 2018, fairlife also launched in Canada and will begin local production and sourcing in Ontario in spring 2020. fairlife is also continuing to expand production capabilty in the U.S. by complementing production in Coopersville, Mich. and Waco, Texas with a new facility under construction in Goodyear, Ariz.
“fairlife is a great example of how we’re continually expanding our total beverage portfolio to bring people more of the brands they love,” said Jim Dinkins, president of Coca-Cola North America. “This agreement will help ensure that we continue to build on fairlife’s innovative history by combining their entrepreneurial spirit and innovation capabilities with the resources, reach and expertise of Coca-Cola.”
NOTE TO EDITORS: You can read more about the transaction and the future of fairlife in an online Q&A with Jim Dinkins and Tim Doelman here.
about fairlife, LLC
fairlife, LLC was founded in 2012 to produce nourishing and great-tasting milk beverages made using a patented cold-filtration process that removes some natural sugars while concentrating the protein and calcium naturally found in real cows’ milk. The line of delicious, lactose-free fairlife® products includes: fairlife® ultra-filtered milk, which has 50% more protein and 50% less sugar than regular milk; fairlife® with DHA, ultra-filtered milk with DHA Omega-3 fatty acids to support brain health; fairlife YUP!®, a line of flavored milks; fairlife Core Power® High Protein Shakes, a sports nutrition drink to support post-workout recovery; fairlife smart snacks®, a drinkable snack to help curb hunger between meals; fairlife® nutrition plan™, a nutrition shake to support one’s journey to better health; and the newly launched fairlife® creamers, coffee creamers designed to help enhance your coffee experience. In partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, fairlife ultra-filtered milk and Core Power high protein shakes are distributed throughout the United States (U.S.) and Canada; all other fairlife drinks are available in the U.S. To learn more about fairlife and its collection of products, please visit fairlife.com or follow the company on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
About The Coca-Cola Company
The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is a total beverage company, offering over 500 brands in more than 200 countries and territories. In addition to the company’s Coca-Cola brand, our portfolio includes AdeS, Ayataka, Costa, Dasani, Del Valle, Fanta, Georgia, Gold Peak, Honest, innocent, Minute Maid, Powerade, Simply, smartwater, Sprite, vitaminwater and ZICO. We’re constantly transforming our portfolio, from reducing sugar in our drinks to bringing innovative new products to market. We’re also working to reduce our environmental impact by replenishing water and promoting recycling. With our bottling partners, we employ more than 700,000 people, helping bring economic opportunity to local communities worldwide. Learn more at www.coca-colacompany.com and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.