The closure of two dairy farms in the Upper Peninsula will end commercial milk production in two counties.
The Johnson Dairy Farm in Baraga County stopped production last week, and the owners of Rolling Acres farm in Houghton County expect to sell all of their milking cows by the end of July, The Daily Mining Gazette of Houghton reported. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, 6.5% of the nation’s dairy farms closed in 2018.
Gary Palosaari took over Rolling Acres in Chassell Township from his parents in 1992. He said the farm kept losing money because of years of low milk prices and high costs.
“You think you can ride it out, but then the hauling costs got so extremely high,” he said. “We’re paying a ridiculous amount of hauling because there’s not enough milk. Then when money’s tight, you can’t pay labor like you should, so everything falls on each other.”
His wife, Teresa Palosaari, said it was costing the farm more than $4,000 a month to ship the milk to Jilbert’s Dairy in Marquette.
Of the 190 cows in the herd, 54 are being milked, generating 75 pounds of milk a day, Gary Palosaari said. The farm makes about $15 per 100 pounds of milk.
Palosaari said the farm lost money last year, and he has been subsidizing the business with money he’s earned doing construction work on the side.
He said that despite all this, he hasn’t given up on dairy farming altogether. Perhaps, he said, he’ll revisit having milk cows in a couple of years. Meanwhile, the family is considering keeping some of the remaining herd for beef, and it could continue to grow crops — although trucking costs will continue to be a factor.
Steve Johnson, the owner of the Johnson Dairy Farm, declined to provide details about why he decided to stop producing milk after 43 years. But he said it was hard to say goodbye to his herd.
“The day they went, it was an awful sad day,” Johnson said. “But that’s the way it is.”