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Virginia dairy farmers struggle to maintain their farms and their salaries

Third generation dairy farmer Mike Stiles has been farming since 1966, and says the changes in the dairy industry has had huge effects on farmers, especially economically.

“It was a lot nicer going to the barn when, not you’re only making ends meat and paying bills, but you were putting a little bit away or catching up on some of the other bills.” Mike Stiles of Waverly Farm says.

Jeremy Daubert is one of two dairy extension agents in Virginia, and his studies show that Virginia lost 100 dairy farms and 4,000 dairy cows in the past four years because farmers can no longer afford to keep their farms running.

“They might have one less employee and doing the same amount of work, they might be adding a few more cows with the same amount of employees so every farmer is coping with it a bit differently.” Daubert says.

And some farmers can’t find people who want to work in agriculture anymore.

“We start milking about 2 o’clock in the morning and 1 o clock in the afternoon, and there aren’t just a whole lot of people knocking your doors down to get up with you at 2 o’clock in the morning.” Stiles says.

Stiles has over 500 jersey cows on his Clear Brook farm, and says the low prices and consumption of fluid milk has almost cut his return in half.

“For jersey milk, we were getting just over $30 per 100 pounds of milk and now we’re getting about 17 to 18 dollars.” Stiles says.

Daubert says milk in Virginia is processed in fluid form only, which hurts the farmers because they have to ship out of state to create products like cheese and yogurt. He hopes soon, there will be in state processing.

“Looking at what the solution is where a processing plant could be, what size it could be. What product we should make what the markets are.” Daubert says.

Stiles says he doubts the good ol’ days of dairy farming will return, but he finds hope in knowing other dairy farmers know what he’s going through.

“We sense of not feeling out there alone.” Stiles says.

Virginia dairy extension agents say the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors has heard details of the study and are on board with creating a solution sooner than later.


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