By: Laura Bunn (reporter) and Mackenzie Christman (photojournalist)
For Casey Pfaff, dairy farming is a family affair. A fourth generation dairy farmer, Pfaff has been lucky so far, but many family farms have been hit hard by low milk prices and higher costs of living.
“It’s almost impossible to have enough cash to cash flow from just a little family dairy,” Pfaff said. “It’s hard.”
It is a widespread issue that is causing America’s Dairyland to rapidly lose family farms.
“If I go back and talk to my dad and my grandfather, they’ve had challenges through the years, an awful lot of them have been different economic challenges, and so I think there’ll always be a place for the family farm,” said Chris McCullough, a dairy farmer at Rock-N-Hill-II Holsteins farm.
While family farms face financial strains, experts believe there are solutions.
“Maybe you need to diversify and you need to think about alternative sources for revenue, so I love to milk cows, but maybe could I have, you know, school groups come out and be a revenue stream, could I make a product, you know, could I compost the manure and sell it to gardeners,” said Jennifer Blazek, director of the Farm & Industry Short Course at CALS.
Pfaff’s family has found success selling cash crops and turning one of their barns into a wedding venue. With a variety of solutions available, Pfaff is hopeful for the future of his family’s farm.
“It takes a lot of time and hard work to make a farm run and it’s not worth it to go backwards,” Pfaff said.
While the future of dairy farming is evolving, the farmers behind the operation believe it is here to stay. For the Badger Report, I’m Laura Bunn.