Small Dairy Farms Struggle to Survive

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. –As Missourians’ celebrate national dairy month, dairy farmers are facing serious challenges.

Law makers and local farmers recently gathered to tour facilities at the Paul Mueller Company in Springfield, which has a long legacy of making stainless steel milk coolers for farmers for decades.

The price of milk going down may be great for your paycheck when you’re trying to stock the refrigerator, but stocking dairy barns is pricey and farmers are taking a huge hit.

“The pricing to cover all our costs is pretty rough the last few years. It’s not that you can’t make money milking, but you just got to make sure you’re doing everything right,” explains Scott Maples, a local dairy farmer.

For Maples dairy is in the blood after four generations. As a dairy farmer for more than 3 decades, his farm milks 120 dairy cows.

“Once you get started and you’ve got this many years into it, you’ve got all this money invested, what are you going to stop and start doing?”

Maples has had enough and loves what he does, but is tired of spending more money than he makes.

“It seems like everything is getting bigger, bigger dairies and they seem to be getting more breaks on everything.”

It’s a cyclical problem.  He has dozens of cows in his barn,”breaks on hauling, breaks on feed, everything  they buy is in a bigger bulk so they get a better price on it.”

But Maples says the return on investment is virtually nonexistent spending more than 14,000 a month on feed. “While the little guy isn’t getting anything.”

Gregg Shirey is the General Manager of Dairy Farm Equipment and the Director of Business Development at Mueller. He says the game has certainly changed with technology promoting production.

“A lot of the younger generation don’t want to be tied to the dairy farm 24/7. So things are coming up like robotic milking that reduces the time.”

He adds agriculture is Missouri’s number one industry, and the dairy industry makes up a big part.

“Milk is still a very important industry for our economy that it’s not just at the dairy farm level. It’s at the people that we’ll have out at the shop, the people out in the office.”

Last year farmers say marked one of the lower points in the local dairy market resulting in a financial drought for dairy farmers in the state.

“Each milk cow puts about $4,000 worth economy into your state. Well if you look at how many dairy farms that went out of business in the last 10 years you can figure how much economy we lost,” explains Maples.

In order to help alleviate the strain, Bill Reiboldt a Missouri State Representative for Newton County. He tells KOLR10, “You’re forced to get larger and that means more cattle, more land, larger equipment, hired help.”

Legislators like Reiboldt say it’s going to be a challenge for those dairy farmers.

“We’ve done what we can do for them legislatively. It maybe to little too late for some of our smaller farms.”

“Farmer’s aren’t asking for a handout we just want it to be an even playing field,” explains Maples.

Reiboldt says a smaller plant will be closing down in Seneca, Missouri next year.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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