Another California exodus: Dairy cows leave for greener pastures in Texas, Arizona as farms squeezed by commodity prices decline
After paying up to $12,000 for an intensive care stay in a San Joaquin Valley hospital, a single dairy cow was allowed to leave its stall with its young calf strapped to her teat for one last time.
The calf, now about 11 weeks old, is being taken care of by the owner, who is giving it a bottle of formula every day.
The rest of her herd followed her to Texas.
The cow’s owner, Ken Ziegler of Pleasanton, Calif., said he’s proud of her for going despite the uncertainty of his finances due to the collapse in milk prices.
“She chose to get out,” Ziegler said. “I’m thankful.”
Livestock owners in recent months have been encouraged by the low milk prices and the volatility of the dairy industry because such prices support the industry’s other business ventures, such as dairy processing plants.
But even as some dairy owners have seen better than 5% in profits in recent months, the commodity prices that have supported them have been driven down by the steep cuts in milk production by major dairies, with the decline in the industry’s single biggest consumer — Americans — having a ripple effect on the rest of the world’s population.
A Texas dairy in South Texas that bought 1,500 cows from a dairy farmer whose herd has been reduced by half since last year to cope with the effects of the drought has been forced to find other milk sources and cut costs — in the process, eliminating some of its staff as its other milk operation went into disarray.
In Arizona, a dairy processing plant in Payson closed after having lost $50 million in its previous 12 months.
At the same time, other Texas producers are losing money on farms, with some even shutting down due to a lack of milk. A number of them said they’re trying to turn the losses into profits the next time