Wisconsin’s dairy industry will end the year in relatively good shape. But the rest of the country wasn’t so lucky.Farmers had low prices earlier in the year and a drought to contend with in 2012. Despite those challenges, UW Extension Dairy Economist Bob Cropp says milk production is up and dairy market prices are once again healthy. Cropp also says the cheese industry is growing in Wisconsin, so demand for Wisconsin milk is up as well. He says while dairy farmers still face challenges, the outlook looks promising, “I think there’s a reason for optimism in Wisconsin dairy.”
Not everyone is as hopeful as Cropp. Hundreds of farmers have called the Farm Center seeking advice on how to keep their farms going. The Farm Center is a service of the State Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Economic specialist Frank Friar says some were still digging themselves out of a financial hole from record low dairy market prices in 2009, when the price of feed skyrocketed this year, “The drought is maybe what broke the camel’s back. Now you come in 2012, 2013, and we have a drought feed costs are high, milk is pretty good price right now, but not in comparison to buying feed.”
Friar says most farmers who have sought help from the Farm Center staff do find ways to keep their farm going. It could be worse. Dairies in western states are culling their herds or closing altogether. Bob Cropp says growth in the nation's dairy industry could slow to a crawl, or stop in 2013. He says Wisconsin should continue to see an increase milk production.