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Small Margins, Paychecks Make Dairy Prospects Grim for Young Farmers


A recent dairyherd.com poll revealed 64% of respondents say they would not recommend their children join the dairy industry. Here’s what dairy producers said:

You can’t own a dairy unless you inherit it

As far as working on large farms, yes. As far as ownership of a dairy farm, not really. Yes, there will be some who take over a large farm. But how can a young kid who wants single ownership compete for land against decades long established farmers? — Kurt W.

The margins are too thin

Many may believe with the way the dairy economy has been that there is hardly a future for older dairymen. Margins are thin, and many farms have seen equity slip away over the past few years. But dairy farming is not some get-rich-quick scheme. People milk cows because they love what they do and are passionate about it. Dairy farming instilled into people through generations of labor and a love for the land and cattle.

As for the young people wishing to enter such a volatile industry, it will be difficult. Gone are the days where you can just take care of cattle and make ends meet. Producers must be good businessmen to make it work. Education will become ever more important, whether that be a formal degree or not. One must never stop learning otherwise he or she will fall behind. Advancements in animal husbandry keep coming. Those who are will to work hard, continue to learn, and are passionate about cattle will be the next generation of producers. — Ryan W.

Costs are climbing, but our paychecks aren’t

The future is looking grim for young farmers, as everything else is going up (wages and anything you need for farming) and the farmer’s paycheck stays the same or even less. How long can that go on? Fourth generation farms are even going broke now, so how can a young person even start up? And most of all, do you want to work for nothing and get the blame for everything?

Now with the new FARM program and all the other new rules you’re saying that farmers are a bunch of idiots who have no clue what they’re doing. Really attractive for young people. Our representatives do nothing for keeping our own domestic market that’s getting overrun by fake products and imports from other countries. We’re really helping ourselves by running after exports, while there is a big market here right at home. Depending on export will always have the market going up or down drastically. Not a real stable future for a young person to start up—which you need for the big investment that a dairy farmer makes once he starts his own business.—Helena D.

Start with a college education

There are many ancillary fields that are related to dairy cows that new college graduates can do very well in. The capital investment required in actually setting up a new dairy, or buying one, is prohibitive. I think kids coming up need their college degrees first. They need to look at ancillary fields related to Dairy. I firmly believe there are going to be fewer dairies but much larger. Management is going to be key in these outfits and managing the oversupply of milk products currently in the marketplace. —William K.

Source: Portia Stewart, Dairy Herd Management

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