Calmar dairy farmer deals with tough times - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Calmar dairy farmer deals with tough times


CALMAR (KWWL) -- A storm is making things difficult for Northeast Iowa dairy farmers. Historically low milk prices are already driving many out of business.

The Iowa State Extension office is holding workshops for dairy owners in financial crisis. It's estimated dairy farms lose $100 per cow each month, because revenue is cut in half, and consumers are buying less.

Wednesday's meeting in Winneshiek County focused on financial options, stress management and resources for farm families.

For as long as Gary Elsbernd can remember, he's worked on this farm outside Calmar.

"I started as a kid, working with my father. I just grew into it as time went on," said Elsbernd.

Now he owns and operates the family farm, who's primary enterprise is dairy. But in the last year dairy farmers have taken a hit.

"It's not only the dairy industry it's all the livestock producers feeling the pinch," said Elsbernd.

A pinch that starts with corn feed prices. Elsbernd says it was only a few years ago that dairy prices were reasonable but feed costs were high. Now, feed costs are the same but dairy prices don't' match; causing many farmers to take a "least cost" approach to everything.

"Just a fair price for the dairy farmers and a fair price for all livestock producers, that's all we ask. We don't have to make a killing on it but still we'd like to make a fair profit on it," said Elsbernd.

Like most dairy farmers, the Elsbernd's grow their own feed corn, which helps the cost of production and feeds their cows, but after a hail storm tore through most of their fields, destroying their crops, it's making it hard to profit."

"It puts a financial strain on you because you have that forage you would have used for feeding your animals through out the year, its gonna and now you gotta find other places to fill that void," said Elsbernd.

Which means he'll have to find feed suppliers and spend extra money to feed his cattle. Still amidst the storm, Elsbernd says the sun shines through.

"I'm not a quitter. No matter what happens I'm gonna keep pulling and this may be a thin year but I'm gonna keep striving," said Elsbernd.

Striving to keep this family tradition alive for years to come.

The economic impact of the dairy industry in Iowa is significant. The Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation says each dairy cow is worth $16,000 in economic activity annually.

To help struggling dairy farmers, through October, the USDA will increase the amount paid for dairy products through the dairy product price support program.

The next extension workshop will be at the Oelwein public library from 1 to 4 Thursday.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires
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