Dairy attrition continues

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico

Ten dairies in Roosevelt and Curry counties have gone out of business since wholesale milk prices began dropping more than a year ago, a Dairy Farmers of America spokesman confirms.

Walter Bradley, government and business affairs director for the DFA in Clovis, said five of the dairies were participants in the Cooperatives Working Together program.

The program pays dairy owners for their cows and slaughters the animals in an effort to increase milk prices by decreasing supply.

Another three dairies went out of business without the program.

Two moved milking operations to Texas, he said.

Bradley expects “a couple more” dairies to go out of business in about two months if milk prices don’t rise.

“I don’t look for a lot more because the signals are telling us the price is going to go up,” he said.

Greg Fisher, director of the Roosevelt County Community Development Corp., said the loss of dairies would impact the local economy.

“With nearly 25 percent of Curry County’s dairies and 10 percent of Roosevelt County’s dairies calling it quits in the current depressed milk market, we can expect to see millions of dollars in lost wages, feed and equipment sales,” he said. “However, it appears that milk prices are beginning to rebound, and that is good news for the 40 remaining dairies in Roosevelt County and the 15 left in Curry.”

Bradley said milk supply is down, and the dairy industry will need to rebuild it once demand increases. He expects the rebuilding will probably happen first at remaining dairies, which have cut back.

Dairies will come back to the area after milk prices are up and they have a solid economic base, Bradley believes.

“In order to come back into business, some would buy cows; others would need new owners,” he said.

Bradley said dairies are getting a net payment of between $10 and $11 per 100 pounds of milk, which is several dollars below the accepted $16 break-even point, primarily because of feed costs.

“These are tough times, the toughest many of us have seen in the dairy industry,” he said.

At a glance

Dairy business in Curry and Roosevelt counties

• Eight dairies out of business in Roosevelt and Curry counties

• Two Roosevelt County dairies moved milking to Texas

• 40 dairies left in Roosevelt County

• 15 dairies left in Curry County

• Prices between $10-$11 per 100 pounds of milk

• Two months before more dairies go out of business without a rise in milk prices

Sources: Walter Bradley and Greg Fisher