Sometimes things don't always work out as planned. Zachary and I have had this dream of running our own dairy farm for a few years and we've been doing it the past year and a half. We believed we could be a small dairy farm that could survive today's dairy industry, that you don't need to be a giant factory farm to be successful. Unfortunately we are not going to be one of those farms. Zachary and I have decided to exit the dairy business.
It was a difficult decision, but it will be the best for us. If you don't know, the milk market has dropped significantly in the last couple months, since late December. Early speculation was it would crawl back up by summer and be profitable again. Recently, new analysis expect the milk price for dairy farmers not to improve much until 2010, maybe. We thought if we could buckle down for a few months and limp along, we would see daylight again. But with the current outlook, there is no way for us to compete. I know there are things we could have done better in our farm management, but even if everything we did was perfect, we'd most likely be in the same situation. We are only a year and a half into owning our own business and not well established.
By February we knew we were in trouble. Zachary and I poured over our financial information, seeing if we could find a way to make it work. We already cut back all our expenses, and the income stream was shrinking. We knew it wasn't going to work. As if my Dad was reading our minds, he told us to stop pounding our heads and quit milking. If he was still running the place, he told us he would stop milking too. It was a relief hearing that from him. We were really stressing on how to handle this situation and talk to my parents about it. After all we were slowly buying the farm from them and continuing the family tradition of dairy farming on our farm as he did and his Dad did. We felt like screw ups for not making this work.
So after feeling a little better about ourselves, we started making calls and having people come and look at our herd. Since the milk price is down, so is the cow price. Cows are worth about half as much as they were a year ago. It is very sickening to think of the investment lost, but that is with anything nowadays. I recently looked at my 401K retirement plan and it has lost about half it's value in about a year. We had auction guys and cattle jockeys come in to look at our milking herd. We decided to go the auction route and after Tuesday, all of our milking cows will be gone. The guy we went with is going to clean them up and push the feed to them and will have a sale in a few weeks. I don't think it will sink in until it's milking time and there will be no one to milk.
We are in a bittersweet state of mind around here. We are sad our dairy farming dream is gone. We had a lot of hopes for our herd and we seemed to finally getting somewhere with them. We always thought about going to organic grazing once the cows were paid for. We were proud to have our own business and I hoped to be able to leave my full-time off farm job one day and join Zachary on the farm. But we are optimistic about the future. We are planning on keeping our young heifers and steers as a side business. If money allows, we would like to buy calves now and then to raise. Not having a milking herd will allow us not be a tied down to the farm as we were. We still have the young stock, but it is easier to have someone to care for them if we want be away for more than 6 hours. We are looking forward in hopefully getting more time for our hobbies, like gardening, camping, hiking, and paddling. Zachary's time will now be focused on the young stock and farm upkeep. He will probably get a part-time job somewhere to help with the bills and hopefully help get our kitchen project going again.
Other than that, I am not sure what the future holds for us. Once my parents get home from their winter in Florida, we discuss the details and what will lie ahead for all of us. But I do know that agriculture is what Zachary and I enjoy and no matter how things end up, we'll always have it in our lives, no matter what scale and form it is in. This experience was just another chapter in our lives and we are about to begin another.