By Michael R. Wildeck
October 20, 2017
Ruder Ware was again one of nearly 900 commercial exhibits from 30 countries at the World Dairy Expo, held October 2-7 in Madison. While last year’s show attracted 74,572 visitors from 102 countries, our own unofficial parking lot comparison estimates an even larger crowd for 2017. The show includes the international shows for seven major dairy breeds, totaling more than 2,400 head of cattle. Each breed also has a sale, and at this year’s event a Holstein bull set a sale record of $620,000.
Having said that, one may get the impression the dairy industry is doing just fine. In fact, just the opposite is true. Nearly all dairy farms rely primarily on farm milk sales to processors, and those prices are at historic lows. One producer from Marathon County shared with us that only a few years ago he was receiving $24-$25 per hundred pounds of milk. That price is now closer to $16….a 35% decrease! On his farm, nearly half of equity he built up since he started farming 8 years ago has been lost in the past year. Agriculture lenders also shared that negative cash flows have resulted in most of their dairy farm customers going on interest-only loan repayments for some period(s) in the past year. The shortage of labor from immigrant workers has also compounded a bad situation for dairy farms already in financial distress. Far less money is being spent by dairy producers these days on products and services that are not essential to keep the farm going, but most commercial exhibitors agree they need to market/exhibit in good times and in bad.
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