MANTORVILLE, Minn. - For the fourth year in a row dairy farmers are experiencing devastatingly low prices for their milk. The downward trend has forced some people to lose their livelihoods.
Local farmers tell KIMT it is a problem of supply and demand. As farmers have became more efficient over the years with milk production there is now a surplus across America.
Karen and Willie Naatz own a dairy farm north of Mantorville.
"You don't dairy farm because you want to get rich, you dairy farm because you love it.This is our passion, this is something we love. We grew up with it, it's in our blood," said Karen Naatz.
More than 200 cows call Naatz Dairy Farm home.
"I'm out here by 2:30a.m. every morning and we are kicking on milkers at 3:00a.m.. We are usually done with milking by 7:30 quarter to 8 and then it's clean up," explained Naatz.
Up until last October Naatz's milked three times a day but with a shortage in labor and the low milk prices they opted to milk just twice a day.
"We've got as low as close to the $12-$13 dollars, most people probably need $18 and that is just breaking even that is not putting a lot of extra money in the pocketbook."
They are just one of hundreds of families that are feeling the pinch on the pocketbook.
"It's some stressful times right now it's hard to make ends meet and make things cash flow on the farm," said Paul Daley, owner of Daley Farms.
Daley and some of his siblings share the business together, milking about 1,000 cows. It's a family operation that milks around the clock, with a lot of hired help.
"80-thousand pounds a day with the 1,000 cows which equates to about 9,000 gallons per day," said Daley while explaining how much milk the cows produced daily.
As the years have progressed farmers have became more efficient.
"The reality is that we are out-producing demand in the U.S. and to make that profitable for our dairy farmers we need to export that milk out of the U.S," said Matt Dodd a Veterinarian with Anderson Veterinary Services.
Dodd said he has seen the decline of the family farm and it has hit hard within the last six months.
"With our practice we have lost six clients since the first of the year we normally lose one maybe two a year over the last ten years that I've been here," said Dodd.
He added that we live in a global economy and we need to think globally.
"Around 15-percent right now is exported and if we can move that up to 20-25 percent that would be huge for the dairy industry in the United States," explained Dodd.
"Oh gosh, this one is more expensive and it says Select may this one is better for me versus this 2-percent down at the bottom of the shelf that isn't Select. What's the difference? Technically there is no difference that milk is the same across the board it's a good wholesome product there's no antibiotics in any of your milk, there's no hormones in your milk other than what the cow naturally produces just like any female," said Naatz.
There might be some hope on the future horizon for dairy farmers, as producers tell KIMT prices look to increase towards the end of the year. In the meantime they will be forced to live on borrowed money.