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The dairy dilemma

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - You may have noticed you're paying less for milk at the grocery store but dairy farmers are being milked dry. Because of a shift in supply and demand and inflated production costs, many say they're losing money these days.

At Rubo's grocery store in Leesburg, milk is a big seller. It is even more of a seller now at $3.99 a gallon.  That's good for consumers but that's not good for dairy farmers.

"It's even lower for us," said Oak Hill Farm Dairy Manager Marty Erickson.

It's a sign of sour times. "It's rough," said Erickson.

The dairy business goes by hundredth weight. Erickson says right now they're losing at least a couple of dollars for every hundredth weight of milk they sell. "Just the money that it takes to produce that labor to harvest and what-not, we're not breaking even at this point," said Erickson.

Oak Hill is family owned. It's been in Lee County for decades. With the continuous milking of about 2,200 cows, the dairy is making changes to keep going forward. "We've changed a lot of management practices in order to just survive this, try to make everything count as far as the cows go," said Erickson.

Erickson counts several months of demand not equaling enough profit.

"The guys in the middle have always done pretty good and the farmer struggles to go on another year," said Erickson.

He has concern about the future of the dairy industry. "I see a lot more dairies closing," said Erickson. But Erickson is hoping Oak Hill will pull through.

"I think we'll weather the storm. This farm has been here a long time and the ownership wants to be here a long time so I think we're going to do what it takes to survive," said Erickson.

So what will it take to help them survive? "More consumption," said Erickson, "whether it be export markets or local communities, consumption."  In the meantime, dairy farmers hope the industry doesn't continue to go bad.

Experts predict things may start turning around by the end of the year. Erickson says even if they do, he'll probably still have plenty of catching up after months of lean times.

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