Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At Auction

Lewis and Sonja are friends in town who we get our hay from. They used to keep alpaca and dairy goats. This year they scaled down. Their hope was to sell their fiber, and value added goats milk products so that Sonja could stop working at the wood products mill a few towns over. Lewis has some acreage around town that he uses for haying. He sharpens saw blades for local small mills. They found that one commodity missing from the dream of full time farming was time. It is hard to milk goats, go to work, come home, milk goats and then try to make something from the milk before falling into bed.

So they went to auction and sold their herd.

This past weekend they went to auction to get a milk cow. Their thinking was they could have milk for themselves and Sonja could still make soap. It is a lot easier to milk one cow than to milk many goats. They have their own hay, so feed would be cheap for them, relatively speaking.

This is the story they told us when we went to get hay yesterday.

There is a big auction of a dairy farmer's livestock and equipment. Among the items to be auctioned is a 4 year old tractor. Lewis is a bit of a tractor enthusiast. He said that the tractor, brand new, was big money, upwards of 25,000. The tractor sold for 4,500. The dairy industry is in crisis and there is not much call for farming equipment.

He said the farmer's cattle were in bad shape. Many were emaciated. He said that the guy tried to hold on longer than he should have at the expense of feeding his cows. Many of the cows were young and actually sold from any where from 250.00 to 1200.00. Lewis told me that even though some of the cows were thin, because they were young meant that once they were fattened up they would be good milkers. Some of the cows were pregnant. There were several calves.

When Lewis spoke with the farmer he was told that the amount of money raised would not cover even half of the liens he has. Lewis also said that everything the farmer owned was auctioned. EVERYTHING. Furniture, appliances, books....everything.

Lewis and Sonja found their milk cow. They paid 225.00 for her. She was pregnant. The night they brought her home she had a runny nose. The next day it was clear she had a cold. By Monday morning she had died. Sonja and Lewis were out 225.00 but they said that one guy bought ten of the cows. They thought that their cow could have been stressed by all the moving and caught a cold. Or it may have been something more contagious; in which case, the guy who bought the ten cows could have ten dead cows on his hands.

It is easy to not think about where our food comes from. It is always there at the grocery store. Big Factory Farming pushes us further and further away from our food. Afterall, milk is just white stuff in a plastic gallon and it always there on the store shelve. Politics and special interest are so wrapped up in the demise of small family dairy farms.

On another note, if you live in the Northeast please look for Moo Milk. These farmers are trying to make a living. The milk may be a little more expensive. And it should be. We should pay the fair value of the products we consume.


Wendy said...

There's a small dairy farm near my house where I get my milk right now, but I hear (through the grapevine :) that the oldest daughter is going to take over the business, and there's talk that they'll be moving to another town. The plan is to concentrate on "value added" products, like cheese.

They've had their dairy farm in its present location for seventy years. The daughter is third generation on that farm. I'll be very sad to see them go, but I'd rather see them make changes than to lose everything.

I read an article about Moo Milk the other day and told my husband that when I can no longer get milk from my neighbor, I'll be looking for Moo Milk ;).

I completely agree with you, by the way - we should be willing to pay a bit more than we do for food. People don't think twice about spending $120 on a phone (of all things!), but to spend $6 for a gallon of milk or $7 for a 1/2 peck of apples at the Farmer's Market makes their a$$e$ twitch. Makes me very sad to note what little value is placed on such an important product. We all have to eat, right?

I never ask prices at the Farmer's Market ... until I need my total ;).

Heather said...

My cousin runs a small organic dairy herd that was one of the ten farms whose milk contract was dropped. I can speak from experience that their cows are fat, happy, friendly, and treated with the warmth and caring they deserve. I'm sorry for your friend, and for the cows - but I'm glad that soon, there will be another option for milk.

Robj98168 said...

Exactly. Know where your food comes from. My milk comes from Smith Brothers Dairy and is delivered to my fornt door along with Organic Eggs from Yelm, Cheese from Tillamook, and in the same light I am supporting not only these local businesses, but Marty, my milk man, who is an independent distributor and an all around nice guy! So the way I saee it everyone wins!

Kathy said...

I love Moo Milk! Sad, sad story Karin. Too sad to think too long on.