Another California exodus: Dairy cows leave for greener pastures in Texas, Arizona as farms squeezed out
The following articles appear in the June 2018 issue of the Journal.
Dairy cows are being shipped east in increasing numbers in recent years to escape a wave of California drought.
More than 90,000 dairy cows were shipped to other states in 2016, an increase of almost a third from the year before, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
California’s dairy industry lost 29 percent of its herd value between the fourth quarter of 2015 and the third quarter of 2016 — a trend that mirrors a similar slump in the U.S. in general.
“There just is a lot of uncertainty out there right now,” said Don Yost, a dairy consultant and CEO of Yost Dairy Services.
But Yost said California’s dairy industry is seeing some benefit from the drought.
“As California continues to get some rain, it’s going to be good for the industry,” he said. “But it probably would be nice to see it rain more.”
Yost said the drought could have pushed more Californians into the dairy industry or into the natural foods industry.
“The drought has forced some people into the dairy industry — and some people into natural foods like honey and so forth,” he said.
California’s dairy industry has struggled to find enough milk for its cows in recent months.
During June, California’s dairy farms were down 7.8 percent from the same month last year. During the same period in 2017, California’s dairy industry was down 5.7 percent.
After years of falling milk prices and a surplus of California dairy products that California’s dairy farmers couldn’t sell, the state’s farmers are struggling to find enough milk from their herds to feed their cows.
“It’s a little rough,” said Dave Smith, who farms at Alder Creek Farms near Bakersfield. “Things are not looking up, in the short term for us — but things are looking up now as we look down the line.”
“We’ve started losing milk in order to keep what we’ve got,” he said.
Yost said he hasn’t noticed a decrease in the amount of milk being shipped out of California’s dairy industry.
“They’re still coming out of the port of Los Angeles from all over the world,” he said. “When you’re looking at