With moderate milk prices unable to keep up with soaring feed prices, many dairy farmers in California have decided to throw in the towel.   

“People are exiting this business in droves,” Tulare County, Calif., dairy farmer and Western United Dairymen president Tom Barcellos told the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register. “I would say catastrophic just about describes the situation.”

Based on newspaper reports such as these, it would appear that the current situation in California is as bad, if not worse, than anywhere else in the nation.

The situation is so bleak that at least one dairy cooperative has launched a crisis hotline for dairy farmers and their families, according to The Fresno Bee. The hotline provides members with confidential counseling and support services to help those in the industry cope with life-altering changes.  

“Dairymen are getting out of the business — sending their cows to slaughter as fast as they can,” said Barcellos, owner of a dairy farm that goes back generations.

Riley Walter, a Fresno-area bankruptcy attorney, noted that the dramatic increase in bankruptcies among dairies is staggering. "This is just a bloodbath," he told John Lindt, publisher of the Sierra2thesea News Service, whose article appeared in the Visalia Times-Delta.

The year has tested even the most stable and weathered dairy producers. Last month, the USDA released July’s preliminary milk-feed ratio, a rough measure of dairy profitability, at a staggering 1.29, marking the lowest ratio reported in the 27 years of records.

"There is not enough money from their milk check to pay the feed costs,” California Dairies Inc. CEO Andre Mikhalevsky says.

Also, see “Dairy farmers say farm closures are continuing to rise” from the California Farm Bureau Federation.