It doesn’t come as any surprise to those of you in California ― 2012 was dripping with red ink.

During the first nine months of 2012, dairy farms located in the Golden State were anything but golden, according to figures released recently by the accounting firm Genske, Mulder & Co.:

  • The average dairy client of Genske, Mulder & Co. located south of Bakersfield, Calif. (with 942 milk cows in the herd), had a net income of minus $333,879.
  • Farms between Bakersfield and Fresno, Calif., (average herd size 2,292) were at minus $392,873 net income.
  • Farms north of Fresno (average herd size 2,138) were at minus $413,700.
  • California average: Minus $403,173.

Meanwhile, the firm’s Upper Midwest clients were in positive territory ― $330,657 net income, on average. (The average number of milk cows in those herds was 1,714.)

Upper Midwest farms are more likely to grow their own feed than California farms, although for the past six or seven years the California model has changed somewhat with dairies supplying a higher portion of their feed needs. High feed cost is what sank many dairies in 2012.

Genske, Mulder & Co. distributed the numbers at World Ag Expo in mid-February. 

The numbers reflect the first nine months of 2012, so a final accounting for the year is not yet available. But extrapolated out over 12 months, it does not appear that 2012 will be as bad as 2009, when the average dairy client in California had a negative net income of $1.619 million for the year