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Canadian Dairy Policy Woes and the Challenges Faced by Small-Scale Dairy Farmers

Canadian Dairy Policy Woes and the Challenges Faced by Small-Scale Dairy Farmers

On the far western reaches of Bloomington sits Twin Springs Creamery, a new dairy farm that aims to have Grade A pasteurized products on local store shelves in the very near future.

At the moment, Twin Springs has four Jersey cows — Rosie, Luna, Skittles, and Genevieve — who will supply the company’s product line of plain and flavored milks and yogurts.

It’s no small feat in today’s industry climate; many dairy farmers at this scale send the milk or cream from their cows to a separate operation to be processed before being sold. James Farmer, one of the owners of Twin Springs, said they plan to do all the milking and processing on-site.

“We're able to look at smaller scale equipment like this 100-gallon vat pasteurizer,” he said. “There are different companies that manufacture these, but 30 years ago it may not have been as possible to find the equipment to do it at this scale.”

It takes a lot to get an operation like this off the ground. Oversight agencies, such as the Board of Animal Health, require on-site testing equipment, devices that milk the cows, and stainless-steel vats to keep the product sanitary.

Farmer said that this venture was made possible by an $85,000 grant from the Dairy Business Initiative.

“They paid for the pasteurizer, the chart recorder, the chiller behind me, and a little bit more equipment, as well as helping with some marketing and getting the website developed,” he said. “So, without that, this part of the operation would not be possible.”

To his knowledge, Twin Springs will be the only Grade A dairy facility in Monroe and surrounding counties.

And, other than one facility in Brown County, he’s not wrong. In an industry that has gone through as much consolidating in the last few decades as dairy has, this is by no means uncommon.

According to Steve Obert, executive director for Indiana Dairy Producers, the state has just under 700 Grade A dairy farms. He also says that most of the farms work through what is called a farmer-owned cooperative to sell their products.

Prairie Farms, O’Brien, and Dairy Farmers of America are examples of these cooperatives. In these business arrangements, farmers act as both shareholders and contractors that must meet certain quotas to get their equity.

“The profits of the cooperative, as well as maybe some deductions off of your own milk check, get put into that equity account so that the cooperative has money to operate with,” he said.

Historically, these co-ops have caused a hollowing of the industry, where smaller farms have a hard time being profitable if not aligned with a large processor.



Photo Credit: gettyimages-jesp62

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