Economy Hurting Minnesota Dairies

Economic realities are hitting many 100 to 250 cow dairy herds in Winona county, Minnesota.

More than 100 dairy herds across the state folded between January and October of this year, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The number of herds in the county fell from 217 to 201 during the same nine-month stretch.

Many of these herd reductions or outright closings are due to the rising cost of feed.

The balance between feed cost and income has lingered below the optimum range for three years. The national ratio averaged 2.24 in September. The same ratio fluctuated between 1.45 and 2.42 in 2009.

A farmer can dispose of a herd by selling it off to other farmers - bit by bit if necessary - or by selling the entire herd to a group of co-ops that combine funds to pay for mass slaughter. Cooperatives Working Together holds auctions once or twice a year, when it has enough money to fund the buyouts.