It was just Thursday morning that John Zittel, the owner of Zittel's Dairy Farm, didn't have to get up before 5am like he has been on his work days since the 1970's. That's because the last of his milking herd was removed from his farm on Wednesday. "We elected to go on an industry sponsored buy out and we retired our milking herd," John Zittel said. "Hopefully that will take some milk off the market and help the other farms get a better milk price."
Zittel's Dairy Farm has been in business for about a century but for the first time 260 of its cows were just sold. The owner says among the reasons for deciding to sell the cows was the tough market as the demand for milk isn't meeting the large supply. Also farmers aren't getting a fair cut of the retail. While the dairy market has seen some improvement recently, it's still far from where it was a couple years ago. "We really had some good years in 07' and 08' but then in 09' when the economy went, so did our pricing and dairy farmers suffered through some very very low prices," Zittel said.
These are all issues that U.S. Senator Charles Schumer continues to address. "We have to change the whole system. The biggest problem for dairy farmers is that the costs are going up, that the amount they get for their whole milk is going down," Senator Schumer said. "We really need to give help to our dairy farmers and last year I was able to get them some direct financial aid and that saved a lot of dairy farms from going under."
For now the Zittel Dairy Farm is focusing more on growing crops and housing cows. Many farmers say the bigger picture is they hope people remember that there's a great food supply right here locally in Western New York and in our nation, and that people look to see where their food is coming from.