By Tim Kowols
Lagging milk prices are driving smaller farms out of business nationwide, forcing one Door County couple to go through unconventional means to keep their operation. Dale and Karen Cihlar's farm has been in the family since 1873, but a streak of bad luck with cows has decimated its milking herd to 23 while a new manure storage area to keep up with county ordinance nearly wiped out their savings. With lending institutions denying loans to small dairy farms due to low commodity prices like milk, the Cihlars joined several other families across the country relying on social fundraising sites to raise the necessary funds to keep their operations running. Dale Cihlar says he is not sure the best route to go to help farmers out, but knows something needs to be done to help close the gap between the price of milk and the cost of production.
Cihlar estimates milk prices need to be at least three dollars higher than the current $14.00 price per hundredweight for his operation to make a profit. According to the Associated Press, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection says the number of dairies has fallen 20 percent in the last five years, many of which had herds of 50 cows or less.