West Texas dairy farmers seeing larger input prices, harming the producers

Prairie View Dairy in Muleshoe, Texas
Cows at Prairie View Dairy Farm in Muleshoe, Texas.
Cows at Prairie View Dairy Farm in Muleshoe, Texas.(KCBD)
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 8:53 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The higher prices you’re paying in grocery stores are not benefitting the producer. That’s true for Prairie View Dairy in Muleshoe.

One of the biggest costs is labor even though the owner, James Hancock, says he hasn’t lost too many employees.

“But any, any positions we have lost we haven’t been able to find replacements for that’s lasted very long, they’re always out hunting for something new,” Hancock said.

Hancock says raising wages at his farm isn’t easy, but no one has even asked about a job recently. Right now it costs Hancock $19 to make 100 pounds of milk, which is selling for $21. He says the market is projected to fall to $17 for every 100 pounds, which means he will make less.

Another reason for those high input costs is feed prices.

“Not a whole lot of extra feed in the area that we could get a hold of especially with the way the weather’s been lately,” Hancock said.

On top of that, it’s hard to even get the feed.

“Train cars coming in are hard to find, you can’t get the semis to come through, lots of missing drivers out there, you can’t get enough people to haul the feed to you,” Hancock said. “So, all of that adds up to a higher price for us as soon as it gets here.”

Hancock says last year he had to sell about 400 cows, which thinned his herd to 4,800 head. That was during the roughest time for the dairy farm, and it’s looking better now, but that could change.

“Go back a year and we were upside down on just about everything under the sun, year before that too,” Hancock said. “We’ve had, usually the industry travels in threes, three bad years to one good year, this year we’ve been at four bad years to one good year.”

A lot of the product is leaving the country.

“Lots of exports now, not so much in the country anymore. Lots of our product is moving overseas, which is a good thing but any kind of hiccup in that market and you just kind of have a whole lot of trouble,” Hancock said.

He says that based on how the market is looking, this struggle could last for up to three years.