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Long Time Dairy Farmer Offers Perspective of the Dairy Business
September 26, 2016

 Gary Hawk, a dairy farmer from the greater Hennessey, Oklahoma area, milked his first cow on the dairy his father started in the 1950s when he was only six years old.

At 62 now, Hawk says the dairy business is at one of its worst times ever in the state of Oklahoma. Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with Hawk at the Oklahoma State Fair to discuss how he envisions the future of dairies like his in the state.

“Dairy is probably as bad as it’s been in the last six years,” Hawk said. “It’s really hard.”

Hawk says the prices he has been receiving for his milk are down. Back in 2010, milk prices at $17/cwt; then progressed to $22 last year and have fallen hard to an average this year at $14.30. He has tried explaining the current situation of the dairy business to his bankers, he says.

“You talk to these bankers now and they do not understand the struggles that we’re going through,” Hawk said. “They look at what you get for it at the grocery store and at our price that we’re getting right now, we’re getting about $1.20/gal. out of it.”

Compounding the financial hardship, Hawk says high feed prices cut deeply into his profit margins as well, paying upwards he says of $212 a ton – that’s almost 50 dollars higher than what Hawk considers to be reasonable.

“You know you go through a ton a day so… you go through a lot and you make a little,” Hawk said.

According to Hawk, Oklahoma went from 1,200 operating dairies in the state to approximately 200 in just ten years’ time. He says it’s hard for people to stay in business, especially when younger generations are showing little interest in keeping the family farms going. He says he doesn’t see much good in the future of the Oklahoma dairy business.

“We’re dying out,” Hawk said. “We need people to understand that we need to be in business for everything… they don’t see it that way. They think I can go to the grocery store and get everything I want, but it’s not that way.”

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