Dairy industry suffers as milk prices continue to drop

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MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - Milk prices in America are on a steady decline, and dairy farms are suffering. After 92 years of operation, Zimmerview Dairy's fourth generation of owners say it could be all over very soon.

“[My brother and I] watched my dad and my uncle and my grandpa you know, build it over the years and make a profitable business and for that to maybe be taken away in just an instance, that's heartbreaking for all of us” says Lisa McNish.

Americans are drinking less and less milk, and alternatives like almond and coconut milk are becoming more popular. It's forcing the milk prices to drop.

Donny McNish is the herdsman at Zimmerview, and Lisa’s husband. He explains, “We’re just trying to hang on for now. And continue to provide the community and the public with a good product.”

It's gotten so bad that farmers are getting suicide help pamphlets in the mail with their checks. And the Centers for Disease Control says farmers have the highest rate of suicide than any other job field.

Donny says they received a pamphlet too. “For so many people who have done this their whole entire life and this is all they know. So to just kind of have it taken away from you all in one day it could be pretty hard on some or some might find it to be the only way out.”

At Zimmerview, they haven't made a profit since 2014. While they're used to ebb in flows in the industry, they've never seen it this bad.

“I've seen my family have to make a lot of hard financial decisions that we haven't had to make in the past.” Lisa says.

Donny adds, “It's tough, you know, us salary people we don't, we've taken cuts in our salary just to try and help things along. My father in-law Dean and his brother, I don't know the last time that they probably collected a paycheck.”

Farmers aren't the only ones feeling the impact either. Veterinarian, Dr. Lowe, specializes in cattle.

“I lost 2 dairy clients in 2017 and I've already lost 1 this year and I have another one that's scheduled to go out by the end of the year.”

The number of clients he's had in the last 35 years have been cut in half. And he says the decline has changed the way he runs his practice.

“I'm actually working with them on how to treat sick cows, diagnosis them, what's wrong with them and the proper treatments so they can do it themselves instead of having me come out on an individual basis to treat every individual sick cow.”

Despite the decline and the debt, farmers aren't the type to quit.

“We're going to keep going as long as we can.” Donny says.

Dr. Lowe explains “Every dairyman, regardless of who they are or where they are or regardless of whether they're making money or not, they care about their cows.”

Lisa adds, “Passion. It's not just a job it's a lifestyle for us. We make sure our cows and calves are taken care of with the upmost respect.”

Milk from Zimmerview goes to Broughtons, so they need your help next time you're at the grocery store.

“Consume more milk. And if you don't want to consume it you could buy an extra gallon a week and donate it to a food pantry, just anything, anything will help,” says Donny.

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