Farming families are facing a choice: compete with high-production outfits, if they can, or abandon generations of dairy farming
“Look at that sweet heifer, high, tight udder, in her first lactation, idn’t she sweet?” auctioneer Tom Bidlingmaier shouts as his son Cory plods and slips and pushes the cow around a pen.
Watching it all are about 65 people, mostly men, mostly other small farmers in rubber boots, standing in mud and manure as they murmur their bids. Ron Wallenhorst, the farmer auctioning off his herd of 64 milking cows, is pacing and tapping an empty water bottle against his thigh. He has milked cows in his barn twice a day, every day, after taking over the farm from his father 32 years ago. By the afternoon, all the cows will be gone.