To survive, some farms ditch red barns and invest in mega-operations

US - Jim Ostrom has seen the future of farming in Wisconsin.And it is large. Ostrom is one of the owners of Tidy View Dairy, where up to 6,900 cows eat, sleep and live in seven barns that if stretched end to end would run roughly the length of 14 football fields.
calendar icon 4 January 2007
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In one of the dairy's two milking parlors, there's a soft, steady beat of Mexican ranchera music as five Latino workers walk down a center aisle, tending to 100 cows attached to milking machines. From entry to exit, the process takes 12 minutes, a ballet of animal, man and machinery that runs repeatedly day and night, producing enough milk to fill up to eight 6,000-gallon tankers daily.

The operation, including storage for feed, silage and manure, is on 80 acres. This is not your grandparents' dairy farm.

"The dairymen in Wisconsin have a common enemy, and it is the West Coast large production units we're competing with," Ostrom said. "In order to compete, we have to reinvest. And reinvestment does not look like 25 years ago.

"It has economies of scale." Wisconsin's signature dairy industry and rural lifestyle are changing every day, in ways great and small, even as the experts try to figure out just what that future should look like.

For the past year, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters has pulled together farmers, business executives, academics and politicians to examine the future of farming and rural life in the state. The group is due to issue a report before the middle of this year. Depending on the recommendations and the political reaction, the report could either provide a blueprint to the future or gather dust.

Source: Sun

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