Part 2: Life Of A Dairy Farmer


Last night in “Life Of A Dairy Farmer,” we introduced you to the Donahoe Family. Eyewitness News Reporter Rachel Polansky took us to Atrass Farm for a day of milking, feeding, and hard work – but today we’re taking a look at the tougher side of dairy farming.

“My wife and I started doing this together 20 years ago and 20 years ago things were a little more stable,” says Jeff Donahoe, owner of Atrass Farm.

“On a day-to-day basis, it’s very hard to cash flow when it costs you more to produce the product your selling than what you’re getting paid for it,” says Audrey Donahoe, owner of Atrass Farm.

From feed prices, to fuel prices, to the milk you buy in the store – the Donahoes say it can all change in the blink of an eye, and they have to be prepared.

“We’re business people. What we have is a business, on a daily basis, we have to decide exactly what route we’re going to take for that day,” says Audrey.

“”6 months and things can change a lot. Milk prices can drop or rise by 20 to 30 percent. Fuel prices can do the same,” says Jeff.

To succeed in farming, Jeff says you must be able to adapt.

“The only thing that is constant is change. And you have to be willing to change if you want to stay in business. You have to generate more dollars to live because every year it costs more money to live,” says Jeff.

And while Jeff is willing to change, he says it’s the political issues that frustrate farmers. Most farmers expected to start 2013 with a new Farm Bill in place. But when congress passed the “fiscal cliff” deal in January, the new Farm Bill never came.

“We’re in sequester now, nobody knows what tomorrows gonna bring from a business standpoint and it’s hard to plan accordingly,” says Jeff.

And it’s not just the farmers who are disappointed; Some lawmakers agree.

“Shamefully the congress didn’t pass a Farm Bill last year. I think they used too much floor time on other issues. We should’ve had a Farm Bill,” says Representative Richard Hanna, (R) 22nd district.

So is there a plan at this point?

“It’s a big source of conversation. Nobody knows quite what to do with it. They’ve got another year to start over with a new congress, I think everyone’s determined to have a good Farm Bill,” says Representative Hanna.

And while Congress works toward this new Farm Bill, for the farmers actually living it and preparing for their futures.. they need answers.

“Eventually when mom and dad decide they don’t want to do it every day anymore, I’ll take it over; I’ve worked myself into the business now and we’re doing it all together and someday I’ll be here doing it by myself,” says Rick Donahoe, Jeff and Audrey’s son, Atrass Farm.

“You have to produce a few more pounds of milk or figure out a way, in our case bringing in an another generation we have to generate more dollars every year so Rick can make a living,” says Jeff.

And while it won’t be easy, the Donahoes say Atrass Farm is a family business and they’re going to keep it that way.

“It’s been in the blood, it’s in the family for a long time,” says Rick.

“There’s a great feeling when you walk out of the barn at night, all the cows are laying down, they’re so comfortable, chewing their cuds and we take care of them, we’re responsible for them, just the satisfaction of it all,” says Audrey.

“There’s nothing else I’d rather do in this world,” says Rick.

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