Bill Daugherty: Milk prices have never been higher, but so has everything that goes into producing it.

-Daugherty Farms of Fresno was founded in 1875 and is a six generation dairy cattle operation.
-Bill Daugherty said milk prices have never been higher, but everything that goes into running the farm has never been higher either.
-Daugherty Farms milks about 250 cows per day, producing about 95 pounds of milk per cow.

The six generation farm also has corn, soybeans and hay. Robotic milkers and a new barn came along about two years ago.

FRESNO — Bill Daugherty said milk prices have never been higher and Daugherty Farms in Fresno can’t produce enough to meet demands. However, inflation means everything that goes into running a dairy farm is also costlier than ever.

The image of a farmer going to the barn at dawn with a stool and a pail is what many picture when thinking of a dairy farm, but it hasn’t been that way for decades on this six-generation farm that dates back to 1875. Bill’s father Martin, 91, still helps occasionally and Bill is grooming his son Kyle to one day take over.

Many would be surprised by the technology used at the Daugherty farm. Robotic milkers installed two years ago streamline the process and makes it more efficient. Since April, the farm has had access to better internet service from the Coshocton County Commissioners broadband project with Ohio TT. Online access allows the Daugherty family to make changes in milking schedules and other aspects of operation. It also allows technicians to check equipment remotely if there’s an issue.

Operation basics

The Daugherty family owns about 1,100 acres of land and farm close to 1,600 acres across Coshocton County. They harvest corn, soybeans and hay. They own nearly 300 dairy cattle and are milking 245 cows with some being rotated in and out.

Recently, they’ve been milking about 95 pounds of milk per cow per day, which can fluctuate depending on various factors like humid weather. They sell milk through Dairy Farmers of America, a cooperative. Milk from the farm currently goes to a bottler in Charleston, West Virginia. In the past, their milk has been used to make butter, cheese and more.

Expanding operations with a new barn and technology the past few years will ensure a successful operation for decades to come, Bill said. They have space to add another barn and get up to 600 cows with six more robotic milkers, but it’s something Bill said the next generation will make the decision on.

“We want the farm to be able to continue. We want our children to offer our grandchildren the same opportunities our children have had,” he said. “We knew with Kyle coming back for the next generation, we had to do something.”

Previously, the family milked up to 132 cows in a 50-year-old milking parlor. Bill would get up at 3 a.m. to start milking. While machines did the milking, they had be attached and cleaned manually and the cattle led in and out of the parlor, still making the process very labor intensive.

Cows now enter and exit the robotic milking machine themselves, which makes the process more efficient and faster. They can now milk up to 250 cows per day with two less part-time workers. Along with Kyle, Bill and Bill’s wife, Caroline, they have one full-time employee and two part-time employees. Pounds of milk per cow per day also went up from 65 to 70 pounds to about 95 pounds.

“It’s efficiency and cow comfort. The whole facility has aided in cow comfort and productiveness,” Bill said.

Current market

Even with the increase in number of cows milked and pounds of milk produced daily, the Daughertys are still behind market demands. The June 2022 USDA/ERS Livestock Dairy and Poultry Outlook Report has the predicted 2022 milk price at $26.20 per hundredweight, which is 45 cents above the May forecast and $7.67 higher than the actual 2021 average price.

“Milk prices are the best they’ve ever been right now,” Bill said. “Once the pandemic ended and people could actually buy things again, it just surged. And not just in our country, but exports have surged tremendously. Other parts of the world are grasping for food and America has been able to take advantage of that.”

Yet, that doesn’t mean cattle farmers are raking in record profits. As the price of everything has gone up due to inflation and supply chains issues, expenses are also off the charts.

“I say our prices have never been higher for milk, but our prices have never been higher for inputs either, be it fertilizer, fuel, chemicals or any of those things. They’ve been higher than they’ve ever been and that’s the downside,” Bill said. “Fertilizer is two and half to three times what it was a year and a half ago and we all know what fuel has done.”

The story is similar in the other areas Daugherty Farms is involved in such as corn and soybeans. Everybody wants the product, but the cost to produce it and get it to market is astronomical.

“There’s a lot of opportunity from the standpoint of selling agricultural goods, just you have to be very cognitive and very aware of the input side as well. You have to find the bargains wherever they are,” Bill said.

Daugherty Farms can give be reached through its Facebook page and does give tours by appointment. Bill said about 6,000 people have visited the farm in the past two years.

Leonard Hayhurst is a community content coordinator and general news reporter for the Coshocton Tribune with close to 15 years of local journalism experience and multiple awards from the Ohio Associated Press. He can be reached at 740-295-3417 or Follow him on Twitter at @llhayhurst.

Look also

In May, the global dairy market experienced significant changes, with varying production levels and shifting export trends in New Zealand.

You may be interested in


Most Read







Join to

Follow us