Farmers of all kinds have faced difficulties this year with drought, inflation and supply chain issues. New York’s dairy farmers are no different.
The New York State Fair hosted "Dairy Day" to honor them. Dairy is recognized all throughout the fair with the butter sculpture, dairy cow birthing center and the dairy products building.
Audrey Donahoe, president of the American Dairy Association Northeast and fifth-generation dairy farmer, said one challenge is there is a lack of laborers to work in the processing plants and drive the trucks to transport their products.
They are also experiencing supply chain issues.
“There's a lot of problems on the supply end, as far as packaging, even down to the gallon jug for milk containers, just the supplies to put the product in after its processed,” said Donahoe. “I think with dairy farming, it's a little different in the aspect of it's a perishable product. So, there's only so much time that you have once it has been processed to get out on the shelf and sell it.”
The drought in New York has been an issue this year, but Donahoe says weather is always an issue. The drought has kept the hay supply down, cutting into what they will feed their animals.
“It's just so unpredictable. We work hard to make sure we harvest a good quality product, and the health of our cows is our number one priority,” said Donahoe. “We want to make sure we're providing good crops for them to eat to, so we can maintain a healthy diet.”
Another problem faced by dairy farmers is representation.
Gabriella Taylor, New York State dairy ambassador, said she works to help consumers understand the dairy industry better.
“I get to do a lot of things working with consumers to help them understand what we do as farmers because we are a sustainable industry, and we do care for our cows,” said Taylor.
Donahoe says with the introduction of innovative technology, dairy farmers have been able to better track the condition and health of their cattle.
“We actually have chips in the cows, and they go into the parlor when they're getting milked and that chip is read then all of her information is sent to a computer where you can sit there and see how much milk she gave, you know what time she was milked, you know how much she ate,” said Donahoe.
She said the chips will also alert you if something is off with the cow, so farmers are able to catch health concerns earlier on than they used to.
Taylor says the main priorities of dairy farmers are to maintain the health of their animals and the environment.
“Farmers worked really hard to take care of their environment and their animals,” said Taylor. “Those are their number one and number two priorities, and they just really want to produce high-quality products that consumers are sure is safe, local, and fresh, which is what we're working hard to do every single day here in New York state.”