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Wisconsin dairy farmers begin dumping milk

Kaitlyn Riley

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Photo Credit: Golden E Dairy

Multiple dairy farms are watching their work swirl the drain as processors lose milk markets in the wake of COVID-19.

Ryan Elbe’s family owns Golden E Dairy in West Bend. They received a call this week asking if they would be willing to dump their milk.

“It was such a surprise that we had trucks loaded for delivery,” Elbe said. “We haul our milk to a nearby plant. Even the trucks that were loaded, we were asked to back them up to the lagoon and dump them out.”

Excessive amounts of milk cannot be poured anywhere, and Elbe said they agreed to voluntarily dump their milk because they have the facility to make it feasible.

The farm was still promised to be reimbursed for the destroyed product, but details of those payments have yet to be finalized. Regardless, the family said it was devastating to watch their work be destroyed. Golden E Dairy produces nearly 220,000 pounds of milk every day.

“You can always tell when Dad is on a serious phone call,” Elbe said. “This time his eyes teared up a little bit. There is a lot of pride in what goes into producing milk, so the thought of just dumping it down the train is definitely disheartening.”

There is cause for concern as nobody is clear how long farmers will be asked to dump dairy.

“I don’t know what will happen next,” Elbe said. “I have faith in several people that are higher up than me handling this trying to communicate with stores and with distribution of the product. It is definitely a challenge.”

It is another effect of COVID-19. With the loss of markets in schools, restaurants, and hospitality, processors are trying to switch distribution into retail, but until then, they do not have a place for milk.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in both radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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