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Minnesota livestock industry reeling from poor economy and high feed prices

These are tough times for livestock farmers in Minnesota and around the country: The recession means people are eating less meat, and there’s been a huge run-up in feed prices.
So hog farmer Dave Schwerin of Wood Lake, Minn., expects to lose about

These are tough times for livestock farmers in Minnesota and around the country: The recession means people are eating less meat, and there’s been a huge run-up in feed prices.

So hog farmer Dave Schwerin of Wood Lake, Minn., expects to lose about $19 a head on the 1,000 young pigs he’s raising, says Mark Steil of Minnesota Public Radio.

Schwerin also owns a trucking business and said dairy farmers are hurting just as bad, or worse, than hog producers.

“Milk is unbelievably low [and] I know they’re talking about whether they’re going to stay in the industry or get out,” Schwerin said. “I do feel their pain. Nobody needs to live that life. It’s too much work for no reward.”

A dramatic rise in the price of feed for the animals is a big problem for hog, dairy, cattle and poultry farmers, said Bruce Babcock of Iowa State University.

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“Feed costs really started rising about two and a half years ago because of increased demand for corn for the ethanol industry,” Babcock said.

The high corn prices were good for grain farmers but hurt livestock producers.

Then came the recession, and consumers cut back on food purchases.

And for hog growers, it got worse in the spring when headlines blared about the coming swine flu epidemic. While the flu is now referred to as H1N1 virus, many say its association with pigs hurt pork sales.

“Price of commodities, the cost of inputs to your business, what you can sell your products for, all of these are out of control of these smalls businesses that we call farms,” said Dave Therkelsen, executive director of the Twin Cities-based Crisis Connection, which has a call-in counseling service for farmers. “And it makes for a very stressful professional existence.”