Hats off to those dairymen in the trenches

Like most dairy farmers, Larry Stahl wears many hats: mechanic, nutritionist, vet, animal scientist, agronomist. As a Coshocton County commissioner, he also has another set of hats: negotiator, accountant, judge, CEO, public servant.

Sometimes the two jobs pull him in different directions with competing demands. But in June, he combined the two to offer a special national dairy month salute.

It started with a conversation at the county dairy banquet earlier this year, when Stahl was asked if there was anything commissioners could do to help the dairy industry.

“Not much,” he replied.

Then, he got to thinking. A proclamation by commissioners could be more than lip service — it could help educate the other elected officials and shine a spotlight on his beloved industry, too.

He rounded up some help: the county Soil and Water Conservation District, county USDA Farm Service Agency, OSU Extension, the dairy princesses, Farm Bureau, Dairy Farmers of America.

His agriculture team helped make his point in a special presentation to the commissioner’s board.

Coshocton County’s 81 licensed dairies and the 3,000 cows housed on them produced nearly 5 million gallons of milk last year. Statewide, the economic multiplier effect on milk producers’ income is nearly $2 billion.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that those same dairymen face ever-increasing costs of land, cows, inputs and equipment. They face the challenge of finding someone to carry on, when the risk of getting started seems insurmountable. They face environmental regulations, herd health frustrations, and a limited labor pool.

And their job never ends.

“Dairy producers work seven days a week, milking two or three times a day, every day,” Stahl said in his remarks that day.

“When the rest of the family is at the beach, those cows have to be milked. When a friend lies corpse, when a neighbor is wed, when you would just like to sit and drink a cup of coffee, those cows have to be milked.”

Stahl and his fellow commissioners control millions of dollars and make decisions that affect thousands, and he recognizes the proclamation has little real impact.

“But to me and my brothers and sisters of the dairy industry, we truly appreciate any small token of acknowledgment of the sacrifices we make and the work we do.”

We add our own salute to dairymen everywhere.

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

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