Ohio’s prison farm dairy cattle net $1.3 million

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Inmate pouring feed
An inmate at an Ohio prison farm pours feed for cattle. (Farm and Dairy file photo. This individual may or may not still be incarcerated.)

SALEM, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction released the results of its dairy cow sale June 28.

According to information provided to Farm and Dairy in a public records request 1,398 head of dairy cattle sold for a total of about $1.56 million.

The average price per cow comes out to about $1,116. The sale-related expenses cost about $78,541. The department also paid about $231,000 to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, for handling the sale.

The sale was held over a period of about three weeks, beginning May 16, with an auction in Mount Hope, and concluding June 9 with a sale in London, Ohio.

New focus

The sale was the result of an April 12 decision by the department to get out of the farming business, with the goal of using the money from farm assets to further other forms of rehabilitation for inmates.

Grant Doepel, deputy communications chief, said about $1.3 million will be reinvested back into the Ohio Penal Industries — for the creation of more inmate job training programs.

The prison farm program, which includes about 10 locations across the state, had previously been used for rehabilitation, and to supply milk and food for the department’s various facilities. It’s not yet clear how much of the land will be sold versus leased, but selling the land will require the approval of the Ohio Legislature.

Serving more inmates

In making the decision, the department concluded that not enough inmates were taking farm jobs after prison, and that a very low percentage were actually employed by the prison farms, compared to the thousands of inmates released to society each year.

The department also cited concerns over inmates who used the farm program, to sneak contraband into the prisons.

Buying versus producing

Without the cows, the department will have to purchase about 1.3 million gallons of milk, at a cost of about $2.6 million.

But the cost to buy milk could come cheaper than producing it, some supporters have said.

The same volume of milk would have included production costs like feed, housing, labor and veterinary care, as well as herd replacements. And, a dairy cow can only be milked a number of years — roughly 6 — before she has to be replaced.

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