Dairy farmers 'not extinct, but we're getting rare'
By GEOFF PARKS
For the Capital Press
Alan Mann calls his 160-cow dairy herd "one of the nation's few registered Guernsey dairy herds," an enterprise that -- without other employees -- keeps him and his wife, daughter and son-in-law busy from sunrise to sundown most days.
The Manns -- Alan and Barbara -- along with daughter Darlene Sichley and her husband, Ben, each have had to make choices about whether to continue in the dairying lifestyle with their Abiqua Acres enterprise or move into something more lucrative and less labor-intensive.
For Alan, 58, and Barbara, 57, the choice looms when prices fall, feed and fuel costs soar and paying the bills or taking a short vacation seem out of reach.
As for the Sichleys, Darlene wrote a piece online a while ago saying, "Although I was born and raised here and grew up with a love for dairy farming, this isn't what I always thought I would end up doing."
She ended the article by saying her choice was helped along by Ben, as the two of them "decided this was the life we wanted."
"Ben is the only one of us that has at some point held a real, paying job," Alan Mann joked, "and our partnership hasn't yet generated any money."
Abiqua Acres is just northeast of Silverton and encompasses 98 acres of farm buildings, two homes and pastureland planted to fescue and other grasses by Mann's father, Paul, when he moved to the land in 1952 with his wife, Dolores.
"I'm a purebred breeder of Guernseys, but I raise them for their milk," Alan Mann said. "They are registered for classification and performance, but that's not our focus. We sell milk. The purebred side is just our hobby, our interest."
He fears for the future of dairying -- despite his obvious commitment -- asking, "How many people want to work seven days a week for 20 years?"
"We're not extinct," he said of dairy farmers who want to put in that kind of work. "But we're getting rare."
Though he and his wife welcome the advances in the dairy business that would ease that burdensome lifestyle a bit -- such as "robot milking" and more computer-based chore-solving solutions -- he says his philosophy of dairy farming is simple.
"Our job it to make their days boring," he says of his fawn-and-white herd. "That's the way to keep them healthy and milking."
Location: Silverton, Ore.
Owners: Alan and Barbara Mann, Ben and Darlene (Mann) Sichely
Years farming: Third- and fourth-generation farmers
Co-op membership: Darigold
Total cows: 160 registered Guernseys, 90 milking
Quote: "How many people want to work seven days a week for 20 years?"