Dairy program struggles linked to low milk prices

By CAROL RYAN DUMAS

Capital Press

The Dairy Science Department at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo was on the verge of reducing its dairy herd earlier this month.

But alumni and other supporters have stepped in and pledged to find a solution for maintaining the 150-cow herd.

"In order to stop our financial drain, we were proposing to sell (some of) our young stock ... and then to start reducing cow numbers as cows dried off," said Bruce Golden, department head.

Like other dairy producers, the university has been struggling during the economic downturn, Golden said. The reduction was set to begin immediately; the depth of the cuts would have depended on market conditions.

The plan now is to develop a business strategy that will retain as many animals as possible through the current recession.

"Some people stepped in and offered to give us help, to look at what we might do as an alternative," Golden said.

A portion of the herd's milk goes to research, a portion goes to the university's creamery and the balance is sent to Leprino Foods.

Dairy science was one of the original programs at CalPoly when it was founded in 1903. The dairy program today centers on instruction but also conducts some research in dairy products and animal husbandry.

The announced reduction had some dairymen questioning whether the University of California-Davis would follow suit.

Steven Berry, extension dairy management and health specialist at UC-Davis, said the thinking in his department was "that was a bad decision on CalPoly's part."

There are no plans to eliminate the UC-Davis dairy herd, he said.

The Animal Science Department has also been part of UC-Davis since about it's beginning, he said. The department milks about 100 cows. The herd is used for teaching veterinary students and research.

Staff writer Carol Ryan Dumas is based in Twin Falls. E-mail: crdumas@capitalpress.com.

Online

CalPoly Dairy Science Department: www.dairy.calpoly.edu

University of California-Davis Animal Science Department: http://animalscience.ucdavis.edu

Recommended for you