Two Marion County dairies call it quits


Staff writer

Is dairying in Marion County dying or it simply undergoing some changes?

According to Roger Eaton, manager of Gorge's Dairy at Hillsboro, the company has downsized but is hauling as much milk as before he took over the position more than 18 months ago.

He said the milk is being trucked to Wichita rather than Kansas City, as it had been before.

The company serves 13 dairies at the present time. At least two other companies also pick up milk in Marion County.

In January, the Mueller Dairy at Tampa sold its cow herd of 80-85 head. The dairy had been in the family for generations and had been selling grade A milk since 1967.

According to Don Mueller, a lot of factors went into the decision to sell. These included the cost of inputs, a price offer too good to refuse, and a shortage of hay.

"We were at a transition time, too," he said. "We needed to update, so we had to either go all the way or get out."

But the Muellers are retaining the option to return to dairying if they choose. They retained a large group of heifers and still have four cows which produce 70-100 pounds of milk a day.

"In that sense, we're still a dairy producer," Don said.

Kevin Winter and his mother Jean of Hillsboro are holding an auction this Saturday to disperse 125 head of high-quality Holstein cows along with 45 bred heifers and 15 open heifers.

The decision to sell came after Kevin's father, Warren, suddenly died in December.

The dairy has been in the family for three generations beginning with Jean's father, Chester Unruh.

Kevin brought a knowledge of embryo transfer to the operation. Using embryos from the herd's best donor cows, he has produced a group of cows with excellent genetics.

He explained his decision to exit the dairy business this way: "It was too much work." He intends to devote himself to the family's large farming operation.

According to Dwight Flaming of Flaming Dairy at Goessel, dairying remains a profitable enterprise.

"There are challenges," he said, "but that's always the case."

He said the price he receives is good although not as good as it sometimes has been in the past.

Flaming has two full-time employees who work in the dairy and in the farming operation.

He noted that inputs for his entire operation have skyrocketed in recent years.

He said finding good employees is the biggest challenge for most farm operators.

"I am fortunate," he said. "I have an excellent work crew. They are top-notch."

As is often the case, dairying is in the blood of the Flaming family. Flaming Dairy was begun more than 50 years ago by Dwight's father, Randolph, who learned the business from his father.

Fortunately for all, dairying is alive and well in Marion County.