“Just pay us,’’ Sitts said.
However, Hanselman said the growth of the yogurt industry and its demand for milk has helped stabilize the industry and added some competition. Though farmers benefit more from selling Class I fluid milk, she said, if the yogurt industry wasn’t buying Class II product, farmers would be paid less based on lower-priced categories.
When there is competition, she said, it’s easier for cooperatives and milk handlers to negotiate for premiums, some of which may reach the farmer.
The main revenue source remains the federal milk pricing system, Hanselman said, and her farm’s current financial status has been enhanced through diversification. The Hanselmans raise some beef cattle and vegetables, and sell some of her baked goods at markets. The farm also raises more than 80 percent of the feed for its herd, she said, and sells some of its crops to other farmers.
Hanselman said the farm also participates in programs that teach how to better manage and utilize homegrown feeds, which can in turn increase cow milk production and efficiencies.
“As dairy farmers, our most important job is to take the very best care of our cattle,’’ she said. “We are their keepers, and in return, they give us our living and way of life.’’