Home-grown dairy farms fade across the state

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Those days of local, fresh-from-the-farm milk may be a thing of the past.

The milk that once ran thick in Northeast Arkansas has stalled to a trickle in the last decade.

A recent report from the U-S-D-A says Arkansas milk production is down 50% since 2003.

The report lists nearly 10,000 milk cows at the end of 2012, down 14 percent from the previous year.

Charles Rowe was one of the last dairy farmers in Region 8 until he was forced to close up shop nearly a decade ago.

"I guess you could say it became an issue of economics. You weren't getting enough money for the hard work you were putting in."

Like so many dairy farmers in the area, Rowe sold the remaining 200 head to a much larger, out-of-state farm just to break even.

He was able to find work at a local fishery after giving up a business he helped his father run for nearly 50 years--a business that became more and more expensive to operate.

Rowe says multiple factors led to the difficult decision, such as tougher health restrictions and reduced dairy truck routes.

"More regulations, which are good. Good for the dairy industry, good for consumers. But that added expense. As the dairies dwindled, it was less profitable for haulers."

The operation that was once bustling with cattle now sits idle, frozen in time.

"We fell by the wayside like the other small dairies did. If you can't make a living, it doesn't matter if you like the work or not, you're not going to do it."

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