FORT BRANCH, Ind. (WFIE) - Dairy farming is one of the most important agricultural industries in the world.
Similar to many other businesses, these farms have been recently feeling the negative effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and this has definitely been the case for a local dairy farm in Gibson County.
The Obert family has been farming for six generations, including three of those in the dairy business.
Steve Obert was born on the Obert Legacy Dairy Farm in Fort Branch. Obert says he thought he had seen it all - until the coronavirus reared its ugly head on the Tri-State area.
“Just like many businesses and industries, we’re dealing with some of the difficulties that is caused by it,” Obert said. “Disruptions in the supply and demand is what’s really created a lot of havoc in the last week."
These disruptions have forced company leaders at Obert Farms, Inc. to make a decision they absolutely dread - pouring and dumping freshly pumped milk.
“I think on our farm, we haven’t quite totaled up everything, but so far we’ve dumped about 30,000 pounds of milk, and that was in about two and a half days or so,” Obert said.
Obert says business from the restaurant and food industry is almost non-existent right now. Meanwhile, the recent wave of school closures has eliminated the need for milk deliveries.
Obert also stated that with so many people stocking up on supplies and buying products in bulk over the last few weeks, this chain of events has resulted in an uneven ebb and flow in terms of customer demand - creating problems for perishable items like milk.
“Our product has to keep moving to the processor, so when there’s disruptions to demand at the retail level, it just starts to jam up,” Obert said. “The first thing that you have to understand about dairy cows is that they’re mothers. Their purpose of giving milk is they had a baby. When you continually milk them, they continue to give milk. You can’t stop milking them. If you do, then they will discontinue milking completely, and they won’t begin milking again until they have another baby.”
The Oberts milk their 1,100 mature cows and then ship the milk off to be processed. However, the recent slump in demand has forced dairy farmers to make the tough call.
“The only option really that are milk processor had was to say, ‘Hey, can you dump some milk?' Nobody wants to waste their hard work and efforts, but there’s no lawful way for us to give it away when it’s not processed and unpasteurized," Obert said. "There’s nothing more difficult for dairy farmers than realizing how much goes into producing milk - for them to see it go down a drain.”