WORTHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) – On a hilltop in Armstrong County, 450 cows are milked twice a day. The Claypoole family is now in its fourth generation running Clayholm Farms and are living now in an unprecedented time.
But Roy Claypoole says the cows have no idea times are tough: “They keep milking every day.” In fact its twice a day: “There’s no option, no.”
However, the Clayholm Farms cows and their neighbors around the region right now are turning out more milk than the market can use. Rebecca Claypoole says, “Right now we’re dumping maybe twice a week the whole tank.”
That’s right, dumping.
“It’s probably about 72 to 75-hundred gallon every other day,” says Roy. Put another way, that’s about $10,000 pumped into the manure pit.”
Trucks come to pick up the milk for Schneider’s Dairy every other day, but the dairy has let the farmer know there’s too much milk so Roy says, “When it’s our turn, all of it is going down the drain.”
The Claypooles say Schneider is doing all it can to help the farmers by donating to the food bank and the emergency school lunch programs, but that only goes so far.
Roy Claypoole says the answer is in the hands of Governor Wolf.
“We need the restaurants to open up,” Roy says. “The restaurants is the main reason we’re dumping milk, because the surplus milk from Schneider went to a cheese plant.”
But Margaret Claypoole says it’s more than just cheese that those restaurants use: “Like sour cream, heavy cream, butter — restaurants use a lot of that and that’s what we need to go.”
Roy says milk drinking alone has dropped 50 percent over the past 10 years and adds the COVID-19 issue and what they are selling is not putting a lot in the bank.
“Next month, they are trading milk at $9 a hundred weight, break even is like 16,” he says.
Rebecca says the situation is dire: “With this it’s a make-or-break deal. It will put a lot of guys out of business.”
Turner Dairy says it is not dumping milk or telling farmers to dump product yet.
But Jim Marburger says they have stepped up production, they’re making donations, selling some direct to consumers and are still having issues.
He says a cheese factory was taking 10 to 12 tanker trucks a week but had to stop when there was no where to sell the cheese. Marburger says they’ve dumped 12-14 trucks of milk in the last weeks and now he’s instructing farmers to dump it on their own.
The Claypooles say it’s heartbreaking to watch their big tank empty into the manure tank and they’re hopeful Governor Wolf’s efforts to reopen the state will bring some relief.