October 17, 2016

Wisconsin Dairy Farmers Go rBST-Free

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

In January dairy farms in Wisconsin will face a new challenge as creameries and co-ops decline milk produced with rBST. Some creameries intend to pay more for rBST-free milk, but not every farmer will receive that benefit. Jim Milsna is a first generation dairy farmer in Wisconsin. He started his farm after a successful career as a veterinarian. In 1992, when rBST came to the market, the Milsna’s started using it on their cows. After 25 years they will stop in January much to Milsna’s dismay.

“I don’t understand why a technology we’ve been using for 25 years, has made us more efficient and hasn’t hurt anyone has to go away,” he says. “We’re letting five percent of the population dictate what the other 95 percent can do.”

The Milsna’s estimate they will lose $87,000 per year when they stop using the drug because of production declines. Elanco Animal Health, a manufacturer of rBST, says it will take more than 60,000 cows to replace the milk production that will be lost because of rBST. 

Wisconsin’s neighbors to the east say farmers will overcome this hurdle. Michigan’s co-ops have been rBST-free for 7 years. Michigan dairy farmer, Ashley Kennedy says most producers don’t miss it. “We are doing just as good, if not better without it,” she says. “We have stepped up our management game and felt like it was a crutch for a lot of us.”

Kennedy says Michigan producers were offered a premium in the beginning for ditching the hormone, but those premiums went away over time. Still, she’s confident dairy farmers in Wisconsin will adapt.