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Guest Blog

Read about different aspects of the industry from a variety of perspectives.

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Editor’s Note: This column is submitted by Chuck Nicholson, an adjunct associate professor in the college of agriculture and life sciences at Cornell University and a former clinical associate professor of supply chain management at Penn State University. Nicholson is one of three economists who contributed to the 2017 “Study to Support Growth and Competitiveness of the Pennsylvania Dairy Industry,” commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Center for Dairy Excellence.

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I knew this conversation during milking was going to happen eventually, but when it did, I was not totally prepared.

“I think Beth needs to go on the truck,” my husband, Sam, said during Tuesday morning milking. He was referring to Beth, who was the oldest cow in the barn and occupied stall number 45 for as long as I could remember.

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As a dairy farmer, you know the hard work that goes into making that gallon of milk in the grocery store dairy case. Wholesome and nutritious, that gallon of milk represents the culmination of generations of hard work expanding and growing the family business. Milk is what your life revolves around: milking the cows, working the fields, caring for the animals. So, as members of the dairy industry, we take that word “milk” seriously.

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As you drive the rolling hills of southwest Wisconsin along Highway 18 just east of Fennimore and glance to the south, you will notice a new building dotting the skyline.

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When was the last time you or your spouse left the farm? Running into town for parts, drugs or groceries doesn’t count. When was the last time you physically removed yourself from the place and went somewhere with a purpose other than what I just mentioned?

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The proliferation of plant-based milk on supermarket shelves today leads us to wonder, “Is there any hope for real milk? Is milk any different from milk alternatives, or will milk simply be replaced by manufactured beverages with laboratory-formulated ingredient lists?”

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