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published on October 7, 2019 - 11:08 AM
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Years of low dairy milk prices is forcing California’s oldest dairy to end operations.

A complete dispersal auction of the Giacomazzi Dairy near Hanford, which has operated 126 years, is set for October 25.

It’s not only California’s oldest dairy still in operation, but it’s also the oldest west of the Rocky Mountains.

Operated by fourth-generation owner Dino Giacomazzi, the sale — hosted by AM Livestock Auction — includes 1,000 cows and 1,000 heifers.

Giacomazzi said that the “past 10 years have been difficult for dairying.”

Prices paid for milk in California and across the country have been low for about the past five years, often less than what it costs dairies to produce milk.

As such, “we’ve had four, straight years of losing money in the diary business, and now seems like the right time to plant more land to trees,” Giacomazzi said, referring to his family’s decision back in 2013 to plant trees on 400 acres of land, and those trees are starting to reach maturity.

“All our costs are going up, and the only way to keep dairying was to invest in a major expansion — double our size,” which the family decided not to do, he said.

With milk prices up a bit this fall for the first time in years, Giacomazzi said he figured this may be a favorable time to market his cows to get the best prices for them.

“We’re not selling the property, and I plan to stay on and keep farming,” he said, adding, “Maybe the farm will still be in business another 126 years.”

Giacomazzi has two young boys, who like himself at their ages, show little interest in a tough life of dairying, as they’re more excited about video games.

Giacomazzi, himself moved away from the family dairy for years, entering the Bay Area music scene and doing some software work before returning after his father became ill.

“It’s 18 years later and I am still here.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited the well-known Hanford-area dairy early last year. Ironically, a few days ago Perdue was criticized by some in the ag industry when he reportedly said in Wisconsin that small farmers have to get big or get out.

As in California, large numbers of dairies in Wisconsin and other parts of the country have called it quits due to low milk pricing.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture reports that Kings County had 165 dairies in 2005, but just 107 in 2017.

And Giacomazzi can attest to that, having seen some of his neighbor dairies quit in recent years.

For more related stories, check out these topics:

Ag secretary: No guarantee small dairy farms will survive

Dairies looking north for milk pricing solution

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