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Severe drought forces New Mexico dairy farms to close

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The severe drought continues to take it's toll on various industries across the country. Clovis, New Mexico used to be a thriving dairy town. Now, the odds are stacked against them and many of them have been forced to close.

"It's tough to see your friends going out of business," said Clovis dairy farmer Art Schaap.

Art Schaap is one of the lucky ones. He's been in the dairy business in Clovis for 25 years his farm has stayed afloat, while others haven't been so fortunate.

"Normally farmers can take the ups and downs," said Schaap. "But that last couple of years with the dry weather has doubled our feeds costs."

Sky rocketing feed prices, low milk prices, the ongoing drought and poor economic status have forced about 10 dairies around the Clovis area to close in the last year.

"The average dairy employs about 30 people," said Robert Hagervoort, New Mexico State University Dairy Extension Specialist. "That extends into the community to about 100 people per dairy."

That means employees losing their jobs and the farms, losing their cattle. When a dairy closes, they're forced to sell off their entire herd. When that happens, in most cases, about half will be sold to another dairy and the other half will end up as beef cattle.

But even those who are hanging on, like Schaap, are cutting back.

"We're cutting everything to the bone. We're getting rid of external employees, we're cutting the quality of feed which is hurting production," he said. "We're selling assets to pay down the bank."

"Farming operations that for years have been in business end up in a situation like this," added Hagervoort. "Generations of equity is being lost and the younger generation is just not able to continue. It's just sad to see that happen."

Unfortunately, the worst may still be yet to come.

"It's going to be a domino effect and it'll hit next year more than this year," said Schaap. "Sadly enough, some of them aren't going to come back."

According to Hagervoort, each dairy is worth about 6 million dollars to a community's economy each year. That means in the past year, Clovis's economy has taken about a 60 million dollar step backward.

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