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St. Lawrence County dairy farmers expanding their businesses

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A number of dairy farms in St. Lawrence County are expanding because of a favorable milk market, low feed prices and a record high milk price even though it may be short-lived.

“I think everybody’s making sure their barns are full. I know people are adding on cows,” said Jon R. Greenwood, president of the county Farm Bureau. “It’s expected to be a very good year. You don’t hear many complaints from farmers right now.”

The market for milk is strong, particularly because of a boom in the popularity of Greek yogurt and because exports of dairy products have grown, farmers said.

“There’s a demand and the prices have been better the last two years,” Mr. Greenwood said. “I know a lot of people received over $26 per hundredweight last month. It’s a record price.”

The outlook for at least the remainder of the year is good, said Robert G. Andrews, chairman of the county Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board and of the Soil & Water Conservation District.

“We cannot produce enough milk to feed all the manufacturing plants in New York,” he said. “It’s all economic growth.”

The growth plans of some farmers are not tied directly to the milk price, which historically swings up and down, but is part of a long-term business plan.

Stauffer Farms in North Lawrence is extending a barn and putting on another 200 milkers.

“The price of milk is good. We were making good money before. This probably would have happened anyway,” said Benjamin L. Stauffer, a partner in the family business. “We have the feed to do it. It’s kind of shortsighted to say you’re going to do it because the price is good right now, but there’s definitely some expansion going on.”

Mr. Stauffer said his family made sure to get on the building schedule early because the farm’s contractor said he expected to be busy all summer.

Mapleview Farm in Madrid is building a small addition to a barn that will increase its capacity 10 to 15 percent, said David M. Fisher, a partner in the family farm. The move will add about 300 cows to the operation because of available capacity in the milking parlor.

“It’s not really because of high-priced milk. We’ve been building barns for years, steady growth,” Mr. Fisher said. “We think we can be a little more efficient.”

Adon Farms, Parishville, finished a barn last fall for dry cows and has no immediate plans to add milkers.

“We needed more space,” said Anthony J. Gilbert, a partner in the family farm. “We’re kind of maxed out.”

The farm would have to expand its milking parlor to add more cows, he said.

But Mr. Gilbert said he has heard of many others planning to add cows.

“The milk price definitely plays a part,” he said. “This is great and I’m enjoying it, but we’re going to be in a period of gritting our teeth and wondering how it’s going to go.”

Mr. Fisher agreed.

“We live in fear of the price of milk crashing any time,” he said.

Some new barn construction has little to do with the price of milk.

Steven J. Morrill said the 2,400-cow operation he runs with Gregory Coller, Hermon, is considering building a special needs barn as a maternity ward and general hospital. “We like the number of cows we’re at,” Mr. Morrill said. “If we add on, it’ll be to better the environment of the cow. There hasn’t been a final decision yet.”

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