- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
A long excerpt from a recent UC online seminar for dairy operators on suicide prevention was used in a lengthy segment about the plight of California dairies on the California Report this morning. The story, by Fresno NPR reporter Sasha Khokha, noted that the Los Angeles Times reported in May that two dairymen have committed suicide as dairy industry profits crash. Currently, dairy operators earn about half what it costs them to produce milk.
Much of Khokha's story was pulled from an emotional interview with Point Reyes dairy operator Joey Mendoza, whose immigrant grandfather started the dairy nearly 100 years ago.
"It's sad, but it's something you have to do," Mendoza told the reporter, his voice cracking with despair. "There are guilt pains because of the heritage. Everybody worked so hard to build this thing and you're the one that has to terminate it and let it go. It's humiliating and you're not very proud of yourself to do something like this."
Mendoza has decided to participate in a herd retirement program that requires dairies to sell the entire herd for slaughter and stop milking cows for at least a year. The program is expected to take about 100,000 cows out of the national milking herd of 9 million, Khokha reported. Mendoza said he may try to open the dairy again one day as an organic operation.