High feed prices prompt closure of Dowle Dairy

Dowle Dairy on Warnock Drive closed after eight years in business due to high feed costs, according to the owner. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard
Dowle Dairy on Warnock Drive closed after eight years in business due to high feed costs, according to the owner. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

By Karen Brainard

After eight years in the dairy business in Ramona, farmer Steve Dowle decided it was time to close Dowle Dairy on Warnock Drive due to the rising cost of feed.

“No money in milk,” said Dowle. “Feed prices (are) too high. Cows eat a lot.”

Basically, he said, it’s all because of ethanol.

Cows eat grain, and corn is a basic staple for the grain, he said. Corn is also used to produce ethanol.

The U.S. Department of Energy describes ethanol as an alcohol-based fuel made by fermenting and distilling starch crops, such as corn, and says the use of ethanol can reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Dowle said that in the past four years, grain prices rose from $120 a ton to $380 a ton. Although the price went down for a while, it shot back up last summer, he said.

“Price of milk has gone up but not nearly enough to cover that,” he said.

Nationwide the dairy business is bad, but more so in California, which has lost 400 dairies in the past five years, said Dowle.

In San Diego County, there were 35 dairies in 1982, he said, but now there are only three: TD Dairy in Ramona, a dairy in Lakeside and another in San Pasqual.

The farmer said he auctioned off his cows and hopes they found new homes.

The 41-year resident of Ramona rents the 54 acres at 1645 Warnock Drive, where he said he grows pumpkins and is considering raising chickens. He also farms land in other locations.

   
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