Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Difficult financial times continue to impact local dairy farmers


Lois Johnson

Mark Konu's Holstein cows were sold last week. Konu is discontinuing the dairy business because of low milk prices. That leaves just a handful of dairy farms still operating in the area.

Dairy farmer Mark Konu of Moose Lake sold his Holstein dairy cows on Friday, April 26. He is just the latest one of the dairy farmers in Carlton County to stop producing milk.

"It just wasn't financially feasible anymore," he said in an interview on his farm on Tuesday, April 23. "The low milk prices don't allow a farmer to make a profit anymore. And the costs of supplies, parts and wages keeps going up."

Konu had sold his heifers the week before. Three semi-trailer trucks were coming late Thursday afternoon to pick up the remaining 94 dairy cows and calves and take them to Lanesboro to be sold on Friday. Lanesboro is located in southeastern Minnesota.

"I wanted them to be sold in Lanesboro, where there are more farmers," he said. "I will be going down to watch the sale."

Konu farms 300 acres owned by his uncle, Gerald Konu. He also leased land on neighboring farms for crops to feed his herd. However, weather conditions and lack of reliable help for the last two years had left him short of feed for the cattle.

"I was going to keep on for a year or two to see if the milk prices went up," he explained. "But I ran out of feed for them and had to make the decision to sell them this spring."

Konu has hired young people from the area to work on the farm.

Lois Johnson

A young calf that was sold along with Mark Konu's cows.

"I have hired young men and women from the area to help in the barn and in the fields," said Konu. "They have been good workers but they have other activities that they want to do."

Age and health are another factor in Konu's decision to discontinue milking cows.

"I am 59 years old and have diabetes," he said. "I am exhausted. But now I have to go and get a job."

Konu said that he will continue to farm on his farm and leased land for a few years. He plans to plant grass crops and hire someone to bale the hay for him to sell.

The loss of another dairy herd in Carlton County will be felt regionally.

"The wages that I paid to those that worked for me were spent in the area and up to Duluth," he said. "I used to spend about a thousand dollars a month at the local parts store. I will still need parts for the tractors and machinery but not as many as before."


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