Virginia dairy farmers adapting after years of declining market

Virginia’s dairy industry has been declining in recent years as consumer preference has changed.

“Paying bills was an issue and I guess the biggest one, the next generation, my sons, said they really didn’t want to be tied to this lifestyle for the rest of their lives,” Leigh Pemberton, a former dairy farmer, said. “We’ve been milking cows as a family since 1898, so long see the cows go was emotional, but in the end it was the right decision.”

Leigh and his sons now raise hay and beef cattle and say they now have less financial worries.

Hundreds of other families have been like the Pemberton’s and gotten out of the dairy business, and those who haven’t, have been forced to make changes.

Ingleside Dairy Farms is one of those making changes. They have used technology by installed the state’s first robotic milking system.

Jennifer Leech, one of the dairy farmers, said they were initially skeptical of robotic milkers until seeing how they worked on farms. The high-tech approach has allowed them to milk more cows and lower labor costs.