Four-generation family dairy farm calls it quits

Four-generation family dairy farm calls it quits »Play Video
SNOHOMISH, Wash. -- These are the final milking days at the Bartelheimer Brothers Dairy.

Come Tuesday, the dairy farm will auction off everything but the land.

Like many other family-owned businesses, the farm has fallen on tough times.

But it wasn't always a struggle for the Bartelheimers. For more than 70years, the dairy thrived, keeping four generations of the family in business. Times have changed, however, and soon, the dairy's 800 milking cows will find themselves in different pastures. (View photos of the farm >>>)

There are several reasons for the decision, from the poor economy to the high feed prices and the environmental costs of dealing with so much manure.

Along with the farm's tractors and other equipment, top-quality cattle could forever leave Snohomish County.

"They could stay in Washington, some could go to Utah, Idaho. They are going to be people coming from many states away," said dairy farmer Jason Bartelheimer. "Banks are being pretty tight with lending money for people to buy cows, so it's been a struggle. We were hoping to find a single buyer to come and buy the whole, all the cows."

Nick Van Dam came to look at some of the Holsteins he'll buy. After three decades in dairy farming, he recently sold all his cows. Now the Marysville dairy farmer is starting over as fellow farmers call it quits.

"It's very tough," van Dam said. "I feel sorry for the way it's going to look here, because there's not that much money for people to have extra to increase their herd."

Bartelheimer says his father is in his early 70s, ready to retire. Some badly-needed cash and a lot less burden will be nice.

"It gives them so peace of mind. It's a lot of stress to keep things going, losing money as time goes on," he said. "With the current climate, milking cows doesn't look too promising for anybody."

The auction is set to start at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Each cow could go for approximately $1,000.

The Bartelheimers say it'll be an emotional day for them, much like it will be seeing empty barns in the days ahead.