AL dairy industry not what it once was but still thriving

AL dairy industry not what it once was but still thriving
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Michaela Sanders inspects as her cows get milked. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Michaela Sanders inspects as her cows get milked. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Michaela Sanders does all her own milking and bottling. She produces about 600 gallons per week. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Michaela Sanders does all her own milking and bottling. She produces about 600 gallons per week. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Michaela Sanders and her grandfather. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Michaela Sanders and her grandfather. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

ECLECTIC, AL (WSFA) - The next time you buy your milk, you may have helped a woman near Eclectic not only stay in business but realize a dream. The dairy industry in Alabama isn't what it used to be, but that didn't stop Michaela Sanders from going back in time and making her granddad proud.

Long before sunrise Tuesday morning, Sanders was at it again, calling what she considers her 'children.'

"We have Gladys and we have Jersey Joe," Sanders said, introducing some of her cows.

She's a rare breed in Alabama. The heyday of dairy production in Alabama was in the 1940s. In '44, for example, there were 100,000 dairy farms. Today, you'll find just 35 with 7,000 total cows.

A couple of reasons why the dairy industry has declined include stringent environmental restrictions and urban sprawl. While there are fewer farms today, there are more dairy cows and they produce around 19,000 pounds of milk per year.

"Just like most farming, there's less revenue than what you're producing," explained Guy Hall, dairy director for ALFA.

"Weren't able to make any money and so you get tired of working every day," said Sanders.

That's what happened to Michaela's grandfather, who shut down 13 years ago. But Sanders decided to give it a try herself, reopening the farm late last year complete with her own milk store.

"We're doing very well. We're very blessed. The Lord has blessed us tremendously," Sanders exclaimed.

Sanders, 29, does the milking and the bottling, delivering 600 gallons per week. For all intents and purposes, she's a one-woman show.

"It's a lot of hard work," she conceded.

She's carrying on a family tradition, so much so she gets to do this all over again tomorrow morning at 4:30.

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