PONTIAC, Ill. — The last day of Dairy Month was a typical, busy June day for Don Mackinson.
A new calf was born by 8 a.m. as the family dealt with the aftermath of heavy rains, issues with the water well, getting a motor fixed and silage moved as well as daily dairy chores.
Thrown into the mix is this interview for his role as Illinois Milk Producers Association president.
All the other things get done, as well as milking 140 cows for farmer-owned Prairie Farms, milk that will be processed in Carlinville, in Macoupin County in southwestern Illinois. About once a month some of this farm’s milk goes to Decatur to become ice cream, he said.
Mackinson farms with his son, Matt, and his brother, Roy. His grandchildren are already showing interest in being the sixth generation of Mackinsons at the farm established in 1865.
Juggling duties on the family farm in Livingston County with being in IMPA leadership is nothing new to Mackinson. He has been IMPA president for 15 years.
The organization is a federation of independent dairy producers, the four largest dairy cooperatives in Illinois, allied industry and universities providing legislative, educational and informational support to Illinois dairy producers.
The association, which is an advocate and a resource for dairy producers in Illinois, started in 1933 and represents more than three-quarters of the milk marketed in the state. The primary objective of IMPA is to speak as a unified voice for the Illinois dairy industry, according to its website.
In speaking to the media and consumers, Mackinson gets support from other dairy farmers and board members who are well versed on important issues of the day. He names Bryan Henrichs, a southern Illinois dairy farmer, as being well aware of milk pricing issues, which remain a priority to address today.
The pricing changes started affecting dairy farmers when the 2018 farm bill eliminated the “higher of” component of the Class I milk price formula and replaced it with a formula based on the “simple average” of Class III and Class IV.
“It had a severe impact on prices. It was one of the biggest challenges we faced this year,” said Henrichs of Breeze, Illinois. He said some dairy plant practices during the pandemic, including de-pooling cheese, compounded the impact on milk pricing for dairy farmers.
Often Mackinson receives questions from consumers about raw milk or animal welfare issues. One common question is “Why are calves taken away from their moms so early?”
People also often ask about tie stalls.
“Our cows are in free stalls. They sleep in the sand, which is like lying on a beach,” he said.
Cows have fans and water sprinklers to keep them cool.
Mackinson said this organization often works with other groups, in both lobbying efforts and organizing educational programs. Tasha Bunting, the Assistant Director of Commodities and Livestock for the Illinois Farm Bureau, is especially helpful in these efforts, Mackinson said.
Bunting, who works with Mackinson in his role as president, on both the dairy summit and dairy tech tour, said he is very committed to and passionate about the dairy industry.
“It is clear how he manages his time with the dairy association and helping younger producers,” she said.
On the educational side for producers, the IMPA also works with the University of Illinois on an annual dairy summit in January, he said.
The husband of 43 years, father and grandfather, is modest about his contributions to his industry.
“I’m just a simple dairy farmer in central Illinois,” he said.