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August 25, 2010   Email to Friend 

GOT MICKEY? Dairy Farmers Pick Childers As Southeast Area Chairman
By Debra Davis

Childers' dairy operation milks 700 Holstein cows.
Mickey Childers of Somerville could be described as a milkman with a mission. His assignment is making sure he and the other 2,100 dairy farm families he represents receive the best price for the 4.3 billion pounds of milk they produce annually.

Childers' determination to fulfill that mission, combined with his experience and leadership skills, is responsible for his recent election as chairman of Dairy Farmers of America, Inc.'s (DFA) Southeast Area Council. DFA is a farmer-owned milk-marketing cooperative that focuses on securing markets and bringing value to its members beyond a milk check.

Childers, who milks 700 Holstein cows in partnership with his two sons and father-in-law on a fourth-generation dairy farm in Morgan County, has held numerous leadership positions within the Alabama Farmers Federation, including a former term as chairman of the Federation's State Dairy Committee.

He is vice chairman of the DFA's Board of Directors, which oversees the organization's seven regional areas, and serves as chairman of the organization's audit committee. He also serves as president of the American Dairy Association of Alabama and vice president of the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association Board of Directors.

"It is a privilege and honor to represent my fellow dairy farmers as a member of the Southeast Area Council," said Childers. "I feel that by working together and pricing our product together, all farmers benefit. This organization also allows us to provide services to our members that otherwise wouldn't be available. That includes things like risk management, health insurance programs, financial services, energy audits and advice on grazing management."

Childers was only 17 when he began working at the dairy owned by his future father-in-law, Ganes Burden. When he married his wife, Judy, in 1964, they started their own small dairy two years later. Eventually, the dairy farms merged to become Burden-Childers Farms, Inc. in the early 1980s.

Childers said it's always been a vision of his to serve in a leadership role representing dairy farmers.

"It's very humbling that other farmers have entrusted me with this responsibility," he said. "But none of this would be possible without the great support I have here at home. I am away from the farm quite a bit serving in these various roles, so I depend greatly on my family to keep things running smoothly."

Childers said he relies heavily on his two sons, Jim, 43, and John 32,who work and manage the farm along with his still-active 85-year-old father-in-law. His daughter, Julie, is a high school teacher at A.P. Brewer High School in Morgan County.

When not away on DFA business, Childers' farm duties include formulation of feed rations and procurement of different feed ingredients. Other duties include bookkeeping, running errands and keeping a service man on call.

Alabama Farmers Federation Dairy Division Director Guy Hall said Alabama farmers, and particularly dairymen, are fortunate to have a man like Childers representing them.

"We appreciate his leadership in the Federation as well as DFA," Hall said. "He's a great asset to the dairy industry in our state and across the nation."

Childers is a stickler for detail, a trait that serves him well on the farm and in his leadership roles. He's particularly mindful of the natural resources on his farm and takes pride in his efforts to protect them. A creek that winds through portions of his farm is filled with cool, clear water. Tiny fish dart about as he walks on rocks to cross the streambed.

"That's a good indication we're in good shape," he said pointing to the fish. "We work hard to make sure we take care of the land, air and water."

Childers said he is proud that although the number of dairy farms has declined sharply in the last decade, and consolidation has substantially increased the average farm size, farmers have continued to provide a steady, safe and affordable supply of milk and dairy products.

"The biggest difference I've seen in the industry is the speed at which things happen and the volatility of our farm-gate prices," Childers said. "A major change is the shift of production from the traditional dairy-producing areas east of the Mississippi to areas in the Southwest and West in California. It's remarkable how improved genetics, better management and better feeding practices have increased more efficient production per cow."

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