Skyrocketing feed costs and weak milk prices are forcing growing numbers of California's dairy farmers to sell their herds or file for bankruptcy.
The situation has become so dire that at least one dairy cooperative is launching a crisis hot line for despondent dairymen and their families.
"Things are ugly and getting uglier," said Riley Walter, a Fresno bankruptcy attorney representing many financially distressed dairymen.
In the past eight months, 28 San Joaquin Valley dairies have filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court's Fresno office, up from 24 in 2011 and 10 in 2010.
Most bankruptcy filings this year have been since April, and many more are expected, Walter said.
"This is devastating to so many families," Walter said. "And it is not over."
Court records show that farmers -- several who have multiple dairies -- owe more than $100 million to lenders, feed companies and other dairy suppliers, putting some suppliers at financial risk as well.
For more, see: Feed costs push Valley dairies to brink