From the Merced Sun-Star:

California dairy farming can be a real roller-coaster ride.

In a good year, an average-sized dairy farm can make more than $500,000, money often largely invested back into farm operations, industry figures show. However, in bad times, the losses can be just as great.

Over the past four years, dairy leaders say, far more farmers have been hanging on amid steep drops than riding high.

And recently, a surge in feed prices, due in part to a devastating drought plaguing the Midwest, has forced some of the state's dairy farmers to the brink of losing their way of life.

"If it stays like this, this time next year we'll be out," said Chowchilla dairyman Alfred Soares. "This time next year, this whole conversation will be, 'What are we going to do now?' "

From 2006 to 2011, the California dairy industry lost about 300 dairy farms, reducing the number of dairy farmers to 1,668, according to data from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

For more, see: Are California dairies drying up?