Xavier Lechleitner is finishing his senior year of college at Drake University at home in Edgar, Wis., on his family’s cattle farm. When Lechleitner’s operations management class asked students to submit a video blog exploring the pandemic’s reach, Lechleitner focused close to home. View the video here.

“It’s always been a troubling time for farmers and milk prices in the last couple of years,” said Lechleitner, whose family raised dairy cows for decades before selling off their herd in 2014. “Then toss in a time [of] a pandemic, where schools are being closed, restaurants are closed. They don’t use the amount [of dairy] that they once did, so sales are down for restaurants, meaning they aren’t purchasing as much. There’s just a whole trickle effect from the end user to the supplier.” 

By 2016, Lechleitner’s family got back into the farm business and transitioned to the beef industry. Yet they still haven’t escaped the impact COVID-19 is having on dairy farmers: farmers who sell off dairy cows for meat -- cows that either aren’t milk producers anymore or need to be sold so a farmer can exit the dairy industry. 

“Those cows go to sell for meat, and that impacts the beef industry and … floods the beef market. There’s this surplus of meat, but then there’s no way of processing all of that,” Lechleitner said. “It all just ties into one another.” 

Leichleitner is preparing to graduate in the middle of this pandemic, and has already started his post-graduation job at New Vision Wilderness in Wisconsin as he finishes classes virtually. 

“It’s definitely a bittersweet moment of not receiving that graduation, your final goodbyes and your final classes, all those things that come with being a senior in the spring semester,” Lechleitner said.