All Curtis Coombs wanted was to raise cows and run his family’s dairy farm in this slice of Kentucky hill country, less than 35 miles from Louisville. But a few weeks ago, he was forced to sell his milking herd of 82 cows, putting an end to his family’s nearly 70-year dairy business.

On a rain-drenched Monday, Coombs, his father and his uncle struggled to shove their last 13 cows into a trailer destined for auction and slaughter. As the earthy smell of manure filled the air, the men yelled for the Holsteins to move and urged them forward with the whack of a plastic stick.

The animals mooed their dissent but finally boarded the trailer. Coombs, 30, flung aside his stick and stormed a few yards away, breathing heavily. His family members wiped their brows and looked at Curtis and then the cows, which were sold for their meat at half their worth.

“It’s just hard to believe it’s over,” Coombs said later, choking up. “As long as you was milking cows, you always thought there was a hope you’d get back to it. At this point, even if there’s a Hail Mary pass, we’re done.”

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