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Cow Palace Dairy continues growth

Accountant started herd by accepting payment in cows from dairymen


For the Capital Press

ZILLAH, Wash. -- Now in its third generation of operations, Cow Palace Dairy has grown a great deal over the years, and it looks to start new projects that will make it even greater.

Adam Dolsen, owner of the Cow Palace, said that the dairy started in the 1970s as side work for his grandfather, Bob Dolsen.

The senior Dolsen was an accountant with some bovine experience. He would, on occasion, accept a cow as payment from clients. After a time, he owned a small herd of cows. His son, Bill Dolsen, joined him in operating a growing business. They bought land in Zillah, Wash., where it remains.

"The dairy grew from there," Adam Dolsen said.

And how it grew. Cow Palace swelled from 400 cows near its beginning to its current 7,100 cows.

According to Adam Dolsen, around 500,000 pounds of Grade A milk are produced daily on the dairy nowadays. This amounts to 60,000 gallons every day.

They started Cow Palace, which also sells organic compost, as a family business, and they placed high importance on keeping it as a family business. Adam Dolsen said that this still means a lot to the family, and he is glad to have it continue and thrive.

"There have been some ups and downs with the dairy, but we've figured out a level of efficiency where we're at now," he said.

He said that his dairy, like any other, rises and falls with changing costs, and that he hedges his risks through commodity trading.

At any single time, it is hard for him to say if the dairy is up or down, but business trends upwards and conditions are mostly positive. He said that corn prices have gone up recently and that milk prices, though not great, are OK. Last year, he said, was a good year.

He said that one of the biggest developments is a methane digester, which will create natural gas that he will sell. He is undertaking the project with two neighboring dairies and a Seattle energy company. Plans are to break ground on it this summer or fall.

In addition, he said that he prides his dairy for its cooperation with government agencies, looking to ensure environmental protection. According to the company, the Washington State Department of Agriculture inspects Cow Palace more than once every two years. The dairy passes its ground and surface water tests.

"The amount of nitrogen present in nutrients is calculated to be the exact amount that plants will consume from the soil, so no extra nitrogen seeps into the soil, which is a good thing for the environment," according to Cow Palace.

Cow Palace Dairy

Location: Granger, Wash.

Owner: Adam Dolsen

Years operating: Since 1972

Co-op membership: Darigold

Total cows: 7,100

Employees: 90

Quote: "There have been some ups and downs with the dairy, but we've figured out a level of efficiency that we're at now." -- Adam Dolsen, Cow Palace Dairy owner


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