Capital Press | Dairy Capital Press Wed, 27 May 2015 14:57:43 -0400 en Capital Press | Dairy Beckstead Jersey Farm: All in the family Tue, 5 May 2015 15:24:53 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Clifton, Idaho — Four brothers and their father, Marcel Beckstead, moved their Jersey cows to Idaho nearly 40 years ago from the Salt Lake valley, where their father had a dairy.

“He grew up on the dairy and has been dairying all his life,” Dee Beckstead, one of the brothers, said.

“My grandfather Glenn Beckstead started the original dairy near West Jordan. His grandfather homesteaded that farm, but Glenn started the dairy. Our family always had Jerseys. My grandfather liked Jerseys because of their high butterfat production. He sold milk in bottles, on a delivery route.” Those bottles showed a cream line, and there was always more cream from the Jerseys.

Most customers in those days preferred milk with more cream.

“By the time my father was involved with the dairy, however, we no longer sold bottled milk on a delivery route. We were selling our milk then to Cream o’ Weaver and a milk truck came to the farm and picked it up,” Dee said.

“After we moved our dairy to Idaho we started selling our milk to Cache Valley, until about 10 years ago, and then changed to Gossners.” The Gossner cheese plant is 40 miles from their farm.

“They purchase all of our milk. We still prefer Jerseys over Holsteins because the higher butterfat content of their milk makes it worth more at the cheese plant,” he says.

Most of the dairies in their area have Holsteins, but there are a few Jersey herds. Dee and his brothers prefer the Jerseys, and raise all their own heifers. They breed the cows with artificial insemination but also have a few bulls.

The dairy has a good market for their bull calves — mostly by word-of-mouth and repeat customers — sold as day old calves. They don’t need to sell through an auction; people come to pick them up at the farm.

The brothers hire some help for the farming. “We grow alfalfa and oats for the dairy cattle, but also purchase some of the feed for the cows—from other farmers here in our area,” Dee says.

“We have a custom-made ration delivered by a local feed mill, designed especially for our cows,” he says.

“My father is pretty much retired, so my brothers and I are doing it now. We don’t hire any help for the milking because we prefer to do all the milking ourselves,” he says.

Many dairies hire people to milk, but the four brothers can handle it themselves and feel they can do a better job — knowing their own cows — than anyone they might hire. They also do most of the farming. This is an advantage of having a large family operation, they say.

Their parents, Sue and Marcel, still live on the farm. The brothers have children who helped on the dairy as they were growing up.

Beckstead Jersey Farm

Owners: Dee Beckstead and his brothers Robert, Layne and James

Location: Clifton, Idaho

Milking: 300 Jersey cows

Acreage: 700

Since: 1976

Central Valley dairyman in it for long haul Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:57:23 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER LODI, Calif. — Jack Hamm grew up in Calexico in California’s Imperial Valley, milked cows for his neighbors and wanted to be a dairyman.

After meeting his soon-to-be wife, Patti, who was also from a dairy family, he followed his dream.

“I met Patti when we were students Cal Poly (California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo) and got married,” he said. They moved to work on Lima Ranch Dairy, which has been in her family since 1938.

“The dairy began with 100 acres,” he said.

They took over as operations managers in 1992 and started expanding the farm.

They both take pride that they are third-generation dairy farmers and consider San Joaquin County the best place for a dairy.

“It’s hard to explain, but one of the advantages is the good weather,” said Hamm, who is also president of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation and a member of the Western United Dairymen.

“Although the drought is bad we are close to the Delta and not far from the Sierra Nevada so we have access to water resources,” he said. “There are some lean times, but overall San Joaquin shines.”

He has one concern.

“The price of ground here is outrageous,” he said. “The high prices are good for our bottom line but it’s very tough for a young person to get started in dairy here.”

The upfront costs and equipment costs are high. Those who have been in the industry for years are doing pretty well and are on profitable footing, he said, but the last five years have been brutal with feed prices skyrocketing.

Fortunately, he said, milk prices have doubled and the price of beef has increased.

The cost of feeding his herd amounts to 60 percent of his overall income. Hamm predicts that because of the drought costs of feed will continue to be a big issue this year. Some dairymen living farther south are trucking silage to their farms, he said.

However, “the biggest challenge facing our industry is regulations. We are the most over-regulated sector of the ag industry,” he said. “Under the Food Safety Modernization Act there are all kinds of food safety rules and most are outdated and has little to do with actual milk quality.”

Lima Ranch Dairy sells its milk to nearby Hilmar Cheese Co.

“There is no crystal ball in the dairy industry and forecasting volatility (of feed and milk prices) is difficult,” Hamm said.

“I have a buddy who jokes that sometimes he has too many cows to milk and other times he doesn’t have enough,” he said. “So, you can’t be in ag and worry about the future. Agriculture is not for the faint-hearted. You have to plan on being in for the long haul.”

Lima Ranch

Established: 1938

Family members involved : Wife, Patti; children Mike and Jennifer; and mother-in-law, Helen Lima

Number of cows: 1,800

Kerr returns ‘home’ to dairy industry Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:57:11 -0400 MITCH LIES SALEM, Ore. ­— She was raised on a dairy farm in Tillamook, Ore., still owns cows and occasionally travels to the family farm to milk them. Still, there are days when the learning curve is pretty steep for the new executive director of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association.

“There are definitely days when I feel like I’m drinking from the fire hose,” said Tami Kerr.

The good news, Kerr said, is having a working knowledge of what it takes to operate a dairy is holding her in good stead.

“I don’t know how you would jump into this position without that,” she said.

Kerr started in her new position Feb. 1. She replaced Jim Krahn, who retired last year after 22 years as executive director of the association.

Kerr, who worked 14 years as executive director of the Corvallis-based Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom, said she wasn’t looking to leave the nonprofit educational organization. She in fact called the dairy association to recommend a friend for the job when she heard of the opening.

“I wasn’t interested in commuting to Portland (from Corvallis), so I wasn’t interested in the job,” she said. When she learned the association was looking to move its office from the Oregon Dairy Products Commission building in Portland to Salem, she decided to reconsider.

Being located in the Natural Resources Building in Salem, which also is home to the Oregon Farm Bureau and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, has been beneficial on several fronts, Kerr said.

“I have to be in Salem for a lot of meetings with the Oregon Department of Agriculture and others,” she said. “And being here at the Farm Bureau and cattlemen offices provides a great opportunity to collaborate with them on issues.”

Kerr said she’s been getting a crash course on issues facing dairy farmers: She meets regularly with dairy lobbyist Roger Beyer and Oregon State University Extension Dairy Specialist Troy Downing. She’s also visited the farms of several of ODFA board members.

“I have enjoyed getting to know them and to find out about their issues and what their concerns are,” she said.

Chris Eggert, chairman of the board for the Dairy Farmers Association, said the association is excited to have her on board.

“She’s learning more about a part of the industry she didn’t know about,” Eggert said. “But she knows the people. She can step on a farm and talk to a farmer, and she can go to Salem and talk to a legislator.

“It’s been a great relationship so far, and I am very excited about it, and I know our board is, and other farmers, as well,” Eggert said.

Kerr said she enjoyed her time at Ag in the Classroom and hated to leave. “I really enjoyed teaching kids and their teachers where their food comes from, and that farmers are taking care of the land and their animals and producing quality products. But dairy is my base,” she said. “It is my core.

“This is coming home for me,” she said. “The dairy industry is my home.”


Tami Kerr, pictured April 26 at the Oregon State Fairgrounds during Ag Fest, took over on Feb. 1 as executive director of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association. “This is coming home for me,” said Kerr, who grew up on a dairy in Tillamook.

Dairy farm grows with the family Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:56:54 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Rupert, Idaho — Steve Whitesides went into dairying after graduating from high school.

“I didn’t go to college,” he says. “I went to the school of hard knocks.”

He first worked for a dairyman, then leased 10 cows from him. Then he leased a flat barn and milked 30 cows.

In 1983 he leased another facility, milking 120 cows.

“Then I just did farming for a year and sold my cows,” he says. During that time he built a dairy barn and went into partners with his brother on 400 acres.

“With that facility we got up to 700 cows, and then built another barn and took it up to 1,500 cows,” he says.

They established a third facility at the same location, and put on another 2,500 cows.

“My brother retired 8 years ago, and his son became my partner. We purchased more land and now grow most of our own feed,” he says. They grow barley, corn and alfalfa.

The farm and dairy operations employ more than 100 people. The cows are milked three times a day.

“Everything is computerized, including ID for the cows. They all have a transponder in their ear,” Whitesides says. Feed is tailored to match what each group of cows’ needs, nutritionally.

“Feed is transported out of a commodity area and the computer tells what to load in the mixing box, and tells the employee where to deliver it — to which pen of cows.”

There is no feed in the milk barns today. Cows are only in there a short time being milked and do all their eating in their pen between milkings.

Cows are grouped in pens based on their production and where they are in their gestation and lactation cycle. Each group gets a certain mix and amount of feed.

“We meet with a nutritionist weekly to figure out the ration for each pen of cows,” he explains.

This dairy has a heifer feedlot, raising future cows. The cows and heifers are all bred using artificial insemination.

“Currently we are raising 750 heifer calves on bottled milk,” says Whitesides. They are on bottles from one day old until 2 months of age.

“Then they are grouped into pens of 10 head per pen. At 4 months of age, the heifers are transported to our feedlot, where they are in large open pens, and raised to 23 months of age. They come back to the dairy to calve and go into our milking system,” he says.

“The cows are calving year round. We generally have 10 to 50 calves born each day. We raise all the heifer calves, and the steers are sold as day-old calves. We feed them colostrum and then they are picked up by calf growers,” he explains.

The dairy delivers 68,000 gallons of milk per day, marketed through Dairy Farmers of America.

“Most of the milk goes to Brewsters (a cheese processing plant at Rupert). They package cheese for Kelloggs cheese and crackers and other cheese products,” he says. “Some of our milk goes to Chobani.”

Whitesides’ 29-year-old son, Derrek, plans to come into the business.

“He’s just married and starting a family. My son-in-law, Richard, helps manage the farm, and a nephew and other family members work here,” he says. “Even though it’s large, this is still a family farm.”

“The dairy farm is a lot of work but it’s still a good way to raise a family,” he ays. “I have five children. One daughter lives in Denver, one daughter and her husband work with us on the dairy, and I have another son who is recently married and working nearby. Another son is still in college, but he may eventually find a spot here, too.”

Whitesides Dairy

Dairying since: 1978

Location: Near Rupert, Idaho

Family: Steve Whitesides and nephew Brandon Whitesides

Size: 8,000 acres of farm ground

Herd: Milking 6,500 cows, 14,000 total

Cooperative: Dairy Farmers of America

Co-op completely vertically integrated Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:56:43 -0400 HEATHER SMITH THOMAS BURLEY, Idaho — High Desert Milk represents the combined efforts of six dairy farmers who started a cooperative and now own a processing plant.

“We put this co-op together in 2001 as a way to increase the value of our product and provide a stable market for our milk,” member Randy Robinson says. “At first we sold milk to Glanbia, Jerome Cheese and whoever else needed milk. After a few years we decided to go the next step and built a processing plant of our own to produce non-fat dry milk.”

High Desert Milk prides itself on making the world’s best powdered milk.

“We built that plant in 2008 and more recently added a butter plant. We now process 2.5 million pounds of milk per day,” he said. “The six of us produce almost 3.5 million pounds of milk per day, and market the extra milk to other processors like Glanbia, Dairy Farmers of America and Chobani.”

In the near future, High Desert Milk plans another expansion and will be able to process the extra milk itself.

“Between the six of us we own 20 dairies and milk about 40,000 cows. We farm about 45,000 acres,” he says.

“We are a closed system, totally vertically integrated,” he says.

They grow their feed, milk the cows and own their trucks — High Desert Transport — to haul milk from the dairies to the plant.

“We have seven super-quads and hire our own drivers. We control everything involved in the process, from where the alfalfa grows and how it is irrigated to the end product. We have total traceability on our milk,” he says.

It’s somewhat unique for farmers to own a milk plant and do it all.

“We are not the only one in Idaho, however,” he says. “Idaho Milk Products in Jerome is basically the same; three farmers own that one. They patterned their operation after ours.”

The dairies and farms are all within 30 miles of Burley, which reduces hauling costs.

The dairies are various sizes.

“The smallest dairy milks 800 cows and the largest has about 10,000 cows,” he says. Most of the cows are milked three times a day.

Dairy is a booming $3 billion-a-year industry in Idaho, making it the largest sector of the state’s economy.

“Many people still think potatoes are number one but potatoes now rank number four. The ranking is dairy, beef cattle, tourism and then potatoes,” Robinson says.

“All six of us in our co-op used to grow potatoes and sugarbeets but we’ve converted our farms to alfalfa, corn and grain. We try to grow as much of our feed as we can, but we can’t grow enough alfalfa,” he says. “We still have to buy some, along with all the grain corn. That corn usually comes from the Midwest. All the corn grown here is used for silage.”

Robinson is one of the original six owners and has two dairies. All the dairies have several family members involved but he is the only one with a family member in the processing plant.

“I am CEO of the plant and my son Derrik is the general manager, but titles don’t mean much to us,” he says.

The milk plant and transportation system employ 120-130 people.

“We process milk 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are open around the clock, every day of the year.”

High Desert Milk Co-op

Location: Near Burley, Idaho

Founded: 2001

Owners: Six dairy farmers

Number of cows: 40,000

Processing capacity: 2.5 million pounds of milk a day

Word-of-mouth best advertising, dairyman says Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:56:32 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas BUHL, Idaho — Bill Stoltzfus, who operates Cloverleaf Creamery and Dairy, is a transplant from the East Coast.

“We farmed in southeastern Pennsylvania prior to moving to Idaho,” Stoltzfus says.

As the area around him developed, however, he and his family made the decision to move west.

“I wanted to move west and put cows out on pasture,” he says. “We started looking for places in western Washington and Oregon, but ended up in Idaho.”

In 1992, he and his wife bought a 40-acre parcel with a house, and built a dairy barn and corrals.

“I purchased feed locally — corn silage and hay,” he says. “One of the guys who raised hay for me retired and I bought his farm. This gave us more room for our young stock.”

Now they raise all of their own feed and forages.

“When we moved here, buying feed worked, but now with higher feed prices I am glad we are growing our own,” he says.

Bill’s son Eric is in charge of the processing plant, and son-in-law Eric Butterworth helps with the farming.

His wife, Donna, works at the processing plant and is in charge of their store.

The cows are all registered Holsteins. Heifers, dry cows and the milking herd are on a rotational grazing program through the summer, supplemented with a little hay and some corn silage.

“The milking herd gets fresh pasture every day. I like having them on pasture; I think the cows are healthier, and they spread the manure themselves,” Stotzfus says.

For 10 years the dairy supplied milk to a small processing plant in town.

“We purchased that plant in 2007, and now do a full line of cream top whole milk, skim, 2 percent, half-and-half, cream, butter and ice cream,” he says.

The plant is in town on the main highway, with a store front. This is a great location for tourists.

“We have a truck on our milk route five days a week, delivering to stores and restaurants within a 120-mile radius — as far east as Pocatello. We go to Boise and Sun Valley,” Stoltfus says.

“We sell our milk as local, fresh and natural. It’s all processed in returnable glass bottles,” he says. “It’s a niche market, but a good one — a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun.”

Printed on the bottles is an invitation to customers to see where the milk is produced.

“We’ve given hundreds of tours through the creamery and farm to see the cows and feed the calves,” he says.

He doesn’t see the need for traditional advertising.

“I could advertise and tell people to try our milk because it’s the best, but I don’t need to do that,” he says. “When our customers take the tour and see our operation, they tell their friends and family. When a friend says that you need to try a product, it’s more convincing than any advertisement. Word-of-mouth has been our best advertising.”

Customers can be assured that this is a wholesome, healthful product, he says. They are also interested in where their food comes from.

“A program called Idaho Preferred, through the Idaho Department of Agriculture, promotes all Idaho Ag products,” he says. “There’s an Idaho Preferred label on much of our packaging, and this tells people at a glance that it is locally grown.

“People are interested in supporting the local economy — knowing what they are getting and where it’s from,” Stoltzfuz says.

Cloverleaf Creamery and Dairy

Farming: Since 1973, dairying near Buhl, Idaho, since 1992

Family members: Bill Stoltzfus, wife Donna, son Eric and son-in-law Eric Butterworth

Size of farm: 200 acres

Number of milking cows: 90

Shift to organic comes naturally Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:56:24 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Preston, Idaho — This pasture-based dairy has been certified organic since 2006, but it’s been a family farm for several generations.

“My grandfather began the dairy, then my dad took over from him in the 1980s,” David Roberts says.

“I came into it in the 1990s. We were a conventional dairy, milking three times a day, with the cows in confinement. By the time I became involved, the facilities were getting older and not working well.

“We decided not to invest a lot of money to rebuild, and tried to think of ways to make the dairy better without doing that. We decided intensive grazing was the way we wanted to go,” says Roberts.

They had an intern, Tim Johnston, from New Zealand in the spring of 1992, to help set up the grazing lanes, water system and fencing. There are many grass dairies in New Zealand and it was helpful to have a knowledgeable person, Roberts says.

“Then it took nearly a month to get the cows transitioned from having the feed brought to them to going out and foraging on their own,” Roberts says.

“Now our cows last longer because they can be on pasture and be cows. We try to lower their stress and don’t expect them to produce to their highest potential,” he explains.

It took investment and effort to get facilities set up for grazing, with water in every paddock.

“We can put the cattle wherever we need to, at any time. This is the key to making the grazing system work — to be able to move the cows where you want to, and take care of them wherever they are.”

The lactating cows are moved to new pasture twice a day — each time they are milked.

“We move temporary fences twice daily on the interior of the paddocks to give them fresh grass. We built lanes (long narrow pastures) throughout the farm, with gates every 2 acres. We can also cross-fence pastures to subdivide them into an acre or half acre,” he explains.

When forage is growing fast in spring, cattle can be moved more often.

If the pastures get ahead of the cows, some of the extra forage is cut for hay, to be used during winter months.

“We also grow alfalfa and barley on part of the farm; it isn’t all pasture, but it’s all organic crops,” he says.

The milk is marketed as organic.

“We joined CROPP in 2006 — a nationwide co-op that markets organic milk (Organic Valley label). They do a good job of marketing and taking care of us as farmers, making sure we have input in decision-making. They’ve been really good to work with us,” Roberts says.

It wasn’t a big transition to become organic because the cows were already pastured.

“This is one of the requirements. Some dairies when they become organic have to start grazing at the same time, and that’s a lot to learn all at once. We had that already figured out; we just did the rest and became certified,” he says.

He and his dad are both involved in the dairy. David’s oldest two children attend Utah State University but help on weekends. The four children still at home are a help with the cattle, especially in summer when it’s a busy time growing crops.

“Some of them enjoy the animals most, and some enjoy the tractor work. My wife Kayla helps with major decisions and the big picture — where we are headed in the long term.”

Ellis and David Roberts

Family dairy since 1970s

Location: South of Preston, Idaho

Herd: 250 Holstein cows

Acreage: 600 acres

Cooperatives: Milk marketed through DFA and CROPP Cooperative (Organic Valley label)

Washington industry bullish on future Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:56:14 -0400 Dan Wheat Washington is the 10th largest milk-producing state in the nation and the outlook for the industry is improving, an industry spokesman says.

“We have stayed stable in terms of the number of farms at 460 to 480 for a number of years and that’s very reassuring because for a very long time the trend has been toward consolidation here and nationwide,” said Blair Thompson, director of consumer communications at the Washington State Dairy Products Commission in Lynwood.

Higher milk prices have helped producers in the short term but have been largely eaten up by higher feed costs, Thompson said. That’s improved slightly now as feed costs have dropped a bit, he said.

The long-term outlook is improving because dairies are diversifying income by bottling their own milk and selling it under their own name, producing artisan cheese and, “the most promising thing,” finding value in manure, Thompson said.

New technologies are allowing phosphorous, nitrogen and other items to be separated out of manure and utilized, providing income, he said. Wine grape growers love fibrous compost from dairy manure as nutrients for vineyards, he said.

Dairy foods are Washington’s second largest agricultural commodity with a 2013 direct value of $1.28 billion, he said.

From 1978 through 2013, the number of dairy farms in Washington declined 72 percent, the number of dairy cows increased 43 percent and milk production increased 136 percent, he said. The state produced 6.3 billion pounds or 735 million gallons of milk in 2013 compared with 5.5 billion pounds or 680 million gallons in 2003, he said.

Production has been increasing in recent years because of genetics, diet and animal care, Thompson said. “Happy, healthy cows produce more milk,” he said.

A fair amount of milk is exported by Darigold to Pacific Rim nations, he said.

Dan DeRuyter, co-owner of George DeRuyter & Sons Dairy, near Sunnyside, said Washington dairies are progressive in animal husbandry and nutrient waste production.

“From a global standpoint, we can compete. Darigold is a major exporter and becoming very well known for quality,” DeRuyter said.

His dairy is in Yakima County, which is the 11th largest milk producing county in the nation. His dairy and two neighboring ones reached a legal agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013 to reduce nitrates, improve water quality and provide alternate drinking water for residents close to the dairies even though they maintain it has not been proven their dairies have caused high nitrate levels the EPA found in wells.

DeRuyter said he’s about the start the first phase of upgrades and expansion of his manure digester to lessen nitrates and produce renewable natural gas. The expanded system would serve his dairy and one other. A new centrifuge will reduce phosphorous 80 to 90 percent in liquid fertilizer applied to fields and nitrogen by 40 percent, he said. A second phase will reduce nitrogen by 60 or 70 percent, he said.

DeRuyter started planning the project before EPA threatened enforcement action.

“As rough as things have been made for us, I really am optimistic,” DeRuyter said. “The technology is coming along that I think we not only will be sustainable but will be a bright spot in the community.”

Daughter becomes partner in family dairy Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:56:01 -0400 Sarah Kickler Kelber For the Capital Press

Creswell, Ore. — Bobbi Frost surveys the milking parlor at Harrold’s Dairy, where two rows of cows are being milked by machine while outside, a truck stops by for its daily pickup of milk from the tank.

“A kind of cool thing about the dairy industry is that when you drink a glass of milk, you’re the first person to contact it,” says Frost, 25 and partner in the farm with her father, Max Harrold.

“It goes from cow to tank, tank to truck, truck to plant, plant to bottle with no air contact until it’s poured.”

Frost is the fourth generation of her family to work on the farm, which opened in Creswell, Ore., in 1946. She’s been working on the farm since she was a child, and full time since just before she graduated from Oregon State University in 2011. She became partner in the business after her great-uncle’s retirement earlier this year.

Her husband, Pat Frost, whom she married in August, has also joined her on the farm since leaving the U.S. Marine Corps in October.

The move from military life to farm life hasn’t been easy, but he says he’s taking to it.

“It was hard at first,” he said. “I had a whole career change, and we got married in August, so it was like 10 things at once, but I’ve found my groove.”

Not to mention, he’s learned a lot.

“I’ve gone through the initiation of being a farmer,” he said. “I’ve done just about everything there is to do here.”

There’s always more to learn, as the business is constantly changing.

About three years ago, Bobbi persuaded her father to switch to thrice-daily milking from two times a day.

“It makes a big difference,” she said. “If you think about it, a calf just drinks whenever it wants, so milking three times makes the day more even and makes the cows feel a little better.

“It was hard to convince my dad to do it because it meant more labor, but it’s worked out well.”

In the past year, they’ve also altered their approach to feed.

“We aren’t feeding them alfalfa anymore, which saves money,” Bobbi Frost says. “They get some byproduct feed” — including some reject caramel corn from a local company and spent grain from area breweries. “It keeps it out of the landfills.”

They also bought a new processor for the corn feed, switching to Shredlage brand silage, which crushes the corn at a different rate so it opens the stalk but doesn’t destroy the fiber, meaning that fiber doesn’t have to be added back to the cows’ diets.

“It was kind of a leap,” Bobbi said. “But since I came home, my dad is a little more willing to try new things.”

They’re also close to completing a new barn, which adds to its existing free stalls and also includes new, more open calving pens.

“It’s a lot better for comfort because they get to lounge a bit,” Bobbi said. “We’re hoping to see a difference in our pregnant cows.

“Dad wasn’t sure, but I said, ‘Let’s try something new.’”

Bobbi and Pat keep abreast of what’s new in their industry through trade magazines and webinars and are members of the Young Cooperators leadership program, which allowed them to attend the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., last February.

“The way the dairy industry is, you try something new and if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, you try something else.”

For his part, Max Harrold is glad to have his daughter and son-in-law on board in the family business.

“Ever work with a family member?” he asked with a laugh. “No, it’s fine. I’m glad they’re both here.”

In fact, he said he and his wife would be thrilled if Bobbi’s brother joined them, too.

“Our other child is in the Marines,” he said. “We’re not sure yet if he’s a farmer. We’ll see.”

“It’s a transition, but you learn in a hurry,” Pat added.

“You don’t have much choice,” said Max.

Harrold’s Dairy

Where: Creswell, Ore.

Open since: 1946

Herd: 450 cows

Partnered with: Darigold

Family central to Stauffer Dairy owners Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:55:46 -0400 Erick Peterson ADDY, Wash. — The owners of Stauffer Dairy say there are many things to love about dairy work, but most of all it brings their family together.

Krista Stauffer, who runs the dairy with her husband, Brandon, said she is new to dairying. She met her husband when she was working outside the industry as a cashier.

Her husband, who comes from a line of dairy farmers, was also doing non-dairy work when they first met. He was working at an oil refinery, but he dreamed of someday owning a dairy.

They married and decided to make his dream a reality. In 2009, they leased land and started Stauffer Dairy in Addy, Wash.

“It was the worst possible time to do this,” she said. Prices were at record lows, but they were optimistic that they would improve. She is thankful that prices have increased since, which she said has made the couple look like geniuses now.

Still, she said that she and her husband lacked the advantages many other people in the industry possess. Instead of inheriting an operational dairy, the Stauffers had to start “from the ground up.”

They started in a location where they did not know many people, as Brandon came from the other side of the state. So in recent years, they have worked to forge friendships in the local dairy industry and establish a good reputation.

The young couple — he is 30 and she is 28 — placed a high priority on building relationships with other people in the industry.

“There are some old dairymen around here,” she said, “and they have been amazing. We couldn’t have done what we have without them.”

Through her blog,, she has also met other people in dairy. The website also gives her opportunity for creative expression.

“Everyone has their own thing, and writing and taking pictures is mine,” she said. She includes her insights and photography on the blog.

She is also able to publish truths about the dairy industry of which people outside the industry are unaware. She said that many people have misconceptions about the industry, and she hopes to help them understand the efforts of dairy people to be good stewards of the land and producers of healthy products.

She enjoys the blog and the animals, but her favorite part of operating the dairy is that it gives her a life that is close to her husband and children.

“We’re home, and I get to work beside my husband,” she said. “Our kids get to work with us and have this amazing life.”

At 6, 3 and 1 years old, her children mostly just play around them while they work. The oldest child loves to help and feeds calves, and the other two work to their abilities, which may mean just “running around and falling into poop.”

Still, they do everything as a family, and the young matriarch of this clan says she loves this dairy life a great deal.

“It’s a great experience,” she said.

Stauffer Dairy

Location: Addy, Wash.

Owners: Brandon and Krista Stauffer

Time in business: 5 years

Size: 40 acres

Cows: 130 (milking), around 300 total

Mother Krista Stauffer holds children Trevin Stauffer and Tierra Stauffer while standing next to her husband, Brandon, who carries another one of their children, Taseyn Stauffer.

North Coast dairy an organic trendsetter Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:54:54 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER MARSHALL, Calif. — The Straus family started its 166-acre dairy in 1941 with 23 cows named after family and friends. Now, 63 years later, 300 cows graze on 500 acres of organic pasture.

“In 1997 when I returned from Cal Poly (California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo) I took over management of the farm. I looked into organic farming and selling organic products,” said CEO Albert Straus. “That was a radical idea at the time and most of my neighbors through I was crazy. But today 75 percent of all dairies in Sonoma and Marin counties are organic.”

In 1993, Straus Family Creamery opened as the first certified organic creamery west of the Mississippi River. The timing was right. There was downturn in conventional dairy farming and people were having a hard time managing conventional dairy operations.

Eight local family dairies sell milk to the creamery. The creamery has milk trucks that transport the milk from the farms daily. Straus said he has a fixed price for the milk that doesn’t fluctuate. The dairy suppliers meet every quarter to discuss volume, price and challenges.

“The creamery and the dairy are two separate businesses,” he said. “Both have to be profitable with sustainability goals and an understanding of the cost of running a dairy.”

The drought hit the area hard, with the loss of months on pasture and the hay crop nearly depleted. Straus and his neighbors are looking to harvesting earlier this year. The National Organic Program — which makes the regulations regarding organic production — gave the dairies a drought waiver, allowing less pasture grazing. The drought situation has improved with the recent rains.

“However, we feel there might be a shortage of alfalfa for years to come,” Straus said. “The prices are forecast to rise 5 to 10 percent. We are very aware of water use and are implementing a system to reuse water at the creamery and return it to potable use.”

“Our approach goes beyond the average organic operation,” he said. “We store the cows’ solid waste in methane digesters that supply power for 95 percent of the farm and most of the hot water for washing the equipment. The gas also fuels an electric golf cart used at the creamery and solar energy powers the other cars.”

Straus Family Creamery is also going “retro” by using glass bottles for its organic milk to minimize the impact on the environment. The cream on top is another “retro” innovation. The milk is pasteurized but not homogenized because Straus believes that extra step destroys the flavor.

Other products include butter, Greek yogurt, traditional ice cream and a new selection — “NuScoop” — that is lower in fat but higher in fiber and vitamins. Straus products are sold regionally.

“There is a need for more farms to get the land back in production,” Straus said. “The communities along the coast today are mostly geared for tourism with vacation rentals instead of farms. We want to make a sustainable model that is viable and one that others can replicate in the future.”

Dairy becomes local institution Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:54:27 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas IDAHO FALLS — Generations of Reeds have supplied milk, ice cream and other dairy products to customers in the area.

The dairy used to be on the city limits — on the west side of Idaho Falls — but the city has grown around it.

“My dad and his two brothers started the dairy,” Reed said. “They also grew row crops.”

The current generation of Reeds split the operation.

“We continued the dairy with all of us until 1980 and then divided the operation,” he said. “My uncle, Larry Reed, and I were partners in the dairy until he passed away. My brother Bryon grows our hay, and corn for corn silage.”

Reed’s Dairy sells bottled milk, ice cream and cheese. It has have a processing plant and markets its products through the dairy store at the farm.

“We also do milk home delivery as well as supply milk and dairy products to grocery stores around the valley,” Reed said. Any surplus milk is sent to the Glanbia cheese plant in Blackfoot, Idaho.

Alan’s son graduated last year from Brigham Young University-Idaho with a business and finance degree.

“He’s here working with us. My cousin, Mike Reed, is a partner, and our herdsman Refugio Cervantes is also a partner,” Reed said.

They have a closed herd of Holsteins and haven’t brought in any outside animals for many years. The cows are bred using artificial insemination to top bulls. “It’s just a small herd and we don’t give the cows any artificial hormones,” says Reed.

“We’ve developed a big following with our ice cream. It’s a super premium all-natural product. Our chocolate milk is very popular. We sell it to grocery and convenience stores, and in our own store and milk routes. We often run 2,000 gallons of chocolate milk each week,” he says.

The home delivery route includes customers from Blackfoot to Rexburg. Anyone who wants home delivery can get on their route.

“Customers give us a standard order they want every week. They can change it, or add butter or cream. They can phone changes to the office or log onto their own account to make adjustments,” Reed said.

Many dairies did home delivery in the past, but this one never stopped.

“We bought our first delivery van in 1962 and have been delivering milk ever since.”

The store is open Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and 10 p.m. in the summer.

“We built a farm animal petting area next to the store in a large grassy area where people sit around and picnic. We raise chickens that run around the place, and kids like to chase those,” he said. “The petting areas include baby calves, a pony, goats and sheep, baby pigs, a variety of ducks and other animals. The kids love it.”

People come for ice cream and pet the animals and watch the cows.

“A lot of people make this a destination point during summer. They bring their family and a picnic, eat ice cream and spend the afternoon. We started the petting area about seven years ago and it’s very popular,” he says.

“We sell 900 to 1,000 ice cream cones daily. Seven people work in the retail store through summer, selling every kind of dairy product — including cheddar cheese curds.”

Reed’s Dairy

Owner: Alan Reed

Years farming: Since 1910; dairy since 1955

Location: Idaho Falls

Farm size: 20 acres

Herd size: 160 cows milking

Diversification key to farm’s success Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:54:02 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER PETALUMA, Calif. — Dairy farmer Jana McClelland said if someone called to ask about getting into the dairy farming, she would have to reply: “I hope you love cows because they are a lot of work.”

McClelland’s Dairy started 76 years ago when her grandfather and grandmother immigrated from Ireland to began dairy farming in Northern California. They had a small herd that they milked by hand and delivered the milk to customers along a regular route.

The company was called “From She to Thee.” The family moved to the Two Rock area near Petaluma and the herd grew to 199 cows.

“All this leads to what we do today,” McClelland said. “In the late ’90s we began looking for ways to diversify and get more out of the marketplace. So we moved to organic in 2003 with Holstein, Jerseys and Brown Swiss cows.”

She grazes the cattle on 500 acres.

Regulations are expensive and time-consuming, she said.

“I never realized when I began in the dairy industry that so much time, money and paperwork is needed to comply with all the different regulations,” she said. “I know they are here for a good reason — to protect the people and animals — but it really deters from what we do on a daily basis.”

The farm is 9 miles from the ocean that provides moderate temperatures and a good growing season for the pasture. The McClellands lease a small facility in nearby Petaluma to make butter and plan to begin making cheese in the future.

“Our European-style butter is all about the butter fat content,” she said. “Most creameries retain 80 percent of butter fat and water. We believe fat equals flavor so our butter contains 85 percent butter fat that results in more creaminess.”

McClelland grew up on the farm and always knew she wanted to return and run the operation. She attended California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and majored in ag business with a concentration in farm and ranch management.

She markets the butter for the dairy operation.

“Our milk and butter are in retail and independently owned stores and 50 different markets that appreciate locally raised products,” she said. “Our customers want to know where food comes from. They support and believe in organic and sustainability, with no hormones or GMOs and that our cows are eating grass.”

They wanted to diversify further so they added free-range chickens that reduce the fly population. The egg yolks are a rich orange hue that consumers crave. They also feed the eggs to calves that are not feeling well.

She also believes in the value of allowing the public to tour the farm.

“Our aim through our farm tours and hands-on cow milking is to educate consumers that are far removed from agriculture,” she said. “I believe that all farmers take extra steps to protect the land for future generations.”

McClelland’s Dairy

Years in operation: 76

Family members involved: Mother, Dora, and father, George

Number of cows: 1,000

Owner passes on her enthusiasm for dairy work Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:52:49 -0400 Erick Peterson Deer Park, Wash. — Having spent her life on a dairy in Eastern Washington, Stephanie Littrel remembers a time when nearby dairies were more plentiful and much smaller than they are today. She said her dairy has survived because of the love and hard work of her family.

Littrel co-owns Dunrenton Ranch with her husband, Scot Littrel, in Deer Park, Wash.

In 1953, her grandfather, Bert Porter, moved from Cheney, Wash., and started the dairy. He built it up and then passed it on to a second generation, Littrel’s parents, Larry and Judy Porter.

She said her parents and grandparents belonged to special generations. They, and their contemporaries, worked hard, and they found great joy in their labor. Despite the occasional disappointments that are part of dairy work, they persevered.

This same spirit is more rare in her generation, she said. Fewer people her age have a willingness to stay with their dairies, especially during hard times. As a result, many of the dairies around hers closed, switched to other production or were sold.

Some of the remaining dairies grew larger, but her family’s operation maintained around 120 milking cows.

As she walks through the dairy, she calls out to individual cows, greeting each one by name, and she expresses gratitude for the life that the dairy provided throughout her childhood.

“I wouldn’t have changed it for the world,” she said.

The dairy gave her a place to play and gave her goals to share with her family. And it gave her purpose.

Unlike some children, who drift for years without setting career goals, she knew what she was going to do with her life. From the age of three, when she was playing in the dirt near the barn, she knew that she was going to inherit the lives of her parents.

As a child, she started helping with the cows, feeding and milking them.

Meanwhile, she enjoyed the sights and sounds around her — nearby barley blowing in the wind and cows calling out for attention.

These are things that she continues to enjoy to this day. The dairy still gives her reason to wake up early and go to bed late.

She said her life is improved further because she works alongside her husband Scot and her son. Scot spends most of his time in the fields, growing feed for the cows that she tends.

Both husband and wife try to pass on their love of agriculture to their son, 14-year-old Derek.

Already, he has taken to the family work. He is raising seven animals of his own and participating in a 4-H club. He spends much of his time doing chores at the dairy, folding towels for the cows, feeding and doing other tasks.

His mom said that he is learning that this sort of work is difficult but both rewarding and exciting. Profitability is sometimes beyond the control of an individual dairy owner, who is at the mercy of fluctuating market prices. Still, it is a good life that brings people closer to nature, Littrel said, and it can be financially profitable.

In addition to teaching her son, she instructs other young people. She is involved in local agricultural clubs and organizations.

She explained that both her parents and grandparents placed a high priority on education. They knew that the continuation of their farming lifestyle was dependent on teaching young people. And she means to do the same thing.

Dunrenton Ranch

Date started: 1953

Location: Deer Park, Wash.

Owners: Scot and Stephanie Littrel

Number of cows: 120 milking

Acres: 600

Cheese making returns to Bandon Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:52:40 -0400 CRAIG REED BANDON, Ore. — Cheese making has made a successful return to this coastal community after a 10-year absence.

But the name is Face Rock Creamery, not the Bandon Cheese Factory. The latter business, a well-known landmark alongside Highway 101 in the middle of this town for over 70 years, was shuttered in 2003, a couple years after being purchased by the Tillamook County Creamery Association.

The old cheese facility was demolished, leaving a gravel lot. It was a sad time for Bandon because cheese making had been a tradition in the community since the 1880s.

In 2011, the city of Bandon was able to purchase the property. A public-private partnership resulted in the Face Rock Creamery being constructed on the site.

The business celebrated a successful first year of business with an anniversary weekend party May 10-11.

“I don’t think it is overstating it to say we’re ecstatic to be here,” said Brad Sinko, the head cheese maker for Face Rock. “It had been a gravel pit here for years, an eyesore. We now have a beautiful building here, we’re making cheese again and we’re proud of it again.”

The creamery owners are Greg Drobot, company president, and Daniel Graham, the vice president. The business has 25 full- and part-time employees.

Sinko said Face Rock produced 225,000 pounds of cheese in its first year and the goal is to double that total in the second year. About six flavors of cheese are sold commercially in about 350 stores on the West Coast and as far eastward as Wyoming. An additional six flavors are offered for sale in the Face Rock retail store.

The creamery makes cheese every other day, including the weekend days, and uses 28,000 pounds of milk each day. The Milky Way Farm of Coquille provides most of that milk and the Wheeler Farm of Arago provides the rest.

“A start-up always has its bumps, but I think we’re doing quite well,” said Sinko.

Sinko is no stranger to Bandon or to its cheese tradition. His father, Joe Sinko, was a co-owner of Bandon Cheese and his son grew up in the business and has a lifetime of experience making cheese. The son worked for his father at Bandon Cheese until it closed and then was the head cheese maker for Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Seattle for 10 years before being lured back to Bandon.

“I had a premier cheese making job in the country so I thought long and hard about it, but I love Bandon and I thought it was a damn shame the old Bandon factory went away. I had family here and I was excited to help build up Face Rock and to make the best cheddar in the nation here.”

He explained that cheddar will soon be on the shelf because aged cheddar must sit in cold storage for 12 months and extra aged cheddar for 18 months.

Drobot and Graham were the developers who worked with Bandon to bring cheese production back to the community. The partnership was recognized for its cooperative efforts in 2013 when it was presented the League of Oregon Cities Award for Excellence by the State of Oregon.

“Everybody in town wanted the cheese factory back,” Graham said. “We appreciate all the support we’ve received from everybody.”

The new Face Rock building offers display cases of cheese products with samples. There’s also some other food and beverage products, mainly from the local area, that are displayed and for sale.

Across one wall of the retail area is an ice cream and deli counter that offers lunch menu items such as soups and sandwiches. In the middle of the retail area is a small bar where local wines can be tasted.

Wide and tall windows across the back of the retail area allow visitors to watch the cheese making process in the production area.

“We’re definitely a different place than the old Bandon plant,” Graham said. “But our goal is to make the finest upper end cheddar in the world.”

Roots run deep in Marin County dairy Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:52:28 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER NICASIO,Calif. — The Lafranchi family put down roots in California’s North Bay in the 1850s with a dream. Today they are the only certified organic farmstead cow’s milk cheesemaker in California.

“It has been quite a journey,” said Rick Lafranchi, owner of Nicasio Valley Cheese Co.

“Our patriarch, Fredilino LaFranchi, left his home in Maggia, Switzerland, and arrived in America with $35 in his pocket and a dream to own and operate his own dairy,” he said.

LaFranchi made his way to California and met and married Zelma Dolcini, whose family had been involved in dairy operations in California since the 1850s.

The couple established their dairy in 1919 with the hope of making cheese like those handmade by Swiss-Italian artisans.

The family continued the vision and often visits their European relatives and studies the crafting of the region’s unique cheeses.

“Our ‘closed’ herd is 100 percent Holstein,” Lafranchi said. “There have been no ‘outside’ animals for 30 years.”

Holsteins produce more milk, are heartier and easier to raise and with better success, he said. In 1992, the dairy size was 290, today the cows number 1,200.

This area of California’s North Bay has long been known as one of the great pasture regions of the world. In the late 1800s, the queen of England commanded that butter from this region be served exclusively at her table because it was the best, he said.

The region continues to thrive and dairies flourish because it gets more rain. During the grazing season the cows derive 70 percent of their diet from the farm’s rotationally grazed organic pastures, a practice that exceeds federal organic grazing standards.

“We use only the freshest morning milk to make our cheese,” he said. “The cows are pastured 1 mile from the cheesemaking facility and milked around 6:30 in the morning.”

The milk is loaded into tanks and transported to the creamery.

All the cheeses are based on a Swiss cheesemaker’s recipes of 100 years ago. The cheeses include “Foggy Morning,” “Formagella,” “Halleck Creek,” “Nicasio Reserve” and “San Geronimo.”

“The Sonoma-Marin region, I believe, is on the verge of being recognized as being one of the great cheese making regions of the U.S. and hopefully someday as one the best artisan cheese making regions in the world,” Lafranchi said. “Our pastures are among the richest anywhere. It’s no accident that there has been an explosion of cheese manufacturers. Over the past 15 years we’ve gone from three cheese makers to 34 and counting.

“We are looking to position our ranch and creamery to be an attractive opportunity for the next generation and to challenge them to be active stewards of the land.”

Nicasio Valley Cheese Co.

Established: 1919

Family members involved : 2 brothers and 3 sisters

Number of cows: 1,200

Dairyman follows in father’s footsteps Mon, 9 Jun 2014 11:52:17 -0400 LEE JUILLERAT BONANZA, Ore — With four young children, Richard and Julie DeJong never want to be without milk. That’s why having their own dairy, the Langell Valley Dairy, helps.

Milk is part of the daily diet for the DeJongs and their children, Joel, 7, Emma, 5, Caleb, 4, and Trinity, 2. It’s a childhood that mimics Richard’s, who grew up drinking milk, helped his father hauling grain buckets, bottle feeding and operating tractors.

“It’s in my blood,” says Richard, 35. “I was born and raised here. I knew when I was 6 years old this is what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

The DeJongs live a short walk from the dairy’s complex of buildings, barns and pens. Also nearby are his parents, Bill and Sandra, who moved to the dairy near Bonanza from Southern California in the early 1970s.

Richard and his father work as a team — “We talk a lot of things back and forth, run everything through each other, and make it work.”

They oversee a dairy that includes about 1,300 Holsteins, including 500 milk cows, on 500 acres of irrigated fields. On an average day the cows produce about 5,000 gallons of milk, which are trucked to Darigold in Medford, Ore. The DeJongs have four milkers and four others who feed and handle other chores.

The cows are milked three times a day, 22 hours a day. Other hours are spent tending the herd and cleaning the milking parlors and equipment.

He attended Dordt College in Iowa, where he earned an associate degree in agriculture, but was anxious to get back home. Now he’s excited to see his own children grow up.

“We’re raising our kids out here,” he says, noting the workload “was so much heavier. Just getting your cows fed took all day long. Now we’ve gotten to a place where everything’s so automated.”

Running a dairy is still a 24/7 hands-on job, but the routine includes studying data on each cow’s butterfat, protein and output on his office computer. Monthly milk tests for each cow are part of the dairy’s routine “so I know what every cow is doing.” Through genetics, the DeJongs have mostly same-sized cows that weigh 1,200 to 1,300 pounds and stand 5-feet tall.

“All the animals are evaluated,” he says. “Your genetics just get better and better. Genetics are your money-maker.”

He’s proud of his work and dairy.

“You find something you love to do, you do it,” Richard says of working and living on his family dairy. “There’s always a lot to do, but nobody’s telling you what to do.

And,” he adds with a nod toward the refrigerator, “we are never without milk.”

Langell Valley Dairy

Owners: Bill and Richard DeJong

Location: Near Bonanza, Ore.

How long farming: 40-plus years

Number of cows: 1,300, including 500 milk cows

Acreage: 500 acres irrigated fields

Cooperative: Milk shipped and sold to Darigold