Whenever I give myself extra time for my many road trips, I use the ‘no highways’ option in Google Maps. In doing that last year, I passed a number of huge dairies and many head of Holstein cows happily grazing their way through hay. They were the first dairies I’d encountered in Southern California; being a dairy farm raised child, it brings back fond memories (for me anyway). When I traveled that way again late last fall, I noticed an empty dairy – one of the huge ones. Tumbleweeds blowing. Sad, was encroaching civilization pushing the existing dairies out? Turns out, the dairy with the tumbleweeds left because of financial reasons. The farm behind Scott Brothers moved their operation to Kansas, too many environmental concerns? In the distance is the town of Hemet.
Can you even imagine milking 1100 cows two times daily? And that’s accomplished while managing irrigation, haying the surrounding fields, feeding the dairy herd, raising heifers to replace the milk cows, feeding calves, keeping up with regulations and inspections to name just a few of the chores. Brad Scott of Scott Brothers Dairy gave me permission to tour around his farm. He also recently hosted the National Dairy Board during their annual meeting in California. The board visited the farm to see Brad’s Gasifier (for the production of Fischer Tropsch liquids and power via biomass gasification) or in plain English: making bio fuel, compost and irrigation water from manure.
Milk is already expensive on the store shelves for the end user, how much more will we have to pay when we have to ship it from Kansas? Money on the farm comes in only from the milking cows. The cost of raising replacement heifers, calves, hay – are all expenses, no cash flow from that direction. And dairymen don’t get $4.00 a gallon for all their hard work. It’s much less.
The dry cows (waiting to have their calves) and the calves growing into heifers all need to be housed and fed for two years before they start producing milk.
If you like milk, be thankful if you smell a dairy farm. If we’re not careful, we won’t be able to afford to drink milk at all!