DEAF SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — While the High Plains is a well-established region for agriculture, dairy is relatively new to the area.
Juan Pineiro, an assistant professor and extension dairy specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife, said the dairy industry has grown exponentially on the High Plains since 2001.
“We went from having roughly 20,000 cows in this area, to now having over 450,000,” said Pineiro.
He said the area is great for dairy cows to live because of the climate, but also since there are several dairy manufacturers nearby.
Pineiro said as more dairy processing facilities move into the area, it will allow the dairy industry to grow even more.
“The fact that it’s dry, and it also has the higher elevation, it means that we have lower temperatures and lower humidity, that’s better for cow comfort, because that means less heat stress,” he said.
Mike Schouten, the owner of Mission Dairy near Hereford, said all of those factors mean better milk production from the dairy cows.
“Milk production has been excellent this year. Pretty much, the weather has been in cow production favor,” said Schouten. “The one downside to it has been the drought. The drought has not been favorable to feed production.”
Operations are moving like they always have.
“The process starts every morning very early and pretty much runs till the next morning very early,” said Schouten. “Cows are milked at Mission Dairy three times a day, and it’s a 24-hour process, 365 days.
Schouten said higher input costs, as a result of many variables, are affecting Mission Dairy, just like all other agriculture producers in 2022. The dairy is family-owned and employs about 50 people.
“We’re looking at soybean meal a year ago costing somewhere in a $200 to $300 range, now costing close to $500. We’re looking at corn that was costing somewhere in the high $3 range last year to now looking at $8 corn, so very, very difficult,” he said. “When you look at what a cow eats on a daily basis, she’s going to eat 110 pounds as fed. So that’s a pretty astronomical amount of feed, as well as the cost of it more than doubling.”
While milk prices have gone up, he said so has the cost of storage.
“Cheese represents the largest consumer of milk products. So hoping to see cheese prices continue to rise on the CME, certainly hoping to see powder prices remain high, which is our class 4 price,” Schouten added. “And then of course, it’s that time of year where ice cream is going to be popular again. So it would be good to see cream rising as well.”
Schouten also encouraged area farmers to reach out to local dairies about supplying feed for the cows.