dairy farm

A curious Brown Swiss dairy cow peers over Casey DeHaan's rotary milking parlor outside Ault, Colorado.
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The population of Northern Colorado is booming. People are flocking to the area and population numbers are on the rise.

The same thing is happening with dairy cows.

Weld and Larimer counties already sport high numbers of beef and dairy cattle, buttressed by the region’s feeding operations. But an expansion of a cheese factory owned by dairy giant Leprino Foods will require even more cows to churn out the milk needed to produce bricks of mozzarella cheese and whey protein powder.

Suzanne Hogan / For Harvest Public Media

Aubrey Fletcher knew she wanted to work on a dairy farm ever since she was a little girl.

“I do remember my mom asking, ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to do?’” Fletcher recalls.

Fletcher knew the work was tough, she grew up milking cows every day. After college she and her husband wanted to return to his family farm, but it wasn’t making financial sense.

“The farm couldn’t necessarily provide both of us with salaries,” says Fletcher. “So we thought, ‘Why not take our premium milk and take that a little further?’”

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

America's dairy farms are doing more with less. There are fewer dairy cows today than just a few decades ago, but today’s cows are churning out more milk than ever.

Part of the increase is due to genetics. Dairy cows have been bred to be larger, hungrier, and more productive. But that focus on genetics to produce more milk has some prominent livestock advocates ringing alarm bells.

The Top 1 Percent

When it comes to milk production, no other cow tops Gigi.

Gunnar Magnusson / Flickr-CC

When you think of cheese, you might think Wisconsin's got the market covered, but a few local cheese producers say Kansas City has something special too.

Weston's Green Dirt Farm exclusively makes sheep's milk cheese and is one of only a few sheep dairies in the country to make its own cheese. Cheese made from different milks-- cow, goat and sheep--have different tastes. Sheep's milk cheese, for instance, can have a nutty flavor.

On Friday's Up to Date, we discussed these cheeses:

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

As drought, feed costs, and urban development wear on West Coast milk producers, states like Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa are pitching themselves as a dairy heaven. Even in California, the nation’s No. 1 dairy state, many dairy farmers are listening.

For the Midwest, an influx of dairies isn’t just about milk. It’s about pumping dollars into the rural economy.

California Dairies Look To Midwest’s Greener Pastures

Dec 15, 2014
Ezra David Romero / for Harvest Public Media

California’s branded as the state with happy cows, but increasingly, not necessarily happy dairy owners. For many of them in the nation’s No. 1 dairy state it’s getting tougher to make a living, that’s why some are some selling their cattle and heading to the Midwest.

A full quarter of California dairies have been shuttered since 2007, according to Michael Marsh, CEO of Western United Dairymen.

“They’ve just closed their doors and they’ve decided to make their investment in other states,” Marsh said.

The dairy farm has been a staple of the idea of the American farm, but approximately 2,500 smaller dairy farms in Missouri have closed shop, unable to compete with larger operations. 

Now, according to Missouri State Representative Casey Guernsey, 60 percent of Missouri's milk is imported because of the decreasing number of local dairy farms.

Beth Lipoff/KCUR

We’ve been keeping abreast with dairy farmer Eric Neill out at his place in Cass County, Mo. Through drought and mud, searing heat and freezing cold, it’s never the same two years in a row for Neill and his family.

Thursday, Eric talks with host Steve Kraske about the options he's weighing to keep the dairy afloat, including his return to work and copying the New Zealand practice of hiring a "share milker."

Frank Morris / KCUR

"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." So goes the saying, but when your life is milk, lots of milk, what do you do?

On this edition of 90-Mile View, dairyman Eric Neill tells Steve Kraske how things are going on the farm, including getting ready to bring new "ladies" into the herd.  Then Eric's partner, and wife, Julie has been busy exploring other options for the dairy's daily production. When life hands you milk . . .

Weather plays a major role in agriculture.  Just ask dairyman Eric Neill.  Last summer it was drought, then record snows this past winter.  Now it's rain . . . lots and lots of rain.

90-Mile View: Eric Neill

Feb 1, 2013
Frank Morris / KCUR

Maybe 2009 wasn't the best year to decide to become a full-time dairy farmer but Eric Neill had waited long enough.  Despite the economic downturn and some severe weather, Eric exhibits the optimism for which farmers and ranchers are known.

Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

When we last spoke with dairy farmer Eric Neill, he was in the middle of trying to get his dairy cows through this summer's drought.