Dairy Situation Improving in Idaho

October 1, 2013 01:37 PM
Dairy Situation Improving in Idaho

Idaho dairy producer Mike Roth thinks a perfect storm is headed toward the dairy industry – and this time it means good news for producers.

Idaho dairy producer Mike Roth thinks a perfect storm is headed toward the dairy industry – and this time it means good news for producers.

Burgeoning exports and falling prices for corn and soybeans should help dairies recover from their struggles, Roth told a packed room today during a Virtual Farm Tour at World Dairy Expo.

The tour, sponsored by Advanced Animal Diagnostics, featured the Roth family’s Si-Ellen Farms, which milks 10,800 cows at three locations in the Magic Valley near Jerome, Idaho.

Idaho dairies are also benefitting from the Chobani yogurt plant that was built in Twin Falls last year. The arrival of the yogurt maker prompted Idaho processors to improve pay prices for dairy producers. Idaho dairies, which typically compete with California for the lowest U.S. milk price, welcomed the news.

"Idaho has mainly been a cheese market but yogurt has expanded the opportunities," Roth said. "For the first time this year, Idaho’s milk supply is nearly balanced."

Idaho had 547 farms milking 552,000 cows in 2012. It was third in U.S. milk production.

"Our production costs have been $17 per cwt. and could drop to $16," Roth said today.

Roth reviewed the history of his family’s dairy, which he operates with his seven siblings. They relocated from Washington and Oregon dairies to Idaho in 1995. "Land was inexpensive, there was an abundance of feed, and someone to take milk," Roth said.

Today, Si-Ellen Dairy counts 23,076 Holsteins and Jerseys, which have a 29,510 lb. production, compared to the Idaho average of 24,511 lb. Their components average 1,015 lb. butterfat and 918 lb. protein. The Roths market their milk through Dairy Farmers of America, which in turn supplies Chobani.

The Roths farm 7,000 acres. As part of their sustainability efforts, they’ve created man-made wetlands on their land to catch wastewater and improve wildlife diversity. They’ve planted trees to minimize erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. The dairy is also working to quantify carbon credits.

The Roths compost manure and use it as fertilizer on their 7,000 acres to decrease their carbon footprint. They also sell the composted manure for $6/yard to other farmers to decrease their carbon footprint. They also make judicious use of antibiotics and have installed high-efficiency lighting in all barns.

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