Due to ample supplies of both food and water, the sustainable future of South Dakota’s dairy industry looks bright.
“Sustainable dairies of the future need to be located in areas with ample supply of both water and feed. South Dakota as a state offers all these advantages and its part of the reason why between 2012 and 2013 dairy cow numbers in the state increased from 92, 000 to 94,000,” said Alvaro Garcia, Professor & SDSU Extension Dairy Specialist.
During the same timeframe, the total number of milk produced in the state grew by 2.8 percent from 1.97 to 2.02 billion pounds, making it the seventh largest growth in the country. Of the top 23 dairy reporting states according to USDA, only Colorado at 3.4 percent grew more.
As of 2013 South Dakota ranks 21st in the U.S. for overall milk produced and ranks 22nd in total number of dairy cows.
Garcia said that well-being is critical for cows. “They need to be supplied with competitively-priced feed and water and be comfortable and well-cared for. Water has been identified as one of the critical items for the future of sustainable agriculture, particularly in the western/southwestern region of the U.S,” he said.
However, he said feed and water are not enough in today’s fuel-strapped world.
“First and foremost what is needed is a vibrant local processing industry that minimizes transportation costs and adds value to milk,” Garcia said.
Several milk processing plant upgrades as well as new start-ups are taking place in the state. The SDSU Dairy Science Department was deeply involved at various stages of these developments.
Garcia lists DAVISCO Foods of Lake Norden and Valley Queen Cheese of Milbank as two examples of existing processing plants.
DAVISCO Foods, an international company that supplies a major portion of Kraft Foods cheese products, started in 2001 with their $40 million, 85,000-square-foot facility expansion project in its Lake Norden plant. The Lake Norden Cheese Company as it was named began full production in 2004 encouraging dairy producer’s expansion and relocation. Starting in 2009, Valley Queen Cheese of Milbank, S.D. underwent a two-year expansion project with an 80,000-square-foot warehouse addition and a 12,000-square-foot dryer addition to their current plant.
A milk processing plant new to the state in 2014 is Bel Brands USA. The company manufactures and markets “The Laughing Cow” cheese wedges and Mini Babybel – America’s No. 1 branded snacking cheese, as well as Boursin, Merkts, Kaukauna, and other natural and gourmet cheese spreads.