Reps visit Turner County Dairy Owner explains why 1,600-cow facility is feasible

Reps visit Turner County Dairy Owner explains why 1,600-cow facility is feasible Turner County Dairy, northeast of Parker, hosted an open house and a tour of its facilities on Friday, Jan. 5 for area state legislators, county commissioners, county planning and zoning officials, farmers and business people.

Walter Bones, chairman of the dairy's board of directors, chatted with the visitors as they arrived and directed them to the milking parlor observation room, as well as inviting them to freely wander about the facility.

The $7 million, state-of-the-art agricultural project, now completing its first year of operation, milks around 1,600 head of cows. The milking parlor allows 56 cows to be milked at one time and each cow is milked three times per day.

It is estimated that a semi-truck load of milk leaves the dairy every 10 hours. Two 6,000-gallon storage tanks are also located on the premises. After milking, the cows are returned to a loafing barn where they can eat and are made comfortable until the next milking.

Between each milking shift, the parlor and equipment are cleaned and disinfected before the next 56 cows enter.

It is estimated each cow produces 60 to 70 pounds of milk per day. Every cow's production is electronically monitored at every milking and at the slightest variance in production, she is examined by the in-house veterinarian who attends to the health needs of the cows.

During a noon luncheon, Bones addressed why his facility and others that may follow are so feasible for this area. The I-29 corridor creating a demand from processors and low feed costs in South Dakota are two major reasons cattle and hog operations are migrating to the area.

Grains and hay are mostly shipped out of the area instead of being utilized locally where they can create value-added acreage, Bones said. He stated the best way to add value to crops is to feed it to livestock. In operations like the dairy, the farmer/producer/investor supplies all the feed needed to milk 1,600 cows. This involves a need for 12,000 to 14,000 tons of corn silage, 8,000 to 10,000 tons of alfalfa hay, 150,000 bushels of corn and 10,000 bales of straw.

It requires 3,500 to 4,000 acres to sustain an operation as large as the Turner County Dairy. Producer/members have the first right to sell to the dairy, according to Bones. If the members aren't able to supply complete needs, they go out to the community for the increased need.

Bones also discussed the permit process required for an operation as large as the Turner County Dairy and the fact that permits could not be issued in the same manner since Constitutional Amendment E was passed on corporate farming. However, there are still avenues open for families and co-ops.

South Dakota State Secretary of Agriculture Larry Gabriel attended the open house and luncheon and addressed the group on value-added agriculture. The assembly questioned Bones on manure management, heifer acquisition, as well as actual figures on value-added acreage.

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