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Ask A Farmer

Do you have a question about dairy farming? We have over 520 dairy farm families in the State of Idaho, and each has a personal commitment to producing wholesome, nutritious milk. There's a lot to know about dairy farming, and we're happy to answer your questions.

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Your Questions Answered


What are your views on dairy production near or in urban areas?

Dairies near urban areas can create challenges and the larger the dairy (the more cows) the greater these challenges can be. I don’t think it makes sense to build a new dairy in an urban area, but as cities expand, that growth may bring them closer to existing farms. In this case, residents and farmers need to be good neighbors. New residents should not expect a dairy to move just because they built a new house next door. The farmer has considerable investment in a location. In addition to financial barriers to relocating, a farm may have been at its current location for generations and so the farmer has strong emotional ties to the land. Neighbors of the farm must understand it is a business and traffic is a reality; this may come in the form of milk trucks, feed trucks, tractors, employees’ vehicles, etc. Dust, odors, and flies are a reality of a dairy but proper farm management can reduce these. Proper waste management is important to any well run dairy regardless of its location. With neighbor understanding and proper dairy management, I feel a small dairy could not only exist near an urban area but could also provide a positive unique culture for its residents.

– Idaho Dairy Farmer, Clint Jackson 

Do you think that it is important that school children and city people learn about agriculture?

I feel it is important for everyone to understand where their food comes from and what it takes to produce it. Ignorance or indifference to something as important as what we consume to sustain our lives can be very dangerous. It is in everyone’s best interest to preserve farm land and protect farmer’s water rights so farmers can continue to produce good, clean affordable food. Learning about agriculture is one of the keys to preserving our food supply.

– Idaho Dairy Farmer, Clint Jackson 

Are you impacted by state laws regarding food production?

The Idaho Department of Agriculture regularly inspects dairies for compliance to laws. Most of the regulations are positive and actually help a dairy manage their operation by creating guidelines and benchmarks.

– Idaho Dairy Farmer, Clint Jackson 

How do you keep the dairy products sanitary?

Sanitary dairy products begin with clean cows. We work very hard to keep the cow areas clean; we remove waste daily and provide clean dry bedding for the animals. Next, the milking equipment needs to be kept clean which we do through regular washing. And finally, the milk needs to be cooled and stored properly. Our milk tank is set up so we can continuously monitor that it is functioning properly.

– Idaho Dairy Farmer, Clint Jackson 

What is the importance of water quality in dairy production?

Water is one of the building blocks of milk. A cow needs access to as much clean water as she can drink for optimal milk production. We regularly clean the water troughs and provide additional water access during the hot summer months. We use water to wash the milk barn and equipment so obviously it is very important that we start with clean water.

– Idaho Dairy Farmer, Clint Jackson 

Do you use any non-traditional production systems?

We are actually a fairly traditional dairy. We are still milking in the original barn my grandfather used when he came to Idaho in 1953.

– Idaho Dairy Farmer, Clint Jackson 

How does global trading affect you?

Idaho produces much more milk than its residents could ever consume, so exporting has always been important. Years ago it was mainly to other states but now it is all over the world. How much milk China or Russia imports directly effects the price of milk and our paycheck. So if government decisions against a country (for example economic sanctions) cause that country to stop importing our milk we will feel a direct negative impact. If New Zealand (a major milk producing country) increases milk production it will increase the global milk supply and prices will drop for us here in Idaho. Global trading doesn’t just affect the price of our finished goods, it can also affect our cost of producing those goods. If China imports a lot of hay from Idaho it can drive up the price of hay. This would be good for the hay farmer but not so good for the dairy farmer who needs to buy hay to feed his cows. Because global trading has a direct effect on us we are big advocates of fair trade.

– Idaho Dairy Farmer, Clint Jackson 

How do you market your dairy products?

We are part of Darigold, a farmer-owned co-op located in the northwest. We have facilities located near the northwest sea ports so again, global trade is very important to us.

– Idaho Dairy Farmer, Clint Jackson 

How does Agri-science and technology play a part in dairy production?

Agri-science can now tell us the exact nutrient content of feed so we can provide our cows a more nutritious diet, which makes for healthier cows and higher milk production. Genetic analysis can now tell us the quality of a cow sooner and with greater detail than standard observation. By breeding the cows and bulls with the best genetics we are creating better milking herds. Technology has given us better milking machines; some dairies are even using robots to milk cows. Computers help us track the health and care of our animals. As technology provides labor efficiency it lowers our cost of production.

– Idaho Dairy Farmer, Clint Jackson