-Topeka Capital Journal
Dairy production in Kansas has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and the last two years have been particularly good for the industry.
Cows in Kansas produced 3.1 billion pounds of milk in 2014, an increase of 181 percent compared to 1994 and 6.1 percent compared to the year before. Milk production has increased by at least 5 percent each year since 2012, and the state has one of the fastest growth rates in the country, according to a news release from the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
Kansas produced enough milk in 2014 for 350 million one-gallon jugs, with a value of about $746 million, according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Kansas has about 325 dairies and 143,000 cows.
Stephanie Eckroat, executive director of the Kansas Dairy Association and Commission, said a combination of factors have helped increase milk production. Some in-state dairies have expanded in recent years, and each cow produces more milk on average than in the past, she said.
“Dairy farmers are always striving to improve their genetics and milk production,” she said.
Dairy owners from other states also have looked to relocate to Kansas because of the availability of alfalfa and other feed grains, low humidity and open land where dairy farmers don’t have to worry about upsetting neighbors, Eckroat said.
“You have favorable weather conditions for milking cows,” she said.
Eckroat said she isn’t sure if dairy production will continue to grow at the rate it has in recent years. Water availability is a long-term issue, because cows need to be well-hydrated and it takes water to grow feed grains, she said. According to the Department of Agriculture, 75 percent of Kansas milk is produced in the western half of the state, where stress on the Ogallala aquifer has made water policy a controversial issue in recent years.
“I sure hope it continues. I think we have lots of opportunities,” she said.