Farm Name: Kerr Family Dairy
Where is your farm located? We’re located on the west side of Buckeye on the corner of Hazen and Wilson Rds.
How long has your dairy been in business? 37 years
How long have you been involved in the dairy business? My entire life. The Kerr family has been in the dairy business since 1927.
Tell us a little bit about your dairy farm: I started my herd with 15 cows in January of 1980. A few months later I married my high school sweetheart and we continued to build our herd two or three cows at a time. I stayed on my Dad’s farm until I had built up my herd big enough to build my own dairy facility. That happened in 1990. By then we had 3 children and one on the way. We’ve been there now for nearly 27 years. I continued to expand my herd through the years and now milk 1,200 cows and raise another 700 replacement heifers. In 2005 our son, Wes, joined us and added some of his own cows. Wes manages the herd and is now part owner of the dairy.
What is unique about your dairy?
The breeding program that Wes has brought to our herd. He introduced a hornless trait that is found naturally in Holsteins but not a dominate trait. Our milking herd is now 45% polled and our heifers are 70% polled!
Can you describe what Tempe was like when you were farming out there?
It was a very rural community when my mom and dad had their dairy there. You would have to drive 5 to 6 miles to get into town. The farm was located on Kyrene and Guadalupe roads.
What do you like about being a dairy farmer?
More than like, I absolutely love it! Each day is new and exciting. I enjoy working with my employees, vendors, and other dairymen. There are those basic day to day chores and duties, but then something different and unique will happen.
Your son is very involved in genetics, what has it been like to watch him grow and learn over the years? Did you ever think you would be breeding polled cattle at this point? It has been exciting to watch Wes become a very talented and gifted dairyman. He always took such an interest in the cows and was very inquisitive as a young boy. He was always wanting to know the how’s and why’s of everything on the farm. Genetics fascinated him early on. His first love were the red and white Holsteins. To this day, our herd has a larger than average amount of red and white cows. As dairymen and farmers we are always looking ahead to what’s on the horizon. So it didn’t surprise me when Wes took this on and saw it as an opportunity to breed a beneficial trait into the herd, such as the polled trait. It helps eliminate de-horning which, no matter how careful and painless we do it, misinformed folks and activists make us out to be the bad guys.
How does your dairy care for the cows?
Cow health and comfort is always our number one priority, always has been and always will be. Our veterinarian comes to the dairy for weekly herd health checks and once a month for pregnancy checks. Our herd nutritionist comes to the dairy for monthly feed and herd nutrition monitoring. Like all of our dairymen in AZ we have cattle shades with fans and misters to keep the cows 20 degrees cooler during our hot summer days. Regular hoof trimming is also an important part of keeping the cows healthy and strong. We take a strong preventive approach to keeping the herd healthy and comfortable by being pro-active with their care.
How does your dairy practice sustainability?
Sustainability on farms of every kind has been in practice long before it became a social “buzzword”. Without sound, sustainable practices our dairies and farms couldn’t survive to be 4th, 5th, and 6th generations operations. For me, sustainability is comprised of good herd management practices, environmentally sound practices on my crop farm, and economic sustainability and responsibility so that I have the capital resources year after year to stay in business.
What common misconception do you want to set straight about dairy farming?
We only treat our cows with antibiotics when they come down with an illness that antibiotics will cure. We follow the federal guidelines and they must be prescribed by our veterinarian. It’s the most humane thing to do for our cattle. Per strict USDA regulations, that milk is dumped while the cow is being treated and never enters the milk supply for consumption.
Our cows are part of our family. We treat them with the utmost care and respect.
Hormones occur naturally in milk. We don’t “pump” our cows full of synthetic hormones even though they have been thoroughly tested and found very safe for human consumption. We have no beneficial use for them on our dairy.