Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk
For many dairy farmers, living and working on the farm is a legacy that spans three or four generations. More than obligation or tradition, those who choose to stay in the industry do so because they are drawn to the lifestyle which includes a connection with their animals. Attentive and compassionate care for cows comes naturally to those in dairy farming, which in turn provides a wonderful added benefit: high-quality local milk we all enjoy.
Rio Blanco Dairy in Maricopa, Ariz. was established in 1994 by the parents of Dr. Rosemarie Burgos-Zimbelman, but its roots go back to Honduras where both of her grandfathers began their dairy farming legacy. Rosemarie grew up visiting dairies with her father who would work with farmers on cow nutrition, while also working to improve dairy farm management techniques. These experiences fueled Rosemarie’s passion for keeping cows healthy and happy and inspired her to acquire her Ph.D. in Animal Science with an emphasis in ruminant nutrition.
“Dairy cows’ diets are better managed than most people’s diets. My job is to keep them healthy through nutrition, so little intervention is needed.”
To produce quality milk, cows need balanced diets that include fat, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Dairy farmers work with cow nutritionists to ensure their feed mixtures contain these nutrients through carefully measured ratios of alfalfa, cottonseed and corn silage.
According to Rosemarie, “Cows love routine and it’s vital that their diet stays consistent and that they get fed at the same time every day. If we are delayed in getting their meal delivered at the time they are used to, they let us know!”
Just as important as nutrition, keeping cows comfortable during the hot Arizona months is a priority for dairy farmers. With summer temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit, relief from the heat is ensured by providing shaded structures equipped with fans and misting systems, reducing the temperature by as much as 40 degrees. Because happy cows are productive cows, Arizona has ranked as one of the top two highest milk producing states in the nation since implementing these efforts!
Weekly visits from veterinarians are standard practice to assure the health of the herd. Wes Kerr of Kerr Family Dairy in Buckeye can verify the importance and value of cow care, as he comes from a proud, ninety year legacy of dairy farming.
“Our cows are part of our family. We treat them with the utmost care and respect and in turn they provide a nutritious product that feed us.”
When a cow does require medical attention, it is important to note United Dairymen of Arizona members are committed to keeping dairy products free of antibiotics.
Wes clarified, “We only treat our cows with antibiotics when they develop an illness that requires medication for recovery. We follow federal guidelines which states that any medication administered must be prescribed from our veterinarian. It’s the most humane thing to do for our cattle.”
Per strict USDA regulations, milk from cows being treated with antibiotics is dumped and never enters the milk supply for consumption.
These commitments from Arizona dairy farmers and producers are behind every glass of milk you drink. Visit arizonamilk.org to learn more and to find out where you can buy local dairy products to support Arizona’s farmers.