Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology
Stemming from his family’s deep roots in agriculture, Jim Boyle, owner of Jim Boyle Dairy in Mesa, is well versed on the evolution of the dairy industry. A fifth-generation farmer, Jim’s childhood included many visits to the United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA) cooperative boardroom where his father served as president for over a decade. But the family’s legacy began much earlier, in the year 1880 to be exact, when the Boyles embarked on the trade of farming here in Arizona.
During this earlier era of agriculture, farmers fulfilled daily tasks using minimal equipment, limited to only what they could accomplish by hand. Since then, technology has served to streamline operations on the dairy. With the invention of milking machines came a boost in milk quality and production along with improved cow comfort and health. Farmers graduated from milking only six cows per hour by hand, to the current capability of milking a cow in less than five minutes and up to three times each day. Additionally, advancements in mechanical engineering since the inception of this device have yielded a more sanitary, natural and gentler process for drawing milk that benefits both the cow’s health and product quality.
Once limited to supplying dairy only to those in their immediate community, farmers now have a much broader reach. Advancements in refrigeration, processing equipment and transportation introduced the opportunity to store milk for longer periods and to deliver milk in both fluid and refined forms to consumers worldwide.
“UDA is currently exporting products to 20 countries; American dairy products are seen as a great source of protein,” explains Jim. Powdered milk, popular in Asia and North Africa, is the most common product sold overseas. “Because of its longer shelf life, powdered milk can be transported long distances and retain its essential vitamins and nutrients.”
As for managing the herd, science and research have elevated cow care and comfort to five-star hotel levels. Animal nutritionists formulate feed based on life stage and health needs, corral bedding is groomed several times a day to ensure a soft, dry resting area, and veterinarians visit weekly to prevent or treat illness. Best practices have even been established to determine the best tone of voice to use when talking to cows. Beyond these basic happiness-heightening measures, farmers also have the ability to place a tracker, (think Fitbit for cows!) to monitor activity levels, health, and key behaviors like reproductive changes.
Although technology has facilitated a significant upgrade in dairy farming productivity, product quality and reach of distribution, when it comes to cows it is still the dedicated and skilled farmers that put in the work to care for their herd. So even after five generations, some things never change, and the Boyle’s are just one of the many dedicated Arizona farm families that embrace the culture of dairy farming, the commitment to their legacy and the attentive care of their animals.