Rosie on the House: Arizona Dairy Farmer Espouses Care for Cows and Health for Families
June is Dairy Month and a great time to drink a tall, cold glass of milk. It’s also a great time to talk to Arizona’s Dairy farmers. Today on KTAR’s Rosie on the House, we talked to Jen Millican of Stotz Dairy in Maricopa County.
According to Millican and their website, Stotz Dairy is a family-owned dairy that was founded in 1981 by the Thompson and Rosztoczy families. The dairy started with 539 cows and four employees. Since then, Stotz Dairy and the dairy industry have seen vast changes unveiling advancements in technology that have increased milk production and efficiency.
Millican with her son and one of their dairy cows.
Stotz Dairy prides itself on being an early adopter of these proven technologies. Millican’s dad, Tom Thompson, has been at the forefront of implementing these technologies for over three decades. One of the most frequent questions they get is, “How do your cows handle the Arizona heat?” Stotz Dairy has done many cow cooling trials over the years in conjunction with the University of Arizona. The goal is to keep cows as cool and comfortable as possible throughout their entire day to maximize their health and production.
In the early 1980s, computerized evaporative coolers were added to the corrals and milk barns to give the cows relief from the harsh summer temperatures that can exceed 120° F. This technology improved milk production by more than 40% during these hot months as well as drastically improving herd health and fertility. These coolers can effectively cool the cows’ environment to the high 60 degrees when it is over 110° F just outside their barns. Amazingly, despite the harsh temperatures, this technology helps place Arizona as one of the top two states in the country on a milk production per cow basis.
Since the beginning, Stotz Dairy has been a member of the United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA) milk cooperative (formed in 1960 to provide a stable market for dairy producers and an adequate supply of milk and dairy products for Arizona families). The Thompson family believes their job as dairymen is to produce milk of the highest quality. Along with other dairies in Arizona, Milk leaves the cow at 101.5° (her body temperature) and it’s immediately cooled down to 38° with a refrigeration heat exchange process. The milk is then stored in silos on site and awaits pickup by a milk tanker. At Stotz Dairy alone, around 15 trucks come to the dairy daily to transport their milk to the UDA processing plant in Tempe, Arizona. That is a total of 750,000 pounds or 87,200 gallons every day from their dairy cows! UDA is essential for the survival of their dairy as they are responsible for processing, marketing, and selling their milk.
Every Arizona Dairy would tell you the same thing. Plus, every tanker of milk is tested for quality and must meet regulatory requirements and rigorous quality standards.
Because of Arizona’s climate and the dedication of our dairy farm families, Arizona’s dairy industry blossomed in the state with the introduction of irrigation and alfalfa in the early 1900s. In fact, by 1957 Arizona dairy was a $25 million business, with 372 dairy farms and an average herd size of 88 cows. The Arizona dairy story is big and full of amazing facts!
As a result, Arizona’s dairy industry became one of the largest and most financially stable industries in the state, ranking at the top with the beef industry (often rotating between first and second) and always holding one of the top two spots on Arizona’s agricultural commodity rankings. Today, it still holds the top standing among the many agricultural commodities this desert state produces.
While the number of dairies in Arizona has dropped to around 60 among the approximately 45 dairy farm families running them (some families have more than one milking facility), the average herd size is around 2,000. Over 98% family-owned and operated, Arizona dairies provide over 80% of the milk you see in our local grocery stores. Today, Arizona’s herd size is among some of the largest in the country (the average size herd in the U.S. is 187 cows). Arizona’s dairy industry creates more than 44,000 jobs (15,000+ direct jobs and 29,000 indirect jobs).
Within this framework, we celebrate our Arizona dairy families and certainly highlight our Dairy Month Rosie on the House guest, Jen Millican. Our conversation is below. You’ll enjoy the segment as it features a dairy or cow joke for every segment of the commercial-free broadcast.