ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

South Dakota's surging dairy

South Dakota has peaked the charts with a 13 percent increase in milk production from the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is the single largest jump in any state.

Dairy cows are pictured in a South Dakota dairy operation. (Erin Beck/For The Daily Republic)
Dairy cows are pictured in a South Dakota dairy operation. (Erin Beck/For The Daily Republic)

South Dakota has peaked the charts with a 13 percent increase in milk production from the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is the single largest jump in any state.

Marv Post, president of South Dakota Dairy Producers, believes the changing tide of the South Dakota dairy industry stems back to former-Gov. Bill Janklow's term in office. Even as statewide dairy farm numbers took a dip, Janklow saw an opportunity to boost the South Dakota economy. He began actively recruiting milk processing plants to the state to encourage growth in the dairy industry.

"We had the processing," Post said. "Now we needed the milk to support those plants."

And so began the rising trend in the South Dakota dairy industry. With feed resources immediately accessible, the Interstate 29 corridor became a prime spot for dairies to start up. Programs were established to encourage growth and expansion.

Farmers from different countries were enticed by the fact that no quota was placed on herd size. Janklow also visited with California dairy farmers, who saw an opportunity to build in South Dakota where environmental problems weren't as prevalent.

ADVERTISEMENT

"There is an interest to continue to grow the dairy industry in South Dakota," Post said. "We've met that processing demand that we have. Now we need to go further."

While new and expanding dairies are certainly bumping up South Dakota milk production, Roger Scheibe believes increasing efficiency in milk production also plays an important role. Scheibe, director of industry outreach for Midwest Dairy Association, points out that improvements in feed quality, nutrition, and management have all contributed to elevated milk production.

"We have the third-largest production per cow in the nation," Scheibe said. "That's phenomenal."

Although South Dakota has permits for 20,000 cows in the upcoming months, Post doesn't expect exponential growth to continue in South Dakota's dairy sector compared to previous years.

"I don't see the growth continuing right away simply because we need that processing to go further," Post said.

Supply and demand will dictate how quickly the dairy industry continues to grow in South Dakota. With processing plants at full capacity, Scheibe is in agreement with Post. And lower milk prices won't provide the necessary incentive for new dairies to open up.

"Right now all of our plants are pretty well filled up," Scheibe said. "That's why we're seeing depressed prices."

A 12 percent reduction in exports compared to the previous year has led to increased domestic product in the United States. While that extra product has been funneled into increased cheese production and consumption, Scheibe expects the drop off in exports will take its toll on the dairy industry.

ADVERTISEMENT

"As exports turn around and the dollar gets weaker, then we can sell more abroad," Scheibe said. "We'll see greater demand, we'll hear about some plant expansions, and we'll see some growth of dairy operations. Meantime it'll be a little bit slower than usual."

Dairy farmer Wilfried Reuvekamp also believes that processing capacity should be the next priority for the industry. With a 2,000-cow dairy farm near Elkton, Reuvekamp sees plenty of possibilities for dairy to expand in the Midwest, but he sees no motivation for more dairies to locate in South Dakota without more processing capacity.

"It's really important as an industry that we work together," Reuvekamp said.

Working in the dairy industry's favor is its increased efforts toward more sustainable production. Not only are these practices providing added benefits for the environment, they're increasing the efficiency level of dairy farms and milk production. Water in a dairy operation can be recycled and used three to four times before going into the lagoon. Applying manure on fields reintroduces nutrients back to the soil and enhances crop production.

"When we look at the efficiency of the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk being produced now, it's almost 50 percent less than what was produced 10 years ago," Scheibe said. "That's a success story for the dairy industry."

Dairy cows are pictured in a South Dakota dairy operation. (Erin Beck/For The Daily Republic)
Dairy cows are pictured in a South Dakota dairy operation. (Erin Beck/For The Daily Republic)

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
What To Read Next
Kari Rettig's charge she pleaded no contest to stemmed from her defrauding by falsifying documents such as tax returns and daycare bills.
Work began Monday and will span through the remainder of the week
Up to 50% less nitrates leave fields when ‘controlled drainage’ is used with drain tile
Family says autopsy, investigation don’t bring closure