Arizona milk cooperative maintains steady, strong growth
Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
Arid Arizona may not seem like the land of milk and honey, but leaving honey aside, the state boasts 186,000 dairy cattle that produce 10 million pounds per day.
An average dairy farm milks a 1,800-cow herd, making the state rank 13th in the United States among dairy cooperatives and top in the country in per cow production.
Those statistics are no secret to Tom O'Carroll, distribution manager for the United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA) in Phoenix. Every day, he sees about 190 loads of milk hauled by the transportation division from 94 dairies to processing plants in Phoenix.
“Eighty percent of milk in Arizona is produced by our 70 co-op members,” says O'Carroll. The co-op has experienced considerable growth as the state's milk production has escalated. In 1994, about 100 members produced about 5.6 million pounds of milk per day, and the transportation division was hauling about 102 loads to keep up. By 2008, the association with just 70 members has almost doubled its volume of milk from the farms, transporting 10.3 million pounds per day in about 190 loads.
“This is a result of both Arizona's continued population growth and new markets for both fluid and dry milk ingredients,” says O'Carroll.
He points out that one farm milks a 10,000-cow herd in a double 77-parallel barn with six 15,000-gallon milk storage silos (tanks). Another operates two neighboring barns, each with an 80-cow carousel, milking two 4,000-head herds into six 12,000-gallon silos. Cows are trained to walk onto the carousels and stand in place while milking machines are attached.
UDA is a full-service cooperative. In addition to transporting milk, UDA inspects dairies, checks milk quality, delivers bulk supplies to farms, fills chemical tanks on site (reducing use of storage drums), and provides 24-hour milking equipment repair service. The cooperative also designs and manages the set up at new dairies.
The co-op's processing plant produces high, medium, and low heat nonfat dry milk (including vitamin fortified products), cream, butter, skim milk, condensed skim milk, several varieties of milk protein concentrate (MPC), and lactose powder. “We provide product for a cheese manufacturer on-site,” adds O'Carroll. “Our plant can process 10 million pounds of milk per day, and regularly acts as a balancing plant for other processors in the region. UDA is a large kosher milk facility, capable of producing over 1,000 metric tons of kosher powder within two weeks.”
Management must be adroit at ensuring the proper distribution of kosher loads, high protein milk, and product from dairies that do not use synthetic growth hormones.
O'Carroll manages the division with customer service for the members a top priority — and trains the drivers with that in mind. “These large herds are milked two and three times a day, so our trucks are always moving through the farms,” he says.
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