September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Danzeisens find opportunities, challenges in Arizona

Dairying Across America
The desert climate of Phoenix, Ariz., lets dairy producers get by with few buildings. Danzeisen Dairy keeps its cows in corrals, where the cattle have a view of mountains in the distance. (photo submitted)
The desert climate of Phoenix, Ariz., lets dairy producers get by with few buildings. Danzeisen Dairy keeps its cows in corrals, where the cattle have a view of mountains in the distance. (photo submitted)

By By Ron Johnson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Dairying in Arizona is a blend of opportunities and challenges. Kevin Danzeisen and his dad, Clayton, know that very well. The family's farm milks 2,250 cows on two facilities on the western edge of Phoenix.
Kevin developed an interest in cows and dairying first.
"I worked on dairies while I was in high school in California," he said. "All my friends - everything - revolved around dairying. I grew up with a love for cows because of that."
As a result, Kevin's father, a schoolteacher at the time, became interested in dairying, too. That was when they lived near Visalia, Calif. Now, father and son own and operate Danzeisen Dairy, right in the limits of Arizona's capital city.
Last year, the Danzeisens averaged $18.94 per hundredweight on the quota milk. Their "overquota" price was $17.75. The family's cooperative, United Dairymen of Arizona, operates its own quota system.
While $18 to $19 per hundredweight is less than some U.S. dairy farmers received during 2011, Kevin said Danzeisen Dairy can make money at that level. Complicating matters is the fact that the farm must buy just about all its feed, since it grows "just a little Bermuda grass and oats" on 93 acres.
Buying feed "can get tough," Kevin agreed. "That's why we're going to start our own land base."
They recently purchased land 100 miles away and are forming a long-term plan. But one goal is to grow enough alfalfa to meet their needs."
Of course, that alfalfa will be irrigated, as is all the area's cropland, since it gets a mere seven inches of rain each year.
The Danzeisens' ration is mainly alfalfa, corn silage, sorghum, rolled corn and cottonseed. Alfalfa hay where they are fetches $285 or so per ton, while corn silage sells for $45 a ton, in the field.
Their grade Holsteins are producing an average of 25,300 pounds of milk, on three-time-a-day milking. Production has been rising. The main reason for the increase is a new breeding program that gets the cows bred back earlier, according to Kevin.
"We don't hang on to cows very long," he said. "The beef price is real good. The forage situation here is pretty tight, so we can't afford to feed any animal forage for the long term so she might make money someday. They all have to make money today."
Kevin hopes his dairy does not have to endure another year like 2009.
"It was rough. But we had quite a bit of milk hedged, and that helped us," he said. "It was just buckle your pants and make decisions day by day and hope you'd get through it. We made sure we didn't have any cows around that weren't supposed to be there."
Another challenging aspect of dairying right in Phoenix is people stopping by and wanting to see the cows and the operation.
"We explain the dairy business and how we take care of the cows, and kind of combat what people hear from anti-dairy groups," Kevin said. "The biggest thing is we tell them that we, as dairymen, care about our cows. If we don't care about our cows our livelihood is at stake. So the better we can take care of our cows, he better it is for them and us."
The Danzeisens also explain how detailed the cows' rations and records are. "We know everything about every single cow. I think it opens people's eyes," Kevin said.
The dairy is on what was Kevin's grandfather's farm. Houses are right across the street. "If we stand on our water tank, we can see Chase Field (home of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team) and downtown," Kevin said.
Having a large city so near has driven up land prices. Land hasn't been selling there lately, according to Kevin, but nine years ago it was fetching $100,000 an acre, for development.
Broadway Road, where the Danzeisens farm, was once home to several dairy farms and maybe 15,000 cows. Now there are four dairies left, and 8,000 or so cows.
Arizona's desert climate is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Danzeisen Dairy does not have freestall barns, but instead drylots and corrals. The corrals are equipped with shade structures, plus fans and misters, and soakers over the stanchion lines.
Members of the 28-person work force milk in a double-20 parlor on one farm, and in a double 14 on the other. The farm's milk is sold to Shamrock Dairy, which produces a full line of products, including cottage cheese, yogurt and bottled milk.
A negative to dairying in the desert is the extreme heat.
"May 15 to October 15 you can figure will be 100 degrees every single day," said Kevin. "It gets down to an average of 80 at night, but we'll have a month or more when it isn't below 90 at night."
Dairying in the desert for a decade hasn't cooked Kevin's sense of humor. He quipped, "I like to tell people it's a dry heat - like being inside an oven."
The cows lose 20 percent of their milk production during the summer. But they start to slowly regain it in November, and then pick up steam in January through March.
Kevin said his biggest concern is water.
"It's so back and forth," he said. "One year it seems like there's plenty around, and the next year it doesn't seem like there is. This year we haven't had hardly any rain, so who knows how much water we're going to have to grow crops?"
What's more, the cost of water keeps going up. "It doesn't keep me awake at night, but water is a long-term thing I'm worried about," Kevin acknowledged.
Overall, Kevin said he is happy dairying in the Southwest and near a large city.
He said, "I think the dairy is viable here for awhile. We have around five million people in the metropolitan area, and there's a lot of distance between any other milk cows and these. All these five million people need to eat, you know. We've got a pretty nice market here, with a pretty nice buffer zone around us. I think, long-term, dairying is going to be a viable business to be in."
[[In-content Ad]]


You must login to comment.

Top Stories

Today's Edition



27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.