Jim Boyle, Jr., manages Jim Boyle Dairy for his parents in Casa Grande, Az. Boyle is shown with his wife Alexandra, daughter Áine and son James. Jim Boyle Dairy consists of a 850-cow and 1,600-cow dairy. (photo submitted)
Jim Boyle, Jr., manages Jim Boyle Dairy for his parents in Casa Grande, Az. Boyle is shown with his wife Alexandra, daughter Áine and son James. Jim Boyle Dairy consists of a 850-cow and 1,600-cow dairy. (photo submitted)
CASA GRANDE, Az. - Dairy runs deep in Jim Boyle, Jr.'s family. They've been farming Arizona soil and milking cows there since the early 1920s.

That connection to the family farm was why Boyle returned to the family-operated dairies three and a half years ago.

"I attended graduate school in New York City," Boyle said. "Soon my wife and I were raising a family in the city and we began rethinking where we wanted to raise our children. That's when we moved back to the farm."

Boyle returned to work at the dairies and today manages two of the three Boyle dairies, all located in central Arizona just miles outside the Phoenix city limits.

Two dairies are known as Jim Boyle Dairy. The third is called Casa Grande Dairy. Amongst the three dairies and farm, the Boyles employ 100 full time employees.

Owned by his parents, Jim and Barbara, the oldest dairies were built in 1979. The smallest of the duo consists of a 850-cow herd of Holstein- Jersey crosses kept on a dry lot pen with flush alleys. The cows are milked twice a day in a double-12 herringbone parlor.

"We wanted to experiment with the Jersey breed and test their heat tolerance and overall profitability," Boyle said of their choice for the crossbreeding.

The 850-cow dairy covers 40 acres including facilities, dry lot and feed storage.

The second dairy, covering 80 acres, consists of 1,600 Holsteins milked twice a day. Formerly a herringbone, the parlor was remodeled in 1991 to a double-21 parallel parlor.

The cows, also kept on a dry lot pen, are kept cool in the Arizona summer heat with misters and fans. Boyle said summers are challenging especially on the two dairies he manages.

"We spend a lot on cooling at the dairies," Boyle said. "They both were built in the 1970s and aren't as efficient in keeping the cows cool."

Boyle said breeding and consumption drops off significantly during the hottest months of June through August. During those months, it is normal to have several consecutive weeks of well-over 100-degree temperatures. Milk production can drop off up to 15 percent on average.

Cooling the cows comes easier at the newest dairy the Boyles have built. The dairy, located near Casa Grande and 45 miles from the other two dairies, consists of 2,500 Holsteins milked three times a day in a 60-cow rotary parlor.

The dairy, known as Casa Grande Dairy Company, is managed by Boyle's uncle, Terry, and his cousin, Keith.

This facility, built in 2004, is known as a "Saudi" barn, a facility developed to maximize cooling capabilities for cows. It utilizes oscillating fans and misters to keep cows cool in the summer heat.

Rations vary from dairy to dairy, but primarily consist of alfalfa, both dry hay and green-chop, corn silage, sorghum silage and concentrates. The ration is based on a four to one ratio of corn to sorghum.

The Boyles raise 1,000 acres of alfalfa, corn and sorghum. The remainder of crops for their dairies are harvested through area crop farmers. This way of harvesting was important to the Boyles who wanted to focus on the cows. Pressure from urban development from nearby Phoenix has complicated this method.

"When the dairies near Phoenix were built in the '70s, we had many surrounding farmers available to grow our alfalfa and corn. As years go by, farmers are selling out and we end up having to truck feed a long way to those dairies," Boyle said.

As a result, the newest dairy, Casa Grande Dairy, was built with plenty of available farm land on its perimeters.

The Boyles raise 5,500 head of young stock on a smaller feedlot located at the Casa Grande facility. Boyle said heifers do well on a dry lot without cooling but the calves kept in hutches for the first two months have a tough time in the heat and humidity. Calves are watched closely especially during August when humidity can rise to dangerous levels.

Up until eight years ago, Jim, Sr., was also a heifer dealer and purchased replacement heifers from the Midwest to resell in Arizona. At that time there was a significant price difference in replacement heifer prices and Jim, Sr., had a profitable business in heifer resale.

Despite the weather and urban development challenges of dairying in Arizona, the Boyles boast a healthy dairy infrastructure. Boyle said the dairy industry is big enough in their area that all the services they need are available including veterinarians, dairy supplies and parts and service.

"Although we are really close to Phoenix, it is a good growing market for us," Boyle said. "The co-op we sell our milk to is real diversified and not dependent on just fluid milk or cheese consumption. There is a demand for a wide variety of dairy products."

Boyle said outside the blistering months of June through September, dairying in Arizona can be quite pleasant.

"We really enjoy the weather in the spring, fall and winter," Boyle said. "It's quite nice working outside."