'Big for the sake of big is not good'

  • STAYING SMALL: Bill Stoltzfus

    Bruce Shields

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Bill Stoltzfus owns a small registered Holstein dairy in Buhl, Idaho. He moved to the Magic Valley from Pennsylvania in 1992.

Bill Stoltzfus:

"(We have) about 85 milk cows. Everybody has a name and they are all individuals. A few of them are actually pets, really.

"The first one is Bobby and the second one is Sassy and the third one is Muffin. I think the oldest one right now is 14. We get them to last a long time. I think the national cull rate is in the 35 percent range; in other words, 35 percent of the herd is culled each year. Ours, this past year, was 10 percent. That's something we're rather proud of.

"I think we have an efficiency that some of the big operations can't match. I have no problem with the large operations if they are run well, but just big for the sake of big is not good.

"One of the biggest mistakes we've made around here is we've concentrated the cows too closely together. It's a continual wall of cows, and that has compounded the problem.

"When we moved here, the selling points were the low taxes, the easy access for feed and the farmers, who would take the manure just for getting it as fertilizer. It's turned out we're paying to get the manure hauled off, we're (writing) nutrient-management plans, and on and on.

"Ten years ago, it was a great place to come and set up a dairy; now there's probably not a new one looking to come, just because of all the controversy. All of us in the dairy industry have overdone it a little bit and created some of these problems, and now we have to deal with them."

Copyright © 2002 HCN and Guy Hand

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