It is delicious. Be it in a bowl of cereal, chilled in a tall glass, or in an ice cream cone, milk is a commodity loved by many. However, as we enjoy our three servings of dairy each day, Joe Serrano, part owner of Joharra Dairy in Casa Grande is working hard to maintain healthy and productive dairy cows.
The Joharra Dairy is located in the center of Casa Grande. What used to be wide-open-spaces around the dairy are now filled with housing developments. Casa Grande is growing quickly and urban sprawl is one of the toughest challenges facing the dairy.
For non-aggies, odors are often the foremost complaint made by anyone living near a dairy. Many view odor issues as a nuisance. New regulations have been implemented to reduce air quality pollutants in Maricopa and Pinal counties. To confront this challenge and meet these requirements, Joharra Dairy applied for and received financial assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Air Quality program within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This contract consists of coordinating manure removal processes and applying soil stabilizer on dirt roads to combat dust issues on their operation.
“It is important for us to know what it means to be a good neighbor,” said Joe Serrano. “We aren’t perfect, but we are constantly making it a priority.”
Joe and his partner, Daniel Nowlin, have lived in the Casa Grande area since the 1990s. Daniel is a third generation farmer and had the idea of starting his own agriculture operation. He asked his long-time friend, Joe to join him. Their farming operation progressed into a dairy business when they bought Joharra Dairy in 2005.
“I have had other business, but I love being a dairyman. I enjoy the people and the freedom that goes with being an entrepreneur,” said Joe.
Taking care of their cows is the most important part of their business. They represent what is typical on Arizona dairy farms today. Being stewards and caring for their animals is critical for Arizona dairy farmers because their business will only be as good as their cows are. The arid Arizona climate is great for dairies because of the lack of humidity that fosters bacteria.
However, the heat’s intensity reaches amazing heights throughout the middle of the summer. Large shades with misters and fans are installed throughout the dairy. Underneath these shades it is easily 10-15 degrees cooler.
Joharra Dairy milks 1,500 cows per day. Once in the parlor, sanitization and milking takes five to seven minutes and then the cows are sanitized once again before they are released. Each cow is milked twice a day producing about 70 to 75 pounds of milk per day per cow; which translates into anywhere from 8 to 9 gallons of milk per day per cow.
As members of the United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA), their milk is processed and distributed within the co-op. The UDA’s modern manufacturing facility in Tempe operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and produces high, medium and low heat nonfat dry milk, cream, butter, skim milk, condensed skim milk and lactose powder. They provide product for a cheese manufacturer on-site. When Joharra Dairy’s milk grades at the highest level, it is sent to Abbot Laboratories in Casa Grande to make baby formula.
Joharra Dairy supports Arizona businesses as much as possible. They provide manure to local farmers because it is more economical for everyone. They also buy alfalfa from Cochise County where they feel they can depend on great quality feed.
“By supporting local businesses, they have in turn supported us, getting us through hard times,” Joe explained.
Challenges will continue to arise for Joharra Dairy and dairymen alike. Urban sprawl is a reality in Arizona and across the country that will not be going away. There is no escaping the fact that Arizona has major air quality problems and air quality regulations will continue to be a cost of doing business for agriculture. With the support of fellow agriculturalists and NRCS, Joharra Dairy has the tools to face these issues head on and succeed.