Durrer and Clauss Families

Durrer family

“You learn what hard work will get you. These are the things I learned growing up and the things I want to pass on to my children.”

Chris Durrer
The Durrer Dairy ~ Modesto, California
 

As with many California dairy families, dairying isn’t a job for Chris Durrer. It’s a way of life that goes back generations.

“The dairy life is something I’ve enjoyed ever since I was kid,” Durrer says. “I’d jump off the school bus, run across the yard and go help my dad feed calves.”

Today, Chris operates the family dairy on Beckwith Road near Modesto with his father, Leo. The family manages a herd of about 1,500 animals including milking cows, heifers and calves. While their dairy was built a generation ago, the family’s dairy roots go back to a tradition of dairying in the U.S. for nearly 65 years, and before that, in Switzerland.

Environmental stewardship is important to the family, and they make protecting air and water quality a daily priority. The dairy has achieved environmental certification through the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program, meaning the operators have attended university classes on California environmental regulations, developed environmental response emergency plans, and successfully passed a third-party on-site environmental evaluation.

In addition to Leo and Chris, the dairy employs eight skilled workers, whose jobs include milking cows and feeding and caring for the livestock, as well as keeping the dairy clean and well-maintained.

These days, the dairy has a new and frequent visitor, 20-month-old Clayton, son of Chris and his wife, Ellen. Clayton already loves the cows and his proud dad hopes he’ll carry on the family tradition.

“It’s a great life. You learn a lot of valuable lessons,” Durrer says. “You learn the value of a dollar. You learn what hard work will get you. These are the things I learned growing up and the things I want to pass on to my children.”

Clauss family

“We grow most of the feed our cows eat, and we want to make sure their rations start with healthy crops grown right here on our farm.”

Kimberly Clauss
Clauss Dairy Farms ~ Hilmar, California
 

Kimberly Clauss knows that running a successful dairy goes beyond taking care of her animals. The farming side of the operation is just as critical.

“A good dairy operator must also be a good farmer,” Clauss said. “We grow most of the feed our cows eat, and we want to make sure their rations start with healthy crops grown right here on our farm.”

The combination of animal husbandry and farming provides a unique opportunity for dairy farmers. The farm supports the dairy by providing corn, alfalfa, oats and other forages for the cows. But the cows do their part, too, by returning a supply of manure, natural fertilizer that is rich in nutrients and soil-building organic material to support future crops.

Using science and the latest technology, Clauss and her dairy employees work hard to keep the balance on target. Using a Nutrient Management Plan balance sheet to make sure that crops get just the right amount of fertilizer, they calculate crop nutrient needs, then regularly collect and test samples of soil, water, manure and plant tissue to make sure they’re doing a good job.

“Our goal is to do everything we can to make sure these natural, organic nutrients go where we want them to, to nourishing crops,” she said. “It also greatly reduces our need for fossil fuel intensive fertilizers, saving us up to $150 an acre. So we end up with lower production costs and it benefits the environment too — it’s a win-win.”