Gallo and Shehadey Families

Gallo family

“Preserving habitat and caring for the land is a tradition for our family. Adding renewable, green energy to the picture made sense for us.”

Peter Gallo
Gallo Cottonwood Dairy ~ Atwater, California

At the Gallo Cottonwood Dairy in Merced County, cows don’t just provide the milk used to make the dairy’s Monterey Jack, mozzarella and other delicious cheeses. The cows also play a key role in keeping the family’s cheese plant running on green, renewable energy — since 2004, the dairy has used a manure digester to generate power.

“We see it as a win-win situation. It’s good for the environment and lowers our cost of production,” said Carl Morris, chief operating officer.

Manure is collected and stored in a covered retention pond. Natural organisms “digest” the manure, giving off biogas, that is then used to fuel a generator.

Biogas is mostly methane, like natural gas, but there’s an important difference: biogas is a renewable green fuel, not a fossil fuel. “Not only are we reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but we’re also offsetting our use of fossil fuel,” Morris explained.

The generated electricity provides much of the cheese plant's power, and heat from the generator is used to make steam for pasteurizing milk. Even the manure is recycled after digestion, as it still makes an excellent fertilizer and soil builder for growing crops.

Shehadey family

“A cow chewing her cud is a content cow and we see a lot of content cows on the carousel.”

Steve Shehadey
Producers Bar 20 Dairy ~ Kerman, California

What’s a cow’s favorite part of the day? According to Kerman dairy farmer Steve Shehadey, his Holsteins have two — both times they enter the milking parlor.

Shehadey uses a rotary milking parlor, sort of a giant carousel for cows. Cows climb aboard and just go along for the ride for ten minutes during milking.

One of the key goals for Shehadey and other dairy farmers is to keep the animals relaxed.

“Providing for cow comfort on the farm has always been important to us, and that includes inside the milking parlor,” he said. “A cow chewing her cud is a content cow and we see a lot of content cows on the carousel. It’s a major benefit.”

Shehadey points out that his cows have no trouble stepping onto the carousel, but he admits it’s a different story when it’s time to step off — and it’s not due to degree of difficulty. “The cows enjoy the ride so much, they don’t want to get off after milking.”

After completing their circuit on the carousel, his Holsteins can count on fresh feed and plenty of water. So what do cows do with the rest of their day? Popular activities include eating, drinking, resting, sleeping, or socializing with other cows.