Monthly Columns

In addition to being the top milk producers in the country, California dairy families are also leading the way in sustainability, environmental stewardship and resource conservation.

When it comes to caring for their animals, producing milk and protecting the environment, California dairy families are widely recognized as global leaders. Over the past decade, our state’s dairy families have also been on the leading edge of helping our planet cool off through the use of renewable and energy-efficient technologies.

Five California dairies have been awarded grants to build biogas digesters – projects that will convert greenhouses gases into renewable, green energy, enough to power about 4,800 households.

Tipton, California dairy farmer Art Van Beek was one of the first in California to voluntarily have his farm evaluated according to the guidelines of the National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management.

In April, Tipton dairy farmer Frank Mendonsa discovered he had some new neighbors taking up residence in a field next to his dairy in Tipton, California. Two large colonies of Tricolored Blackbirds, about 15,000 total, settled on 80 acres of triticale wheat he was growing to feed his cows.

“When the birds first appeared on my property this spring, I didn’t know what kind they were,” said Mendonsa. “Once it was pointed out to me how few of these birds are left in the world and how many were on my property, I was very moved.”

Dairy silage fields in the Central Valley have increasingly become an important nexus between Tricolored Blackbirds, dairy farmers and bird enthusiasts. Due to the loss of California’s natural wetlands – made worse by the state’s fourth year of extreme drought – Tricolored Blackbirds are ever more dependent on these fields for nesting and hatching their young.

From the Governor to your neighbor, everyone is talking about the California drought. That’s a good thing. The drought is real, severe and should act as a call-to-action for all Californians to use water efficiently in both wet and dry years.

Drought MonitorOne might think that winter storms in December and February put California in a better water position at the start of 2015 compared to one year ago. Think again. The drought remains in full force, and if you can believe it, it’s worse.

California’s declining Tricolored Blackbird population can expect some much-needed support in the near future thanks to recent collaborative efforts between dairy, conservation and farming groups.

It was one for the history books: 2014 marked the third straight season of extraordinary low rainfall and extreme drought, the worst in 1,200 years according to a recent study.