Ag Sense: Consortium looks to increase dairy business

By G. Robert Hagevoort: ENMU diary specialist

Eastern New Mexico and West Texas have seen tremendous growth in the dairy industry in the last several years.

New Mexico ranks seventh in the nation in milk production, and will soon take over the No. 6 spot behind classic dairy states such as Wisconsin, California and Pennsylvania.

Dairymen and women from all over the nation choose the favorable climate of the Southwest to milk their dairy cows. In addition, the existing agricultural environment favors the integration of crop and livestock farming, where crop farmers take advantage of the fertilizer the dairies produce to improve the natural health of the soils, while producing valuable forage crops for their neighboring dairies.

This integration favors environmentally sound management practices and efficient use of limited natural resources such as water. It also creates unique opportunities to utilize biomass to produce alternative fuel sources such as ethanol and natural gas.

However, the climate and production environment in New Mexico create a unique set of constraints and conditions, which the universities in this area have recognized.

A consortium of New Mexico, Texas and federal institutions will coordinate research and develop new technologies and outreach programs to improve production efficiency, herd health, milk quality, forage production, water use efficiency, environmental quality and biomass utilization for energy and nutrients recovery.

The Southern Great Plains Consortium will enhance the dairy industry’s competitiveness and its economic impact on the Southern Great Plains economy as well as its ability to produce a safe, wholesome and competitively priced supply of milk and related products.

The consortium’s role will be to do the following: generate research knowledge and technology necessary to solve production and related industry environmental and natural resource issues through fundamental and applied research; disseminate knowledge and technologies through undergraduate, graduate and tailored training programs; and expand education to producers, allied industry and agency personnel.

Trying to re-establish a key position in the dairy industry, New Mexico State University is taking a lead role in this consortium, together with major players such as Texas A&M University and Extension Service, Texas Tech and West Texas A&M.
The unique strength of the consortium lies in the fact that it will build on its mutual intellectual and academic properties and share those properties in the common interest of the dairy industry as well as the people of New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle.

G. Robert Hagevoort is an dairy specialist for New Mexico State University at the Agricultural Science Center at Clovis. He can be reached at dairydoc@nmsu.edu or (806) 786-3421.