Dairy Farming

Thursday, 26th February 2009 by

California’s San Joaquin Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the US, and in recent years has seen an expansion of the importance of dairy farming.

The US is the second largest dairy producer in the world, and California is responsible for more dairy produce than any other US state. Much of this output comes directly from the San Joaquin Valley – where today we’re visiting some of the largest dairy farms on Earth.

There are dozens of dairy farms in the valley, but we’re just going to look at one of the largest, where there could be as many as 20,000 cows on one single property.

Here we can see the loafing barns where the cows can take shelter. The largest of these might house up to 2,000 cattle each, and when seen from Street View the scale of the operation starts to become clear.

Further south we find the milking parlours, where on Street View I think we can see the cows being milked.

As you might imagine, feeding this number of animals is no small task, and the feed storage barns are absolutely gigantic. However the question I bet you’re all wondering is “what happens to all the feed when it comes out the other end?”

The large brown pool on the west side of the property is the manure lagoon. Yes, a lagoon of cow poo. A regular dairy might require an acre of cropland to disperse the manure of just 5 cows, so you can imagine how much crop space you need for a herd of 20,000.1

Of course none of this is without cost to the environment. It’s estimated that cattle farming is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases, making it one of the most pressing environmental problems in the world.

Read more about Dairy Farming and the San Joaquin Valley at Wikipedia.

Thanks to ed, Dru Pollini, and Ronald.

  1. Fortunately there’s plenty to go around in the valley – zooming out just a little begins to give us an indication of the area that is given over to crops.