McCarty Family Farms, Dannon officially open new milk processing plant
By Darrin Cline
On June 13, the McCarty Family Farms and The Dannon Company celebrated the official grand opening of a new dairy processing plant at the McCartys' Rexford, Kan., farm. According to both parties, the plant is the first of its kind in North America. The agreement calls for McCarty Family Farms to "provide milk exclusively and directly to Dannon's plant in Fort Worth, Texas."
"It's just the beginning of a new adventure and a new chapter with Dannon and our family," said Mike McCarty.
The McCarty family moved from Pennsylvania to western Kansas in 1999. Now in the fifth generation of dairy farming, the family began their efforts over 90 years ago. Tom and Judy, along with their four sons--Mike, Clay, David, and Ken--found the area to be perfect for their family and future.
"It's agriculture at its finest out here. For us to come in and do a dairy operation and eventually do this, we fit," McCarty said. "It fits in the economy and it fits in the community; it's our type of people out here and we fit in."
The Rexford facility handles over 2,000 cows a day in a double-25 parlor, with three times per day milking.
In 2007, the family began construction on a second farm in Bird City. This became the second of three farms for the family in northwest Kansas. Shortly after milking began at the new operation, Cargill approached the McCartys about a new business venture.
Dannon, the leading yogurt maker in the United States, was looking for an established dairy that would be able to satisfy a new effort in sustainability. In 2010, plans were set in motion and construction began for an on-farm processing facility at the McCartys' Rexford location.
Over the next two years, the family not only focused on constructing the new facility but also started milking at a new farm in Scott City, Kan. With the three farms running full time, the McCartys had over 7,000 head in the milking herd by 2012.
The extraordinary amount of animals is necessary to keep the processing plant running at maximum efficiency. Each day, approximately 60,000 gallons of milk are shipped to the plant. Of this, 40,000 gallons are water that is separated out, with the remainder being cream, which will be sold to Daisy, and lastly condensed skim milk that will be used by Dannon.
However, the excess water will not be wasted. One of the primary goals for the new partnership is sustainability, and this is being exhibited through the water recycling. After it is the separated at the plant, the water is cycled back through the farm, and is perfectly safe for animal consumption. Any water that is not used in the animal portion of the operation can be used to irrigate cropland.
Additionally, the family farm has been able to reduce its carbon footprint via reductions in shipping. According to the McCartys they have reduced the number of trucks needed for milk hauling by 75 percent.
Gov. Sam Brownback, who was in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony, illustrated his hopes for the dairy industry in Kansas.
"I think there is an enormous upside to double and triple the dairy industry in this state. We have two processors now in the state, which is part of that complex that drives the cost down and your integrated value up," Brownback said.
Brownback also mentioned the economic impact of the new processing plant in an area that is now rebounding after some decline.
Brownback said that "it's not one of those things where it's a call center that you can easily move, here one day and gone the next. It's an integrated setup so this will be here."
According to the McCarty family, between the three farms and the processing facility, they have been able to create more jobs and now have 105 employees. Along with job creation, officials believe it will help create a more readily available and affordable product for consumers.
"The world markets for animal protein are going through the roof. I think for the dairy industry, which we are continuing to recruit, it shows others how it can be done and how it can be integrated," said Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman.