An economic water supply is a concern for Front Range dairy operations

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via Windsor Now!:

…with the rapid growth along the Front Range, which has put pressure on water supplies and made water more expensive, [Charles Tucker] and others question — even worry — whether there is enough water today to accommodate an additional 50,000-plus dairy cows. Each cow can consume 50-plus gallons of water per day, but they are needed to meet the milk demands of Greeley’s new and expanding Leprino cheese plant. Those concerned also wonder — if the water is there for the dairy growth — will dairymen have to pay so much for it that it prevents them from making a profit?[…]

In response to such concerns, developers and others at the forefront of the region’s dairy-expansion efforts say the water for dairy expansions is available. And although it is very pricey, dairies under good management can still make money, they said.

The dairy growth in the area is a gradual process, expected to continue during the next few years. Seven to eight new dairies in Weld County — most of which will be owned by producers coming from California — are expected to be producing milk by some time next year, with two of them possibly operating by the end of 2012, according to Wade Meek with Dairy Farmers of America and others in the dairy industry. Because of that, Leprino officials say the growth of the region’s dairy industry is on pace to meet their demands through at least next year, when the plant will be taking in about 3.5 million pounds of milk per day, more than twice as much as it is now.

Tom Haren, owner of AgProfessionals in Longmont, which is a development company that has helped producers find locations for new dairies or expansions, said that, so far, the new dairies have been going up on sites of previous agriculture operations — old feedlots and dairies, former Butterball turkey farms and others — where water supplies already existed and have been sitting idle. “At a lot of these sites, we’re not having to go out and get new water,” said Haren.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

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