Aug. 22 2014 07:00 AM

Expansion will boost Hilmar Dalhart capacity to 12 million pounds per day.

by Dennis Halladay, Hoard's Dairyman Western Editor

Another round of expansion at Hilmar Cheese Company's processing facility in Dalhart, Texas, has been announced by the dairy farmer-owned firm.

Two major expansions of the plant have already been done since it opened in 2007. The first, or phase two of construction, was finished in 2010. The second, to increase production and packaging capacity of 40-pound block cheese and whey protein, was completed earlier this year.

Round three, which is scheduled for completion in early 2015, will boost production of 640-pound blocks, add additional cold storage room, and increase the plant's milk receiving capacity.

Hilmar CEO and President John Jeter said, "A growing milk supply and a stable regulatory environment make Texas a great place to invest in cheese processing."

Texas was the sixth largest milk-producing state in the U.S. in 2013. Its output has grown by 2.23 billion pounds per year since the Dalhart plant opened.

Cost of the latest expansion was not announced, but it appears to be over $60 million. In January of this year, a company spokesperson said round two of construction had pushed Hilmar's total investment in the plant to $190 million since ground was broken in 2005. In a press release this month, that person said the figure was now over $250 million.

When work is completed, it will boost Dalhart's daily milk processing capacity by 20 percent, to a total of 240 tanker loads per day or one every six minutes. That amounts to 12 million pounds per day in volume terms, which is believed to make Dalhart the second-biggest dairy processing plant in the U.S. and among the largest in the world.

The largest one in the country is the company's home facility in Hilmar, California, which opened in 1985 and has a capacity of 14 million pounds per day. The company's website describes it as the biggest single site producer of cheese and whey in the world.

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The author has served large Western dairy readers for the past 37 years and manages Hoard's WEST, a publication written specifically for Western herds. He is a graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, majored in journalism and is known as a Western dairying specialist.