About 25 years after the exodus began, Hoard's WEST joined the dairy migration from southern California to southern Idaho. Since it began publication in 1999, our Western edition was based near the Chino Valley; its new home is Meridian, Idaho, and it's great to be here.
Among the ironies of being in Idaho is, many of the local dairy names are the same as in California – because many of them have moved here. For years, cheap feed made southern Idaho a popular heifer-raising site for California milk producers. Eventually, that familiarity lead many of them to expand their businesses here. As they did, it lit a fuse on Idaho dairy growth.
In 1980, Idaho had 153,000 cows that produced 1.934 billion pounds of milk, and it ranked as the 18th largest dairy state in the U.S. Today, Idaho dairy growth is taking a breather, just like the dairy industry in general. Cow numbers (564,000) and milk production (12.779 billion pounds) in 2010 were little changed in three years. However, Idaho has become the No. 3 dairy state in the U.S. – with just 582 dairies.
House-building booms in the 1980s and ‘90s swept away milk cows in Meridian, to the point that we have yet to find a single one. But every now and then you can clearly see where they used to be. Overgrown pastures here and empty outbuildings there are familiar tell-tale signs that we have also seen in Chino.