OOKALA — Big Island Dairy, the largest of two dairies in Hawaii, held an open house Monday to showcase advances the dairy has accomplished since changing ownership in December 2012.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie, state Department of Agriculture chairman Scott Enright and about 50 other industry and community members took the opportunity to explore the dairy’s operations firsthand in Ookala.
“Increasing Hawaii’s production of milk is key to improving our state’s food self-sufficiency,” said Abercrombie, who recently joined Hawaii’s four mayors in committing to at least doubling local food production in Hawaii by 2030. “I am thoroughly impressed by what the Whitesides family has accomplished in two years and encouraged by the promising outlook for increasing local milk production.”
Dairy owners Steven and Derek Whitesides, father and son respectively, have put their 40 years of dairy experience into modernizing the 2,500-acre Big Island Dairy. A state-of-the art milking facility accommodates a herd of nearly 2,000 milking cows, which produce about 6,500 gallons of milk per day.
“We appreciate the state’s Department of Agriculture team walking us through Hawaii’s process,” Steven Whitesides said. “Their efforts to ensure an efficient process facilitated our own success in getting our dairy operation going.”
To help offset the high cost of importing feed, the dairy is currently farming 350 acres of corn and maintains 1,500 acres of pasture. In addition, they farm another 160 acres of corn in a separate location 20 miles away from the dairy and plan to raise other crops such as forage oats, soybeans and alfalfa.
The dairy uses modern technology and methods to address environmental concerns, such as waste disposal, wastewater and run-off management.
Presently, the only other commercial dairy in the state is Clover Leaf Dairy, also on Hawaii Island and operated by Ed Boteilho, who was also present at the event.