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East Dublin Dairy aims for quiet presence

Workers keep a fast pace in the milking parlor, where a cow enters the 80-stall rotary parlor every 5½ seconds. Juan Sanchez Axón, left, and Jesus Alejandro Ramirez, partly shown at right edge of photo, work in tandem. One wipes the udders with disinfectant and conditioner and the other installs the automatic milkers. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

MURDOCK -- East Dublin Dairy is happy to keep a "quiet" profile in Swift County.

Its location in Dublin Township south of Murdock was chosen in large part because neighbors are few.

Yet as nearly 2,000 visitors to the dairy learned at an open house last week, there's really no hiding the economic impact of one of the state's larger dairy operations.

East Dublin Dairy employs nearly 50 full-time workers, according to David Yost, a co-owner in the venture and manager of the East Dublin and neighboring West Dublin Dairy.

The East Dublin Dairy measures its annual economic footprint at $25 million.

The East Dublin Dairy represented a nearly $60 million investment when it opened in 2008.

It holds 6,100 cows and 500 heifers, similar to the numbers housed at the West Dublin site, opened in 2000 and located six miles west.

The two dairies are part of an operation that includes the Chippewa Calves site. Located two miles south of the East Dublin Dairy, it raises 5,000 calves.

The three are part of Riverview Farms, headquartered in Stevens County and operating dairies at locations in Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

East Dublin Dairy's economic impact reaches directly east to First District Association in Litchfield, where its milk is processed into cheese. The dairy fills seven tanker trucks a day, representing 38,500 gallons in total.

Cows are milked in an 80-stall rotary parlor, 600 cows every hour during 22 hours of every day. Every 5½ seconds another cow is entering the rotating parlor, noted Yost during Thursday's open house.

The dairy's economic impact also extends south, as far as Mexico, where most of its employees originate.

Yost said that despite ongoing advertising campaigns, the dairy has a difficult time finding local applicants for its jobs and consequently recruits many of its workers from Mexico.

Some come with agricultural degrees from the University of Mexico. Jobs with East Dublin are a stepping stone to their own careers in veterinarian, nutrition and ag management positions.

Other employees rely entirely on their work ethic to land positions ranging from milking to reproduction and nursery work.

It can be fast-paced work in the parlor, said Yost, but he also pointed out that one of the advantages of a large dairy operation is the division of labor it makes possible. Workers are scheduled for 40-hour work weeks. The dairy pays overtime for hours worked beyond 40, even though overtime pay is not required in agriculture until 48 hours are worked.

Beginning pay is $10.25 an hour, but with the opportunities for overtime, $50,000 in a year is attainable, he said.

Some workers are housed on site in a six-unit apartment building, but most are living in nearby communities including Murdock, DeGraff, Kerkhoven and Pennock.

Perhaps some of the most important benefits of the dairy belong to neighboring farmers. Some are investors in the operation. Some sell corn and soybeans to be ground as feed, corn silage and haylage, and purchase liquid manure fertilizer from it. The dairy does business with 32 farmers.

Yost said the dairy takes advantage of the economies of scale to be a low-cost producer.

He is optimistic about the future for dairy. While U.S. demand is expected to remain relatively constant, exports of dry milk to Asian markets are growing.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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