A new attitude about growth in California?

Hoard's Dairyman: 

A new attitude about growth in California?

Date: 
Fri, 05/27/2011

California took over as the largest U.S. dairy state in 1994 and for the last nine years has made more milk than No. 2 and No. 3 combined. For over 40 years, it thrived by embracing a business philosophy of “operate on a big scale and expand constantly,” but the 2009 recession appears to have made a profound change to that attitude.

For most of its growth years, Sybrand (“Syp”) Vander Dussen (pictured) was right in the thick of things. He has dairied in the Chino Valley since 1969 and today is a silent partner in a dairy with his son Mark. His sons Mike and Danny also operate dairies in California. He’s also a real estate and cattle broker and is president of Milk Producers Council, an Ontario-based trade association that represents producers on local, state, and national issues. His long and diverse experience on multiple levels gives him strong ideas about where California’s dairy industry stands today and is why we recently asked him, “What will be the longest lasting message of the 2009 recession for California dairy producers?

“I think it’s going to be similar to people who went through the Great Depression,” he said. “Those of us who didn’t go through it have heard enough stories to know that it dramatically affected those who did for the rest of their lives. I think that same effect is on the hearts of dairy producers today. What I’ve heard a lot lately is, 'I have enough cows and I’m now going to diversify.' That’s something you would never have heard 10 or 20 years ago. There is no longer a race to have the most cows. Producers are starting to realize that the industry is not what it used to be, and maybe we should protect what we have and not risk growing anymore.”