- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Milk production in Kansas has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and experts say several factors like the expansion of in-state dairies are behind the increase.

Kansas cows produced 3.1 billion pounds of milk in 2014, a 181 percent increase compared to 1994, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1QKPPMC ) reported. It’s also an increase of 6.1 percent compared to the year before.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture said the state has one of the fastest growth rates in the country, with milk production increasing by at least 5 percent each year since 2012.

In 2014, Kansas produced enough milk for 350 million one-gallon jugs, with a value of around $746 million, according to the agency. The state has around 325 dairies and 143,000 cows.

Executive director Stephanie Eckroat of the Kansas Dairy Association and Commission said a combination of factors have helped increase milk production, including the expansion of some dairies and each cow producing more milk on average than in the past.

“Dairy farmers are always striving to improve their genetics and milk production,” she said.

She said dairy owners in other states have eyed relocating to Kansas because of the availability of alfalfa and other feed grains. Kansas also has low humidity and open land where dairy farmers don’t have to worry about upsetting neighbors, Eckroat said.

It’s not clear if dairy production will continue to grow at the speed it has in recent years due to water availability being a long-term issue, Eckroat said. Cows need to be well-hydrated and it takes water to grow feed grains, she said.

The agriculture department said 75 percent of Kansas milk is produced in the western half of the state.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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