Grow Better Hay ...
...And cows will beat a path to your door

Originally published in the January 1994 issue of UTAH FARMER

Millard County agent Jody Gale would likely fail as a travel promoter. He invites people to the county during the worst weather and encourages them to talk to anyone and everyone about the good and bad. He wants all the warts and blemishes exposed.

Gale is not promoting tourism. He wants people who will stay in Millard County and contribute to its economic expansion. And he believes truth-in-advertising is the only way to go.

"Videos are slick and glossy and the numbers don't always tell the story," said Gale. "We want to invite dairy operators to come here at county expense and visit all the county at the worst time of the year."

Gale is working with the county and private business to promote Millard County's high-quality alfalfa hay as a magnet for dairies being squeezed from areas like Southern California by urban sprawl and tightening regulations. Economists call the approach value-added economic development, a process that works to enhance existing resources.

The effort, begun four years ago, is beginning to pay off. So far, close to 100 dairy operators have visited the county on tours. Four dairies have moved in or started up as a result of the county's efforts.

Carl Lueck, who now runs a 400-cow diary just north of Delta, is one of those drawn to Millard County. Lueck had operated a dairy in Dublin, TX just west of Ft. Worth when environmental pressures prompted him to start looking elsewhere.

"It was just about impossible to milk over 1,000 cows when the regulations started," Lueck said. "I just couldn't see any growth opportunity." Further he had to ship in most of his feed.

Lueck first visited Millard County in February 1992. He also looked at Roswell, NM as a potential site. Within six months, he and his wife, Sandy, moved to Delta. He started construction on his dairy last January and by May had cows in the parlor.

What attracted Lueck to Utah?

"I liked the dry, cool climate and the quality of alfalfa," said Lueck. "I just think that it's a good area to dairy in, and I do like the mountains."

Lueck said it's too early to tell whether the move has been equally good for his cows. They're first-year heifers so it's hard to compare their output with his mature herd in Texas. His rolling herd average milk production is currently around 18,500 pounds, a little lower than his production in Texas of 19,200.

"The hay has been good," he said. "I don't know if it's helped yet, but I feel like it's going to."

Now that the Luecks are a permanent part of the Millard County landscape, he's being recruited to draw others to the area. "I've had a few people tell me they've made up their minds to come," he said, adding that a good friend from Texas hopes to set up a dairy this year or next. Lueck said he would like to see the county's efforts succeed because more producers would attract additional dairy services to the area.

Gale said Lueck's move from Texas to Delta happened fast.

"I was amazed at how fast Carl was able to move - 14 months from the time he first looked until he was milking cows." Part of the reason is that Lueck had one move under his belt having moved in 1985 to Texas from the Phoenix area, where his father and uncles ran dairies.

For most dairies, making the decision and actually moving takes longer. But Millard County is patient. "We're looking at this over a 10-year block and we're about four years into it," said Gale. "We're into this thing for a long-term commitment."

So far, Gale is pleased with the progress. "I think that as far as the original intent, we're about on target," he said. "We've got a lot of seeds that are out there growing."

Millard County's economic development work began with a study partly underwritten by Utah Power. The study said one key to economic development is to add value to what the county already has, and what Millard County has in agriculture.

Don Knight, a Delta farmer and member of the county's Farm Bureau Board, noted that the county produces nearly 300,000 tons of hay, and about 70% is exported. So it was decided that instead of sending feed to the cows, it might provide a more constant market for the hay by bringing the cows to the feed.

Among the tools used to attract potential dairies have been a video, underwritten by Utah Power and USU Extension, and the Millard County hay directory, which includes most of the county's producers and the amount and type of hay they produce. Knight said that with the video and directory in hand, as well as information on the county's dairy potential and other benefits, a group of people from the county traveled to the Tulane Farm Show in California. They set up a booth and began handing out literature and talking up their county.

Knight said response was good as more than 300 videos and hay directories were passed out. The effort also generated a front-page article in the local newspaper.

In addition to the direct approach, the county has run advertisements in several dairy publications. And to date, more than 1,100 copies of the video have been distributed.

While a lot of the county's original assumptions turned out to be correct, some unexpected things turned up, Gale said. For example, a milk plant has been proposed for the area. While still in proposal stage, Gale said the proposal was unsolicited.

"The word is out that Millard County is looking for economic development, so a lot of people are coming to see if we're interested in them."

Also, the county had commissioned a study to attract a broiler operation to the area. While that attempt has yet to succeed, Gale said, the study may have played a part in attracting the Smithfield of Utah hog operation, now being developed in neighboring Beaver County 65 miles south of Delta.

"The hog situation didn't come about as a result of the work, but the feasibility study helped the hog developers make their final decision," he said. "As I look to the future, I wonder how many other things will evolve as a result of our commitment to economic development."

Gale said the effort in Millard County has been a team effort. He cited Robyn Pearson, Millard County administrator, for having helped steer the county commission in the direction of agriculture economic development, and he lauded Utah Power and its district manager for Millard and Beaver counties, Vince Crawford, for providing support and funding.

"Every area in the state has resources and could be doing some economic development work. Start somewhere, but don't expect to have all the answers up front. Take a look at the community. What are its strengths? If they're in agriculture, look at what can be capitalized on," he said.

"Value-added agriculture is the greatest potential for economic development in rural Utah."

Last Updated by David Pearson on Monday, 13 May, 1996 at 2:13 PM.

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