Dairymen are buying much of the 5,000 acres in Weld County, Colorado, once occupied by Butterball's turkey farms. Those producers are expanding their efforts to meet the expected milk demand that comes with the new Leprino Foods cheese plant in Greeley. New dairies are expected to arrive and existing local dairies are expected to expand.

The Leprino plant, which began operations ahead of schedule in October, will be running at full capacity in a couple of years, at which time it will take in about 7 million pounds of milk per day -- its current intake is about 1.5 million pounds per day -- and it eventually will need about 60,000 additional dairy cows in the region to support those operations.

So far, the expansion efforts of existing dairies, along with out-of-state operations that have bought land in northeastern Colorado or are looking to do so, has led experts to believe the region's dairy industry is on pace to meet Leprino's needs. Some estimate that by fall, 10,000 to 12,000 cows will be added to the region -- not just in Weld County.

The Butterball turkey farms have been out of production for more than three years -- dating back to 2008, when Butterball announced layoffs that affected nearly 500 people. This past fall, officials with the company announced they would close the plant.

Ag Professionals LLC was hired by Butterball to liquidate its assets, including turkey farms scattered from the Firestone/Frederick area in western Weld County to the east near Hudson and up north to Kersey.


Tom Haren, owner of Ag Professionals LLC, said about one-third of the former production sites have been sold to a half-dozen local dairy operators seeking to expand their herds. Out of confidentiality, Haren did not provide the names of the dairymen who bought the turkey farms. PD

—From Greeley Tribune