What began as a conception idea among a local agri-business group has grown into a project plan that when implemented will have a tremendous economic impact on Shelby County, said Gary Weihs, founding partner on the project and also managing partner of Weihs Enterprises, LLC.
"As we met we thought it would be a good idea to develop dairy because there's a milk deficit in Iowa," said Weihs. "Iowa today is shipping milk in from Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, etc., so it gives us a good opportunity to build a dairy."
Natural Milk Production, LLP, Shelby County Dairy, is expected to operate a 6,000-cow herd, employ 60 persons on-site and create total on and off-farm jobs of up to 204 when in full production.
Officials have projected out the impact even further to consider new families to the area with an impact of up to 90 new children in the local school systems.
A total of six truckloads of milk will be shipped daily from the dairy location, along 1400th St. about four miles southeast of Kirkman. The dairy is being constructed on a roughly 140-acre site.
"We've already contracted the milk for seven years," said Weihs. "They're very anxious to get the milk because if you were getting your milk from Texas, you'd like to get it from Iowa, too."
Anderson Erickson, Des Moines, will be the recipient of the milk from the new dairy, Weihs said.
Weihs and other representatives from Natural Milk Production addressed the Shelby County Supervisors this week, outlining the plan and timeline for the project.
The permit application has been submitted to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and hopes are it will be approved by December. Plans are to begin dirt work construction as early as January, and barn construction by April or May.
"We would probably anticipate being able to start milking a limited amount of cattle around October," said Wayne Goedken, project development manager.
Added Weihs, "It will be over 6-9 months" that the facility will be populated with cattle, and up to two years before it's at full capacity.
Weihs said the facility will be milking cows 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. It will use 600,000 pounds of feed per day and 300,000 gallons of water per day to flush manure into adjacent holding ponds. Much will be recaptured for local use.
The production is contracting for up to 1,200 acres of manure permits to spread manure on local land, and hopes to get most of the silage from the local area as well.
"We've found a lot of support from the area," said Weihs. "We'll need a lot of feed stuffs, etc."
The group building the dairy project has researched significantly, and is patterning the operation after one in Nebraska. "It's a system that's been in operation many different places," said Weihs. "I think it will work well."
Shelby County will be involved in the upgrading of roads leading to and from the dairy operation. Shelby County Engineer Dan Ahart said the main arterial road "will need some pretty major upgrading."
Hopes are to work with the contractor for dirt work on site in upgrading the road as well. Ahart said the road work will likely have to be bid, as it will be a large project.
"It's pretty exciting," said Weihs. "We're looking forward to getting it built."