Oregon's dairy industry appears to be bucking the trend of losing youth.
While the average age of farmers in general is increasing, an influx of young dairy operators is providing new blood for the milk business in Oregon.
"I believe there is a much larger percentage of young people getting into the dairy industry in Oregon compared to other states," declares Jim Krahn of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association.
"At our latest convention, we had dairy farmers from Washington and Idaho in attendance and they commented how they couldn't believe the high number of young people attending."
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has noticed as well.
ODA's Confined Animal Feeding Operations Program hosted a manure management field day in late April for CAFO permit holders and operators. The field day focused on calibrating different types of manure application equipment, measuring and recording manure nutrient content, and implementing various cultural practices that help make manure management successful.
"For our staff, one of the most gratifying parts of the field day was the participation by the next generation of operators," says Wym Matthews, CAFO program manager for ODA. "We had 16 operators under the age of 30. It is very important to note that the younger generation took the time to attend this activity. We were impressed by their interest level and questions."
Some of the younger attendees were strongly urged to attend the field day by their fathers, the primary operator of their dairies, but others took their own initiative to be there and learn more about successful manure management, notes Matthews.
"We all know that future of successful agricultural operations depends on cultivating the next generation of farmers," he says. "If Oregon's future CAFO operators are like this group of young individuals, Oregon's CAFO agriculture operations will be in very capable hands."