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Blue Sky Farms breaks ground at Lewis, Kan.

New southwest Kansas dairy will bring 23,000 cows and more than 100 jobs to Edwards County.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

May 6, 2024

6 Slides

Blue Sky Farms, a multisite dairy and farming business headquartered in Friona, Texas, broke ground April 26 on Twin Circle Dairy, its newest dairy farm south of Lewis, Kan.

When operational, in 2025, Twin Circle Dairy will have 23,700 head of cattle on the site in two cross-vent barns. The farm will have two 120-cow rotary milking parlors, with the capacity to milk 1,750 cows every hour. And it will employ more than 100 people, with some coming from other Blue Sky Farms locations, while others will be sourced from the community labor pool.

Harry DeWit, CEO and president of Blue Sky Farms, thanked the community for its welcome and shared how the company strives to provide a platform where its employees are appreciated and the company culture values community. One of Blue Sky’s strongest values, he says, is taking care of the communities where its dairies are located.

K.R. Averhoff, COO of Blue Sky Farms, says Edwards County offers quite a few opportunities that make it an ideal location for a dairy, but leading the list is the availability of feed and its proximity to Hilmar Cheese in Dodge City. “We’re looking forward to working with the farmers in the area and building long-lasting relationships with them,” Averhoff says.

Tech used for cow comfort

Twin Circle Dairy will employ some of the latest technology to improve cow comfort, health and efficiency. Ryan DeWit, who will be the general manager of Twin Circle Dairy, says cows will wear technology − collars − that will help track their rumination and activity habits, as well as other health signals, such as their temperature; if they’re experiencing heat stress; how long their bouts of activity last; and more.

“So, we can use that to identify early on when cows get sick,” he says. “We can use that to be able to better help prevent diseases.” In addition to the collars, the dairy will also use sorting gates off the rotary parlors that wirelessly connect to those cow collars. As the cow leaves the rotary parlor, her collar is scanned; if she is needed for breeding or a health check, she is sorted into a different pen automatically.

Comes down to area's people

Selecting a site for a new dairy takes a lot of thought, of course, but the real attraction to Edwards County was the people, Averhoff says. “Ultimately, it came back to the people that were in this area,” he says. “We’ve talked about how this feels like home for us − and it’s all agriculture. And that’s what we really love and enjoy. We’ve had full support of everybody in the area. And we’re very excited to be here and to be a part of such an ag-driven community with so many good people.”

“Community service is a big part of our lives, and our company culture,” adds Josh McDonald, Blue Sky Farms CFO. “Long-term, we want to support the community every way we can, because it takes all of us to make our rural communities great.”

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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