Despite adding about a quarter million animals to the state's dairy herd, Idaho dairy farmers are actually using a little less water.

   Using less water now than in 2002

According to information from the Idaho Farm Bureau, a new study shows Idaho dairy farmers are using a little less water for their herds.

This is important as Idaho is potentially facing some water shortages. Recently state officials informed about 6,400 junior water rights holders they could have their water turned off unless they re-enroll or enroll in water management plans. The study was conducted by  University of Idaho Assistant Professor of Crop Economics Pat Hatzenbuehler.

Why are farmers using less? According to the Idaho Farm Bureau:

"This is due largely to a switch in feed rations by Idaho dairymen, who are feeding their cows more corn and less alfalfa hay than they were two decades ago. Idaho’s milk cow inventory increased from just under 400,000 in 2002 to more than 650,000 in 2022.

Hatzenbuehler’s study showed that during that same period, Idaho hay acres declined slightly, from about 1.15 million to about 1.03 million, while the state’s total corn acreage rose, from less than 200,000 to more than 350,000.

University of Idaho Extension specialists estimate that the amount of alfalfa hay used in Idaho dairy cow rations has gone down, while the amount of corn silage used in rations has almost doubled."

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He and others say this study and results are important because it counters the claims that Idaho's potential water shortages are because of dairy farming.  Hatzenbuehler says those claims are just not supported by the actual data.

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