Shamrock Farms Dairy


milking cows barn area
     While the second set of relatives were visiting during the holidays, we went on a tour of Shamrock Farms Dairy.  Founded in 1922, Shamrock Farms is the largest family-owned-and-operated dairy in the southwest.  It is located about an hour south of Phoenix in the middle of nowhere.  The dairy has 10,000 cows on over 240 acres.  There is also an organic herd of 900 cows on the property.

     The farm was very clean, and there was no odor.  They use a state-of-the-art manure mangaement and recycling system whereby manure is used as a natural fertilizer at nearby farms.  They try to reduce their environmental "hoof-print" through water stewardship, reduced fuel consumption, responsible packaging, and  manure/methane management .  The farm keeps a closed herd, meaning no new cows are introduced to the farm.  The cows are artificially inseminated, and all calves are raised from these cows to ensure the highest quality dairy stock.  The night before we toured the farm, 19 calves were born.

sheltered calf nursery area
       The tram tour took us to many parts of the farm.  All cows had plenty of room to roam in the fresh air.  There were separate areas for different parts of the herd:  heifers that have not given birth, pregnant cows, new mothers and their calves, and milking cows.

milking barn

     The most interesting part of the tour was the milking barn.  Milking goes on for 21 hours a day.  It starts at 5:00 am and ends at 2:00 am the next morning.  The cows are milked twice a day.  A lead cow moves her group into the milking area.  Each cow is showered before milking, they get into place, their udders are wiped with iodine and then dried with a towel.  A separate, clean towel is used for each cow at each milking.  That's a lot of towels and laundry.  Then the milking apparatus is put on and milking commences.  When milking is completed, the milking apparatus drops off automatically and the cows walk out of the milking barn.  All the cows seemed very used to the routine and knew what to do.

lead cow moving her group into milking area
     In the summer here where temperatures can regularly reach 110 to 115 F (43 to 47 C), all the barns are kept at 78 F (26 C) by using ventilation fans and high-pressure misting systems as seen in the photo above.

feed storage area
     We were also shown the area where all the feed for the cows is stored, and the water tower that held 500,000 gallons of water (used for showering the cows, laundering the towels, keeping everything clean, and for herd drinking).  Each cow drinks 30 gallons of water a day.

     Organic feed for the organic herd is grown on their own pasture.  Shamrock Farms is the first dairy in Arizona to receive the USDA organic certification.  The organic milk goes from the cows to the grocery in less than three days.

cow with ear tags
     Each cow has an ear tag on each ear that has the entire history of the animal, including birth parents and day, any injuries or illnesses, amount of milk produced, etc.  The cows seemed happy and content, which makes for better milk.  And we were happy we took the tour and learned how one of our major food groups is produced.


  1. Another very interesting post. The statistics you've mentioned here is amazing. I wonder how the milk is treated. All of it is pasteurized? Or do they also sell raw milk?

  2. Seems like a well-run farm. I'm sure caring for cows in that way makes the milk better. Hard work, for sure, as I can see from dairy farms here in Connecticut.

  3. Anita,

    All of the milk is pasteurized. Most states require it, especially for large dairies that ship out of state. At a small family-only dairy you can get away with it.


    It seems like an enormous amount of work to me, what with the feeding, watering, cleaning, milking, birthing, etc. This milk does taste better than other brands available here.