A North Kohala dairy is hoping to extend how long it can use state land by replacing its 25-year leases, two of which end in 2019 and 2020, with a new, 30-year lease.
Its request, which triggered an environmental assessment process, would also allow the farm to grow mixed forage plants — Guinea grass, tinaroo and desmodium — which “sprout as ‘volunteers’ in Kohala pastures, are grown naturally by simply spreading manure and providing irrigation, and then are chopped for the cows,” according to the draft environmental assessment.
Boteilho Hawaii Enterprises already uses eight state properties, with about 880 acres total, for Clover Leaf Dairy, one of the three remaining dairies in the state. The dairy has leases for several parcels, and owner Ed Boteilho said he wanted to combine the lease and extend the term. The request for a new lease was provisionally approved by the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources in September. The company has been at the location since 1985, and keeps about 800 cows, with about 650 cows giving milk at any time.
According to land board records, Boteilho Hawaii Enterprises pays about $28,000 a year in rent; land board records said an appraiser would determine the fair market rent for the property if the lease were to be extended.
The company wants to change the lease terms “to make the dairy more efficient and allow prudent acquisition of new equipment,” the assessment said. “All dairy uses would be allowed for the entire lease. No relocation of the main part of the dairy would occur and no major new facilities would be built. The main advantage would be to allow the growing and chopping of forage in areas where only pasture uses are currently allowed.”
Boteilho said starting the lease review process about 10 years before the lease is up is good business practice. Otherwise, he said, he can’t make advance plans for his dairy.
“In this business, you have to be ahead of the lease,” he said.
His dairy provides milk for the Big Island, and some is also shipped to Maui and Oahu. He said he hasn’t gone for an organic certification for the milk because of the extensive documentation process, but does try to get a product as natural as possible. The naturally occurring plants on which his cows graze are one way he achieves that goal, he said.
According to the Department of Agriculture, more than 80 percent of Hawaii’s milk comes from California, the draft assessment said. That means, Boteilho added, that milk is 10 to 12 days old, and double pasteurized. Continuing in the dairy business is one way to contribute to the island’s sustainability goals, he said.
The dairy uses a number of best management practices, as part of a conservation plan approved by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, according to the draft assessment. Those include use of primarily manure for fertilizer in forage areas, not applying herbicides, use of overflow basins for the lagoon treatment area and fencing of pasture mauka of the shoreline and locating the dairy more than half a mile from shoreline to minimize impacts to nearshore waters, the assessment said.