Kohala dairy seeks to extend lease, improve operations

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,”

Dairy planned for Big Isle

The trickle of local milk in Hawaii that grew last year to a small flow could be on the verge of significant expansion again.

An industry veteran plans to establish a dairy on the Big Island, which if successful would become the third major milk producer in the state and the first established after a string of shutdowns over the last decade.

Mauna Kea Moo LLC recently received preliminary approval from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to lease 1,395 acres of state land in Hamakua for a dairy operation.

The company is headed by Kees Kea, former manager of the largest dairy in the state, Island Dairy.

Kea, who grew up on a family dairy farm in the Netherlands and owned a dairy in Oregon before joining Island Dairy in 2003, said he intends to produce cheese and yogurt as well as milk with perhaps 150 to 200 cows.

If successful, Mauna Kea Moo would be smaller than the state’s two largest dairies, which have roughly 600 to 800 milking cows each, but it would still significantly increase the supply of local milk and satisfy what people familiar with the industry say is tremendous consumer demand.