Got milk? Secretary Williams tours Fort Morgan dairy

Dairy farmer Chris Kraft spotted something unusual with a cow about to give birth so he tried to get his hand in to “rearrange” the calf, as he described it. That didn’t work so the cow was brought inside the maternity barn to get some help. Secretary of State Wayne Williams and state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg were with Kraft.  (SOS photo)

FORT MORGAN – When you’re a dairy farmer who sells milk to a cheese producer, it’s only natural that your last name evokes the question:

Kraft, as in Kraft Cheese?

No, Chris Kraft responded, he’s not from that Kraft family. He’s from the Kraft family that grew up in South Africa, where his father was a minister and Desmond Tutu was a dinner guest before Tutu became an international figure.

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, Secretary of State Wayne Williams and dairy farmer Chris Kraft stand outside the cooling tanks at the Kraft dairy.  The milk must be chilled at less than 40 degrees. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams toured Kraft dairy with state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, on Aug. 16.

How appropriate that this blog appears on Labor Day weekend because even with the latest in milking equipment, a dairy farm is a labor-intensive operation.

“I could not get over the size of the operation, and how well it is run,” Secretary Williams said. “This is an exceptional Colorado business and the awards on their walls are proof of that.”

Among those awards: Morgan County’s Large Business of the Year in 2007. The Krafts employ 85 people.

Workers at Chris and Mary Kraft’s dairy farm outside Fort Morgan pull out a baby calf that looked to be having a difficult birth. They reached into the cow and rearranged the calf, but it still was making a stubborn exit so they got the chains. An average of 18 calves a day are born at the dairy, most of them naturally in the field. (SOS photo)

It’s a long way from Johannesburg to Colorado, but when it came time to pick a college Chris Kraft chose Colorado State University because relatives lived in Colorado Springs. At CSU, Kraft met his future wife, Mary McIntosh, whose family had operated a dairy farm south of Brighton since 1906.

She planned to go into public relations but two years after they married in 1985, they became partners in the family dairy, which is still in business.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at Chris and Mary Kraft’s dairy farm outside Fort Morgan. (SOS photo)

Chris and Mary Kraft eventually opened their own dairy in Fort Morgan in 1988. They started with 240 milking cows at Badger Creek Farms and in 2006 they built Quail Ridge Dairy just three miles south. Most of the milking is done at Quail Ridge, while the pregnant cows hang out at Badger Creek Farms for two months at a time. The 900 or so mothers are referred to as “dry cows” because they aren’t getting milked.

More than 4,600 cows are milked three times a day, seven days a week at Quail Ridge; another 1,300 or so at Badger Creek. The 56,000 gallons of milk they produce daily is sold to Leprino Cheese, which operates a plant five miles away.

Williams saw cows getting milked, cows getting fed, calves being born and lots and lots of manure. A machine pushes the manure away.

Cow No. 35508 stares at visitors to the Quail Ridge Dairy outside Fort Morgan.

“They need one of these up at the Capitol,” Kraft joked to Sonnenberg.

The equipment attached to the cows when they are milked relays a variety of information back to a computer. Mary Kraft knows how much milk each cow produces. She compares the output to the previous days to make sure the cow is OK.

An avid milk drinker, Williams and Kraft had a lengthy conversation about all those shelves of milk in grocery stores.

“I think it’s great that the secretary of state came to see what we do,” Kraft said after the visit. “Dairy farms are some of the most regulated businesses in the country, but the nice thing about the Secretary of State’s office is it’s government that wants to work for you.”

Intern Lizzie Stephani contributed to this report. 

Secretary of State Wayne Williams , state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and dairy farmer Chris Kraft enjoy a light-hearted moment inside the enormous machine shop at Quail Ridge Dairy outside Fort Morgan. (SOS photo)