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One calf and counting
An innocent neighborly challenge led Doug Maddox to blaze an unparalleled trail in dairy farming. “In 1951, a family friend gifted me a 2-month-old grade heifer with the expectation that if I accepted it, I would attend college.” During high school, Maddox registered his first female calf and became a member of the National Junior Holstein Association. In college at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, he built a herd of 14 cows and 14 heifers.
By 1957, he and wife Matilda, who was raised on a dairy farm, were in a 60/40 partnership with his parents, Rufus and Annie. The young couple purchased the homeplace on 500 acres, which included a house and old barn, for $200 an acre and started RuAnn Dairy. World-class registered Holsteins would become the trademark of this Riverdale, California, enterprise.
As the herd grew, Doug and Matilda encouraged their children — Steve, Patrick, Julia, and Elizabeth — to take an active role in the farm and learn the skills needed to run the operation.
Today, each child is involved in the operation, adding a pillar of strength and helping secure opportunities in the business for the fourth generation.
The original operation in the San Joaquin Valley is home to the RuAnn registered Holstein herd. It is managed by Doug and Matilda's second son, Patrick, and it consists of 1,200 milking cows. As the foundation of the dairies’ genetic programs, the herd has developed more than 1,200 Excellent and 9,000 Very Good cows.
Up the road 10 miles is Maddox Dairy managed by eldest son, Steve. Here 3,600 cows are milked in a state-of-the-art facility built in 1982. Over 9,000 head, nearly 100% registered, including a growing Red and White population, are cared for by 60 employees. Steve's wife, Brenda, handles the payroll for this unit.
Largest registered Holstein herd in the U.S.
Combined, the milking strings form the largest registered Holstein herd in the U.S. and average over 27,000 pounds of milk, 3.7% fat and 3.3% protein.
Each year the family markets 2,500 breeding age bulls and produces up to 4,000 embryos, providing an elite genetic base for their herds and for the international and domestic market.
Golden Genes, Inc.
Another branch of the family business is Golden Genes, Inc., which was established in 1975 to progeny-test young sires for artificial insemination under contract with ABS. When the dairy cattle export market opened up about that time, this company sent more than 30,000 heifers to over 40 countries.
Today, this facility is separately owned by Jamie and Elizabeth (Maddox) Bledsoe and is home to 1,000 commercial replacement heifers along with breeding-age bulls from RuAnn and Maddox Dairies. Golden Genes milks 1,200 cows at two sites.
Julia Chow, Doug and Matilda's other daughter, serves as chief financial officer of the entire limited partnership operation.
Besides cattle, the family grows 3,000 acres of wine grapes, 1,600 acres of almonds, 2,500 acres of alfalfa, and 2,500 acres of corn silage, which is double-cropped with grains and winter forages.
Returning to his roots after college always seemed to be in the cards for son Patrick. “I saw myself being part of the farm. So in college I took extra business courses,” he says. “That decision paid dividends because I've been able to keep pace with all facets of marketing as well as dealing with sustainability and state environmental issues.
Dairying is also in Steve Jr.'s blood. He is now part of the fourth generation at Maddox Dairy. He points out that having a job at the dairy is an ideal situation for him because of the strong commitment to adopting complex technology and for the challenge of being responsible for managing a diverse group of employees.
Nothing happens unless you work at it
As the patriarch of the family enterprise, Doug's philosophy is that nothing ever happens unless you work at it. For the Maddox family, the top priorities in their dairies are not only to breed an elite, high-quality herd, but to also provide a stress-free environment to enable their cows to produce quality milk at their most efficient production level.
Attention to details
“Attention to details in daily management is the core of our success,” Doug says. “It's key to any family operation, and this has always been a family-run business. It's our farm business, our family, our way of life. And for us, life doesn't get any better than this.”
An innocent neighborly challenge led Doug Maddox to blaze an unparalleled trail in dairy farming.