Dairy looks to sell remaining cows, remove lagoons

Big Island Dairy is seen in this courtesy aerial photo.

Big Island Dairy will remain on the Ookala property it is leasing from the state until all remaining cows have been sold and removed, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.

Dairy owners announced in November they would discontinue dairy and milk processing operations at the facility, which has been owned by Steve and Derek Whitesides since 2011.


DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the department conducted an inspection of the dairy on May 15, as part of its ongoing oversight.

“During the inspection, DOH staff confirmed that Big Island Dairy had ceased all milking operations as well as removed all cows from confinement as previously reported,” she said.

As of May 15, Okubo said the dairy had minimal staff on site.

“Those remaining were primarily managing the sale of the remaining cows, conducting final clean-up of animal pens and planning for the final elimination of the wastewater system, per the dairy’s consent order with the DOH,” she said. “It is anticipated that the dairy’s wastewater lagoons will be removed in a matter of weeks, provided that weather remains favorable and the lagoons do not continually collect rain.”

According to Okubo, there are approximately 500 cows and 150 calves remaining on the property in various pastures.

“Big Island Dairy is in the process of selling the remaining cows and having them removed from the property,” she said. “The dairy has stated that they will not abandon animals on the property, so (dairy staff) will remain until all animals have been sold or otherwise removed.

“Dairy representatives said they will vacate the property once all the cows have been relocated, but as that date is contingent upon the sale of the animals, they cannot confirm when that will occur.”

“We’re doing good, wrapping things up in a timely fashion,” dairy general manager Steve Manning said Thursday.

The cows are being sold “to whoever wants them,” he said, adding that while some are being taken to slaughter, others are being sold to private individuals.

The dairy and the DOH entered into an agreement at the end of March that addressed numerous discharges of wastewater containing manure from the dairy into state waters during the past two years.

That agreement required the owners to terminate their dairy operations, remove all cows from confinement, clean and remove the existing wastewater system and pay $79,000 by June, either as an administrative penalty or to fund an environmentally beneficial project in the area.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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