Steve Maddox is WDB’s ‘Outstanding Dairy Producer of the Year’

California dairyman Stephen D. “Steve” Maddox carries on a family tradition that started with his grandfather Rufus Maddox, and father Doug, – a passion for cows, a reputation for excellence and exceptional unselfish commitment to the dairy industry on a local, as well as national, level.

Maddox will be honored Wednesday, Feb. 9 as Western DairyBusiness magazine’s “2011 Outstanding Dairy Producer of the Year.” A recognition presentation will be at 11:45 a.m. during Dairy Profit Seminars in the Seminar Center at the southeast corner of the World Ag Expo grounds in Tulare, Calif.

In 1978, the Maddox family worked on passing the dairy and farming operations on to the next generation. And since July 1980, Steve Maddox has been the managing partner in Maddox Dairy, Ltd., Burrel, Calif.

Today, he manages 4,100 mature registered Holsteins milked 3X, 4,300 replacement heifers and 2,500 young breeding bulls. He has been involved in the total feed management and ration formation; coordinates and oversees 60 employees; and developed and implemented dairy and cattle management procedures as manager of the prototype “mega” dairy.

His herd’s current average is 25,789 lbs. of milk, 3.59% and 927 lbs. butterfat, and 3.09%, and 777 lbs. protein.

Maddox is diversified, thanks in a big way to those who came before him. Their operation includes growing all their roughage, corn and wheat silage and alfalfa hay. They farm 2,500 acres of alfalfa, 1,800 acres of corn (33,000 tons), double-cropped with wheat silage (25,000 tons). They also farm 1,500 acres almonds and 2,500 acres of wine grapes, which have helped them survive the hard times at the dairy.

And like most dairy producers in the nation, Maddox has experienced difficult times through the last couple years of an economic downturn that has driven many out of business. He has been heavily involved in discussions with many producer groups about some of the proposals that could help them work through these issues.

“As an industry we are trying to bring dairy producers together to improve our financial stability. Whether we have a new way to price our milk, or how we manage our supply, or better matching it up with our markets, to have a more viable, bankable industry,” he said. “Dairies are extremely capital intensive and producers work on very small margins, as it is. I don’t want the next generation to have to go through what we’ve gone through.

“But, besides the financial hurdles, our biggest challenges are dealing with environmental elements, animal welfare or anti-animal groups doing whatever they can to do away with animal agriculture. Give me a true environmentalist, or someone who really cares about animals, and I can talk with them. But people who are anti-animal agriculture are just using these issues. People haven’t become hungry enough yet,” Maddox said.

As a youngster, Maddox was accustomed to having the local dairy farm advisor at their home on a regular basis. “I thought he (the late Richard “Dick” Eide) was my uncle for a long time,” Maddox chuckled. “He was always out at the dairy doing a research trial of some kind. What I got from him was to always keep pushing the envelope…keep trying new things.

“My grandfather, Rufus and my father, Doug, believed in teaching their kids how to work and the importance of being involved in the community. Not just the local community, but within the larger dairy industry as well. My father taught me to enjoy the many great people in the dairy industry – take people at face value and learn to trust. Above all, take responsibility for my own actions.”

Maddox stressed that a person must keep growing and looking for solutions to the challenges that those in agriculture face. “Don’t blame others for your ills, but take the bull by the horns and address the problems to find solutions.”

Maddox said he’s been blessed with excellent dairy and farm staff, and with faithful support from his family. He also credited numerous “mentors” from his youth through his early days of industry involvement.

He said a Cal Poly University dairy science professor, Harmon Toone, taught him to be involved in the community and leave the world a better place. “If others don’t step up, you step up,” the wise professor told him.

Maddox has lived that advice and has been willing to “step-up” on many occasions. He was appointed to the National Dairy Board (DMI) currently the vice chairman; served National Milk Producers as a director, CWT board member and served on the Animal Health and I.D. Task Force Committee; served on California Dairies, Inc., board of directors as secretary and was a representative to Dairy Cares; founding board member of Dairy America; served as a Challenge Dairy Products, Inc., board member and vice president; Danish Creamery Association board as secretary/treasurer, vice president and president; served as area chairman for Western United Dairymen; Fresno Dairy herd Improvement Association board, secretary/treasurer, vice president and president; and a member of the local, state and national Holstein Association.

Maddox also serves on the Cal Poly Dairy Advisory Committee, Caruther’s District Fair board member and livestock superintendent; Fresno State Animal Science Advisory Committee; served as president on the Riverdale Joint Unified School District board of trustees; and the USDA National Agricultural Research and Extension Service Advisory board.

Like his father before him, Steve has hosted tour groups from around the world as well as the elementary school nearby. He’s fielded questions from knowledgeable international dignitaries and inquisitive fifth graders and their parents.

He and wife, Brenda, have three children: Melissa, Christina and Stephen Jr. Brenda has been involved in the dairy doing books and payroll. Melissa is a vice principal at a local elementary school district. Christina an environmental reporter, is married to Melvin Medeiros with two children, Keegan and Ty. Stephen Jr. is married to Haley and is taking over management duties on the dairy.