Shamrock’s Virginia Expansion increases Milk needed 4x; adds $24 Million to area Ag Economy!

8448_Shamrock_Brown_F$24 Million dollars will be infused into the southeast / mid-Atlantic region’s farm economy, with the most impact on Virginia.

Quadrupling the milk purchased by a processing plant is expected;  MD-VA Producers Co-operative is the supplier, and their producers should benefit.

78 new jobs.

$40 Million invested in new processing facilities, expanding Shamrock’s facility in Augusta County, VA after only 2.5 years of operation.

In a region and an industry sorely needing new milk processing capacity, Shamrock Farms has created a lightning bolt of excitement and optimism in the Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia for farms and economic developers alike.

Following is a ‘digest’ of various local and national reports and highlights from each as the news broke on March 29 and 30, 2017.

Press release from the VA Governor’s Office: How public development funds played a role:

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) worked with Augusta County to secure the project for Virginia. Governor McAuliffe approved a $400,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund, administered by VDACS.  The company will also receive a $400,000 performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership (VIP) program, an incentive available to existing companies, to assist the County with the project.  Shamrock Farms will also be eligible to receive sales and use tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment. Additional funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

From the Staunton, VA News Leader:

The expansion will more than double its production capacity, rapidly growing the Shamrock Farms brand, a release said. Once completed, Shamrock Farms will employ more than 120 people at that location. The expansion will increase filling capacity and expand product varieties, sizes and formats.

Shamrock Farms, the creator of Rockin’ Refuel and mmmmilk, is a 95-year old dairy company owned by a single family, the McClellands.  The company has Arizona roots, and still operate their own dairy farm. Shamrock has built a nationwide shelf presence with its innovative dairy products, featuring packaging designed for fast-food and convenience stores.  In recent years, they’ve focused on higher protein drinks to meet consumer expectations.

Shamrock’s statement on the expansion acknowledges the ‘milk as a beverage’ concept:

“As a company we’re always looking for ways to grow and innovate,” said Ann Ocaña, Chief Marketing Officer for Shamrock Farms. “The expansion gives us the capacity and the technology to meet growing demand, expand our offerings and propel milk-based beverages into the future.”

A Waynesboro, VA news publication, the News Virginian, issued an article,  with the following:

Augusta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tracy Pyles said Shamrock “is a cornerstone in Mill Place Commerce Park and a strong asset to the agricultural community of the commonwealth  . . .  “We have a good location and great workers,” he said. “It’s not a surprise they are expanding.”

Dairy Reporter also shared the news to a worldwide readership.

This Shamrock plant is located along the Interstate 81 Corridor, just southwest of Harrisonburg, in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  This area is one of the southeast’s largest dairy communities.

This plant has only been open since October of 2014, with MD-VA Milk Producers Cooperative as its exclusive supplier.  The company has enjoyed rapid growth for its product line and markets on the East Coast.  Nationwide, Shamrock serves more than 50,000 quick service restaurants and 36,000 c-stores and groceries.  The company has also added Cold Brew Coffee and Milk to its offerings.

All of the public and private parties, which include:

  1. the farmers who produce the high quality milk,
  2. Md-Va Milk Cooperative which supplies the plant,
  3. Local and state governments, and
  4. Shamrock itself

deserve an enormous amount of credit for an extraordinary team effort which fostered this expansion!

As exciting as this announcement is, no one knows better than the dairy industry itself that more plants are needed, provided innovative products continue to come to the market place.  The need for processing capacity is one thing, the ability to process or manufacture a milk-based product for which there is enough market demand is the even bigger – but very necessary – challenge to overcome.

As for now, Shamrock has provided a bit of inspiration and excitement.

Congratulations, Team Shamrock in the Southeast!!  Well done!  We look forward to watching your market grow!

HPAI in 1 TN flock/house: Days 1 & 2. Stay Calm. Stay Informed. Watch Your Flock. Does Not Pose Risk to Food Supply.


[UPDATE – March 6, 2017]    Press Conference by Tennessee Department of Agriculture Officials, now archived and available for viewing on YouTube.

Summary of News Conference:

  1. Thus far, minimal impact.  Biosecurity was excellent at the facility, and only 1 of 8 houses had clinical signs, however, the entire affected flock was depopulated / euthanized per disease control protocol.
  2. An initial round of testing in the surrounding area has proved to be negative, a positive sign, but several additional tests to follow.
  3. Any positive tests in neighboring flocks will reset and start a 2-week time clock again.
  4. A half dozen of the incident management team had experience with the national outbreak in 2015.
  5. Excellent records, and management expertise of farm owner, and a knowledge of what to do in certain situations, enabled this quick response.
  6. Exports will be impacted, not yet known to what degree.
  7. Thus far, for an extremely difficult situation, there has been a ‘best case scenario’ in a quick and effective response.
  8. Farm owner and the company who owns the birds (Tyson) are likely covered by some sort of indemnity program. The knowledge of what signs to look for in identifying the disease, and the skills of both enabled the farm owner to identify situation early and contact officials, critical to minimize the outbreak.
  9. Updates provided as indicated by the situation.

A ‘milkshed’ is part of a ‘foodshed,’ and poultry is a part of that worldwide foodshed. Therefore, this blog is taking a bit of a turn with this post.

I’ve got many colleagues and friends with poultry houses or backyard flocks, so as news broke from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture  of an HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) H7 confirmation in the  lower middle region of TN  on Sunday, March 5, 2017, the texts, posts, and industry emails began flying, and ag communicators got to work.

The first and most immediate point is that ‘HPAI does not post a risk to the food supply,’ according to TDA, as well as many other poultry organizations and animal health officials charged with protecting human health. This disease came to worldwide public attention in 2015 with major outbreaks in midwest poultry houses, turkeys, broilers, and chickens included.  The Tennessee virus is of a different strain, H7, compared to H5, which was the culprit in the outbreaks two years ago.

As this post is written, there is apparently only 1 flock affected – a ‘breeder flock.’  Such a flock producers fertile eggs, to be hatched for broilers or laying hens. Per the protocol already in place, an immediate quarantine has been placed on 30 houses within a 6.2 mile radius of the affected poultry barn. Hopefully – very hopefully – this means the disease has been discovered early, and impact will be minimal.

It is to the credit of a vigilant and informed barn owner who realized something out of the ordinary was occurring, along with competent professional veterinarians, and an emergency preparedness protocol, that diagnosis was achieved quickly after the first reports to the TDA only two days prior.  This is one example of the diligence, planning, and preparedness that makes the U.S. Food Supply the safest in the world.

Along with the initial news release, which has links to many other pieces of information, the Department expected there would be a press conference on Monday, March 6, 2017.

To answer questions in the first phase of the discovery, the TN Department of Agriculture has posted two YouTube videos, in which Dr. Charles Hatcher, TN State Veterinarian, answers the immediate issues, particularly the fact nothing from this flock – repeat NOTHING – has entered the human food supply. The videos can be viewed at these links:

PART 1 – HAPI interview, March 5, 2017:  with Dr. Charles Hatcher, DVM, TN State Veterinarian

PART 2 – HAPI interview, March 5, 2017 also with Dr. Charles Hatcher, DVM

To get an idea of the scope of the matter on the first day of this incidence, this graphic should suffice.  Hopefully, it won’t need too many updates, and this incidence can be contained quickly.


USDA statistics concerning the US Poultry industry tell us that TN is one of the Top 19 states in the nation for number of broilers.

A Voice of Experience:   Lara Durben,  MN Turkey Growers Association, Chicken & Egg Association of MN, Midwest Poultry Federation

Lara Durben, the Director of Communications for three major poultry organizations, the MN Turkey Growers Association, Chicken & Egg Association of Minnesota, and the Midwest Poultry Foundation, was at the forefront of communications when the first outbreaks occurred two years ago.  MN was at the epicenter of the outbreak.

Lara was a lion, working to distribute information to poultry farms themselves, as well as being a factual, informed liasion for news outlets and consumers to get accurate information.  Having seen an industry through the storm, she is a strong voice of experience.

I really appreciated her taking time from a Sunday afternoon to answer my requests for information.  She indicated via messages she had already been contacted by others. She has suggested the following articles/resources; linked to here for your convenience:

The Worry and Work on Avian Influenza

Avian Flu:  What I Want You to Know

Additionally, these were her contributions posted at

Avian Influenza:  A Few Questions and Answers

Avian Influenza in MN: What Does this Mean?

From Minnesota Turkey, with links to MN Extension publications:

Avian Influenza  (An overview)

For BACKYARD POULTRY FLOCKS – From Minnesota, a state who has a vast amount of experience  with avian influenza  (a 2 pg. pdf to print)

For PASTURED and ORGANIC FLOCKS  (Also from Minnesota – a 2 pg. pdf to print)

UPDATES (as they become available):  Where to find them:

Tennessee Dept. of Ag:  Alerts

University of TN Extension: New web page, launched on Monday, March 6

USDA APHIS: Biosecurity for Birds

And articles from the popular press and ag industry sources:

From the Guardian: a report sourced from the AP

Via Yahoo: another AP report, news affects stock prices of poultry companies

From Chicken Check-In: Contains info on current outbreak and what  producers do to prevent avian flu.

From Watt AgNet: Timing of response from recognition of signs to diagnosis

From Tyson Foods: Owner of the birds, their ‘heightened security’ protocol and expectations

From the TN Poultry Association:  Organization and Industry was already on high alert, due to season and timing of migratory flyways

For now, those with backyard and commercial flocks should not panic, yet review information related to the physiology of avian influenza. (see above).

Here is a list of resources that will be updated as needed: