I was a young boy when the statue of Moo-la the Holstein was erected on the Erath County courthouse grounds as a tribute to the county’s dairy industry and its number one milk producing county status. As someone born into a local dairy family and who continued the tradition, I’ve always felt a surge of pride any time I drive by the square and see this symbol of community support for the hard work of my dairy family and many others.

But, after 44 years of reigning over the square, has the local pride and support both for Moo-la and the dairy industry begun to tarnish? Rumors abound that Moo-la may soon be put out to pasture. Certainly the old girl needs a facelift, as her accompanying sign displays outdated statics.

But ousting Moo-la isn’t just getting rid of an old, outdated statue. It’s getting rid of a very public sign of support for an industry that continues to be a vital part of our community. Moo-la’s removal and it’s underlying significance is a concern to local dairy farmers I’ve talked to about this issue, both as a dairyman and as executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen.

Getting rid Moo-la would be a mistake and, quite frankly, a slap in the face to these local dairy producers, many of whom have farmed in the area for generations and helped build Stephenville and Erath County.

These dairy farmers have continued to make Erath County their home despite the challenges they’ve faced in recent years. While farmers across Texas have had to overcome economic downturns and the weather, Central Texas dairymen also had to contend with litigation or its threat from the City of Waco. Those lawsuits – or the fear they may be next to be sued – drove many farmers to relocate their dairies or get out of the business altogether.

Thankfully, that issue has been put behind us. It’s time for those of us in Erath County to refocus on all the positives about our dairy industry.

Local dairy farmers are proud to call Erath County home, and the county has a lot to be proud of when it comes to the dairy industry.

Erath County may not be the top milk-producing county in Texas, but it is firmly in second place – this is nothing to sneeze at. An estimated 43,800 cows belonging to 54 dairy farmers graze in Erath County pastures and produced almost 92 million pounds of milk (about 11 million gallons) in April alone, according to the latest official statistics.

But the dairy industry is about more than numbers of cows and gallons of milk. It’s also about creating local jobs (both direct and indirect), paying local taxes and contributing to the good of the local community through volunteering, our church and other organizations that dairy families take part in.

In all these areas, Moo-la reminds us that the dairy industry continues to be a vital part of Erath County.

Darren Turley is executive director of Texas Association of Dairymen (www.milk4texas.org), a non-profit corporation comprised of dairy cooperatives whose members are individual milk producers in Texas. You can follow TAD on Facebook at www.facebook.com/texasdairy or Twitter @TXDairymen.