California has been the leading milk-producing state since it overtook Wisconsin as the largest producer of fluid milk in 1993. The Golden State also ranks first in the production of butter, ice cream and nonfat dry milk and second in the manufacture of cheese.

Dairy is the state's top agriculture business, with 440,000-plus jobs and annual gross receipts of $47 billion. About 70% of the state's milk is produced on dairies in five counties in the Central Valley, including Tulare, Merced, Stanislaus, Kings and Kern counties.

Jerseys are ideal for producing milk and cheese in California, which has minimum component standards that exceed national standards (8.75% solids-not-fat and 3.5% fat for whole fluid milk versus national minimums of 8.25% solids-not-fat and 3.25% fat) and uses 47% of its milk in the creation of cheese.

California is home to the largest single-site cheese plant in the world, Hilmar Cheese, headquartered in Merced County. The company was established by a group of Jersey breeders in 1984 and expanded its cheese-making capacity by building a new plant in Dalhart, Texas. Combined, the two plants produce 1.9 million pounds of cheese every day using milk from many of the Registered Jersey dairies in the region.

Registered Jersey Facts

California leads the nation in number of animals registered with the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA), with 107,237 registrations in 2017.

The state dominates the rankings of the breed's high-producing herds. Three herds rank among the top 10 herds in the country for milk or protein production. Cal Poly of San Luis Obispo ranks sixth for milk with a 2017 lactation average of 24,530M, 1,123F and 839P on 99 cows. Ahlem Foothill Farms, Hilmar, ranks eighth for milk with 24,125M, 1,170F and 864P on 2,252 cows. Red Top Jerseys, Hilmar, ranks seventh for protein with 23,928M, 1,100F and 888P on 2,497 cows.

Seven California cows - more than in any other state - earned laurels in the 2017 Leading Living Lifetime Production Contest. Six owned by Yosemite Jersey Dairy of Hilmar ranked, including Yosemite Dunkirk Fanclub E15458 {6}, Yosemite Keeper Moon E16351, Yosemite Klassic Quest D13491, Yosemite Max Dunkirk E16091, Yosemite MSQ Tidy D14183 {6} and Yosemite Rasmus Tidy C11489 {6}. Mor Clover 15090 of Ahlem, owned by William Ahlem Jr., Hilmar, also ranked in the contest.

National Award Winners

Dick Clauss received the AJCA-NAJ Award for Meritorious Service in 2016. He is pictured with his wife, Sharon.


Charles Ahlem earned the AJCA Distinguished Service Award in 2016.


Ahlem Farms Partnership earned the National Dairy Shrine's Distinguished Dairy Cattle Breeder Award in 2015. Pictured are herd owners, Roger and Teresa Herrera, Carolyn and Bill Ahlem and Lindsay and Sabino Herrera-Ahlem.


Hank Van Exel received the Dairyman of the Year award from World Dairy Expo in 2015.


Cari Wolfe, left, presents the AJCA Distinguished Service Award to the late Donnie Sherman and his wife, Elsa, in 2010.

California Leadership

The state has been on the leadership and community service forefront for many years. Four Jersey breeders have served the national Jersey organizations as president of the AJCA, including the current president, Jonathan Merriam of Hickman. Three Jersey breeders have presided over National All-Jersey (NAJ) Inc.

California Jersey breeders have also earned national recognition. Ten have been presented with the prestigious Master Breeder award from the AJCA, more than any other state.

Seven California breeders received the national Jersey organization's Distinguished Service Award. Two garnered the newest national award, the Award for Meritorious Service.

In the past 37 years, 18 California breeders have received the AJCA Young Jersey Breeder. Included in this group is Paul Bianchi of Valley Ford, who was recognized with the inaugural award in 1976, and Case Kasbergen of Tulare, who received the honor in 2017.

CLICK HERE for a complete listing of national award winners and AJCA and NAJ presidents from California.

Recipients of the AJCA Young Jersey Breeder Award

Case Kasbergen, with his wife, Alison, and their children, Kate, Kamryn and Henry


Vance Ahlem, with his wife, Ashley, and their children, Yale and Brooklyn


Grant Ahlem, pictured with his wife, Melissa, and their children, Jacob and Reese