Inmates at Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) near Tracy handle every aspect of milk production from feeding cows, pasteurization and running the machines in the dairy.
The dairy was built in 1953 on 60 acres of dairy land adjacent to 540 acres of farmland at 23500 Kasson Road. It is still fully functioning.
The support staff of 75 inmates working as California Prison Industry Authority (PIA) employees helps manufacture 6,000 gallons of milk a day.
DVI has a herd of about 1,000 cows, 575 of them are milked twice a day at 3 a.m. and 3 p.m. The dairy produces one percent milk and chocolate milk in half-pint and half-gallon containers, plus larger 3- to 6-gallon bags for use in prison kitchens.
“The average cow produces 10 gallons (each day),” said Darrol Vierra, PIA administrator.
The cost to run the state licensed dairy is about $4 million annually, and it must remain a self-sufficient operation. The milk it produces has won ribbons at the state fair for quality, Vierra added.
Inmates who work at this facility receive training on dairy work, pasteurization and other marketable skills. “We do get some success stories,” said Vierra.
He reported that one inmate got a pasteurization job at another dairy, another got into breeding, and some got warehouse work as a result of their training and experience. Inmates can earn between 35 to 90 cents an hour, plus shorten their sentences by up to six weeks per year while working at the dairy.