Washington’s dairy farming tradition began in Walla Walla in 1836, when Dr. Marcus Whitman brought 16 Durham cows to serve the mission he established there. Then as now, the cows thrived in Washington and the territory’s herd had grown to more than 27,600 cows by 1880, when the first creamery opened. Today, Washington boasts about 480 dairy farms and about 262,000 contented cows.
Today, all seven of the major dairy cow breeds — Holsteins, Jerseys, Guernseys, Ayrshires, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorns and Dutch Belted — can be found in Washington, with Holsteins being the most prevalent. There are 34 certified organic dairies operating in Washington; they are home to about 11,200 cows (or 4.3% of the state herd).