Austin Allred: Distinguished Service Award 2024

The department’s Distinguished Service Award is given to those who have provided exemplary support to our core mission – advance knowledge through research, innovation, and creativity, and to apply animal science knowledge to improve the quality of life for people and animals and enhance local and global economies. This year we are pleased to honor Austin Allred with this award.

Allred owns and operates two dairies in central Washington – Royal Dairy and Moxee Dairy – and milks about 10,000 cows between the two. The dairies are part of Royal Family Farms, a third-generation family farm founded in 1962 by Allred’s grandparents, that encompasses diverse agriculture operations from crops like potatoes, hay, and sweet corn to orchards and beef cattle. Allred and his brothers believe in regenerative farming and use a closed-loop system to decrease the farm’s environmental footprint, and improve soil health, resource use efficiency, biodiversity, and profitability.

For example, more than 90% of the feed for the dairy and beef cattle is produced by the farm. Moreover, beef that is grown and packaged locally is produced from steers that are a result of beef-on-dairy crossbreeding practices in which dairy cattle, like Holstein and Jersey cows from the Royal Dairy, are inseminated with semen from beef breeds, like Angus and Simmental bulls. Once the cattle reach market weight, they are harvested at a nearby, farm-owned processing plant.

Even the waste from the dairy is upcycled at the farm. Almost all the solid waste is composted and added to the farm’s soil. Wastewater is cleaned using vermifiltration, an innovative biofilter system that uses a combination of wood chips and earthworms to biologically remove almost all nitrogen and phosphorus, and produces effluent water that can be reused and safely applied to nearby fields. Moreover, as the wastewater passes through the vermifilter, the earthworms reduce the farm’s greenhouse gas emissions and produce castings, the normal end product of digestion, that are eventually harvested and used as a valuable soil amendment. A visionary in sustainable practices, Allred installed the vermifilter at Royal Dairy in 2017 and its five-acre footprint is the largest in the world. His commitment as an environmental steward and use of sustainable modernization technologies to lessen the environmental impact of dairy farming was recognized in 2018 when he was awarded the Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

Allred is a big proponent of educating everyone about how the farm and the dairies work together and routinely hosts tours for student groups and the public. He is passionate about his cows and how they are an integral part of a sustainable operation.

“Dairy cows and the ag industry have a symbiotic relationship,” he said. “Cows are rightfully considered to be a massive part of sustainability.”

He enthusiastically shares his vision for the future of the U.S. dairy industry and is one of the first to adopt new and innovative technologies like the vermifilter. His transparency and willingness to collaborate with scientists and researchers from WSU and other institutions and groups will lead to scientific evidence that backs up theories that improve sustainability and biodiversity and decrease agriculture’s environmental impact.

“I learn as much from the people that come out to the dairies as they do,” Allred said. “I am energized by our shared visions.”

Allred is excited to fulfill a dream of a family farm that uses management practices and technologies to preserve the environment and the planet for future generations. He hopes to someday pass on the farm and ranch to his five children to continue the Allred legacy in the Columbia Basin.