50 years and counting: A look back at Moo-La’s storied history and continued legacy in Erath County.
By Julie Smith
Special to Beneath the Surface News
Moo-La has stood in tribute to the local dairy industry at the center of the Erath County seat for the past 50 years.
The late Joyce and Tom Whitis erected the beloved fiberglass bovine on Sept. 23, 1972 in honor of the industry which has served as the bread and butter for many area families.
Local businesses and dairymen donated the funds to ship her here and construct her sign.
On Sept. 23, Moo-La turns 50.
Erath County continues to be a major milk producer at the state and national level, and Stephenville is proud of its agricultural heritage.
“Erath County ranks fifth statewide in dairy production in Texas,” said Marty McKinzie, chief growth officer for Dairy MAX. “While the dairy industry has experienced change over the years, dairy farms are growing in size and producing more milk by incorporating new technologies into their operations.”
In the late 1970s Erath County had the second largest dairy industry in Texas, with over 200 dairy operators.
Moo-La’s sign was repainted several times to highlight the millions of gallons and dollars the dairy industry in Erath County contributed economically.
An article published in 1980 by the Stephenville Empire-Tribune stated that an Erath County cow broke state records to produce 40,000 pounds of milk in a year, and that amount of milk would provide ½ a pint a day for 434 children during an entire school term.
Today, several holsteins from Joseph W. Osinga’s OSVE Dairy share that same distinction with over 40,000 pounds of milk production each in a year.
Local dairy producer Alan Vander Horst believes Moo-La is the reason his family moved to Texas.
A short article about Erath County in The Dairyman magazine in the late 1970s had a photo of Moo-La on the town square.
After reading the article, Vander Horst’s father pointed to the photo and said, “I’m going to Texas and starting a dairy.”
According to Vander Horst, after first visiting the area, they saw the benefits of the area’s abundant land availability at low prices, a conducive state and local tax structure and positive support from banking and finance interests for Erath County agriculture.
Today, Moo-La continues to stand in solidarity with the values instilled in area youth through FFA, 4-H and the local and county livestock associations.
She represents the pioneering spirit of the hardworking dairy farmers, as well as the ongoing innovations that continue to contribute to this industry. Many of these dairy families are second, third, and fourth generation.
Every summer Moo-La is honored with her very own festival in the Stephenville City Park on the first weekend in June to kick off National Dairy Month.
She has even earned a mention as outdoor art from the Smithsonian Institute, been featured in many magazines and on the web as an ever-popular roadside attraction.
Her likeness is also registered with the Library of Congress.
Moo-La enjoyed a complete makeover donated by Hunter Body Works earlier this year. Upon completion in March, she was herded back downtown with a full police and fire escort.