In a state known more for its hot, dry wasteland than plush pastures, desert dairies have taken root.

Just west of town, Rajen Dairy's 4,000 cows deliver 30,000 gallons of milk a day, more than enough to supply a small supermarket chain."We produce more milk here in four days than the average dairy farm in Wisconsin will produce in a year," said owner Randy Vander Dussen, whose costs exceed $1 million a month. "This isn't your father's dairy farm."

The dairy industry has grown 173 percent since 1990 in New Mex-i-co, faster than in any other state, though it still trails the leaders such as California, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

And with the huge influx of dairies this decade, milk-dependent businesses have taken to New Mexico like cows to a salt lick.

A massive feed plant and four cheese plants, including the world's largest mozzarella producer, have moved here since 1994. Farmers can't seem to grow hay fast enough and even manure brokers want a piece of the action.

Low production costs and a dry climate that encourages milk production help attract large dairy farmers to the state. New Mexico's low winds are also a plus, decreasing parasite problems.

"We had an influx of dairy farmers in the early 1990s from Southern California who came to take advantage of our low property taxes and a climate conducive to large scale operations," said Sharon Lombardi, executive director of the Dairy Producers of New Mexico.

Twenty years ago there were 14 dairies in the state. Now there are more than 150 with around 200,000 milk cows. By last year, New Mexico ranked 11th in the country in milk production.

In rural, southeastern New Mexico, where many of the state's dairies have established, cheesemakers have followed.

Chuck Krause, a fourth-generation cheesemaker, said he left corporate life in California in 1995 to open his own plant in Tucumcari because of the plentiful supply of milk.

"I heard New Mexico had a lot of milk and not a whole lot of people to drink it, that's why so many cheese plants come here," said Krause, president of Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory.

Sweat streams down the workers' faces at the factory as they bend over giant steel vats, pulling bucketfuls of chunky curds away from the liquid whey. After about 16 hours of hardening, the milk is transformed into what the factory has become famous for - feta.

Denver-based Leprino Foods, the world's largest manufacturer of mozzarella, moved to Roswell in 1994.