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California's Milk Advisory Board's latest ad campaign claims that "great milk comes from happy cows, happy cows come from California."

Well, happiness for producers of those spots apparently exists more than 6,000 miles away.

That's right, the board isn't heading to the Golden State's dairy farms to film a new series of ads boasting about California's cows.... they're going to New Zealand. In fact, a better deal on production costs is sending them to Auckland, the sister city of California's entertainment industry hub.

The Los Angeles Times' Richard Verrier reports in a pun-laced piece that the decision "cheesed-off" some groups.

"It's totally out of line," said Ed Duffy, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, studio drivers and casting directors. "If they're promoting California products, they should be shooting in California."

Milk board officials said the New Zealand shoot represented a "minor portion of production" and was a matter of simple economics. The board solicited bids from around the world, and the New Zealand site was the lowest, said Michael Freeman, the board's vice president of advertising.

"It was a no-brainer," he said. "The dairy industry is facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We have a fiduciary responsibility to spend their hard-earned dollars as efficiently as we can. In this particular case, we found significant cost savings by shooting a portion of this product overseas."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's has backed new financial incentives to keep film and television production projects in California, but commercials aren't eligible for the credits.

Freeman told the Times that the board "would never misrepresent California cows by shooting them elsewhere."

Hm. So what are they shooting there?

UPDATE 1:35 p.m.: Amy Kull, a representative for the Milk Advisory Board, called to answer our question about what sort of filming was set to take place in New Zealand.

The commercial's California production staff will film cows in front of a green screen during a four-day production trip, she said. (The theme of the campaign is cows from around the world auditioning to move to The Golden State, so these will be the "unhappy" cows seeking happiness in California).

Kull reiterated that the board was trying to save money at a time when the economy has forced 10 percent of California dairy farmers out of business this year. She also noted that six to eight weeks of post-production work will be done back in California for each of the 10 spots being shot.

"Basically it's 100 times the work that's done in California than is done in New Zealand," Kull said. "They looked at every possible way they could save, and this is one way they could save on only 10 percent of the production value."

Video: One of the spots from this year's California Happy Cows campaign.

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