Wisconsin has been known as America’s Dairyland for decades, and we’ve earned that distinction by being home to more dairy farms than any other state — 13,294 as of April 15 to be exact. With 1.2 million dairy cows roaming green pastures and hanging out in free stall barns, Wisconsin dairy farmers produce enough milk to make 2.5 billion pounds of cheese every year.
Now, a new breed of farmer is enhancing our America’s Dairyland title. Enter the dairy goat. According to new statistics released this week by the Wisconsin Dept of Agriculture, the state has 40,000 dairy goats – the most in the nation – and up from 35,000 last year.
Trends in the dairy goat industry include more and larger herds, says Jeanne Meier, director of the Wisconsin Dairy Goat Initiative at the Dept of Ag. She says many smaller farmers are expanding their dairy operations. Meanwhile, on the processing side, factories are sharing milk and working together on product marketing.
Montchevre in Belmont (shout out to my hometown of the Braves) is Wisconsin’s largest processor, handling milk from 84 dairy goat farmers, while Woolwich Dairy in Lancaster is second with 26. Both plants have/are expanding their plant operations, with Montchevre about to break ground for an anaerobic digester that will consume their production waste and produce electricity.
Besides Montchevre and Woolwich, Wisconsin is home to a goat cheese cooperative – Mt. Sterling Cheese — as well as five farm-based plants, including Fantome Farm, Dreamfarm, Capri Cheesery, Caprine Supreme and SommHerr Dairy. Several more plants are making goat’s milk cheeses and mixed milk cheeses, including Carr Valley, Nordic Creamery, Cedar Grove Cheese, and Saxon Homestead Creamery — which is using goat milk from the farm of Larry & Clara Hedrich to produce a great new cheese and one of my favorites: Evalon.
The industry is growing at such a pace that dairy goat industry officials are conducting a study to determine whether it would be feasible to have a research herd in the state. The UW-Platteville Pioneer Farm is a possible site for such a herd. The state will also host a Midwest dairy goat conference in October at Sinsinawa Mound in Grant County. To learn more about field days and upcoming events, a good website to check out is the Wisconsin Dairy Goat Association.
To check out all the goat’s milk cheeses and products being made in the state, as well as a complete list of Wisconsin’s 60+ farmstead, artisan and specialty cheeses, farmstead bottled milk, yogurt and ice cream, email me and I’ll mail you a 2009 directory. Just because I like you. Happy day!