New dairy goat farms catering to market demands
CHILTON – The establishment of a major dairy goat venture by a company which had been specializing in large dairy cow herds in Wisconsin and Michigan is proving to be a great benefit for a east central Wisconsin family-run dairy goat production, manufacturing, and marketing business.
Since May of 2016, the Chilton Dairy goat farm has been a major supplier of milk to LaClare Farms at Pipe in northeast Fond du Lac County. The two facilities are about 10 miles apart.
Chilton Dairy is owned by Milk Source Inc., which is based at rural Kaukauna in Outagamie County. In late 2015, it purchased the facilities on the former dairy cow farm owned by Todd Meyer just to the east of the unincorporated village of Charlesburg.
Among Milk Source's dairy cow operations in Wisconsin are Tidy View, Rosendale, and New Chester, all of which offer scheduled tours.
Not on the tour list is Omro Dairy, which has a large number of Jersey cows and which will host Winnebago County's June Dairy Month breakfast on the farm from 8 am to noon on Saturday, June 10.
Chilton dairy project
Milk Source's new dairy sector venture at Chilton Dairy started with extensive renovations and the construction of new facilities by contractors from the local area. Alpine, Toggenburg, Saanen, Nubian, and La Mancha dairy breed goats were then assembled from sources in Wisconsin, California, and Iowa.
To organize what was a new enterprise for Milk Source, it relied on professional guidance from local veterinarians, the Extension Service's veterinary team, and consulting veterinarians, according to the company's director of public affairs Bill Harke.
At the end of its first year, the milking herd of 4,000 goats at Chilton Dairy supplies about 20,000 pounds of milk per day to LaClare Farms. Harke indicates that the goal is to build the milking herd to 6,500 head.
The milking parlor is set up for 128 goats per rotation on twice a day milking. The goats average just over 5 pounds of milk per day, Harke notes.
Chilton Dairy has about 25 employees, headed by herd manager Jacob Dueppengiesser, a recent college graduate who came with a lot of background experience with dairy cows and some with dairy goats, Harke points out. Operations manager Luis Ramirez transferred from one of Milk Source's dairy cow farms.
Tom Young, a veterinarian with the High Cliff firm at rural Hilbert, serves as the staff nutritionist. Chilton Dairy relies mainly on locally sourced forages and purchases pellet feeds from Hubbard Feeds, a Minnesota-based company whose only animal feeds outlet in Wisconsin is at the northern edge of Appleton.
Kidding (the birth of baby goats) occurs at the Chilton Dairy site. The kids are then raised at a kid specialty farm in Wisconsin. Manure is stacked on pads and then spread on fields within a few miles of the site.
LaClare farms benefits
For LaClare Farms, the opening of a major nearby milk supplier is a blessing, according to business manager Greg Hedrich, whose parents Larry and Clara fashioned the farm title from a combination of their names. Three of the couple's four daughters are also involved with the business.
Although the Hedrich family had been raising dairy goats on its home farm near Chilton since 1978, a new era began with the opening of its multi-functional facility in 2012. In addition to the 700 to 750 goats being milked there, the facility includes a manufacturing center, cheese storage rooms (including cave aging), a retail store, a cafe that is open seven days a week, and accommodations for group activities.
Meeting market demand
Until recently, LaClare Farms was “struggling to find enough milk” and many customers were being limited on the volume of product that could be supplied, Greg Hedrich points out. That scenario “has changed a lot,” thanks to the milk being provided by Chilton Dairy and 10 other dairy goat herds in Wisconsin, he notes.
As a result, LaClare Farms had been able to put yogurt in its product lineup, meet market demand for fluid milk, add new cheese varieties, and engage in research and development projects, some of which involve combinations of dairy cow and dairy goat milk, Hedrich explains. The family business is nearing a total of 40 full and part-time employees and has posted several openings on its website.
Having an adequate milk supply from other sources had also enabled LaClare Farms to put any plans for expansion of its own milk goat herd on hold, Hedrich points out. He says the facility was designed to allow a herd size increase at the site.
LaClare Farms gained national attention in 2011 when the Hedrichs' daughter Katie Fuhrmann's Evalon goat cheese was the winner among the 1,604 entries in that year's United States Cheese Championship Contest. The cheese had placed second in its class in the 2009 contest.
Cheeses made by LaClare Farms have also won numerous high placings in national and international cheese contests in recent years. The retail outlets for those cheeses can be found on the laclarefarm.com website.
Dairy goat capital
With the opening of both Chilton Dairy and the Drumlin Dairy dairy goat facility, both in the town of Brothertown in Calumet County, the township has probably established itself as the dairy goat capital of not only Wisconsin but also the United States.
From the late 1910s to the early 1980s, the county touted itself as “The Milk Vein of the World” on the basis of its population of Guernsey, Holstein, and other breeds of dairy cows.
Drumlin Dairy, which plans to have approximately the same number of dairy goats as Chilton Dairy does, is owned by county native Kenn Buelow. He is also the part-owner of the Holsum Irish and Elm dairy cow facilities, which have a total of more than 7,000 Holstein cows in Calumet County.
The goat milk from Drumlin Dairy is processed at Montchevre Goat Cheese in Belmont, WI. The company indicates that it obtains milk from more than 360 dairy goat farms in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota.
As of Jan. 1, Wisconsin had an estimated total of 44,000 dairy goats – more than any other state. That number is up by 70 percent since 2002. Statistics indicate that Wisconsin has 267 dairy goat farms which are licensed to sell milk into the commercial market.