It’s nutritious, delicious and making a big splash in Wisconsin agriculture.
Goat milk is said to have many health and beauty benefits, and is an increasingly popular item found in the fridges and bathroom cabinets of homes across the U.S. Wisconsin is no exception. In fact, the state leads the nation in both fluid goat milk production and dairy goat inventory.
Local farms produce enough of both to support a thriving local goat milk industry, including specialty cheese manufacturing plants, a fluid milk processor and licensed farmstead cheese producers.
The state’s farms and cheesemaking operations run the gamut in size and quantity of output. In Belmont, for instance, Montchevre has grown from a small operation since its founding in 1989 to become the leading goat cheese producer in the nation. The company uses French cheesemaking techniques that produce a smooth and creamy texture. In fact, Montchevre won the Wisconsin State Fair cheese contest in 2015, the first time a goat cheese has won the competition.
More Than a Dream
Dairy goat farmer Diana Murphy, who lives in Cross Plains, grew up on what she calls a “typical Wisconsin cow dairy farm.” She enjoyed the farm life through childhood and into her teens.
But she wanted to set out on her own career path after high school and trained to become a graphic designer.
As that field entered the computer era, Murphy got an itch to return to the farm. So she and her husband, Jim, bought a place in Cross Plains and started raising goats and chickens, as well as daughters, on what is now named Dreamfarm.
“I found that I really enjoyed having animals back in my life,” says Murphy, who runs the small farmstead creamery with one of her four daughters, Alicia, and Jim’s help when he isn’t working at his full-time job.
She has sold her cheese (and eggs) through a local CSA, or community-supported agriculture farm, as well as at a farmers’ market, grocery co-ops and a couple of nearby restaurants. “We do the whole cycle here, from breeding the animals to milking them, taking care of the kids, hauling the milk, making and delivering the cheese, to billing it out,” Murphy says. “That’s all done here on the farm.”
To help educate Wisconsin’s dairy goat producers on how to provide high-quality milk for the goat cheese industry and improve farm sustainability, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College (SWTC) launched a new dairy goat herd management program in May 2017.
Supported by a $100,000 lead gift from Montchevre, the program focuses on the production, financial and management skills needed in a dairy goat operation. The certification will benefit students and the industry as a whole.
“Our target audience is those individuals who are considering dairy goat production,” says Deb Ihm, agriculture coordinator and farm business production management instructor at SWTC. “They may have no experience with the industry at all, and this is a good way to get some education and experience.” Ihm says the program is also targeted to beginning producers, or even those at mid-career.
“We’re encouraging all those interested in the dairy goat industry to take these classes and hopefully pick up on a few things and fine tune their management skills,” Ihm says.