BELLBROOK, Ohio – There is one successful, large-scale goat milk processor and marketer in Ohio, which is one of the few that have managed to establish this kind of business in the whole country.
Dennis and Patty Dean of Caprine Estates and Willow Run Dairy in Greene County near Dayton are expecting to bring in at least $20 million in sales from their goat milk and goat milk products in another few years.
In 1994, the Dean family was a part of the Buckeye Dairy Goat Cooperative with their herd of 300 goats and were making goat milk products to sell to retailers. Their daughter, Stacey, experimented with making cheeses and fudge, and began taking it to area county fairs.
When they decided in 1998 to build a processing plant and begin marketing the milk on a large scale, the Deans toured goat farms across the state to try to learn from the mistakes of those who had gone before them.
Meeting demands. One of the most difficult problems goat dairies encounter, according to the American Dairy Goat Association, is meeting the demands of retailers, and of finding enough outlets for liquid milk to be able to process in large enough quantity.
The largest profit and the largest demand for goat milk products, according to Caprine Estates Chief Operating Officer Ron Best, is in fluid milk.
The Deans started with 1,200 goats. They put in a double-12 state-of-the-art milking parlor with automatic take-offs and electronic milk measuring and automatic feeding and gates.
They also built a 15,000 square foot processing plant and retail outlet.
The General Store on the farm sells nothing but goat products, which the farm has promoted on the Web, on roadside signs, by word of mouth, and by aggressive marketing to area health food, speciality, grocery, and other retail outlets.
Farmer’s markets.They make their products available at several regional farmers’ markets, and they sell over the Internet and ship in thermopacks for next-day delivery.
Farm tours have also been a great success, and the Deans have found that getting people to taste the milk is often their strongest selling tool.
It has proven successful enough they now work through a distributor east of the Mississippi, and are looking for someone to distribute their cheeses and other products in the West.
Stacey Dean, who started it all by experimenting over the kitchen stove, is now president of the company and manager of product development. She keeps experimenting with new lines of goat milk products.
They started with 12 flavors of soft goat milk cheese, but have whittled that down to the six most popular – plain, western ranch, sesame seed, garlic and dill, sundried tomato and basil, and gingered plum. They also sell cheese crumbles in plain, western ranch, and garlic and dill.
They offered feta in the beginning, but have since withdrawn it from the market.
They also sell a goat’s milk caramel dessert topping, and a fudge that comes in chocolate, chocolate mint, chocolate nut, chocolate peanut butter, and peanut butter.
New lines. A new Montrachet type cheese, marinated in balsamic vinaigrette is due to be added soon, and the company is working on a line of goat’s milk yogurts and goat’s milk ice cream. Hard cheese are also being tested.
Just plain milk is available either homogenized or “whole,” and comes in both white and chocolate.
Patty Dean has recently become president of the American Dairy Goat Association, and continues to breed and show pedigreed Alpine, Saanen, Nubian, and Toggenburg goats.