DairyChannel: Northeast management conference lines up dairy heat stress experts

February 13th, 2003 Dairy Excel

After a quick trip up into the relatively balmy 40s, the mercury in the thermometer headed back down below 20.

According to the weatherman on Sunday night, it is going to stay there for awhile.

It is at times like these that we don’t worry about the implications of heat stress for our cows. We are more worried about the implications of not getting to some heat if we’ve been outside for awhile.

Heat stress. Actually, March 6 will be a good time to think about heat stress. That is when dairymen and dairy industry types will gather again for the Northeast Ohio Dairy Management Conference at the Raintree Country Club in North Canton, Ohio.

Presentations will focus on the consequences of doing nothing to reduce heat stress and how we can do something about heat stress.

Impacts. Normand St-Pierre, OSU dairy specialist, will kick off the day with a look at how excess heat impacts the cow and our pocketbook. Heat stress impacts the cow in many ways (details on the sixth!).

Ultimately it adversely impacts her milk production and reproduction – a one-two punch to the milk check that we can ill afford this year.

Fortunately, we can easily lessen heat’s impacts with reasonable investments that will pay off quickly.

Many farms have already installed fans and sprinklers to help cool cows. Jump on this opportunity to re-evaluate that system to make sure it is doing all that it can do.

What, how. Rick Stowell, agricultural engineer from the University of Nebraska, will follow up the “what” of our heat stress discussion with “how” to change the cow’s environment to lessen the negative impacts of heat.

His first charge from the planning committee: Dairymen leaving the conference should have the information and knowledge in hand (and head!) to install their own sprinkler and fan-cooling systems.

His second charge: what are the facts about supplemental fans, tunnel ventilation and high-velocity, low-speed fans (HVLS – these are the great big fans that are currently advertised under a brand name that resembles “big donkey” fans.)

What role can these play in the fight against heat stress?

For the birds. Got birds? You are lucky if you don’t.

Unfortunately, birds have become rats with wings on many dairy farms. What is a dairyman to do?

There actually have not been a whole lot of options other than hanging inflatable owls or shiny pie pans… that frequently get covered with bird poop after the first three weeks.

The USDA Wildlife Service will be on hand to talk about bird control options including the new baiting program they are currently offering.

Merger. In the last year, the Ohio Dairy Farmers Federation and the Progressive Dairy Producers of Ohio merged to become the voice for Ohio Dairy Producers (and took that name as well!)

Tim Demland will be on hand to discuss the merger, how Ohio Dairy Producers is working to strengthen Ohio’s dairy industry and why every dairyman should be a member.

Food safety. Finally, dairy cows were recently targeted as the source of a salmonella outbreak traced back to Young’s Jersey Dairy.

While the source of infection wasn’t the cows or the raw milk sold by the dairy, the incident illustrates the potential concern with food safety and our dairy farms.

Jeff LeJeune, a researcher with the Food Animal Health Research Program at Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, is currently surveying our dairy farms to establish the incidence of E. coli 0157 and potential impacts on food safety.

He will briefly share with us what he sees on our farms.

Now, I know that good food goes a long way toward making a good day. So, plan to enjoy a really fine lunch of prime rib (we are not talking cull cow here.)

I promise that some of the prime rib will be cooked a bit longer than last year’s. But if you like it rare, that will be available also.

How to register? The Raintree Country Club is an easy drive from anywhere in northeast Ohio.

It is just off of Interstate 77, a few miles north of the Belden Village shopping Mecca (just in case someone wants to drop you off at the conference while they go stimulate the economy.)

To register, either contact your extension office as they have brochures with detailed directions if you haven’t joined us before.

Or, in this issue is an advertisement for the conference which includes a registration form that you can fill out and send in (the sooner, the cheaper.)

Warmer days. It is time to get in out of the cold.

Send in your registration and think ahead to the warmer days of July. I guarantee that you will be glad you did.

If you finally get that sprinkler system up and running, or decide on the right place to put those fans that are gathering dust in the shop, so will your cows.

(The author is the northeast Ohio district dairy specialist with OSU Extension. Send comments or questions in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

50 people sick, but milk not to blame: Salmonella linked to Young’s Dairy

January 16th, 2003 Former Farm and Dairy Reporters

SALEM, Ohio – While the number of salmonella cases linked to Young’s Jersey Dairy in southern Ohio continues to increase, health officials are scrambling to determine if there is a link to Ross or Columbiana counties.

Both counties had outbreaks of the same strain of bacteria last year.

As of Jan. 13, there were 52 confirmed cases of salmonella traced to Young’s Jersey Dairy in Clark County, Ohio, and are due to human contamination.

Milk not to blame. A batch of milk from Nov. 29 was originally blamed for the outbreak, however further investigation revealed that the strain did not originate on the farm.

The outbreak is most likely due to poor hygiene, said Charles Patterson, health commissioner of Clark County Combined Health District. It is suspected that an employee became infected with the bacteria and then cross contaminated the milk.

The dairy herd tested negative for salmonella, as did the rest of the milk.

Salmonella is a bacteria passed through uncooked meat, raw eggs and poor hygiene. It causes vomiting, diarrhea, chills and nausea.

All tests as of Jan. 13 confirm that this salmonella strain has the same DNA markers of strains found in Ross and Columbiana counties earlier this year.

The Ohio Department of Health cautions that it cannot be limited to just those two counties. Spokesman Kristopher Weiss reports that Ohio had eight “sporadic cases” of the same strain in 2001 and 2002.

Mystery. The piece of the puzzle that is missing, and one that may never be found, is how the bacteria made its way to Young’s.

Because people infected with salmonella may not show signs, it is possible for them to carry and spread the bacteria without being sick themselves.

The bacteria may have traveled through 20 counties before it made its way to Young’s, Patterson said.

Public health officials continue to investigate where the employees ate, who they saw and where they traveled – all in an effort to find a link to another county with the same strain.

Likelihood. Because the strain is uncommon in Ohio, Patterson says that it’s likely that the salmonella originated from the outbreaks in Ross and Columbiana counties.

As recently as mid-December, a person in Columbiana County was still testing positive for salmonella, which had been found in September, Patterson said.

Columbiana County General Health District spokesman Barb Knee, however, reports that it is unlikely that the bacteria originated in Columbiana County because the two cases of salmonella were in people who are not among the general public.

Raw milk. The initial fear that the salmonella was due to the milk being unpasteurized is an image that will be difficult for customers to shake.

Raw milk is already controversial.

Government officials say it is illegal because it has the potential to carry diseases such as tuberculosis.

On the flip side, raw milk activists say pasteurization, the heating process intended to kill germs, also kills essential vitamins, destroys enzymes and promotes pathogens.

Although it is illegal to sell raw milk in Ohio, Young’s Jersey Dairy fell under the grandfather clause and is the only farm in Ohio legally allowed to sell raw milk. Young’s is located in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

No difference. In this case, pasteurization may not have made a difference, Patterson said. It isn’t clear what stage in production the salmonella entered the milk, so it is possible that it entered at a point after pasteurization would have taken place.

Cross contamination can infect even pasteurized milk, he said.

Employees. Sixteen employees have tested positive for salmonella and were all linked to drinking the milk. In addition to customers who tested positive, the other positive tests are from secondary contact.

The 16 employees have been given duties outside food handling and will not be able to go back to those positions until after they test negative in two stool samples taken 24 hours apart.

Young’s Jersey Dairy is also giving employees a refresher course on food handling and certifying more employees with ServSafe, a food safety program.

Indiana link. Although the suspect milk was from Nov. 29, it took 12 days before the dairy learned there was a problem.

A customer from western Indiana provided the first link to salmonella. After being sick, the customer froze the raw skim milk purchased at Young’s.

It was later determined that there was one batch of contaminated milk, which included whole milk, skim milk and cream, Patterson said. Although the milk was packaged Nov. 29, it was not necessarily sold on that date.

The batch of milk came from a bulk tank holding 70-80 gallons of milk, Patterson said.

Decisions. Despite the negative effect the outbreak has had on Young’s business, customers are calling to say they still want raw milk, said Dan Young, the dairy’s chief executive officer.

In compliance with the health department’s request, Young’s pulled all of its raw milk from the shelves Dec. 13 and has switched to selling pasteurized milk. The dairy has made no decisions about whether it will continue selling raw milk in the future.

“We’ve served 20 million customers in 50 years without any problems,” Young said.

He hopes this positive 50-year reputation pulls them through this rocky time.

Nevertheless, Clark County Combined Health District has already been contacted about a possible lawsuit against Young’s Jersey Dairy, stemming from a customer with salmonella.

Patterson said the raw milk’s packaging had warning labels indicating unpasteurized milk may contain harmful pathogens.

Getting sick. In addition to being contracted through uncooked meat and unsanitary hygiene, salmonella can also spread through raw eggs and intimate person-to-person contact.

The bacteria is spread through a fecal-to-oral route.

Bacteria can live on an inanimate object, such as a faucet, for several minutes to a couple of hours, Patterson said.

Finding a link. The county health department is continuing to look for a link between Young’s and the source of the bacteria.

In the meantime, Patterson said people are being tested and retested and monitored.

“It may be overkill, but we want to err on the side of caution,” he said. “We want to be sure it’s safe to eat at Young’s.”

Previous problems? Although Young’s has been cited for minor infractions during past state inspections, none of them is out of the ordinary. They basically have a clean record, said Melanie Wilt, Ohio Department of Agriculture spokesperson.

(You can contact Kristy Hebert at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

Related links:

Young’s Jersey Dairy – www.youngsdairy.com

Salmonella link – www.salmonella.org

High retail milk prices puzzle farmers

November 21st, 2002 Other News

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Dairy farmers are noticing strong retail prices for many dairy products and wondering why the increases aren’t showing up in their milk checks from wholesalers.

A milk marketing specialist in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences said while there are extenuating circumstances, the unusual dairy market raises tough questions for producers and consumers.

“Dairy farmers are facing three crushing blows: low milk prices, rising feed costs and the after-effects of drought conditions that have limited their feed production,” said Ken Bailey, associate professor of dairy marketing and policy.

“And consumers facing a tough economy are paying more for milk and dairy products than the ingredient costs would suggest they should.”

Rising price. For example, between June and August 2002, retail prices for ice cream rose 1.4 percent.

But, Bailey said, the modest increase was added to prices already elevated due to rapidly rising butterfat prices in 2001. But butterfat prices this year are down 50 percent from last year.

“One would expect ice cream prices to have fallen back to their pre-2001 Ievels,” Bailey said. “That did not occur. The same also is true for natural cheese: its price is up 6.7 percent through August, while protein, the main ingredient in cheese production, fell in value this year. Cheese processors June through August paid farmers 14.6 percent less than a year ago, yet retail prices rose.”

Bottled whole milk prices for major U.S. urban markets actually fell 5.7 percent between June and August when compared to the same months a year ago. On the other hand, lower federally regulated fluid prices meant processors paid farmers 30 percent less for milk used for bottling purposes.

Facing factors. Someone is keeping this difference, Bailey concedes, but consumers and producers wondering about price discrepancies should know that many factors play into the scenario.

“First, many ice cream processors saw their margins squeezed in 2001 because they could not fully pass along all of their costs,” he said. “Also, retail milk prices haven’t always gone up as high as the increase in raw milk costs (Class I prices) when milk prices are rising, and they don’t go down as fast when milk prices are plummeting. Also, the federal retail price data may not account for sales discounts that are so common today in retail.”

Weak demand. Bailey cites U.S. Department of Agriculture data for the first eight months of 2002 indicating that strong milk production and weak demand have lead to unusually large butter and cheese inventory levels that could “hang over” the market next year, depressing future prices for butter and cheese.

In addition, the federal government currently has 1.1 billion pounds of nonfat dry milk in storage, more than enough to meet domestic needs for an entire year.

The outlook for the holiday shopping season clearly is uncertain. While the economy has consumers cautious, Bailey points to automotive and computer manufacturing as industries that have found creative ways to deal with tough economic conditions and consumer reluctance.

Other strategies. “Dairy retailers have a rare opportunity to offer quality dairy products to their customers at favorable prices,” he said. “Wholesale prices for milk, butter and cheese are very low, and that should translate into opportunities to offer these products to consumers at reduced prices, employ sales promotions and use other strategies to give the consumer a better deal.

“Strong holiday sales this last quarter could do wonders for the U.S. dairy industry, mainly by reducing inventory levels and allowing the market to jump-start into a new year,” Bailey said.

“Farm gate milk prices then will be able to recover early next year if inventories are lower and if the growth in the milk supply slows. This concern over the farm-retail price spread shouldn’t be an issue if dairy product sales are increasing. If sales are going up each year, everyone is better off.”

TB forces dairy farm quarantine in California

June 20th, 2002 Former Farm and Dairy Reporters

SALEM, Ohio – Eighty-nine cows and 16 workers have tested positive for bovine tuberculosis exposure at a 3,700-cow dairy farm in Tulare, Calif.

The exposed cattle have been killed and an autopsy revealed one had a lung infection, meaning it was the only cow capable of spreading the disease by air. Approximately 30 others had infected lymph nodes.

The rest of the herd has been quarantined.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is testing additional herds that have been in contact with the infected animals. This includes testing herds that have purchased animals from the dairy within the last 18 months.

In order to determine the origin of the tuberculosis, all animals the dairy has purchased within the last eight to 10 years will be examined.

Transfer. Airborne exposure through coughing and sneezing is the most common way animals transfer the bovine tuberculosis to each other and to humans; however, it can also be transferred through consumption of contaminated water, feed or milk, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

“Dairy workers may contact bovine TB while in close contact with an infected animal, or by drinking raw milk from an infected animal,” said California’s agriculture department. “The exposure risk beyond the affected dairies is minimal.”

There is no economical vaccine or treatment for tuberculosis in cattle, said Lee McPhail, assistant chief of the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Industry.

Close to home. Ohio achieved tuberculosis-free status Sept. 19, 1990, and the last reported case in the state was in 1985, McPhail said.

Although tests are not routinely conducted for tuberculosis, the disease is still monitored, McPhail said.

“Slaughter surveillance” is conducted on all slaughtered animals. If signs of tuberculosis are found, further examination is conducted and a trace is conducted to the farm of origin, McPhail said.

Some auctions, sales and interstate movement also have testing; however, “the primary way to test is by looking at cull cows as they go to slaughter,” said Bill Shulaw, Ohio State University veterinarian.

Losing freedom. California is not yet in danger of losing its free status, McPhail said, unless tuberculosis is found in more herds within the state. The disease must be found in two or more herds within a specified period of time before the state can lose its status.

When tuberculosis is found in a cow, all circles around the animal are tested, including other animals on the farm and the herd where the animal originated.

When a state loses its TB-free status, the biggest burden is increased testing for moving animals, Shulaw said.

When an animal from an infected state is transferred to another state, an individual tuberculosis test must be done on the animal. In addition, a tuberculosis test must be done on the entire herd of origin, Shulaw said.

Tuberculosis was the main reason milk pasteurization began in the early 1900s, he said. People were drinking milk that had not been boiled and, therefore, contracted the disease from the milk of infected animals.

“Pasteurization virtually eliminated [the disease],” Shulaw said.

TB elsewhere. Texas lost its free status earlier this month after two herds tested positive for bovine tuberculosis. Therefore, Texas breeding cattle transported out of state must test negative for tuberculosis and be officially identified.

Michigan lost its free status several years ago when white-tailed deer and cattle tested positive for the disease.

(You can contact Kristy Alger at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at kalger@farmanddairy.com.)

Innovative Ohio farmers eager to exchange ideas

January 31st, 2002 Former Farm and Dairy Reporters

LONDON, Ohio – Have something you really want to talk about, a “burning issue” or question you want to discuss? Get up, write it down and see who wants to join you.

After hearing that challenge, a dozen or more of those attending the Innovative Farmers of Ohio annual meeting Jan. 26 were on their feet and grabbing markers to put their ideas on the wall.

They were ready to brainstorm, to find out what others in the room might have to say.

“We had a couple of ‘plants’ in the audience,” said IFO executive director Laura Bergman. “But it was amazing. They were on their feet immediately.”

The largest group formed around the question regarding the connection between farmer and consumer, and what farmers would like consumers to know.

A group of more than 30 people sat down on the floor, with others leaning into the group from behind, or straining to get involved in this intense conversation.

Diverse conversations. But there were lively discussions in half a dozen groups gathered around posted questions. Members debated opportunities for young farmers, how rural and urban neighbors can coexist, how to start a political movement to bring back on-farm sale of raw milk, what might be involved in ‘green’ payments, how to deal with new state regulations for farm markets.

It took a lot of effort to break up the conversations, even though other business was at hand and another round of workshop presentations were ready to be presented.

The foundation of IFO has always been farmer-to-farmer networking, Bergman said, and this is the most direct kind.

Bergman reported to the more than 200 attending the annual meeting, held this year at the Proctor Center south of London, Ohio, that IFO has had a busy year.

On-farm research. The organization’s on-farm research trials were conducted in cooperation with other organizations, and are expected to get even stronger in the coming year.

IFO has participated with the Organic Farming Research Foundation in a SARE-funded project to conduct on-farm corn variety trials for organic farms.

It also participated in the Pleasantview Farm food grade soybean trials, testing nine food grade varieties for growing in southern Ohio. This year, IFO members will be accompanying Ohio State’s Richard Moore to Japan in March to discuss sales with Japanese cooperatives interested in buying organic soybeans.

This year, IFO will also be working with the Warner Fund for Sustainable Agriculture through OSU to link university researchers and farmers who are interested in participating in research on sustainable agriculture.

Producer meeting. A meeting of producers is scheduled Feb. 5 at the Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware, Ohio, where IFO has its offices, to let producers discuss on-farm research and to find out about available funding.

The entire membership was invited to attend.

Partnering with two other organic farm organizations, IFO also helped sponsor two farm tour series last summer.

And through the learning circles initiative funded by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, IFO members have experimented with establishing riparian buffer zones, improving marketing and distribution systems, promoting ecological awareness and land stewardship, and exploring the possibility of establishing local food systems.

Food systems. Bergman said the organization will begin exploring the idea of alternative food systems, doing research on what the needs are and who is doing what, and beginning a conversation with producers on what might be needed to impact the problem.

IFO hopes to create a model for regional food systems in Ohio.

Biologic farming. At the annual meeting workshop emphasis was placed on health soil and healthy profits.

Gary Zimmer, president of Midwestern Bio-Ag, a Wisconsin biological farming consulting firm, and a passionate advocate for biologically healthy soil, talked about his own farm and ways he has developed to feed his soil.

“Soil is more than nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium,” he said. “We do all these things to the soil, and we don’t really know what we’re doing. What we know about managing soil is only 1 percent of what there is to know.

“But we do know what we don’t know. We don’t know if what we are applying to our soil is safe.”

“But the object is to use as little as possible. You know you will never make your farm better for the future by using chemicals.”

Zimmer talked about crop rotations, about co-plantings with plants that are good at absorbing and preserving soil nutrients, about shallow tilling that does not disturb root channels, and other methods he has experimented with on his own Wisconsin farm.

“My goal is never to leave my dirt exposed,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to be able to see it.”

(You can contact Jackie Cummins at 800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at jcummins@farmanddairy.com.)

Jess Aller breeds her goats for the spotlight

August 16th, 2001 Former Farm and Dairy Reporters

LOUISVILLE, Ohio – Jess Aller of Louisville gets incredibly excited when she talks about her goats. Until she met her husband, Doug, three years ago, they were the focus of her attention.

At 21, Aller has been breeding LaMancha goats for 11 years and her Celtic Knot herd prefix is already recognized in Ohio and among LaMancha breeders.

When she decides to go for her first national Spotlight Sale, she hopes to take her goats onto the national stage. Then, she said, the value of her herd will skyrocket.

“I’m not playing anymore,” Aller said of her breeding program.

Goats without ears. The LaMancha breed is apparently the result of genetic mutation from a type of short-eared goat, probably from Spain or possibly from Africa.

It was developed into a recognizable breed by a group of California goat breeders in the early 1950s.

While LaManchas now have definite confirmation standards, and are characterized as copious milkers with a good butterfat content to their milk, the most notable characteristic that defines the breed is the ears.

LaMancha goats have what is called a “gopher” ear, which looks like no ears at all because there is no visible ear flap.

“When I first saw one,” Aller said, “I thought they were ugly. I wondered why anyone would want one.”

But Aller had had a personality conflict with the first goat she had owned, a Nubian. She said it was “kind of bull headed.” In contrast, the LaManchas, often called monkey-faced and sometimes compared to E.T., have a wonderful personality, she said.

Line breeding. Aller’s goats come from the line of LaManchas bred by Edythe Jensen at Yazz LaManchas in Gilbert, Ariz.

Starting with a single doe and using a buck from Yazz, Aller started a program of line breeding that she still continues.

She still has her original doe, now retired, and has shown five of her daughters. Her prized doe right now is a granddaughter.

Aller’s mother, Sherry Hicklin of Carrollton, eventually bought that first buck, Thunder Road Tombstone, and at 9 years he is still going strong, still winning shows.

This year he was shown only three times and each time won the best LaMancha buck award. He also took a best buck in the show award.

Tombstone at 9 is also now producing semen that Aller has available for sale. Last year, on his first try, he produced 30 straws.

Basis of herds. Because artificial insemination was not really being used on goats when Tombstone was in his prime, Aller said, his genetic strengths did not really get fully used. But they are the basis of the herd she and her parents established, Joyful Morn LaManchas, and from which she has created her own herd.

This year, the combined herds have won five awards for best LaMancha senior doe and two for best of show senior doe, plus showing five grand champion senior does and five reserve champion senior does. They have also shown five grand champion junior does, and have twice won the best junior doe in show award.

Aller acquired her own Yazz buck when she was 17, Yazz, Now You See It Excel.

Fantastic animals. Breeding the daughters of Tombstone to Excel have created a line of does that are “fantastic,” she said, developing into her grand champion show animals.

To introduce new genetics into the herd without going outside of her line breeding, she has purchased two new does from the Yazz line.

They will be inseminated from a buck that is closely related to Excel.

She plans to take the first buck kid from this experiment to raise as her new herd sire, introducing new, but closely related, genetics.

After the new buck has been used once, she said, he will have to be retired into the barn for a year to see what the results will be.

If Aller is happy with the does he produces, she will then breed those does back to Excel again, repeating the cross-breeding sequence that has been so successful for her with Tombstone.

Show herd. Aller said she is breeding strictly for a show herd, looking for correct animals with good top lines, tight elbow joints, and good udder attachment.

Milking performance is also important, she said, although she has taken her herd off DHIA because it was not something that people looking at show animals were asking to see.

But because “when you have goats you have all this milk” she has also gotten her farm licensed to sell goat milk as pet food and sells raw milk off the farm to people who respond to her notice posted in the feed mill.

It mostly goes to feeding baby animals, she said, because goat milk is easier for most animals to digest than cow’s milk.

Sale of genetics. It’s not the sale of milk, however, that supports her herd. It’s the sale of animals. Right now her herd isn’t making her any profit, but it is paying for itself.

Because she wants to keep her herd small, at about 15 animals, she sells most of her kids and many of her milkers. The kids from her best animals are priced from $200 to $500.

Buck kids are a little harder to sell, she said, because buying a buck is a real investment for anyone. She sold only two this year, but has had a few more inquiries.

Aller said she will soon apply for nomination to get one of her goats into the Spotlight Sale, a national, by-invitation-only sale sponsored by the American Goat Association. Acceptance into the sale means national recognition.

What it will mean for her is a huge leap in the value of her kids and the opportunity to become competitive in national goat shows. It will also mean, however, that she will have to start selling some of her champions, something she has not yet been able to make herself do.

(You can contact Jackie Cummins at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at jcummins@farmanddairy.com.)

Ohio’s got goats, but where does the milk go?

August 9th, 2001 Former Farm and Dairy Reporters

SALEM, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Agriculture says there are a lot of dairy goats in Ohio, second only to California.

And where there are dairy goats, there has to be goat milk.

A quick check in the dairy case of any Ohio supermarket, however, will confirm that Ohio is not particularly awash in fluid goat’s milk.

With a small herd, 15 or so goats, much of the milk is consumed by the families and friends of the goat owners.

But it is illegal in Ohio to sell raw goat’s milk or even to process raw milk into cheese and sell that out the back door or from a farm market. Goat milk not used at home has to be sold in some other way.

Goat dairy co-op. For a handful of producers who are members of the Buckeye Dairy Goat Cooperative Association, there is a marketing opportunity. They sell more than 3 million pounds a year of Grade B goat’s milk to Fleur-de-Leis plants of Bongrain Cheese, which produces goat cheeses in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

But because it is a closed market, with only one customer, the company dictates the market, and has for several years had its needs met at the co-op members’ current production levels.

The only opportunity to join the cooperative is to buy out a current cooperative member. According to Sharon Baum, co-op secretary, that usually happens only once or twice a year.

In most cases, she said, the member wants to sell the entire operation – goats, processing equipment, and all. There is very little, if any, opportunity to go into the co-op with an already established herd of goats.

Takes large herd. Major shippers to the Bongrain plants milk a substantially larger number of goats. The conventional wisdom is that it takes at least 100 milkers to pay for the investment in buildings and equipment.

Teddy West of Mantua, Ohio, is one of the founding members of the co-op. She has a herd of 250, and milks an average of 150.

In Pennsylvania, some of Bongrain’s major suppliers keep herds of 300 or 400 goats in order to keep their milkers at about 200.

Some dairy goat owners think about going the independent route, putting in their own processing plant so they can pasteurize and bottle or process the milk.

Willow Run Dairy of Caprine Estates in Greene County near Dayton sells Grade A bottled milk. Dennis and Patti Dean have a herd of 1,200 goats and sell milk, cheese, and ice cream out of their store, over the Internet, to a number of Cincinnati and Dayton restaurants, and through a variety of health food, speciality, and grocery stores.

Plan looked good. Sharen O’Brock of North Benton, Ohio, has recently sold most of her herd of 75 goats because she and her husband got too deeply involved in another business.

But she said she had drawn up a business plan for installing a processing plant and selling bottled milk and cheese to health food stores and to restaurants in Youngstown, Akron and Canton.

On paper, she said, it appeared to promise to become a thriving business.

Still, many goat people have considered that route before. Some have even tried. Willow Run Dairy is currently the only source of bottled goat milk and goat milk products from Ohio farms available on the market.

“People call all the time saying they are looking for goat milk. They have a baby that can’t tolerate formula, or they are allergic to milk,” Baum said. “Before we started the co-op, I was considering going that route. But when you look into it, there is probably not a very large market. A baby who can’t tolerate milk will usually outgrow it in a couple of years.

Sales limited. “The research that has been done on the market in Ohio indicates that the grocery stores that do carry bottled goat milk shipped in from out of state sell only 10 or 12 quarts a week,” Baum said.

The goat milk usually available retail is an ultrapasteurized brand processed in California.

“The average family can’t afford goat milk at over $3 a quart,” Baum said.

That roadblock seems to leave only a few other avenues for marketing goat milk.

The milk can be made into fudge and sold, but the market for fudge also has its limits.

Pet food license. Many producers get a state license to sell it as pet food. Its composition is much closer to the milk of most other mammals than cow’s milk, and producers often seek out goat milk for their feeding program.

In this form it can be sold raw and off of the farm.

The other avenue that many goat producers are attempting is goat milk soap and other beauty products. Although not widely available retail, hundreds of people with goat herds offer soap as part of their Web marketing.

Enter goat milk soap in any Web search engine, and it will turn up page after page of suppliers on a variety of farms across the country.

(Next week, a small goat breeder concentrates on genetics and merchandising, and one producer’s marketing success.)

Ohio organic dairy market gaining

November 8th, 2000 Former Farm and Dairy Reporters

SALEM, Ohio — Organic dairy is still a very small corner of the dairy market in Ohio, but it is a niche that is feeling its way into the mainstream.

It is already miles ahead of where it was a year ago when a group of organic producers approached Bunker Hill Cheese Co. (www.heinis.com) about creating a local market.

Nationally, the sale of organic dairy products is way up, and still growing by 20 to 30 percent a year. Organic milk and cheese have moved out of the natural foods markets, and are now being stocked in major supermarkets.

And in northeastern Ohio, the group that went in search of a market is now an official organic dairy cooperative with 15 members and six more scheduled to complete the certification requirements and become organic producers in the fall.

Bunker Hill is producing about 8,000 pounds of organic cheese a week, and is selling it in new markets it had never penetrated before.

And Goshen Dairy is exploring the possibility of bottling fluid organic milk, with a decision expected by the end of the summer.

So far, those who are involved haven’t found much of a downside. Even the added burden of meeting the requirements of organic production is accepted as worth the added value in market price.

According to Robert Troyer, plant manager at Bunker Hill Cheese, production of its new line of Pure Pastures Organic Cheese has gone smoothly.

There have been no problems with the certification process, and the cheese house’s sale of the organic cheeses has increased steadily.

Moving into new markets has been a challenge, Troyer said, but the cheese is now selling on the West Coast and in the Southwest, markets where Bunker Hill had never marketed its traditional line.

“I think it would be conservative to say that our production will double in the next two years,” Troyer said.

Goshen Dairy in New Philadelphia is exploring bottling organic milk as a way of increasing current production.

Goshen, which produces a full line of dairy products, now handles about 30 million pounds of milk a year. It also maintains a chain of nine retail Goshen Dairy convenience stores.

According to Hans Bishel, plant manager, the key factor in making a decision about organic production will be whether or not they are able to find a sufficient supply of raw milk. They have already been in conversation with a group of producers who say they would be interested, Bishel said.

According to Doug Daniels of Knox County, president of the newly formed cooperative, Organic Family Farms, it takes about four years for a producer to become certified if he starts from scratch.

The land on which organic feed is grown, Daniels said, has to be chemical free for three years. Then the cattle have to be fed 100 percent organic feed for nine months before the milk can be certified as organic.

However, he said, there are ways to get started faster than that.

There is already a certain amount of chemical-free pasture out there that can be used, he said, and Ohio is an old established organic crop market, so there is a lot of feed available.That means it is possible for a producer to get started without waiting for all of the ground he uses to be organically certified.

In addition, he said, there are now also a couple of suppliers of organic dairy heifers.

Most of the producers who are interested in organic production, he said, are small, looking for an alternative to the traditional milk market.

Since most dairy producers are spreading manure on their crop land now,” he said, “there’s really not that much of a change in the way you farm.”

There has been a lot of interest among producers, he said. A recent meeting called on short notice drew 75 producers.

Those who have formed Organic Family Farms range in herd size from milking 20 cows, to an average herd of about 45 to 50.

“We have to meet this Bunker Hill contract now,” Daniels said, “but when we have more supply, we intend to expand out into other products and other markets.

“I got into it for the money. I liked the 17-cent base as opposed to 9-1/2 cents. But let’s say the organic concepts are beginning to grow on me.”

He said he wished he had known before about some of the natural alternatives he is now using, such as treating infection with a combination of corn oil and aloe rather than with antibiotics.

“The science is sound,” he said. “We just didn’t know about these things before now.”

So far, Daniels said, there hasn’t been a down side. If the organic producers involved in the cooperative can continue to increase their production and can eventually retain ownership of the milk into the processing, he said, “we’ll see how far we can go with this.”