The Cheese Insider: Wisconsin, Queen of the Dairy World

During the first week of October every year, Wisconsin hosts The World Dairy Expo in Madison, the largest gathering of all things dairy in the world. The show has everything from livestock judging, nutritional and equipment suppliers, educational seminars, and a variety of other exhibits and demonstrations.

I have attended this annual event the past three years and am always amazed at the diversity of the attendees. There are groups of school kids on field trips, dairy farmers, suppliers, educators, dairy science experts, and a long list of other people connected to the dairy industry from all over the world.

This year I was invited by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to attend The Global Dairy Symposium, a half-day program featuring three world-renowned dairy experts. The program presented an in-depth look at the world dairy industry, especially as it relates to the United States. Most of what was presented was way above my pay grade, but it was fascinating to hear just how many factors go into the economics of the global dairy industry. I was seated at a table with a Master Cheesemaker from Wisconsin, Bob Wills of Cedar Grove Cheese, an official with the United States Department of Agriculture, a banker that specializes in dairy financing, and a delegation of three people from Ethiopia. At the table on one side of mine was a delegation of Chinese and on the other side was a large group from India. I guess that is why it is called the World Dairy Expo. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was able to learn just a little more about an industry I am so passionate about.

During my time walking through the miles of exhibits, I saw some of the latest and greatest innovations in the dairy industry, including robotic milking machines, remote control machinery and a litany of other cutting edge products, all related to the dairy industry. I also viewed a judging competition for Jersey cows in the main arena. It was amazing to see these beautifully groomed cows from all over Canada and the United States. I stopped at a booth late in the day and visited with a delegation of Wisconsin dairy experts and was reminded just how big the dairy industry is in Wisconsin.

Here are some interesting facts:

  • There are 9,900 dairy farms in the state
  • There are 1,279,000 dairy cows
  • 96 percent of Wisconsin dairy farms are family owned
  • Total milk production in Wisconsin: 3,376,000,000 gallons of milk. That amount is 27 percent higher than in 2005.
  • More than 3 billion pounds of cheese made annually
  • 138 cheese plants, 14 butter plants, and 14 yogurt plants in the state
  • The overall Wisconsin dairy industry is $43.4 Billion, 65 percent more than five years ago.
  • On a global picture, Wisconsin exported nearly $1 billion in dairy products, nearly three times more than five years ago
  • Wisconsin ranks number one in the United States in cheese production, including all varieties of specialty and artisan cheese.

Enjoy the wide variety of fantastic cheeses and other dairy products produced in America’s Dairyland. You’ll be happy you did.


Source: Wisconsin Department of Agriculture; Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board


Michael Thomas co-owns Schoolhouse Artisan Cheese with his wife, Janice, in Egg Harbor.


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