Did you know that the dairy industry in Wisconsin is a $26.5 billion industry? There are over 11,000 dairy farms, 1.25 million cows, 1,215 cheesemakers, and over 210 dairy plants.
The industry has seen many changes over the past 10 years: more small family farms with a small number of cows are being replaced with much larger farms with thousands of cows. The cheese plants that used to be everywhere in the countryside are now gone, replaced by much larger facilities.
At the same time there is a resurgence of artisan cheesemakers throughout our state, producing new and innovative cheeses. Many of the new cheeses are farmstead, meaning that the milk used to produce the cheese comes from cows of the cheesemaker/farmer, not purchased from outside sources. The artisan cheeses are made by hand in open vats, not produced in computerized facilities where the cheesemaker doesn’t even touch the cheese. Many of these new Wisconsin artisan cheeses are winning national awards, and can be found in cheese shops from San Francisco to New York, and even as far away as London.
More Fun Facts About the Dairy Industry in Wisconsin
• 90 percent of all milk produced in Wisconsin is made into cheese, and over 90 percent of the cheese produced in Wisconsin is sold outside the state’s borders.
• Wisconsin is the largest producer of cheese in the U.S.
• Wisconsin leads the nation with the most varieties of cheese…over 600 different types.
• A one-ounce portion of cheese contains about the same protein as an 8-ounce glass of milk.
• It takes 10 pounds of milk to produce one pound of cheese.
• It takes 21.8 pounds of whole milk to make one pound of butter.
• There are seven breeds of dairy cattle: Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Red and White Holstein, Jersey, and milking Shorthorn. More than 90 percent of all dairy cattle are Holsteins.
• A newborn calf weighs 90 pounds and can walk on its own one hour after birth.
• Cows have four stomach compartments and consume about 90 pounds of feed every day. They also drink 30 – 50 gallons of water daily.
• Cows spend an average of six hours each day eating, and an additional eight hours ruminating or chewing their cud. Most cows chew at least 50 times per minute.
• The Wisconsin dairy cow produces an average of five to seven gallons of milk per day.
• Wisconsin produces over two billion pounds of milk per month.
Dairy facts courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
Michael C. Thomas is co-owner of Schoolhouse Artisan Cheese with his wife Janice. With locations in Ellison Bay and Egg Harbor, they aim to bring the best of Wisconsin artisan cheeses to Door County, and with “The Cheese Insider” Michael hopes to bring all things cheese to readers of the Pulse.