It's been a rough month for Vermont dairy farms. At least three farmers have called in quits in the past two weeks, but there is a bright spot in the industry.
Cows may be king in Vermont, but from the factory to the farm, a new breed of animal is moving in on the bovine's stomping grounds.
"It's an incredibly exciting industry," said Karen Lindbo, who along with her partner, George Redick, operate Oak Knoll Farm in Windsor -- the largest goat dairy in the state.
Lindbo and Redick first got started in the dairy business 24 years ago with just four goats, but things have changed in the years since. They now milk more than 400 goats a day.
In 1994 there were only 9 goat dairy farms in the state.
There are now 27 goat dairy farms.
"The interest in goats has expanded. I think primarily because the cow dairy industry fluctuates so much," Lindbo said.
The pricing structure is more stable. Goat farmers today are being paid 42 cents per pound. Cow milk typically fluctuates anywhere from 14 to 22 cents per pound.
But there are drawbacks. It takes 10 goats to produce the amount of milk you get from one good Holstein, and roughly 200 goats for most farms to even break even.
But Vermont does have one thing most states do not -- The Vermont Butter and Cheese Company. The creamery churns out more than 8-million pounds of product a year using milk from Vermont farms, and is the largest producer of goat cheese in all of New England.
The plant is currently in the process of expanding. Right now they rely on milk from out of state to meet the company's needs. "We'll be able to increase our capacity five-fold with this," said Allison Hooper, the company's founder.
The only problem is there's not enough local milk to keep up with demand. Most of the milk comes from Canada. A new farm in Randolph will soon help solve that. A partnership known as the Castanea Foundation is converting a former cow dairy to goats and will eventually milk 800 of them to help supply milk to Vermont Butter and Cheese.
It's an industry with a lot of promise, and one that is putting Vermont on the map, as Vermont farmers adapt in the world of agriculture.
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