Winter’s wonderland continues into March, but America’s Dairyland is smokin’ hot.
Here’s five trends heating up Wisconsin’s dairy industry:
Record Milk, Cheese
Official data from USDA shows milk production rose to a record 27.2 billion pounds in Wisconsin in 2012, 4 percent higher than the previous year. The state had 5,000 more cows at year’s end and production per cow rose a healthy 4.1 percent.
Cheese production followed suit, estimated at a record 2.77 billion pounds of natural product last year, a 4.8 percent increase.
Wisconsin’s dairy-related exports totaled $282 million in 2012, an increase of 22 percent compared to 2011.
Within this sector, cheese saw the greatest increase in export value as compared to other dairy products. The state now ranks fourth nationwide for the value of dairy products, up from fifth in 2011.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called out his support for the dairy industry when announcing Wisconsin’s $149 billion biennial state budget last week.
In his budget address, the Governor specifically mentioned a $16 million earmark for construction of a new
Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at Babcock Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus. The 580-page budget document also included a new $200,000 annual innovation grant program for Wisconsin dairy processors.
WCMA’s United States Championship Cheese Contest has good news as well. A final tally of Contest entries shows a record 1,702 cheeses and butters from 30 states. Overall, 225 locations sent entries – 20 more than the previous US contest.
If the Contest is a measure of the health of the cheese industry, then innovation continues at a fever pitch at cheesemaking sites across the nation.
Plant Expansions -- North
A tour through northern Wisconsin’s dairy industry in February uncovered hot growth trends.
• Agropur recently announced an investment of more than $100 million for its Luxemburg, WI, plant in order to significantly increase cheese production capacity. This investment also improves technology at the whey processing facility and wastewater treatment system, bringing it up to the highest environmental standards. The project is expected to be completed in 2014.
• Grassland Dairy Products near Greenwood, WI, made major investments in 2012 to double butter production and complete installation of two dryers to produce dried milk proteins and whey permeates.
Three new butter churns produce 50,000 pounds of butter per hour, making Grassland the world’s largest butter manufacturing site. The new dryers can produce 4.7 million pounds of milk protein powders and whey powders per week.
• Burnett Dairy Cooperative, Grantsburg, WI, added 25,000 square feet of cold storage and dry storage in 2012, along with an impressive retail cheese store, with an eye toward serving more retail cheese markets. The northern Wisconsin cooperative also purchased Cady Cheese near Wilson, WI. Cady’s line of American style retail cheeses complements the Italian styles produced at Burnett.
• La Grander’s Hillside Dairy, Stanley, WI, added cheesemaking equipment in 2012 to increase production 15 percent. The central Wisconsin cheese maker produces Colby horns, blocks and curds for the foodservice industry.
• New whey drying equipment is operational at Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese in Rudolph, WI, allowing the American styles manufacturer to produce 80 percent protein powder for the food industry.
• Welcome Dairy in Colby, WI, continues to grow. The Eggebrecht family operation is adding 85,000 square feet to increase production of pasteurized process cheese and prepared foods, as well as storage capacity for ingredients and finished products. The company will add 20 full-time jobs with the expansion.
• An all-new BelGioioso Cheese facility – a 150,000 square-foot cheese factory near Pulaski, WI – recently began production of Parmesan, Asiago and other Italian specialties.
• In 2012, AMPI fired up its new cheese vats (18 in all) at its cheese facilities in Jim Falls and Blair, WI.
Good luck to all entrants in the 2103 United States Championship Cheese Contest! JU
John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 828-4550; Fax him at (608) 828-4551; or e-mail John Umhoefer at
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