Thriving business started with 4-H
By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
The “Sparkling-M” dairy goat herd, under the management of Missy Isder, is 140 strong and doing well as part of Minnesota Goat Milk LLC. Isder is president of the group of dairy goat owners who now market to Mont Chevré in Belmont, Wis.
Isder’s herd of Nubian goats began nearly 20 years ago with Sadie, her 4-H goat acquired about a year after Isder first became involved in a 4-H project bowl with some friends. Nubians were the breed available and Isder stuck with them in part because she likes their floppy ears.
Living on her parents’ farm north of Little Falls, Isder takes care of the goat operation with some milking help from her mother, she said. She helps her dad with the dairy cattle.
Part of the backbone of her herd is Sparkling-M’s Avalanche, a four-star milker. She has milked very well for two consecutive years, Isder said. “She performs very well in the show ring and has earned a permanent championship,” she said.
Isder said she shows in county fairs in Morrison and Todd counties each year, as well as in two or three American Dairy Goat Association-sanctioned shows. About 15-20 goats are shown in each show, with Isder’s sister and a neighbor or two helping. Her young nephew is showing interest in the goats as well.
In about 2002, Isder realized she had so many goats that she either had to sell some or do something more with them. So the goat barn was built in 2002, and she started selling milk commercially in 2003. Isder explained that prior to that time, milk was used mostly to feed the kids, with some being sold to deer breeders. She is now milking 140 goats twice a day and has a total of about 250 goats. Isder said the milking takes about two hours.
Mont Chevré trucks pick up the goat milk at every producer’s location. It is processed in Belmont, where most of it is made into cheese.
Isder focuses on milking all year ‘round. She manages the breeding using the 10 or so bucks that she keeps. Most male kids are sold at about five months old.
The sluggish economy affected her business growth, and in 2010, she was cut off from her original market because they had too much milk for the demand. She looked for another opportunity and saw the need to form a group of goat farmers, so Minnesota Goat Milk LLC was formed. Isder is the president and main contact person. She handles communication to the group and does some work with milk quality, although the group has hired most of the quality work done by a third party.
Just this week, two new producers are starting with the group. Isder expects to have 15 or more members by early summer.
After nearly 20 years of goat caretaking, Isder’s most satisfying moment was when the Minnesota Goat Milk group was up and running and marketing to Mont Chevré.
Isder said the most challenging aspect of managing her herd is the business itself. “But I like the challenge. And I enjoy the goats themselves,” she said.
The group is looking for new members. Isder encourages anyone interested in dairy goat milking to call her at (320) 360-3405.
“We are still growing and developing,” she said.