March 26, 2022 at 8:21 p.m.

52 years in dairy goats 

Thompsons receive MLBA Hall of Fame recognition
Mary and Doug Thompson (center) are pictured with their daughters – (from left) Emily and Anna – at the Minnesota Livestock Breeders’ Association banquet March 10. Mary and Doug were inducted into the association’s hall of fame. PHOTO SUBMITTED
Mary and Doug Thompson (center) are pictured with their daughters – (from left) Emily and Anna – at the Minnesota Livestock Breeders’ Association banquet March 10. Mary and Doug were inducted into the association’s hall of fame. PHOTO SUBMITTED

By Kate Rechtzigel- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

HOUSTON, Minn. − Tucked inside the valleys of southeastern Minnesota lies a dairy goat farm. Its owners are the 2022 Minnesota Livestock Breeders’ Association Hall of Fame inductees, Mary and Doug Thompson.
“It’s really quite an honor, and we’re very proud to be recognized,” Mary said. “It’s really a big deal because we are only the second dairy goat breeders in the state to receive this kind of recognition.”
The Thompsons milk 20 purebred French Alpine and Toggenburg dairy goats on their farm near Houston.
The first MLBA Hall of Fame inductees for dairy goats, Vincent and Christine Maefsky from Scandia, nominated the Thompsons.
Throughout their 52-year farming career, Mary and Doug have been instrumental in re-establishing the Minnesota Dairy Goat Association. The Thompsons helped start the Minnesota State Fair Dairy Goat Show and the educational goat booth there, and have been involved with numerous other dairy goat and agricultural boards.
“We just really fell in love with breeding stock, and because we believe in good function, beautiful animals and high production, we sell our animals easily,” Mary said.   
The Thompsons founded their herd of purebred French Alpine goats in 1970 near Rice.
“We started out with four milking goats, three kids and one buck,” Doug said. “It was just supposed to be a hobby.”
In 1971, the Thompsons moved to Pennsylvania, and then in 1975, they moved back to Minnesota near Clearbrook. Doug worked for the Clearwater Soil and Water Conservation District, and Mary was a nurse. They raised their two daughters, Emily and Anna, while also raising dairy goats.
“It got to be a lot of work,” Doug said of running the farm and having an off-farm job. “We probably didn’t achieve the level of care that we do now.”
In 1987, they added the Toggenburg breed.
“Anna just loved Toggenburgs and had to have a Toggenburg, so some good friends gave her one,” Mary said.
In 2006, they relocated to Houston, where Mary continued to work as a nurse and Doug, by then retired, was full time on the farm. In 2016, Mary retired and began working beside Doug each day.
 “Our daughters come and help on the weekends so that helps a lot,” Mary said. “Emily can also work remotely so she comes during kidding season, and we can get some sleep. It’s high-intensity labor and a big commitment just like if you had 200 cattle.” 
The Thompsons feed the 32 kids three times a day and milk twice a day with a 65-pound stainless steel bucket milker. They milked by hand until April 2021.  
“We should’ve started (milking with the machine) a lot earlier,” Doug said.
Mary agreed.
“It’s a lot easier with the yearlings because of their smaller teats,” she said.
The Thompsons typically start kidding in February and usually sell all of their kids by June. They keep around 10 kids for replacements every year.
“This is our most intense time,” Doug said. “If we didn’t sell our kids, we’d have a lot of goats really fast.”
The Thompsons have done well at both local and national dairy goat shows, having both the national champion French Alpine in 2021 and the national champion Toggenburg in 2018. Because of this, most of the kids on the Thompsons’ farm are sold as breeding stock nationally and internationally.
The Thompsons enjoy attending goat shows, traveling when they can and catching up with their gardening projects.
“We try to leave when it’s less busy,” Doug said.
Mary traveled to Nepal with friends in January 2020 to participate in goat-related projects.
The Thompsons are also University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners; they have fruit trees, mushrooms and large vegetable and flower gardens on their farm.
“It is really pretty during the summer,” Mary said. “We have lots of perennial beds and peonies.”
They have been involved in Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, USA for 13 years.
“Young people from all over the world will come and stay with us,” Mary said. “We provide room and board, and they work four to six hours a day on our farm, mostly just to learn.”
Over the years, the Thompsons have made good friends and connections with the participants in the WWOOF program. People from France, Japan, Belgium, New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Africa and across the United States have been on their farm.
“Some of our best memories have been made that way, and it helps with chore time,” Mary said. “We’ve even been invited to some of their weddings and attended two, one in France and another in Japan.”
The Thompsons are proud of the work they have done in the Minnesota and American dairy goat associations and are honored to receive MLBA Hall of Fame recognition.
“It’s finding kindred spirits and other people who love the species,” Mary said. “I think back to when we started and dairy goats were kind of a laughing stock. People didn’t really take them seriously at all; there were no markets. So, it’s really an honor to receive this award and represent dairy goats.”
In the future, the Thompsons look forward to transferring the farm to their daughters.


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