Dining with dairy goats

Friendly Franseen Acres to host Boone County Breakfast on the Farm

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POPLAR GROVE, Ill. – Goats, rather than cows, will be the featured animal at the 23rd annual Boone County Breakfast on the Farm June 11. From goat milking demonstrations to interacting with baby goats, visitors to Friendly Franseen Acres will have much to see and do while also enjoying an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast.
“This is not your typical dairy farm, and I think that’s what makes this breakfast unique,” said Jeremy Franseen, who farms with his father, Rick, and his daughter, Morgan. “You may know dairy, but dairy goats are completely different.”
The Franseens milk 200 goats on their farm near Poplar Grove. Goats replaced cows at this dairy in 1997 – the same year Jeremy graduated from college. It was a decision that, in Jeremy’s mind, saved the farm for future generations.
“I can safely say there wouldn’t be cows here now if we decided to stay in cows because there are so many ups and downs in the industry,” Jeremy said. “We have a more stable milk price with goats. The price is set from the start of each year, making it easier to budget. If we wanted livestock, this was the direction we needed to go, and we’re glad we did.”
The Franseens were milking about 55 cows and were considering putting in a parlor and building a freestall barn to enable Jeremy to return home to farm with his dad. After crunching the numbers, expansion did not make sense for this family.
“It was the best decision we never made,” Rick said.
Instead, Rick and Jeremy invested in a different species of dairy animal. Jeremy’s grandpa was against the idea of milking goats at first, but he came around and ended up being a big help to his son and grandson.
“Grandpa eventually fell in love with goats and did a lot to help us get going, including helping build the parlor,” Jeremy said.  
For the first three weeks, cows and goats inhabited the farm together until the cows left. The family ripped out the tie stalls and put in a parlor on one end and made other modifications and additions to comfortably house their new herd. They also took down the north part of the barn and built a barn for the goats with a feed manger on one side. In 2013, they put up a new building to house youngstock. Starting with 60 milking goats, the Franseens’ herd soon grew to around 125 head up until 2017 when they increased to 200 milking.
Jeremy’s grandfather purchased the farm in 1949, and 12-year-old Morgan is the fourth generation at Friendly Franseen Acres. The Franseens buy all of their feed, and Jeremy’s brother, Josh, cash crops the farm’s 240 acres. His mom, Pam, does the bookwork.
This is the Franseens’ third time hosting breakfast on the farm which will be held from 6:30-11 a.m. They welcomed the public to their farm in both 2014 and 2015, each time drawing about 1,500 people. After back-to-back cancellations in 2020 and 2021, Jeremy and his family are looking forward to hosting the long-awaited event once again.  
“We like showing off the goats,” Rick said.
Jeremy agreed.
“It’s fun to see the excitement on the kids’ faces, especially those who’ve never been on a farm before or seen goats in person,” Jeremy said. “There’s a lot of anticipation leading up to the event. A lot of people show up, including many family members and friends we haven’t seen in a long time.”
From 6-8 a.m., breakfast on the farm guests can watch the goats being milked as a new group enters the double-12 parlor every 15 minutes. The Franseens spread out their kidding season from September to June, and after welcoming nearly 70 baby goats in the month leading up to the breakfast, the farm’s little ones are sure to be another highlight of the morning.
“There are a lot of four-legged kids around here for two-legged kids to play with,” Jeremy said.
Featuring music by local musicians, the event will also include a petting zoo,  children’s activities, horse-drawn wagon rides, an antique tractor and implement display, exhibitor booths, a raffle and more. In addition to pancakes, breakfast will also feature sausage, applesauce, ice cream, milk and coffee.
“Boone County has always done the wagon rides,” Jeremy said. “Everyone enjoys it. They provide transportation from the parking lot or people can just ride for fun.”
This year’s breakfast coincides with the Franseen family’s 25th anniversary of milking goats. Developing an exceptional herd was the goal from the beginning, and the Franseens feel they have accomplished what they set out to do. Goats at the dairy average 9.6 pounds of milk per goat per day, or 3,025 pounds per year. Milk is shipped to Saputo in Belmont.  
“We milk year-round and get the winter milk price, which is higher,” Jeremy said. “We try to ship as much winter milk as we can.”
With a somatic cell count of 282,000, the Alpine herd has earned the highest level in milk quality awards for the past five years. The Franseens also care about type, and in 2018 had the national champion goat – a 5-year-old that was also reserve national champion in 2017.
“Our somatic cell may sound high to someone who milks cows, but that’s a really good number for goats,” Jeremy said. “We do the best we can in all areas of the farm and always strive to be better. We like to break averages and break records.”
Money raised at the breakfast will go to the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau Foundation to provide agricultural scholarships to high school students and the Winnebago-Boone Ag in the Classroom program.
“There are very few dairy farms in Boone County, and we have a community responsibility to do our part,” Jeremy said. “This event is for a good cause.”

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