Oxheart Farm celebrates one year as micro-dairy

Couple’s desire to farm leads to on-site processing

Posted
    HAGER CITY, Wis. – Ten years ago, Cella Langer and Emmet Fisher Oxheart Farm where they grew vegetables with the goal of adding dairy farming and on-farm processing to their repertoire.
    One year ago, dairy farming came to fruition for Langer and Fisher as the couple became licensed as a Grade A on-farm processing plant to process the milk produced by their small herd on their farm in Hager City. They pasteurize and bottle whole milk into returnable glass bottles and make both plain and flavored yogurts.
    Today, Langer and Fisher milk two Ayrshire cows and will be up to three milking in June. They plan to add a fourth cow to the herd next spring.
    The farm’s Community Supported Agriculture customers can add a dairy subscription onto their vegetable CSA subscription, and they also sell the dairy products on the farm as well as provide meat and eggs for their customers. The couple sells their product wholesale to a local food cooperative in nearby River Falls as well.
    While their foray into dairy farming is a new endeavor for the couple, it has been a goal of theirs for many years.
    “We really love cows, and we love eating dairy,” Langer said. “It took us a long time to get to this point, and now we are able to share that with our customers.”
    To begin the process for constructing their micro-dairy, Langer and Fisher began working with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
    “We had to create the floor plan for the dairy and get a pre-approval for that,” Langer said. “Once that met the standards, they said we were able to begin construction.”
    Langer and Fisher utilized an existing building by retrofitting it to meet the needs of their creamery. They did a great deal of the work themselves in order to keep their costs low.
    “We hired out the pouring of the concrete floor to ensure that the sloping and drainage were correct,” Langer said. “Throughout the entire project, we worked closely with DATCP to ensure that we were on track and getting it right.”
    The couple spent most of 2019 in the planning phase, ironing out the details of the project with DATCP. The concrete slab for the creamery was poured in October 2019. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic created challenges for the pair, but they persevered and were licensed to begin production in April 2021.
    The creamery has a 30-gallon vat pasteurizer, although Langer said she typically processes about 15 to 25 gallons of milk in a batch. Langer processes the milk produced on the farm two to three times each week. Milk is typically bottled one day a week, while yogurt is also made once a week.
    “I bottle more milk than I make yogurt,” Langer said. “On processing days, I typically spend about five hours in the creamery.”
    All of the yogurt is made as plain yogurt and then flavorings, typically raspberry or maple, are added to the packaging prior to the yogurt.
    Fisher said they have no plans for expanding their small herd beyond four cows.
    “We don’t have the land base or the infrastructure to really have more than four cows,” Fisher said. “Our cows are grass-fed, so we just would not have enough pasture to meet the needs of more.”
    Although they are not planning on increasing their herd size, Langer said she has been researching to add more products.
    Oxheart Farm is not certified organic, but they closely adhere to organic principles, including raising their animals as grass-fed.
    “We have a good relationship with our customers,” Fisher said. “They come here, they see the farm, they see what we do and how we are doing it. Everything is pretty transparent.”

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here