The Holthauses – (from left) Lonnie, Rochelle and Jeremy – bottle A2 fluid milk and have plans to add other products to their growing business near Fennimore, Wisconsin.
The Holthauses – (from left) Lonnie, Rochelle and Jeremy – bottle A2 fluid milk and have plans to add other products to their growing business near Fennimore, Wisconsin. PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN

    FENNIMORE, Wis. – Tired of accepting sub-par milk prices, Lonnie and Rochelle Holthaus and their son, Jeremy, decided to take control of their milk price by creating a niche product.
    The Holthauses produce a line of Milkhaus Dairy products made from A2 milk.

    “Research has shown that people that think they are lactose intolerant are actually A1 intolerant,” Lonnie said. “We are getting people who thought they were lactose intolerant and stayed away from dairy to try our products, and they are loving it, being able to enjoy dairy again.”
    Milkhaus Dairy is located outside of Fennimore and is home to 400 registered Holsteins, about 120 of which carry the A2A2 protein gene for A2 milk.
    “I started seeing that animals that were A2A2 that sold in sales were bringing a premium, but no one was doing anything with that milk,” Jeremy said. “I started thinking we should do something with it.”
    The Holthauses began researching what exactly made A2 milk different from milk with the A1 protein and learned it had to do with the digestibility of the proteins.
    “We have found out there are a lot of people who can’t eat cheese either,” Lonnie said. “I had no idea that customer was out there. It’s a concept that people are learning more about every day, and frankly, we’re learning right along with them.”
    The A2 cows are kept in their own group and are milked into their own bulk tank. The Holthauses work with creameries in Westby, Plain and Columbus.
    “We handle our own milk all the way to the processor,” Lonnie said. “That way we can make sure the A2 milk gets where it is supposed to get. That’s the only issue with the A2 is you can’t test the milk for it, you can only test the cow.”
    That assurance helps the Holthauses market their newly launched products to consumers who are wary of consuming dairy products because of health issues they have dealt with in the past.
    “We have yet to run into a person who is actually lactose intolerant,” Lonnie said. “I’m sure there are some out there, but so far we haven’t found anyone who hasn’t been able to eat our cheese.”
    Sales of Milkhaus Dairy cheese commenced in March, and in July, the Holthauses began bottling fluid A2 milk to add to their product line. They hope to add other products to their line as well based on requests they have received from consumers.
    “I just don’t think any of us ever realized how many people there are out there that couldn’t drink milk or eat cheese because they have issues,” Lonnie said. “We are reaching out to them, offering them a product they can consume.”
     In addition to their dairy products, they are also marketing beef they raise on the farm.
    Since launching products in March, Milkhaus Dairy’s distribution network has grown rapidly, and products are available in stores around Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa. The Holthaus family also ships products to several states and the District of Columbia.
    “We have a rather large customer in Tennessee who is considering buying by the pallet to stock their store,” Lonnie said. “It’s getting rather exciting.”
    Because the only way to identify the A2A2 gene is to test the animal through a DNA test, the Holthauses are testing all calves and working on testing the older cows in their herd to determine their A2 status, with the goal to have 100% of the herd testing positive for the gene.
    “Most of the calves are all coming back A2A2,” Lonnie said. “It’s growing really fast now because the genetics are really coming around to the point where more and more of the young cows entering the herd are A2A2.”
    Once tested, all A2A2 animals are tagged with a colored ear tag to make locating them easy. About 90% of the herd is tested for the A2A2 status.
    The Holthauses have been using A2A2 status as the primary selection tool when making mating decisions on their cows for the past four years. From available A2A2 sires, they also select for bulls high in both production and type traits. They are also beginning to select some sires for their polled status.
    “We just look for good bulls that fit our herd well,” Jeremy said. “We really look at the cow family when making our mating decisions.”
    The first group of 2-year-olds bred for the A2A2 protein have calved in, giving the Holthauses the base for their new marketing venture.
    “They perform as well as any of the other young cows,” Jeremy said. “You can’t tell an A2A2 cow from an A1 cow based on her appearance or production.”
    The milking herd at Milkhaus Dairy is fed a TMR diet and housed in a tunnel-ventilated, sand-bedded freestall barn, and the Holthauses stress the importance of cow comfort on their farm.
     “I think there is definitely a future in this, but the dairy industry has to open their eyes,” Lonnie said. “We complain about people consuming things like oat milk and soy milk. When it comes to the people who think they are lactose intolerant, I’m finding they don’t particularly like it, but it’s the only choice they have had. Everyone is trying to change the milk so they can drink it. We just changed the cow.”