Reinventing their place in the industry

Lewans launch dairy goat farm after selling cows

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Danielle Nauman/Dairy Star

The Lewan family – Chasity holding Malachi, Matthew holding Summer, Jedidiah and Savanna – stands in front of their herd of dairy goats June 20 on their farm near Thorp, Wisconsin. The Lewans began milking goats in March and are currently milking 140. 

 


THORP, Wis. – Although they just entered the world of dairy goat farming in March, Matthew and Chasity Lewan of Thorp are not strangers to the world of dairy farming. The Lewans sold their herd of dairy cows in 2013. 

“The bank kept wanting me to get bigger, and I did not want to get bigger,” Matthew Lewan said. “We were milking about 30 cows and wanted a loan to get some equipment, and the bank said we needed to milk more cows, so we went up to milking 50 cows in a 30-cow barn.”

After two years of switching over 20 cows, Lewan wanted to add on to his barn to make the workload easier to manage.

“To get a loan to add on to the barn, the bank wanted me to add more cows again,” Lewan said. “That seemed to defeat the purpose, and I said enough of that, sold the cows and paid off the original loan.”

The Lewans kept their heifers, planning to begin milking cows again, but when that time came, no processors in the area were taking on new milk, so the heifers were sold.                                                                                                                               

For the next several years, the Lewans crop farmed. They began playing with the idea of re-entering the dairy industry as goat farmers.                                                                                          

“My brother-in-law milks cows and goats and kept telling us that milking goats was the route we should go,” Lewan said. “He said the goat market is steady, and they are more profitable too.”

In 2017, they began buying kids after coming to a tentative agreement to ship milk to Montchevre.                    

“That was about the time that Saputo was buying Montchevre, so I couldn’t get a definite answer,” Lewan said. “But, we went ahead and started getting ready, hoping it would work out.”

When those first goats were ready to breed, the Lewans checked back in with Montchevre, only to learn that the company would not be able to take on their milk, so that herd of goats was sold to Chasity’s brother.    

The Lewans did not let the idea die and continued working toward their goat dairy. They connected with Larry Hedrich of Quality Dairy Goat Producers Cooperative in Chilton. After a couple of years of waiting, they received the answer they were looking for.

“We got the go-ahead from Larry about a year and a half ago, so we started buying some goats again and getting things ready,” Lewan said.                                                                                                                        

Those goats began kidding earlier this spring, and the Lewans began shipping milk to Quality Dairy in late March.                                                                                                      

“We had to get to 300 pounds a pick-up to be able to get picked up,” Lewan said. 

The Lewans, along with their children – Shania, Shaylie, Kenay, Sydney, River, Savanna, Jedidiah, Summer and Malachi – are milking about 140 goats in a 13-unit parlor, with another 30 goats left to freshen yet this year. They are currently shipping about 4,000 pounds of milk per week, which is picked up twice each week.               

The goats are fed a diet of protein pellets and hay. In addition to the herd of goats, the Lewans also run a hay business.      


Danielle Nauman/Dairy Star

The Lewans’ herd of goats waits to be milked June 20 on their farm in Thorp, Wisconsin. The farm has its milk hauled to Quality Dairy Goat Producers Cooperative in Chilton, Wisconsin.


 

                                                                           

To house their newly formed herd of dairy goats, the Lewans are in the process of building a barn. After several years of sitting empty, the old dairy barn on their farm had deteriorated.

“For what it was going to cost to get this barn back into shape, it made just as much sense to build new,” Lewan said. 

For the time being, the milking herd is housed at Matthew’s brother’s farm nearby while the barn is being utilized for raising the kids. 

The Lewans are in the process of building a hoop barn that will house about 300 goats and has a parlor attached to it. 

Like with many building projects, the Lewans’ new barn has run into delays caused by shortage of labor and certain materials.

“We were supposed to be into the barn by now,” Lewan said. “I’m just about done with fieldwork, so then I’ll have to start doing some more of the work myself to help speed things along. It’s frustrating, but what can you do?”

Now that they are up and running, the Lewans said they are happy with how their dairy goat farm is shaping up and are looking toward the future.

“We’ll get up to 300 and see how it goes; we’ll decide from there if that is where we want to stay or if we want to continue to grow,” Lewan said. “We’ll just wait and see how it goes and what the kids might want to do in the future.”

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