Wade Holst, Shane Holst, Lennie Holst of Plainview MN,
Sometimes keeping relevant in agriculture is about reinventing one’s self. This is exactly what the Holst family is doing to keep their family’s century farm viable in today’s volatile marketplace. In 2014 the family decided that it wasn’t ok for their dairy facilities to continue to set empty, but they knew that for them, starting back up with a milking cow herd probably wasn’t the best choice for them. They did a lot of research and decided to convert the cow facilities to accommodate a milking goat herd. Three years later, it looks like that decision has been a very good one for all of them.
The Holst family currently milks about 130 milking goats. Their milk is contracted to Montchevre (www.montchevre.com) in Belmont, Wisconsin. In April, nearing the end of kidding season, the Holst herd was averaging about 10# of milk per head per day. Wade expects milk production to rise thru mid-summer. Currently the creamery picks up milk 2x a week. Wade says that the herd’s production is doing well and he is researching the possibility of installing a bigger bulk tank to accommodate plans for future herd expansion. The Holst family’s goals for the future are to increase the herd size to about 250 head. Currently any young stock that is not kept for replacements are sold to other herds or as project animals for youth exhibitors. Most of the bucklings (male kid goats) are sold to a grower in Wisconsin and where they will be fed and raised as meat animals. Part of the success of the business plan for milking goat herds is that the income from the milk is typically locked in with contracts at the creamery. There are three major creameries that local dairy goat herds sell their milk to. The challenge at this time is that they are all in Wisconsin. There is not a creamery for goat milk in southern Minnesota. Wade is hoping that someday this will change. Wade commented that at this time Montchevre; the creamery that he works with, is not taking on any new herds simply because they are at the maximum capacity for processing what they can manage. Wade says this does not affect his contract with the creamery but it is something that he encourages anyone who is considering starting up a new milking goat herd keep in mind.
Currently the Holst family rents out all of their non-hay ground. The family harvests the hay ground for feed for the goat herd. The pelleted feed for the production herd is manufactured at All American Co-op and delivered in bulk to the farm. “All American Co-op along with RCS Nutrition offers booking programs for milk replacer and other feeds when they feel it is cost effective for us as producers. Knowing what we are going to spend on feed helps us to manage our cash flow and work on our plans for expansion, equipment updates, and facility improvements. Having our local co-op support our efforts is reassuring for us and we are happy to have them here for us to do business with” says Wade.
At the end of 2016 Holst’s built a new housing shed to accommodate newborn kids and dry does that are near kidding. They have a warm house built into the facility that houses the necessary accommodations for newborn kids as well as the water heater and milk replacer mixing station needed to feed the baby goats. Once the kids are dried off and a couple days old they are moved into small group pens in the new building and “that is where the fun really begins” says Wade. “If you haven’t ever taken the opportunity to visit a working milking goat farm, everyone should! It brings an INSTANT smile to your face to see those kid goats behave like ‘kids’”. The Holst’s pride themselves on doing things right to get their kids off to a strong start. “Feeding RCS Goat feeds is the key to our success” says Wade. “All American Co-op is the only feed manufacturer in SE Minnesota that has a goat specialist on staff. Callie Courtney has been an asset for us. She has worked closely with Shawn Quinn at RCS to help us learn what we need to know to make our new investment in our milking goat herd take off to a great start!”
As Wade was preparing to take his idea to his local financial lender, he went into great detail with is business plan, which his lender greatly appreciated since ; at the time, they were not very familiar with the startup necessary for a milking goat herd. Wade has taken this to the local classrooms, talking to students about Ag Business for young, up and coming farmers. This has been well received and Wade says that it has been fun to give back to area students, supporting the efforts of our Ag educators is important. Wade says that he has four area high schools students that come to help with feeding and chores. He says that this is great opportunity for our neighbors and other area students to be a part of our farming experience.
Wade says that their timing of the transition to a milking goat herd has been perfect for him. Wade and his wife had their first child in March and Wade says that the herd has grown enough that he is now able to be home 100% of the time. His brother Shane has a job away from the farm helping a local hoof trimmer and is able to be there to help with the chores and farm work. Their father Lennie has his own hoof trimming business as well and is also there to help. They all enjoy working with the goats and say that they are a lot of fun! It is a definite family farming business that Wade and Shane are excited to be able to raise their children on the Family’s Century Farm.