With costs to produce a gallon of milk approaching the $2 mark and the average price dairy farmers are receiving per gallon for that milk declining, some Louisiana dairy farmers are seeking ways to maximize their profit margin. One way to do this is to add value to the milk they already produce.
Several farmers in Louisiana have installed small processing facilities either adjacent to or near their farms to process and market their milk. Other farmers are interested in building the same type of operations within their own farms but don’t know where to start. The School of Nutrition and Food Sciences in the LSU AgCenter is establishing a resource for farmers and individuals who wish to pursue adding value to milk.
The LSU AgCenter hosted a producer-processor conference July 2017 at the Southeast Research Station in Franklinton, Louisiana, to meet dairy producers processing their own milk and begin networking with them. They also brought in local health department officials to provide guidance on regulatory requirements for adding a processing operation to an existing farm.
The dairy processors involved so far are: Hill Crest Creamery, of DeRidder; Feliciana’s Best, of Slaughter; Flowing Hills, of Belmont; ICCR, of Church Point; Brown Hat Farms and Dairy, of Sun; Belle Ecorce Farms, of St. Martinville; and Ewing Farms, of St. Francisville. Their products include cream line milk, chocolate milk, butter and cheeses.
The LSU AgCenter produces a newsletter to address issues that producer-processors face. Topics include how to make and manufacture mozzarella cheese, recipes for dairy products, and cleaning and sanitation. Workshops offered include the Better Process Control School, which is a weeklong training program that teaches everything anyone needs to know about thermal processing. Another program will be a one-day cheese-making workshop. This program will be at the dairy processing plant on the LSU campus. A third program is being planned in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will be held at the Southeast Research Station later this year.
The LSU AgCenter Food Incubator is another resource for producer-processors to develop new products. DipMe Snacks has its sour cream dip operation set up as part of the Food Incubator and is housed in the dairy processing plant on the LSU campus. An additional food incubator tenant who will be manufacturing fresh queso dips is scheduled to start production in the fall inside the dairy processing plant. Both of these companies got their start by adding value to milk.
Adding value to milk is a way for farmers to make their businesses more profitable. Consumer attitude is shifting toward wanting to purchase more locally produced foods. Locally produced milk and milk products like butter, sour cream, ice cream and cheeses can fill that market segment.
Charles Boeneke is an associate professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences.
(This article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
Robert Wolf, of Dip Me Snacks, pumps heated cream from a kettle into containers so it can be poured into a homogenizing machine in the LSU AgCenter dairy processing plant. Photo by Olivia McClure