The most popular milk worldwide comes out of goats. The U.S., where cow is queen, is an outlier. But new data shows that even in America, dairy goats are having a moment.
Dairy goats herds expanded faster than any other major livestock group in the U.S. over the past decade. They’ve grown 61 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to the USDA’s latest Census of Agriculture, a once-every-five-years inventory of the nation’s farms. For context, broiler hens and beef cattle were relatively flat and numbers for specialty animals such as llamas, ostriches and emus fell off a cliff.
The surge comes as goats have permeated pop culture. We’ve seen them frolicking and doing parkour while sporting adorable onesies on YouTube. We’ve maybe hoisted a 20-pound Nubian aloft in everybody’s favorite novelty yoga practice. And rent-a-goats are running amok in Boise and helping clear brush and prevent wildfires in California.
Dairy-goat herds grew in all 48 states for which we have data. But the greatest increases came in the nation’s three biggest goat-dairy states: Wisconsin (up 47,000), Iowa (up 18,000) and Texas (up 20,000).
Wisconsin’s growth came even as the number of goat dairies in the state shrank and the number of goats per dairy soared, a sign of increasing consolidation in the industry.
According to Janet Fletcher, publisher of the Planet Cheese blog and author of three books on cheese, small-time goat-milkers are being bought out by those with enough cash to compete on a global scale. She points to the 2017 sale of Meyenberg Goat Milk Products of Turlock, California, and the 2015 sale of Redwood Hill Farm in Sebastopol, California. Both were scooped up by Swiss dairy giant Emmi, which also bought Cypress Grove Chèvre, makers of the cult cheese Humboldt Fog.
And at the end of 2017, Canadian dairy giant Saputo bought…