Milking does are housed in loose housing and bedded with cornstalks at Eddie and Mattie Schrock’s farm near Rockland, Wisconsin. The does are milked twice a day in a 15-stall parlor. 
Milking does are housed in loose housing and bedded with cornstalks at Eddie and Mattie Schrock’s farm near Rockland, Wisconsin. The does are milked twice a day in a 15-stall parlor. PHOTO BY ABBY WIEDMEYER
ROCKLAND, Wis. – Amish greenhouses are a popular shopping destination in western Wisconsin, but Eddie and Mattie Schrock have taken the destination experience and made it convenient. Located only a half mile out of Rockland, the Schrocks built a greenhouse last fall as a way to supplement income for their growing family and goat herd.
“I am a carpenter by trade,” Eddie Schrock said. “As the kids got older, we needed something for them to do to help earn more income.”
Goats were brought to the farm in 2012. Today, the Schrocks milk 90 Alpine goats. The animals are loose-housed on the farm and milked by hand twice a day in a 15-stall parlor.
Schrock grew up on a farm and wanted to give his kids the same lifestyle. With 11 acres, he did not think milking cows was a viable option.
“We have a smaller farm,” Schrock said. “So, we have a smaller animal. Plus, the price for goat milk is usually better.”
Milk from the Schrock farm is shipped to Saputo Fluid Milk Co.
There is a small hay field on the property but not enough to use for pasture or enough to provide feed for 90 goats. The Schrocks purchase western hay and an 18% pellet feed to supplement the feed they buy from other local farms.
“The western hay really helps them milk better,” Schrock said. “It’s a better quality than what we can grow here.”
The goats are also fed baleage which Schrock has found to be more desirable because of the softer stems.
Milking goats is a seasonal task at the Schrock residence. Goats are dried up in November and December and freshen in January through February.
“It’s a little tough to not get the milk check for those months,” Schrock said. “Some people will dry up half the herd at a time so they always have a check, but we do not have the facilities to do that.”
In the interim, Schrock does more work off the farm to earn income. He takes on more carpentry jobs and also works as a farrier.
The Schrocks have also added diversity for income with their greenhouse.
This spring is the first season of selling flowers in the greenhouse. Flowers are purchased as plugs in February and transplanted to pots and baskets once they are sturdy enough to do so. Flowers found in the greenhouse include petunia, pansy, verbena, begonia, impatiens, dahlia, calla lily and canna lily.
Vegetable plants are started from seeds and those varieties include tomato, cucumber, eggplant, green pepper, lettuce, cabbage and muskmelon. Vegetable seeds are available for purchase as well.
April 23 was opening day for Whistling Pines Greenhouse, and the family is happy with the business so far. They believe their location is an advantage with being close to town.
Back in the barn, nanny goats born on the farm are kept for replacements while billies are fed to approximately 40 pounds. Schrock generally sells the billies at the Easter sale in Fennimore. This year, the group of billies were too small for the Easter sale so they are being fed to 65 pounds and will be sold privately.
Goats are bred with bucks that are purchased from other herds to keep fresh genetics coming into the herd.
Goats at the Schrock farm are producing around 6.5 pounds of milk per day, Schrock said. They produce less as they get closer to drying off and in the warmer summer months.
“We enjoy it,” Schrock said. “Sometimes it feels like a chore, but we like the goats.”
Daily chores are handled by the family members. When barns need to be cleaned, the Schrocks hire a local outfit with a skid loader and a dump wagon to haul the manure.
The Schrocks are hoping to update their goat barn by building a hay mow in the next couple years. This will provide the Schrocks with a different place for hay storage and more room for the goats in the barn.
“We wanted to add on to the barn, and we also wanted a greenhouse,” Schrock said. “We thought we’d build the greenhouse first to hopefully cash flow the update to the barn.”
Schrock said the variety of milking goats and running a greenhouse keeps him and his family busy.
“There is always something to do,” Schrock said. “There is enough work to stay busy but not so much of one thing to make it tiresome. We all enjoy it.”