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Ice cream and cows a love affair for Michigan dairy family

Progressive Dairyman Editor Andrew Weeks Published on 11 March 2014
Moo-Ville Creamery in Nashville, Michigan

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This article was #2 of the Top 25 most well-read articles on www.progressivedairy.com in 2014. It was published in the March 12, 2014 print issue.

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This producer feature spotlights the Westendorp family of Nashville, Michigan, who operate Westvale-View Dairy and Moo-Ville Creamery. Two generations of the family work together and with robots to milk 200 Holsteins.

They maintain a low somatic cell count, usually 80,000 to 90,000, and sell their milk as non-homogenized. The creamery also carries products such as ice cream, eggnog (seasonally), butter and cheese.

We asked the family,
Q. In the article, you stated you were hoping to add cheese curds to your product line. Were you able to accomplish that?

We did add cheese curds to our product line. We started making them the end of March, and the response has been tremendous. We have a 400-gallon vat that will make 400 pounds of curds. Through the summer, we were doing one vat a week, and some weeks we were doing two vats a week. When we started, we wanted to just do them once a week when it got to full capacity, and we hit that in about two months. We deep-fry them, and they are amazing. People love the squeak you get for the first three days after they are made.
—Doug Westendorp, Michigan dairy producer

:
If you thought Baskin Robbins has a lot of ice cream flavors to choose from, you should visit Moo-Ville Creamery in Nashville, Michigan. The creamery, owned by Doug Westendorp and his family, offers nearly 80 flavors of farm-made ice cream.

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That number will probably grow thanks to Westendorp’s 25-year-old son, Troy Westendorp, who keeps the wheels in his head spinning for new flavors.

“That’s pretty much me,” Troy said, when asked how they come up with all of the flavors. He’ll spend time during the week researching what other ice cream companies are doing, what seems to be popular on the market, and then he sets to work on coming up with his own variations. Sometimes the flavors will be entirely new products.

Then they have customers sample the new flavors. You can tell which ones will do well within just a little while, Troy said.

The creamery is an offshoot of the family’s dairy farm, Westvale-View Dairy. The creamery had its genesis several years ago when the family started feeling the pinch of milk prices.

“It was a way for us to look at ways to create new income,” Doug says, noting success didn’t come overnight – nor did the gumption to actually start the business.

“We mulled about it for three or four years before we decided to pull the trigger,” he says. At the time, Troy, then a high school student, looked like he wanted to return to the farm. Doug wanted to make sure the farm remained a sustainable business if that were to happen – which it did.

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Besides Troy, four other children work on the farm or creamery: Carlyle, Eric, Levi and Tina. Troy says he spends about half his time on the farm and the other half making ice cream.

The Westendorp family poses for a photo on their property, where they operate a farm and creamery that serves nearly 80 ice cream flavors.

The creamery, which has three full-time employees, receives a little extra help in warm weather.

“During the summer, we scoop a lot of ice cream,” Doug says.

What’s the most popular flavor? Sea salt caramel.

Whole, 2 percent, skim and chocolate milk also are on the creamery’s list of products.

The creamery started with a philosophy that remains to this day.

“We try to keep things as simple as possible,” Troy says. “We don’t overthink things. Because of that, it’s a better-quality product in the end.”

Over the years, the family built a new barn and doubled its herd. Today, it uses about 8,500 to 9,000 gallons of milk a week at the creamery and sells the rest on the market. The creamery, which sits just yards away from the dairy, goes a long way to promote education to the general public.

“People like to buy local around here,” Troy says. “They want to know where their milk comes from – and there’s the creamery, just 200 feet away from the dairy.”

“The biggest thing is the taste,” Doug says. “Our customers will tell you that our milk tastes better. That’s our marketing edge. If it tastes better, people will pay a little more for it.”

That taste stems back to the family’s simple philosophy: “The biggest thing is letting the milk gravity flow as much as possible; do not overprocess the milk,” Troy says. “Keep it closest to the way God designed it for us. Somatic cell count is usually 80,000 to 90,000, which helps shelf life.”

They won’t give away any secrets on what they believe makes a better product than their competitors, but Doug said they use “pretty standard processing equipment. It’s been around for a while.”

The farm milks 225 cows with four robots, which is the newest technology for this family-run farm. The robots make for more efficient milking and bring the farm into the 21st century.

As the industry continues to evolve, so will dairy farmers’ innovations on how to get the most bang for their buck.

The Westendorps have found one answer in their creamery, but they’re already thinking about other opportunities.

What’s next for this dairy farm family?

“We want to make cheese curds,” Doug says. PD

PHOTO 1: The Doug Westendorp family opened Moo-Ville Creamery in an effort to create new income from tightening mike prices.

PHOTO 2 The Westendorp family poses for a photo on their property, where they operate a farm and creamery that serves nearly 80 ice cream flavors. Photos courtesy of Troy Westendorp.

  • Andrew Weeks

  • Editor
  • Progressive Dairyman

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