‘I think once the consumer tries it, they’ll be hooked’: Fennimore farmer produces milk tolerable by lactose-sensitive customers

MADISON, Wis. — It’s an industry Wisconsin dairy farmers say we’ve been missing out on … until now.

The National Institutes of Health reports as much as 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, meaning a majority of people experience digestive issues when they eat dairy. In a state celebrated for its cheese, milk, and dairy products, that can be tough!

Enter Lonnie Holthaus, a dairy farmer from Fennimore, Wisconsin.

His family-run farm, Milkhaus Dairy, has developed a way everyone can enjoy milk and cheese: by capitalizing on the A2 dairy market.

Within milk, there are two proteins: A1 and A2. When someone is diagnosed as lactose intolerant, they are usually only A1 intolerant. This means that if dairy farmers can remove the A1 protein from their cows’ milk, most people can drink it.

That process, however, is easier said than done. The protein can’t be removed in post-production. It starts with the cow and a DNA test.

“We had to go through the herd and pick out the cows that we thought were possibly candidates for the A2,” Holthaus explained. “Then, over the years, we’ve been breeding and slowly switching the heard over. We have about 120 cows that are strictly A2.”

This process is still very new. Holthaus has been working on it for four years and says his fellow Badger state dairy farmers think he’s a little crazy. Right now, he doesn’t know of another Wisconsin dairy farmer who produces A2 milk.

“We got a long way to go yet before we’re profitable on the milk, but I think once the consumer tries it, they’ll be hooked,” Holthaus said.

Milkhaus Dairy now sells its milk products and 12 types of cheese in a handful of Wisconsin stores, including both Madison-area Miller and Sons locations, as well as online. The dairy offers free shipping anywhere in Wisconsin for all orders of $25 or more.

Holthaus also ships nationally. This week, he’s sent shipments to Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi.