Thorp (WQOW) - Last week at the World Championship Cheese Contest, three area cheesemakers took home top prizes.
AMPI in Jim Falls was named Best of Class for its marble curd cheese, Foremost Farms in Clayton was named Best of Class for its aged Provolone, and Marieke Gouda in Thorp was named Best of Class for its flavored Gouda.
It was an onion and garlic flavored Gouda that got Marieke the gold this year. While their recipes are what keep them competitive, it might just be the cows that keep putting them on top.
At Marieke, they say it's all about the cows, as silence speaks loudly on their farm. That's because according to the general manager, Kim Rabuck, a quiet cow is a content cow.
This champion cheesemaker prefers to speak softly but carry a big brick of cheese, and this year they did it again, taking home first place in the flavored Gouda category at the World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison.
"So, it all kind of begins with cow comfort on our farm," says Rabuck. “The sand that we use is really fine sand. It actually helps to not harbor bacteria, because it drains moisture well, it's like a fine beach sand, and it actually keeps them cleaner. So, it's kind of like exfoliating your skin - it helps take the dead hair and the dead skin off them and keeps them a lot cleaner."
The cows at this farm live the life of luxury, their days in the barn are like days spent at the spa.
"We have the cow brushes that help keep them clean as well,” says Rabuck. “Actually, that keeps them from rubbing up against the machinery or the equipment. It's soothing, and it itches the itches they can't quite get to."
These cow comforts go a long way, and so does the technology.
"There's an orange tag inside their left ear and that has a computer chip in it that keeps track of her temperature, also how long they're chewing their cud throughout the day, that actually is something they keep track of," says Rabuck. “The Fitbits on their ankles tells you how long that they're standing, how many steps they're taking, how long they're laying down. Cows have to stand up a certain percentage of the day and they have to lay down a certain percentage of the day. If that changes, let's say that she's laying down too much of the day, that computer chip will tell our computer in the office, hey, she's down a little bit more today."
Something that isn't down at Marieke Gouda, their success. To date they've won 145 awards just for their Gouda cheeses.
Rabuck says their initial investment for the Fitbits was $12,000 with a yearly subscription of $2,500 for the software. She says annually they spend around $38,000 on all expenses for the 'Gouda Girls' to relax on the beach.