We started the day trying to get the van (aka the cracker box) to go over 180 klick/hour on the autobahn, it only happened going down hill. We traveled to a goat farm that milks 240 mother goats to mainly produce cheese. The family farm began milking cows; in 1996 they were faced with a decision to build a larger dairy barn and milk more cows or switch to the goats and focused on cheese. They switched the small 3 x 3 milking parlor to accomodate 20 goats at a time and are not marketing to an organic standard because of the cost. The family raises their goats to produce high quality, not necessicarily high quantity milk and will milk their goats for 5-7 years. Milk goats are seasonal breeders, fortunately this matches up nicely with the market for their cheeses, which is from the spring to the fall when restaurants and tourists are most active.
They produce three types and 20 different kinds of fresh, soft and hard cheese (13 fresh, 8 soft and 2 hard cheeses). It takes 6 liters of goat milk to produce one kilo of fresh cheese, (8.5L - soft, 13L - hard). 30% of the cheese is sold on farm, with 20% direct to restaurants and 50% to distributors. Their main problem is getting rid of the males and cull females. They are trying to develop their own market for the meat by working with a local butcher to make pate and dried sausages; they are also making a specialty canned meat.
After that we traveled to Bitburger brewery, a family owned brewery that was founded in 1817; the current CEO is the 7th generation to work at the brewery. They are the 2nd largest German beer maker (in terms of output), but are first in draught beer on tap with 50,000 restaurants serving their product. They employ 1,000 people at their five different breweries that produce many different beers. They are considered a premium beer priced at 12 € per case. They have to compete against the other national premium brands and cheap beer that doesn't market (6€/case). Bitburger makes 400 million liters sales annually, which is approximately 250 million gallons. 90% of their beer is sold in Germany with 10% exported to the EU and worldwide. They are branching into many new product categories, including lower alcohol beers and mixed-beers (i.e. Beer and cola). They actively use social media and are on Facebook. They find this has been a good marketing tool gleaning 40,000 fans in just one year. They have one staff member responsible for social marketing and are targeting younger people. They also market heavily by sponsoring the German national soccer team.
In Germany annual consumption of beer is 110 liters and consumption is declining. Consumers are citing health concerns as well as crack-down on driving alcohol limits and loss of market share to wine, champagne and mixed drinks. In Germany there are 1,300 breweries in Germany, 600 in Bavaria. They have to abide by the Bavarian purity law of 1516, that limits them to using only the pure ingredients of barley (plus yeast), hops and water.
In the afternoon we visited the family farm of our host Arno Billen at Kaschenbach. Arno is a 6th generation, in a village of approzimately 65 people. He farms 250 hectacres, has a dairy, distillery, biogas plant, solar farm and ag tourism. They are a family operation with his father, uncle, cousin and brother all working on the farm. They have grassland, grow wheat and barley as well as silage for the cattle and biogas plant. His uncle is in charge of the farming operation, his father is in the state parliament, his cousin runs the dairy and his brother runs the distillery. Arno is in charge of the biogas plant, solar farm and a facility they rent for parties and schnappes tastings. The 120 cow dairy also includes 140 heifers and beef cattle, the cattle are milked by two milk-robots; they are getting 3.3 milking per day, average yield of 34 L per cow with an annual yeild of 10,500 L per cow.
In 2000 they added a 110 kw biogas plant and expaned an additional 190 kw in 2004 (300 kw total); it takes 125 hectares of silage to feed the biogas plant. They average between 40-55 ton per hectacre silage. To feed the plant each day it takes, 12,000 kg silage, 1500 kg grass silage and 10,000 kg of manure. The solar collectors were added in 2009, the kilowatt peak is 249 kw; last year they had 980 hours of peak kilowatt output. The solar price is under a 20 year contract with the expenses paid off in 10 years. The farmers who produce renewable energy are paid a flat rate to produce energy of €.40/kw for solar, €.20 for biogas and €.15 for wind energies. Because of the German governments recent restriction on nuclear power they are looking at potential sites for wind energy next.
The schnappes distillery utilizes 320 fruit trees, mostly older trees that are wild growing on the farm. They have many, many different flavors including old apple, raspberry, cherry, William pear and pear. It is nothing like the schnappes we have in America. Arno's brother makes nearly 4,000 bottles per year. The family also has an old barn that they've renovated for parties, receptions and entertaining. It has a tasting room to compliment the distillery. When they first opened the barn in 2007 they had 20 groups utilize it, last year 60 groups rented the barn and they've already held over 60 groups this year.
Arno and his girlfriend Simone hosted us for dinner of wild pork and some schnappes tasting. It was delicious.