Recent upgrades to the Custer Dairy Processing Plant at Mississippi State University mean fewer balls of Edam and other cheese products will be available for 2015.
"We lost three months of production this past spring" during the shutdown for renovations, said Troy Weaver, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station sales store manager.
"We will produce significantly less cheese this year compared to last year," he said.
Weaver is encouraging customers to get their Christmas orders in early. Orders will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, including orders placed in-store, online or over the phone.
Julie Wilson, quality control supervisor in the plant, said upgrades were essential. The project included replacing and waterproofing the plant floor and updating the plumbing and electrical systems.
"This is the first time the plant has been down for any length of time since we moved into this facility in December 1970," Wilson said. "The plant has been basically running nonstop for about 45 years. This renovation was vital to ensure continued production of a high-quality product."
The upgrades now are complete and production going forward will be business as usual, Weaver said.
Cheesemakers produce more than a thousand pounds a day, five days a week, all year long except when the university is closed for holidays.
"We regret the shortage and don't take it lightly," said Reuben Moore, associate director of MAFES. "We appreciate the loyalty our customers have demonstrated throughout the years and hope they will be patient with us during this time."
Wilson said there was no way the plant could make cheese ahead of time or catch up after the fact.
"Since the milk we use comes from the MSU dairy, there was no way to make up for lost time," she said.