Goats are Good Business
Goats are Good Business

Goats are Good Business

by Martha R. Fehl of Brookville, IN

You might think those sweet looking lop eared animals that eat whatever you let them are mostly a lot of fun, but goats are good for business when it comes to cheese making.

When Larry and Judith Schad moved to their farm with a two-story log home, they bought goats for their three children to use for 4-H projects. What began as fun, three years later encouraged the family to buy a show herd of Alpine goats, and now that herd and its offspring consistently win awards at the Hoosier Classic and the American Dairy Goat Association national show.

Although raising goats is their game – cheese is their aim when it comes to their gourmet cheese-making operation called Fox Springs Farms in Greenville, Indiana where they sell products with the Capriole, Inc. label.

Judith found that getting started in the cheese-making end took more expertise than the showmanship part. In April 1988, she went to Massachusetts cheese-making operation run by Lettie Kilmoyers, a woman who had spent six years making and marketing chevre.

“It sure was different from making cheese in my kitchen. That was the best investment I had ever made. One of the most important things I learned was to move slowly – and not invest in a lot of expensive equipment,” says Judith, who has served as director of the American Dairy Goat Association and the American Cheese Society.

In the fall of 1988, she decided to do cheese-making full time. It was a far cry from a published writer that taught English with her Ph.D. in literature. “I never would have thought when I was in graduate school taking Chaucer classes that one day I would be making goat cheese.”

She said Capriole, Inc., owes a lot to those who helped develop and improve the cheese-making operation. “Our Chevres have improved 100 percent over the last year due to the Clark Country Co-op and Wayne Harris from Indianapolis holding our hand and setting up with a suitable feed ration and system that has cut our labor and feed time by almost half.”

The goats are bred between August and December to spur their milkmaking capabilities. Gestation is five months. The kids (baby goats) are weaned, and the family keeps 5 to 10 percent of the offspring. “By feeding grain and alfalfa hays they will produce one to two gallons of milk 305 days a year,” she says.

The first commercial cheese Judith made was plain fromage blanc. That’s a term used to describe cheese less than a week old. It and her Festiva (layered cheese) have won international contests and are her biggest sellers. She also took first place in the cheddar division in American Dairy Goat Association convention in Spokane, Washington.

Soft cheese is a hand-done, labor-intensive product that is processed differently from hard cheeses. She takes in the milk, pasteurizes it, and adds a slow-growing culture. After this mixture is allowed to sit about a half-hour, Judith adds renned (a coagulant) and lets the mixture grow for 24 hours.

The next day, she lines a drain basin with cheesecloths, and the vat, which is filled with product that looks a lot like commercial yogurt is emptied. Judith dips the cheese by hand into the basin gently creating the character of the cheese. It takes about three hours to dip 100 pounds at this rate. The cheese will have a creamier texture by not releasing its solids. While the cheese is in the cheesecloth-lined basin for about 12 hours, whey runs off. Then it is put up to drain for another 12 hours.

At this point it is a high moisture product similar to cream cheese, but is half the fat, calories and cholesterol of cream cheese. It is weighed into 4-ounce packages, and rolled, sometimes in spices, shaped, and packaged.

After the packages are labeled, they are refrigerated at 34-35 degrees and are ready to be sold. The cheese could be kept for 3 months, but most goes out within — days.

The first place she sold her fromage blanc was at the Cheddar Box in Louisville, Kentucky. She has found hotels, restaurants and retail shops to be her best markets. Now that clientele base has grown to include such places as the Four Seasons in Chicago and Nieman Marcus.

Although the operation has grown, “this is still pretty much a family show,” Judy says. She and her husband have three children – son Matthew 24, graduate of Indiana University; daughter, Kate 22, who graduated from the Sullivan Institute of Culinary Arts; and son Sam, 20. They all help when they’re home. Judy hired an extra set of hands to help the family do all the chores for the cheese-making operation.

Husband Larry, is a New Albany lawyer by day, and a cheese handler by night. “Larry can do the fastest change of looks when he switches from his suit to overalls to milk the goats.” Judy says smiling.

Judith says marketing the product has been the most difficult. People in Boston buy a lot of goat cheese. It’s a purist market. The cheeses are sold as a fresh product and are designed to be purchased in a week. They don’t want herb or gourmet cheese.”

“On the West Coast, they eat a more sophisticated cuisine. Laura Chenel, who’s the mother of goat cheese makers in California has been doing it for 12 years,” she says, adding that the Hoosier palate often lags behind that of the east and west.

Scarcity of knowledge has led to the belief that people only buy French cheeses and are not aware that the domestic product is just as good. Now consumers are beginning to notice domestic cheeses.

Goat Grabbers

There are many breeds of goat, which may be roughly grouped: the prickeared, Swiss goats: the eastern or Nubian, with long drooping ears; the dwarf or Guinea goat; the wool goat, Angora.

Normal lifespan of a goat is 8 to 12 years. They average two kids in a litter but have been known to have triplets and quadruplets.

The female goat, variously called “Nanny” or “Doe” will be ready to produce kids when they are about 15 months old.

Saanen Goats

Saanen goats derive their name from the Saanen Valley in Switzerland, it’s native home. Ten Saanen goats were imported into this country by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in 1898. They have strong bodies and are the Holstein of dairy goats, producing large quantities of milk, low in butterfat.

Eating – the goat is known as a ruminant or cud-chewing animal having a four-compartment stomach capable of digesting roughage such a pasture, peach trees, and poison ivy. A ruminant can use up to 50 to 80 percent of this roughage in her diet.

They eat hay, grain, pellets, vegetables, and salt every day – white, sunny yellow sulfur helps provide all those extra minerals that may be missing.

They like water cold in summer, warm in winter. Acorns are bad for their digestive system. And they will catch cold if they are chilled and need more baths in the summer.

Hooves need to be trimmed every six weeks, clip if you are milking. Dehorning is usually done from three to five days after birth to keep them from getting hurt or butting others. Wattles are little flaps of skin on the neck; somewhat like misplaced drop earrings, and found on almost 11 breeds of goats. They are usually removed by a veterinarian.

Milking – goats like music and massage. Stripping is getting the last of the drops which is usually higher in butterfat. Pasteurizing milk is to heat the milk rapidly until it reaches 165 F. Hold at this temperature for twenty seconds, then place pan immediately into a large pan of ice water, quickly reducing the temperature to 60 F. Pour milk into jars and put into the refrigerator. An ambidextrous goat, can be milked from both sides.

Goat milk is always quoted in pounds instead of quarts and gallons. The richer in butterfat it is, the less a quart of milk will weigh.

Mothers may have one to four kids, and occasionally, five or six. Use milk about the third day after kidding or when it enters the pail it will foam freely and is good for drinking.

Kids eat about five times a day for the first three days. Use soft drink bottles and nipples and give each kid four ounces at each feeding gradually increasing to eight ounces by the end of three days. After third day cut the feeding to three times a day for about two weeks and 12 ounces. At two weeks cut the feeding to twice a day about six weeks to two months. Some people tattoo their kids in their ears. When into kidhood, your goats will need inoculation against Enterotexemia and Tetanus at about ages twelve and sixteen weeks and a yearly booster thereafter. Does are girl kids, and bucks are male kids.

Goat meat tastes like lamb and is sold under the trade name, “chevon.”

Bloat is a colic condition and is an accumulation of excessive amounts of gas in the stomach. It is dangerous and often fatal due to pressure against the heart which may result from overeating tender young grass wet with dew, or by eating vegetable and apples. Give Alka Seltzer or some club soda via a syringe or just a little at a time.

Milk and Cheese Go Down with Ease

Like the cheese, but loathe the fat, then why not go GOAT. Their milk has a more easily digestible fat and protein content than cow’s milk. It just may be the new thing to drink and eat since smaller size fat globules provide a better dispersion and more homogeneous mixture, thus assisting the digestive system.

In those people who are allergic to cow’s milk, or are bothered by ulcers of the stomach, goat milk can successfully replace it in their diet.

It has greater amounts of Vitamin A, B, B-6, B-12, and niacin than cow’s milk. Goat’s milk is higher in minerals, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, chlorine, and manganese; but is lower in sodium, iron, sulfur, zinc and molybdenum.

Cheeses that can be made from goat’s milk are: Cottage, Pot Cheese, Neufchatel, Cream, Romano, or Provolone, Cheddar, Brick, and Blue.

In some countries, where meat is not as available as in the United States, it is an important source of nutrition and replacement.