Currently our herd consists of about 50 milking does. These goats are crosses between Nubian, Sable Saanen, and LaMancha breeds, each of which contributes to the high quality of our milk. Nubians produce milk that is high in protein and butterfat, and Saanens are known for high volume as well as quality milk.
The girls are taken out to pasture each morning after milking, unless rain is falling (one of the few things goats dislike!), and are allowed to spend the next eight hours grazing the diverse grasses and legumes and getting vital exercise and sunlight. We have developed a rotational grazing system that provides fresh pasture every day throughout the year. We are continually improving the quality of these pastures through such practices as overseeding legumes, spreading whey (a cheese making byproduct), occasional burning, and carefully avoiding overgrazing.
We supplement the goats’ pasture with high quality alfalfa and hay, and feed a mixed grain ration during milking. In addition, we make sure they have plenty of space and clean, fresh bedding in the barn. We also send monthly milk samples to the State of Missouri Milk Board for testing. Proper care of our animals is a very high priority at Goatsbeard Farm, for we know healthy goats produce milk that will make the best cheese possible.
During the period when the girls are lactating (March through December), they are milked twice daily, and generously produce for us an average of one gallon per goat each day. This is the milk from which all of our cheeses are made. We are a seasonal dairy, which means we adhere to the natural breeding, gestational and birthing cycle of the goats. We do not push them to make milk past their normal 10 month cycle. Thus, January and February are “dry months,” giving the goats a rest before they kid. Our goats work hard, and we feel this is a well-deserved break. Each spring Ken and Jenn choose about 10 of the best kids to become new milkers the next year. Thus the size of the herd is still growing slowly, while the quality is continually improving.
Goats are very intelligent animals—keenly interested in their environment, their daily routine and the people who handle them. We truly enjoy working with them, and consider it an honor to be their caretakers.