Goats have a well deserved reputation of being intelligent and engaging creatures, skillful escape artists, and consumers of almost anything, including tin cans. All of this is for the most part true, although their eating habits need clarification. A goat will use her mouth for all kinds of trouble….taking the clothes off the line, tearing apart a paper bag, decimating a flower bed, and even taking the paint off your car. But she is very discerning about what she will actually eat. Goats are incredibly efficient animals, producing milk in exceptional quantities for their size, and thus they very selectively fill their rumens with only the highest quality, most nutritious parts of plants. Providing this is a major centerpiece of our farm.
Our goat milk is certified organic. This means our pastures and hay are grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and animal health is addressed from the ground up, focusing on prevention and vibrant animals to try to minimize any need for emergency medications. What many don’t realize is the organic certification of ruminants also requires a certain consumption of grazed forage during the growing season, a minimum of 30% of the full caloric intake. We always strive to well surpass this benchmark, and I can say that with goats and all of their particularities, this is something that requires a good deal of planning and effort.
Our grazing system includes 50 acres of varied land and forage. Goats do well on grassland when it is young and rapidly growing. They thrive on the nutrient dense buds and leaves of browsey species and trees, will consume many invasive weeds when they are “just right”, and certain times of the year really relish fungus growths on the birch trees. They love to climb on rocks, don’t like too many biting insects, and won’t tolerate being out in hot sun or pouring rain. Our grazing plan incorporates all of these varying needs and keeping our herd happy often involves moving them several times a day. If we fail in this on any given day, the skillful escape artist emerges and we will find our herd has brought themselves back to the barn in protest.
Fortunately there is ample payback for our efforts in the quality of the milk and the health of the animals. This translates into the finest quality goat cheese you can find.