The local farmers market opens this Saturday. Direct sales made up about half of our total sales last year (about 1/3 of our total cheese-weight sales, since wholesale is generally half the price of retail), so it’s a big part of our financial planning for a viable dairy. We also really enjoy the local market because even when there are minimal sales we still get to gossip with the other local farmers (“Oh my gosh, have you seen the local cougar? I heard there are at least three coyote packs on the island now, so we got llamas since we’re half a block from a stream. The llamas are really good at their job and totally pithed a raccoon last week. And that doesn’t even mention the semi-feral dogs that sometimes kill livestock. Two years ago I ended up with a herd full of puncture wounds from that menace!”)
It’s the very start of the season, but we do have most of our dairy product available. We will have all our lovely chèvre, a small number of Camemberts, some Vashon Banon (renamed from last year’s O’banon, and while my mother provides a long explanation involving the French, I just call it maple whiskey cheese. It smells fantastic when we’re packaging it.) and–fingers crossed–some properly set goat milk yogurt without any additives. Do you put agar into your yogurt? Xanthan gum? Powdered milk? Ick! Take a hike you cheaters!
I’m still arguing with myself about taking a baby goat to market with us. The cute factor is enormous (my nephew once spent a market luring people in and increasing our sales dramatically–we paid him in cheese, which he snarfed up), and it would be very useful to have a goat trained for this kind of activity, but I’m not at all sure the goat would tolerate it. The other concern is disease exposure because I do not want to bring home something like CL (caseous lymphadenitis) and end up having to mass-slaughter my herd and destroy our entire dairy business.
Think happy thoughts! Here, have a picture.
I also filled the kids with Doug Fir branches today. They have an extremely limited palate thus far, and it doesn’t include hay. I’m pretty sure this lead to the cuddle puddle due to food coma, so I’ll be repeating that meal regularly.
Here’s to a good market season! We’re hopefully going to be in the Bellevue Farmers Market, and maybe a couple others, as well as the local VIGA-run one. Baby steps, though, and we’re glad to ease into it with just one market in April, two in May, three in June, etc.
The milking and cheese making are getting into swing, and the experiments in yogurt have been consistently successful, so that’s going on our product list this year! Milk, chèvre, Camembert, and yogurt: all goat, all the time.
Of course, in order to having milking season, we had to survive kidding season. With the arrival of fifteen baby goats comes the kind of exhaustion that makes sleeping either extremely easy or almost impossible. It makes us question our dedication to bottle feeding, but at least the eleven-member squad has efficiently figured out bucket feeders.
The first buckling is purebred Nubian, so we’re raising and registering him to sell out of the herd. Three wethers shipped out in their first week, snatched up by a local woman wanting to build a pet herd. The last pair of boys have a deposit down on the raise-to-weaning option we offered this year.
And then there are the girls. All eight girls. All eight beautiful, elegant, big-eared, energetic, bouncy doelings that we get to raise and keep and love all over. Okay, yeah, we also have to train them to collar directions and their names, and trying to teach them the come-hither herd whistle keeps upsetting all the adult goats that can’t get to me, but mostly what we are storing up in our memories are the times when they bounce around and behave like brats (but in a cute way).
We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our new kids. There is so much to get ready! We have purchased a couple of used 20 foot containers, sealed the floors and added feeding racks. This more than doubles our goat living space. Our plan is to build a hoop house type building between the containers in the summer– And this will complete all our projected barn space, since we are targeting a total herd size of 30 milking does.
We have seven senior does that will likely have two kids apiece, with about one kid each from the junior does (this is their first time, after all). If the statistics work out as expected, we should have nine or ten new does to add to the herd. Of course you can never tell. Last year only about 30 percent of the kids were girls… we just have to wait. In the meantime, we are getting all our obstetrics tools ready in case anyone needs help. We’ve done this lots of times and have the goat doula role down pat.