A Cheese Is Coming, My Precious

The last livestock project that we have been learning about has to do with dairy. We could never use all of the milk that would come from a family cow, like a Jersey. At peak production they can give two or more gallons of milk per day! As we are not really milk drinkers, except for cream in our coffee or Zina’s occasional pancakes, it didn’t make much sense to pursue. I have been around cows a lot in my years and I must say that if a bovine were to take up residency here it would be for beef. That being said, however, we do eat a fair amount of cheese. Not mountains of course, but if you have been following along for any length of time, you know that if it is something we can make ourselves, that is what is going to happen. Our goats are little Nigerian Dwarf Goats. They are sweet, easy to handle, and have milk with a very high fat content. In their peak production we get between a quart and half a gallon a day per goat. So to insure that the babies get what they need, we never take them away from the mommas except at night. Over time the mothers will self wean. They can be milked for about 8 months and throughout that time the milk output begins to slowly decline. She gets to rest for a year and then can go again. It also allows us to only milk once a day instead of twice and avoids all the bottle feeding nonsense.

With the recent births from Ginger and Paprika, we have gotten into full milking swing. Yogurt will be happening soon and we have also made Chèvre (kind of a tart cream cheese). The next one to master is going to be Mozzarella. It is fairly simple to do and it is also the next one I thought was interesting in my cheese making book. Once I get that down, it will be on to the hard cheeses. The press arrived yesterday and now our little dairy operation is staffed, geared up, and making milk.

As with any new venture, there are always some pitfalls. The grumpy old farmer doesn’t always take those in stride. There are two things that can drive me to hysterics: techno – gizmos that think I need to be a computer nerd to make them work and unforeseen hassles where the solution isn’t readily available. Zina and I have both agreed that being raised by perfectionists have set the bars for success at unattainable heights. Ginger is producing a huge amount of milk, but Paprika is not producing much of anything and hates the whole milking process. Well….. why? Why are you doing this to ME!? Stupidity at it’s finest. Poor thing. So back once again to the Google gods to ask for the answers to all of life’s pressing questions.

Paprika is the lowest lady in the flock. She has always been something of a reject by the rest of the girls. Head-butting may look playful, but there is a real dominance, submission thing happening. Of all the flock, she was also the most slender and petite. In fact, we were never really sure that she was pregnant. We probably should have gotten a clue prior to breeding as she was always the one almost desperate to get the treats when we would feed them. She was hungry because she wasn’t getting her fair share of hay.

The Google gods informed us thusly: If a goat is too skinny and doesn’t have much in the way of fat reserves, she will have difficulty making milk. It can cause issues with calcium deficiencies and make it difficult to even make enough milk for her babies. BINGO! It seems that she simply doesn’t have the internal energy for production. With us trying to milk her, it was also depriving her baby of necessary nutrients (Poppy is doing fine, fortunately). So we have taken her out of the milking rotation and will be isolating her at feeding time to make sure she is getting enough to eat and try to fatten her up a bit. I may be a big, surly, grumpy, old dude, but I have a soft spot for the critters even when they piss me off to the point of a stroke. I will be going out to pet Paprika this evening, smooch on her and ask forgiveness of not seeing the signs sooner and, well, just being a dick. Animals are insanely forgiving. We could learn a great deal from them.

Paprika and the kids.

Perhaps if we breed her again after having gotten her the food she needs, things will be different. Next up for breeding, Cumin, Cinnamon and Clover…. Dozer is going to have SO much fun! P.S. The new electric milker is awesome!