In our last post, I listed out 10 questions that I feel milk customers ought to be asking dairy farmers. One of the goals of our farm is to pull back the veil that so often hides food production from the consumer. So, all are welcome on our farm. We love to give tours, but be forewarned that you may be put to work while you're here. ;) If a trip to the farm is not in your immediate future, then step behind the curtain with me as Brood Farm answers the 10 Questions for Dairy Farmers.
1. Do you and your family drink the milk from your farm? Yes. When our goats are in milk, we look to the barn for ALL our milk. And, yes, we consume it unpasteurized. The first year we milked and still felt like we were getting the hang of things, we pasteurized everything -- but, no more.
2. What breeds do you have on your farm? Why did you select those breeds? Our herd is entirely comprised of ADGA registered Nubian dairy goats. While I have not tried the milk of other breeds, our reading suggests that Nubians provide a thicker, creamier milk with a higher healthy fat content than the milk of other breeds. I do know that we are constantly hearing from customers that our milk lacks the "goaty" taste they've experienced in other goat milk. I'm not sure whether that is due to the breed of goat that we use or their diet or our milk storage or some combination of all of this. But, ummm, have you seen our goats' ears? More specifically, have you seen our goats' ears flopping around as they leap and bound across the field? Even if their milk tasted like prune juice, I might keep Nubian goats around here just for the cuteness of those long, floppy ears.
3. How often are your animals on pasture? Always. Our goats have access to pasture at all times. Now, if it's raining, they're going to choose to stay in their shelter. Our goats do not realize they are farm animals -- got to keep those feet dry at all times! We do supplement their pasture-based diet during certain times of the year. Milking does receive a combination of a 16% protein grain, alfalfa, and dried beets while they're on the milking stand. Pregnant does receive the 16% protein grain throughout the winter to keep them strong as their babies develop.
4. Do you use antibiotics on a regular schedule? NO!!! Do you use antibiotics in current milkers? No. Thankfully, we've never had a situation in which we had to give an antibiotic to a milker. (Knock of wood.) If the situation were to arise, however, she would be taken out of the milking rotation until all traces of the medication are out of her system. If she were to require long rounds of antibiotic treatments, she would be dried up and bred again the following year if her health allows.
5. Do you use wormers for your animals? Which one/s? How often? What milk withdrawal time do you follow? We do not worm on a schedule. We periodically check goats for signs of excessive worminess and treat accordingly. We have given Rumatel, which is approved for use in goats and has no milk withdrawal time to a milker before. Otherwise, we have never had to give a milking doe any wormer. In the spirit of full disclosure, we did once give an off-label wormer (one widely used for goats, but not approved on the label for use with goats) in one member of the herd. Our veterinarian wasn't returning our call, and we were afraid we were about to lose the goat, so we chose to act immediately. In any case, the goat WAS NOT a milker and has now made a full recovery. Our pledge is to never use any off-label product for a doe in milk. We will always abide by approved milk-withdrawal times. Trust me. I'm feeding this milk to my kids, too. For more information regarding why wormers are so controversial among goatherds, refer to #5 in this post.)
6. Are animals frequently coming/ going from the farm? The short answer is "no." We are breeding our own animals to grow our herd. For our anniversary this past year, John did get me Nutmeg when we realized that my favorite milker from the previous year hadn't been bred and wouldn't be producing any milk for us. But, Nutmeg is an ADGA registered doe, was disease-free, and came to us from a reputable breeder. Nutmeg is my girl! Love, love, love this goat.
7. How do you keep the milking hygienic? This probably ought to be a post unto itself.
I think our barn is very clean and the best milking facility I've ever come across. The concrete floors have a drain in the center to allow for easy clean up of spills. We do not have chickens clucking around (though, ummm, there is a kitty always not-so-patiently waiting for milk) or have animals living in the barn. The only time the goats are in the milking barn is for milking. The stainless steel sink and counter tops receive a thorough cleaning daily. We have a hot water heater that makes clean-up more hygienic, and the dishwasher is the icing on the cleanliness cake. During hotter weather, flies are just going to happen. They are in my house, your house, and in the barn. But, we use a natural approach to fly control: we order fly predator insects that come to us monthly in the mail. We sprinkle them just outside the barn, and they do a great job of limiting the fly population to an amount that can otherwise be controlled with the use of a flyswatter.
We begin each milking session by pulling our very clean stainless steel milking equipment from the dishwasher. We cleanse the goats' teats and surrounding areas with baby wipes. During dry, windy seasons, I coat my hands with an all-natural balm (that I make and is entirely food-grade) so that the action of milking massages the moisturizer into dry teats. I use a strip cup, which is basically a small cup topped with a strainer, for the first couple of squirts from each teat. This will catch any debris that may have been lodged in teat tips and allows me to give the milk a sniff to be sure that all is well before continuing. I then hand-milk into a large pail (yes, I take pride in the fact that we hand-milk here at our farm). If at any time during milking I feel the milk inside the pail has become contaminated (i.e. the time a soccer ball hit Nutmeg in the head and she stepped into the milk pail -- this kind of stuff happens when you have kids in the barn!), I dump the entire pail. We only save clean milk. Milk is then strained through a filter and into a pre-cooled jar. At the end of milking goats' teats are sprayed with an all-natural teat spray to keep openings clean and goats mastitis-free.
8. What containers are used for storage, and how are they cleaned? We use glass 1/2 gallon glass jars with plastic lids. The jars are wide-mouthed, allowing us to get a hand inside for thorough cleaning. But, we also run them through the dishwasher. Once clean, they are placed into the refrigerator to await filling.
9. After milking, how quickly is the milk cooled? Once milk has been strained into the jar, it goes straight into the fridge. This is one of the benefits of storing the milk in the place where the milking is happening -- there is no delay. Because we use 1/2 gallon jars that are cool before the milk even goes in, milk cools quickly in the refrigerator which helps it to stay fresher longer.
10. How fresh is the milk? Each jar of milk is dated before it goes into the fridge. That helps both me and the customer to know how fresh the milk is. Right now, we sell milk just about as fast as we can produce it, so it never has a chance to age more than a few days in the fridge.
Thanks to Key Moments Photography for all the in-action barn pics. :)