This winter is going to be the first time since we started the dairy (‘commercially’) in 2004 that we will not be milking goats through the winter. It is a little scary for me to think about as I keep my life-rhythm by the seasons and activity on the farm, and I am not really sure what I am going to do with myself without milking, BUT the anticipated outcome is so exciting I can hardly stand it!
First, let me squelch any rumors that people might be mumbling…WE ARE NOT GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!!!! We will admit however, this year has been a year of discovery and realization. We honestly hadn’t anticipated milking 20+ does; we thought that some of them would need to be culled, but that wasn’t the case. You know you have reached a good point in your breeding program when you have just short of a dozen first time milkers and you like every single one of them so much that you aren’t willing to cull them. Anyone that has heard me speak has heard me say, “Twelve does is my limit”…and then all of the sudden we were milking 20+ does by hand. Not horrible for me, as I really do enjoy hand-milking, but less enjoyable for Shaun and he does milk too! Together, we realized that for the sake of my protesting hand joints and for the sake of efficiency (coupled by the fact that we really like every single doe on the place and don’t want to sell-down), we need to upgrade our milking system. We have no intention of going out of business, so this is sort of a go-big or go-home strategy…although we are ANYTHING but big.
Basically, I came to the realization that I didn’t need to be a martyr for the sake of saying I hand-milk all our goats. The machine milking will free up time that we can further pamper our girls, expand and/or more appropriately attend to other farm enterprises and give us a little more gardening time. You can bet that I will scoot up to the odd goat now and again to satisfy my hand-milking need.
In addition to the need to add machine milking, we also realized that our business model needs to be updated. We have worked long and hard to try to get our cheese off the ground and this year (in large part due to the burgeoning number of does we were milking) we feel like we have really made progress. We are in conversation with several markets and New Seasons, as always, has been supportive of our efforts. That being said, our current creamery is geared more for fluid milk production and less for cheese and ice cream. Although we have no intention of cutting off our loyal milk clientele, our cheese production actually out-paced our milk sales this year and we need to make some design changes to accommodate a more efficient creamery.
Our remodel will consist of installing a six goat milking ‘parlor’, bulk tank room and redesigning the cheese kitchen for more efficiency. The parlor we are designing is modeled, in large part, after all those cow dairies in the Trout Lake Valley where I grew up. We anticipate that our milking chores will decrease in time by almost two-thirds. Still not excited about giving up hand-milking, but I would rather make compromises in how we do things now to ensure that we can continue to do them for the long-haul than being stubborn and crippled in a few short years.
We are already on the clock as the first does are due to kid the end of February, so we better get rolling. Today begins the effort to convince the girls that they get the winter off as we drop to once-a-day milking (perfectly timed with that horrendous time change though that wasn’t intentional). By the end of this week we will begin stopping milking altogether on several does and hopefully by next weekend we will begin the demo on our barn interior. We tried once before to continue milking while doing a construction project on the barn and have determined that we will never do that again! We will try to update with construction pictures as we move along in the process, but in the meantime, just know we won’t be doing too much resting this winter. Lots to do!!! Exciting! Exciting! Exciting.
Stay tuned for another adventure for our little farm!
Happy Winter and Peace & Blessings,
S & L