Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Man in Goat's Clothing?

There are reports that a man dressed as a mountain goat has been spotted in Utah. The authorities seem to be concerned that he may be injured by goats, or that a hunter may mistake him for a goat. This is going in the "creepy" file for now.

By they way, mountain goats are not true goats (capra genus), nor are they sheep. They are in the same subfamily as goats and sheep, but have their own genus (Oreamnos). I consider them to be closer to goats than sheep since they are called mountain goats. They have very square heads and remind me of Snowy from Tintin.


Goats love to surf

Goatee has a protoge - Pismo!

Read more here.

MOW GOATS in Cleveland

Recently visited Cleveland and picked up a copy of the Plain Press, the free west side paper. There was a great little article on MowGoats- a pilot project designed to clear vacant lots using  THE POWER OF GOATS! Goats not only clear the spaces, but are environmentally sounds, and their presence draws communities together. Who wouldn't want to come and visit someone herding a group of caprines with names like Clover, Buffy, Rosie and Princess?

Check out this blog!

Retail Theory

“There are as many women as there are men who pursue odd ways of earning money, one class of which would be designated as ‘goats,’ for it is their business to be ‘discharged’ from the department stores in which they are ‘employed’ a number of times each day. When a grouchy or haughty customer makes complaint of discourteous treatment against a clerk, one of the ‘goats’ is summoned to the office as the person in charge of that particular department. There she is given a good talking to in front of the angry customer and summarily ‘dismissed,’ and the complainant goes away rejoicing.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Goatee the Surfing Goat

The story is one told again and again. Surfing soccer-loving boy gets goat as a way to clear brush from his land. Boy, who used to live in Africa and has ties to , planned to eat "Goatee" after she finished her duties, but, like many bitten buy the goat-bug (ew) found that the creature had such personality he couldn't help but fall in love. Well, not that kind of love (although the section of the video above does have a scene of them swinging tandem on a swing set, I am sure it's just platonic love).

Boy then, on his 33rd birthday, took the goat surfing and thought she did a good job. A video of him and Goatee appeared on a local tv station and soon went viral, being picked up all over the world.

Goatee is the mascot of Flo (forever loving others) Soccer Ministry, which spreads the love of Jesus through soccer. Something about soccer, and surfing, and goats... and Jesus I guess...they all inspire passionate embrace and soulful support that seems to go beyond the single entity. At least that's what I think. Think what you like - it's still cool to see a goat surf.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sydney the Alpine Goat at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

I recently visited my favorite goat in the world at the world famous Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Sydney was an utter jerk when I worked with her back in 2000, when the Australian Adventure exhibit first opened. It was the first time I was around goats, and I soon learned to love her devious personality. She was the one who was always jumping out of the enclosure, munching on kid's strollers, and so on. She was one of the original animals in the contact yard (petting zoo).

She's getting on in years and seems to have mellowed. Still, she's awesome.

Sydney in her younger years

Papercraft Goats

This weekend I was formally introduced to papercrafting. I'd seen papercrafts (which are usually printed on single sheets of 8.5"x11" sheets of computer paper and then cut out, constructed and glued together) sitting on the cash register at the funky local video store. I didn't quite understand where they had come from (thought you had to buy a kit or something) but now I have been shown that they are all over the internet. You can find papercraft of just about anything - so of course I searched for GOAT!

I found Logic Gate Goats:
That being a bit to cerebral, I also found this guy!

Papercrafts are a bit like origami, except that they can be cut and glued together as opposed to just being a paper folding art. Perhaps in the future I'll look up some origami goats.

Goat Cart

I have a photo of I believe the same goat. Only it is "Madison" and "1926"

Link to Vintage Irvington blog:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Results are In!

On Monday, March 5, I sat down with some members of the Dairy Business Innovation Center to discuss dairy goats in Wisconsin. It just so happened that this was the same day that the World Championship Cheese Competition was open to the public. I did a quick jaunt around the judging floor, munched a sample of some really good mozzarella before getting in touch with Jeanie, Becky (of Edelweiss) and Norm for a quick chat. 

 Click for a larger size

 The judging floor. Kinda seemed like a factory (what with all the white coats and hats) mixed with 4H judging. I would like to see them implement more of a "Dog Show" mentality, where the owners of the cheese parade their wheels around before the crowd. Of course they have 2,500 entries to get through, and some cheese makers (large companies) probably entered upwards of 100 different cheeses so maybe that wouldn't work.

 Wheels laid out pre-judging.

 Public tasting is not the main focus of the event. Still, it was really nice that they did provide a small array of high-class cheeses for sampling.

 Ok so this is a terrible shot of the goat cheese judging table. The man you cannot see behind the guy in the red hat is Steve Zeng from Langston University in Oklahoma. Much of the dairy goat research going on today can be traced back to him and the Langston Goat Research Extension.

After our initial introductions (in which I found that Jeanie and I each have a Cleveland, OH connection), we started talking about the Dairy Business Center. We talked a little about the low points for dairy farmers in the ‘80-90s, when the population of farmers was aging, the price for cow's milk was low, and most cheese produced in Wisconsin was considered “commodity cheese.” “No one back then used the word Artisan,” Jeanie pointed out.  In 2004 the DBIC was former as a way to help farmers find ways to create “value added” endeavors, such as artisan cheeses, to their farms.  

The DBC is there to help all dairy associated endeavors (goat, cow, sheep etc.), and recognizes the importance of  producers, dairy processors, state and federal government and industry leaders all working together. It is not a "brick and mortar" building, but a nonprofit organization of experienced consultants that can be called upon to help develop businesses for a lower cost than if the owners just went out on their own.

I found out Wisconsin is the only state that has a sheep milk coop  (I always wanted to write about the cooperative efforts in Wisconsin, I really feel they add to the tapestry of our history. It is The Year of the Coop, so maybe I will...) Wisconsin has the most goats in the country (always in competition with Texas and Iowa for milk producing herds.) We have some of the the largest plants for processing goat milk. We also make “mixed milk” cheese – mixing cow and goat milk, for instance, to make a different blended cheese. We are far behind the Europeans, both in our goat stock and our cheese, but that is to be expected with the long history of European dairies.

Goat farming is a fairly low cost endeavor, vs. cow dairying for people to get into, and the quality of artisan goat cheese has skyrocketed. Younger farmers are getting into the business (or back into the business) as promoting local foods, or going organic has risen in the media.  Norm made sure to point out that there are still real challenges. Farming is a lot of work, and this cannot be understated. There are hotspots of goat markets in Wisconsin, and finding a market is very important for the continued strength of goat milk.  Also, the quality of milk is very important. If members of your goat herd are not producing, farmers have to make the choice to cull animals, which can be difficult but necessary to remain financially strong.

We finished our discussion as Becky and Norm had to run off to meet some farmers they had been working with who happened to be in Madison for the cheese competition. Jeanie and I talked briefly about meat goats in Wisconsin, and I will hopefully be investigating that in the future.  

Back to the cheese floor, the World Championship Cheese Contest, though some people may feel it is weighted towards our fair state since it is hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers (and we do have a whole organization dedicated to artisan cheese in our state, as well as being home to the Cheese Underground blog) is an impartial contest. Click on the first image for info on the judging process. The contest, which included judges from 40 countries sampling entries from all over the world that compete in 82 categories (not counting Best of Show), was covered by media from as far away as New Zealand.  

Some of the most interesting results to me included a number of Wisconsin cheeses making it into the "sweet 16" finals PDF (alas, none of them goat), along with a Spanish goat cheese. Montchevre and Carr Valley Cheese both made good showings in the goat milk cheese categories, placing in the top 3 in a number of categories, and (in a rare departure from my goat alliance) a special shout out goes to the small Hidden Springs Creamery for placing 2nd overall in the Flavored Soft & Semi-soft Sheep's Milk Cheeses (I love their little sheep-y label).

The overall winner was a Dutch Vermeer, made by FrieslandCampina. The winner will be honored at the International Cheese Technology Expo next month.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Amish Goat Farm Visit

CLICK the sketch to see FULL SIZE

Another bank holiday, another farm visit! This Presidents Day I was visiting the farm of an Amish farmer who had received a USDA loan to start milking goats and selling the milk to the MontChevre  cheese factory in Berlin Wisconsin (the company is based out of California). My Uncle  happens to be the loan officer, and he had heard that the milk truck had just started to come to the farm, so we set up to go take a look.

It is so funny to think, on our way to the farm, we were discussing Twitter and Bing and iPads and so on (my aunt, who is retired from the University system, knows about all of these things and we were discussing the different reasons for using them.) At the farm, we found ourselves discussing wood stoves used for heating the milk parlor, running cold water around a metal jacket over one portion of the stove to create hot water, and a cistern on the hill that created a gravity-fed water system so that a spray hose could be used for washing the milk house. From inside the grid, to completely off it, in about 15 minutes.

Now, this was an Amish farm, and so I chose not to take any photos. However, I have provided a sketch of the goat barn (see above). I also transcribed my notes on the drive home and, in leiu of a notepad, used a number of paper tags my Uncle had in his truck to track my thoughts.

One of my "note tags" 

The farmer was very accommodating on this mucky winter’s day. He seemed a little overwhelmed by having 150 baby goats to contend with (there was indoor and outdoor pens housing the babies). Also, he had just started milking – they had had only one milk pickup, the second one happened while we were visiting. His family does the milking (mostly his children I believe). He showed us the milking stands - 10 or 14 stands. One that held about 8-10 goats was long and had a neck lock section that could be closed to hold the goats. He really liked this as opposed to the stationary neck holder. Some of his goats had horns, others did not. The long section was for most of the goats, whereas the smaller 2-4 goat stands were for goats that took an extra long time to milk by hand (due to the makeup of their udder, their age etc.)  

Behind the milk parlor was the milk barn, made up of a hoop house that was open at one end. On right side he had his milking goats, and on the other, he had the dry goats.  He has some Billy goats (bucks) on site in a separate barn. One of them is his “$300 Billy goat” whose mother was known for being a very good milker.

He has 100 dry goats. He hopes to breed some of them in a rotation so that he will always be milking. Since he is selling liquid milk, there is a premium for it paid in winter (since, in the natural scheme of things, this is when goats dry up.) We chatted about how long a goat is expected to be in the milk production system (only about 3- 4 years actually, which surprised me a bit. Goats can live 15-20 years. On another website I found information that a goat can be bred before age 1 year, and “retired” at around age 10 and still live to old age. ) He said that the two most important things in getting milking goats are looking at their bloodlines, and providing them with the best food possible. He wished he had been able to have his barn a little wider, as then he would have two troughs for food (he currently has one that both sides of the barn eat out of.) That way, he could feed the more nutrient dense food to the milkers.  He really liked the airiness and light of his hoop barn though.

Some other things taken into account when setting up the farm were how many people could milk for how long. Due to his family, his farm can have 10 people milking goats for approx. 10 years before the children are old enough to grow up and leave to go out on their own.  The goats sold for meat went for about $1.35 / lb. The hoop house cost about $10,000. Once again, the Great God Hay came up in that it is hard to create good milking quality hay in Wisconsin. Much of it is “western hay” which comes from Nebraska.

A skid-steer is sort of a Bobcat type vehicle that can  run through the barn and cleans up the manure. In winter, the barn is a little hard to clean out, and a lot of work to do by hand with pitchforks. There was some discussion about bringing in pigs – if you poke holes in the packed down manure and put corn in the holes, then let pigs root around in it, it will loosen and fluff up the material so that it can be more easily dug out. 

Currently, it takesabout 1.5 hours to milk 75 goats by hand. He is currently getting a good winter milk price of about $37 per 100 weight (here is some historic info on goat milk prices in WI). Eventually he’ll be getting about $750/ ton. In other words, making about $100 / day at peek production (which was figured to be no less than 5 lbs of milk per goat per day. He already has one goat that gives nearly 20 pounds of milk!) Out of that $100, about $75 goes towards feeding the goats. His setup has the goats housed in a hoop house and not on pasture. All hay and other feed needs to be bought, brought in, and fed. 

 As the milk truck driver was lamenting the fact that his route keeps changing now that all the goats are starting to “freshen” (i.e. give birth and start to be milked), he also said he has to work long hours in hopes of not falling behind. “No rest for the wicked,” quipped my aunt. To which the farmer responded, “ya, not too much rest for us good guys neither!”

Goats hang with the cool kids

From a study in England, as reported on GeekoSystem:

Goats Form Accents Based on the Hip Goats They Hang Around

"... the next time you happen to be hanging around some goats, you’d do well to mimic them if you want them to think you’re cool."

So I got tipped off to this by the They Might Be Giants Facebook page. They also had a video of a goat massage (work safe!). And later, they lamented not seeing any fainting goats.

I love TMBG.

My MinkCar. Click to understand (or be confused.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dreamfarm Organic Goat Dairy

I arrived at Dreamfarm, located just Northwest of Cross Plains Wisconsin on a chilly January morning. Diana, the farmer met me after I pulled into the icy driveway and surveyed the tidy farm. The farm is located up on a ridge: to my right was the farmhouse, which was updated by the former owner – he added a fancy kitchen and neglected to get rid of the old one. This worked out well for a farmstead business owner like Diana, who if I remember correctly uses the second kitchen for things like washing eggs from her chickens.  Also to the right was the main barn – home to the goats and barn cats - with a field that connects with the area that houses the bucks and some Jacobson sheep.  To the left was the cheese making facility (a former “game room” of the guy with the fancy kitchen), garage, machinery shed, and chicken house. Down the ridge there is a hay field and hilly, tree-filled grazing area. 

While we wait for another person who had expressed an interest in taking a tour, we chat. Diana and her (apparently handy) husband bought farm 2002. Before that she and her family (4 children) lived on 6 acres in a cabin that they build.  They still have one daughter living at home (a high school senior) and helping on the farm.

Diana tells me that she worked for Vermont Valley CSA, got a few pygmy goats and chickens while she lived on the 6 acres, and was asked if she wanted to provide some “value added” elements to the CSA shares in the way of eggs and/or goat cheese. Her family moved down the road to the farm they are currently at which has 25 total acres. Since embarking on the process, she’s gone from 12 to 24 goats and it seems like that is about the most one person can handle. She milks 4 at a time via vacuum milkers.  
We eventually start the tour without the second guest. The herd is a mixture of full blood goats and mixes. “Don’t just buy pretty goats,” Diana says. She recommends buying goats with good history and also ones that are healthy. The goats have indoor/outdoor access as much as possible. Diana also says that organic hay is hard to come by.  She and her husband grow some on their farm (although she does grumble a little about the unreliability of their haying equipment). We head into the barn, which is a very old structure, and she walks me past the pens. There are some for kids, and some for the grown goats. She has two Nigerian Dwarf goats she is trying out. They are both pregnant and there is a buck on the grounds.  Nigerian Dwarf goats are known for giving very rich milk.
We walk into the milking parlor and she shows me the way it was originally designed, with the goats coming thought a hole high off the floor, and then she explains how they hated that and how they just come through the regular door now and hop onto the milking stands.

We head on through to the milk house where a small bulk tank stands. Diana eventually explains that, at the height of the season, she could get 450 lbs of milk (average 18 pounds of milk per doe, or a little over a gallon in the a.m. and a gallon from the p.m. milking). She used to carry the milk from the milk house to the cheese making building, but now she has to load it on the back of a pickup and drives it across the driveway.
We walk out of the barn and head on over to see the bucks. The parade of does follows us.  Diana says she hasn’t had any problem with goats getting sick from eating noxious weeds  - they pretty much avoid
things that would make them sick. She does confirm that goats can be prone to parasites, and then tells me of a rotational grazing program that she is implementing with the help of an outside organization.  She said that with that sort of intense management, allowing a set number of goats on a certain size portion of land for a limited amount of time, and then rotating them so that the plot has a chance to regrow, also helps keep the goats healthier.  There are three bucks  – Ringo, a mixed Alpine, Saanen, Nubian, Tim, a full bred Nubian, and a very wooly bearded Nigerian Dwarf named Gandalf (who hung back in my photos, but I found a good one of him and his glorious mutton chops on her blog.) She is expecting 50-60 kids in March – most of her herd was bred in October (goats are very seasonal breeders) and  2-3 kids per doe is the norm.

We talk about the Midwest Organic conference which is happening in La Crosse in a month and she said she does enjoy going. She tried implementing some of the things she learned about at one seminar which involved leaving some kids with their mothers but said with her herd, it didn’t work well.  She did say there is no good place she knows of to get organic milk replacer.

She dehorns her goats, and has one goat in her herd that does have horns. “She uses them.”  Most of the unwanted kids they sell for meat, and the price they get doesn’t take into account that they are organic. They just go per lb. She has had some experience with selling to people who, for religious or ethnic reasons, want to slaughter the goat on site.

Our second guest, (whose name I can’t recall) joins us as we head over to the cheeserie, a big clean area off of one of the garages. Dreamfarm has two walk in coolers, a pasteurizer (much of the equipment came from an Alabama goat farm that was getting out of the business). The molds used to shape and make the cheese are very expensive. Diana shows how she keeps records of everything, and it sounds as if she expects inspections all the time. The other guest is not as concerned with the paper trail of organic and health safety records Diana must keep – she is getting some info on starting a goat milk and cheese coop in Guatemala. Diana and she talk for a while about the need for a constant supply of water both for the goats and for cleaning. 

Along with goats, chickens and Jacobson sheet, Dreamfarm also keeps pigs and steers – the steers, while not organic (they come from Diana’s brother’s conventional farm) are grass fed.  The pigs eat organic whey from goats. Her goats are classified organic by MOSA.

Diane processes all the cheese herself and is a licensed cheese maker (a necessity in Wisconsin.) It sounds like a very intense process. When I asked if there was any other advice she had for aspiring goat farmers, Diane suggested to just keep visiting farms, making contacts and learn as much as you can (She also shared this link to the Dairy Business Innovation Center).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I am a big fan of Michael Symon, a Cleveland (and Food Network Iron) chef who is known for his love of meat. My admiration grew as he recently posted that he is also a fan of dairy, including one of the lesser known and appreciated goat products!

Status Update December 18, 2011 at 9:13am ·
By michael d symon
on a more food driven subject...i cant get enough of goat butter good

Wisconsin Mt. Sterling Goat Butter can be ordered here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Goat Cart

This photo was sent in by Chad M. Thanks! I will add it to my growing collection (I have one on line here, and two hanging in my office.)