With my oldest daughter leaving home to attend graduate school in Texas and my youngest daughter on track to graduate from high school and step into college life, I was loosing my labor force! So in late 2016 we made the difficult but necessary decision to down size our herd and begin purchasing some of our milk for cheese making. An extensive search resulted in the discovery of a lovely goat dairy in PA: Liberty View Creamery. They follow similar herd practices – producing quality milk that matched what we had been producing here at Shepherd’s Whey. We re-homed nearly two thirds of our herd and greatly reduced the daily demands of our dairy. Instead of the 60 plus babies born here in 2016, we had just 37 kids in 2017, and are only breeding 16 does for the coming season. It has been a very successful transition; we have been producing about 40 percent more cheese this year than last – and selling nearly everything we are making!
The seasonality of farm life is something I have come to really appreciate. Love is in the air at the farm- as we are in our breeding season. We retained a wonderful buckling – Rhet Butler, from last year’s kid crop. He has had many “dates” with our does as they come into their cycle and we are keeping our fingers crossed that they are all settling. Thanks to my mentor and dear friend Pat Adels from Munchin Hill Farm who has made one of her bucks – Triumph – available to mix up the breeding a bit, we have hauled a few does in heat over to her farm to be “serviced” there. We are expecting babies starting Mid February. It is always exciting to plan breedings: which combination of traits will improve the herd, or continue a strength in a particular line? Having the smaller herd makes it a bit easier this year.
We always give our girls the last two months or so of their pregnacy “off” allowing them to stop producing milk and put all their energies into growing healthy babies. That means, starting mid December, we will not be milking or making cheese – giving US a much needed break too. From kidding season in Mid February to dry off in mid December we are milking twice a day, and making cheese nearly every day in addition to tramping off to markets 6 times weekly. So the two month period from the end of December through the middle of February is the time I take to rest, say hello to my husband and human kids, as well as take time to reflect and scheme for the coming season. Two more months to go to finish off the 2017 season.