High Country Caprine L.L.P. is a new goat dairy. Greg Farmer and Kreg Burke along with their families started operation in Longmont, Colorado, in April 2006. It is the culmination of many afternoons, talking at 4-H meetings, goat shows, and other events. Having shared the common goal for some time, when the opportunity to lease the facilities arose we jumped at the chance. We currently milk 108 goats, and look to be at around 200 next spring. We sell some of our raw milk to another local dairy where it is made into cheese. The rest of the milk is used for our own cheeses, which are available at several farmers markets, and will soon be available in retail stores in the area. We were excited by the prospect of being featured in Dairy Goat Journal, and hope to at least entertain, if not inform the readers.
Commercial Dairy Diary keepers from Colorado’s High Country Caprine: (from left to right) Sheri and Greg Farmer, Kreg and Jeanette Burke, general partners.
When asked why we are in the goat dairy business we simply answer “for the goats.” There are in this world “dog people” and “cat people,” we are “goat people.” It is our humble opinion that there is no other animal that compares to a goat. If anybody tells you goats are not smart they haven’t spent enough time with a goat. We are simply doing what many goat keepers dream (or fear)—we have escalated our hobby into a full time endeavor. At this time, as we build our market, we still maintain outside employment so the sharing of tasks and responsibilities is essential. We currently do all of the work ourselves, and the families trade off morning and evening shifts every week. Milking starts at 4:00 a.m. and again at 4:30 p.m. Milk is transported to the local dairy twice a week. The other dairy picks up on Wednesdays, and we deliver on Saturdays. We set curd for cheese twice a week as needed. The following is a brief diary of our daily operations for the first 20 days of July as recorded by Kreg:
Saturday, July 1, 4:00 a.m.: It’s our week for mornings so we’re up early to start. Our children (Nicole, Jake, and Justin) are on summer break and a big help with milking. While Jeanette and the kids handle the milking I take care of the cheese. Yesterday we made Feta, and it’s out of the molds and into the aging room today. Everything goes well today—the weather is good, and the goats are happy. We finish milking and clean up around 6:30 a.m., and Jeanette loads up for the market and I go to my regular job. 8:00 a.m.: Greg loads surplus milk and heads to the scales. Our raw milk is sold by weight so he has to weigh truck and trailer twice, once empty and once full. We’ll need to set curd on Sunday so we hold a little extra back. 3:00 p.m.: Jeanette and Sheri return from the market. Sales are growing steadily and our cooler is almost empty. 4:30 p.m.: Greg and Sheri are milking tonight. Their daughter Chelsea helps, too.
Sunday, July 2, 4:00 a.m.: Back at the milk line another day begins. Jeanette and the kids handle the bulk of the milking, and I take care of feeding the alfalfa. 6:15 a.m.: milking is done. 4:30 p.m.: Sunday is our transition day so Jeanette and I milk both shifts.
Monday, July 3, 4:00 a.m.: Greg and Sheri have the milking duties, and because of the holiday tomorrow I don’t have to work the other job today. It’s a good day to get the cheese into the aging room. About 8:00 a.m. I start the pasteurizer. We’ll make about 100 gallons of milk into blue cheese. Greg arrives with his stock trailer. He found one of our goats with a puncture wound this morning, and he’s taking her to the vet to have it checked. 11:15 a.m.: Jeanette brings me lunch. The curd is ripening, and Greg returns. Our doe is okay; it’s a small wound, but deep enough she’ll get antibiotics for a few days so she’s off the milk line and will be hand milked for a while. 4:30 p.m.: It’s our turn on the milk line again, and we’re back at it. Everything goes well. Our quarantined doe is milked into a bucket, and Greg comes over to give her tonight’s medication.
Tuesday, July 4, Happy Independence Day! It’s a holiday so Greg and Sheri don’t have to start until 4:00 a.m. (the goats may be patriotic, but a girl’s got to eat). It’s a holiday at the regular jobs so we take advantage of the extra time. Weeds are mowed, repairs are made, and another batch of cheese is started. Everybody puts in a full and productive day. 4:30: back at the milk line. Our patient is a little frisky; that medication must be doing something, but the prescription hold goes a little longer. It’s hard to discard her milk, but the antibiotics make it unusable.
Wednesday, July 5, 4:00 a.m.: Another day, and guess what—the line starts at 4:00 a.m. Everybody is back to their regular jobs today. Milk is picked up today, and they take everything in our small tank. It’s nice not to have to fill and clean the transport tank, and I doubt Greg misses the hassle at the scales. However, while they do take the milk they don’t take the mess or clean the tank. The bulk tank and hose have to be cleaned before the milking starts, and it’s my turn. Milking starts a little late, but we’re at it again. Jeanette is packing cheese, and I’m milking with Jake. Greg stops in to let us know our doe is clean, and can go back on the line tomorrow. It’s a good thing he’s here because he looks in on the tank room, and I had left a valve open and milk is on the floor. The valve is closed the mess cleaned up. I offer myself a not too flattering award, and call it quits for today. We’ll start again tomorrow
Thursday July 6 4:00 a.m. and the milk is flowing into the tank again. Thursday is market day so Jeanette loads up at 6:00 and is off. 10:00 a.m.: I got a call from Greg—two of our does have pink eye. We’ll have to move quickly to get them quarantined and medicated. Greg will treat them aggressively to prevent any spreading and to ease the discomfort quickly. Just when we thought our hands would get a rest two go off line and into buckets. 3:00 p.m.: Back from the market. Sales are better again, and we sold out of a couple of flavors of Chevre. 4:30 p.m.: The does are back in, the cycle is complete.
Friday July 7 4:00 a.m.: Greg and Sheri are back at it again. Like Wednesday, it’s a work day, and quiet at the dairy. The evening milking goes well, and the lights go out.
Saturday July 8 2:00 a.m.: We’re up early to start a batch of Chevre. Jeanette and I have an invitation to a picnic tonight so we traded shifts with Greg and Sheri. Jeanette milks, and I handle the cheese duties. 6:00 a.m.: Sheri loads up and is off to the farmers market. I have work today so Jeanette and I head home. Greg will deliver milk again today. It looks like rain and we need some. 10:00 a.m.: Nicole calls me at work: the last of our does is kidding. Nicole has everything she needs, and by now she’s done this enough that I don’t even think twice about her being alone. We get a beautiful set of Nubian bucks that won’t help expand the dairy, but it’s been a buck year for us. We got about a 3:1 ratio bucks over does this year. Jeanette has a meeting with a local retail market this afternoon, and we’re excited to see how that goes. By 4:00 p.m. everybody is back, the market was great, and our meeting was very successful. Jeanette and I leave the dairy in good hands, and we’re off to the mountains.
Sunday July 9 4:00 a.m.: Milking again. It’s Greg and Sheri’s transition day so they will milk both shifts. It’s raining again today; the milking won’t be easy. All of our does are “ladies,” and don’t like to get wet much less step in mud. Jeanette and I pull curd and load up some samples, and head to a winery in Winter Park. They are interested in selling our cheese along with their wine. It’s a little rainy and overcast, but it makes for a cool drive and the scenery is beautiful. The meeting goes well at the winery; we even sold quite a bit of cheese. We left samples, and will check back in a few days.
Monday, July 10: Jeanette and I are back on mornings and up at 3:00 a.m. to be started at the dairy by 4:00 a.m. By Friday we’ll be up at 3:45 a.m. and at the dairy by 4:05 a.m. After a week of little to no sleep, who cares what your hair looks like? The morning milking goes well, and we’re off to the other jobs. 4:30 p.m.: Sheri is milking, and I start pulling milk for cheese. We normally take all day on Sunday, but tonight we start a raw milk Gouda. It goes a little quicker because we don’t have to pasteurize. (Quicker is relative.) Everything is in molds by 9:30 p.m., but there is still a lot to clean up.
Tuesday, July 11, 4:00 a.m.: Jeanette and our kids are milking. I turn cheese. We collect the whey and give it back to the goats; we don’t do it every time we make cheese so it’s a treat today. 4:30 p.m.: Greg and Sheri run the milk and feeding tonight. I arrive at about 6:00 p.m. to pull the cheese out of the molds and move it to the aging room. Our injured doe is doing great and off medication. We’ll start testing her milk, and she will be back on the line soon.
Wednesday, July 12, 4:00 a.m.: We’re back. It’s another pick-up day so while the milking is going I set up the pump and hoses for the other dairy. Greg will get to do the clean up this afternoon, and I’m guessing he’s just as happy as I am. Given the great milk spill of last week everybody is probably glad I’m not there. 4:30 p.m.: Everything must have gone well with the tank and the milking. The “award” I gave to myself last week is still written on the white board, and it’s still mine.
Thursday, July 13, 4:00 a.m.: Morning milking is routine. Cheese is loaded and off to the markets. 4:30 p.m.: Sheri and Greg are back at the chores. Jeanette arrives back at the dairy to unload market goods at about 7:00 p.m. Sales were good. We’ll have to flavor and package for Saturday.
Friday. July 14. 4:00 a.m.: We’re milking again, and all of the does are on the line—no hand milking. 4:30 p.m.: Sheri and Greg take their turn. 5:30 p.m.: Jeanette and I start packaging for tomorrow’s market; Greg and Sheri join in as soon as the milking and clean up are done. With all of us there it doesn’t take too long, and the lights go out on another day.
Saturday, July 15, 4:00 a.m.: One more morning—this shift gets harder at the end of the week. Greg hauls milk in again this morning, and again we’re holding a little extra back. Sales are growing, and we need more cheese each week. 4:30 p.m.: Greg and Sheri are milking again. It’s been a very routine day. We’ll start again tomorrow.
Sunday, July 16, 4:00 a.m.: As soon as the milking and cleanup are done we’ll start cheese. Jeanette and I have both shifts today so we pretty much just stay all day. 4:30 p.m. curd is set, milking started, and our week of mornings is done. Sunday night (Monday morning) I sleep the best.
Monday, July 17, 4:00 a.m.: I have no idea what’s happening. I sleep in until 6:00 a.m. I guess if I wasn’t sure that Greg and Sheri are taking care of things I wouldn’t be able to sleep. We were expecting a potential customer for bulk cheese at the dairy, but the meeting will have to be postponed as he has a conflict. 4:30 Jeanette milks, and I tend to the feeding. We’re done a little early.
Tuesday, July 18, 4:00 a.m.: The vacuum pump is running, and the milk is flowing. 4:30 p.m. the process repeats. My friend Scott is here to help move hay. We bought a local farmer’s entire cutting, but his equipment is older and the stacks are 104 bales instead of 160, and we can’t find a stack mover that can move them. Scott, Greg, and I take a couple of trucks and a trailer, and move about 200 bales. We have a nice stack staged by the holding pens; feeding will be much easier for a little while. It’s not covered—hope we don’t get that rain I’ve been praying for.
Wednesday, July 19: Lather, rinse, repeat—this milking is like shampoo, at least in the repeat part. It’s pick-up day again, and I get the cleanup. Everybody hold your breath… Okay breathe—the milk stayed in the tank. The daily routine is normal today. We have to package just about all of the Chevre to be ready for tomorrow’s markets. We’ll add a third farmers market to the Thursday sale, and with any luck we’ll sell most of what we have.
Thursday, July 20: All of the does are back on the line. Other than some hoof trimming, the goats have been perfect for the past few days—the milking goes smooth; and Jeanette and Sheri are coordinating the markets. The early market does fantastic. The local paper ran an article and the response was great. We sold out of almost everything. The evening markets didn’t fair as well. Sheri’s market is northeast, and Jeanette’s is south. The rain is everywhere. The thunderstorm closed Jeanette’s market as soon as it started so she’s bringing back some cheese. Sheri at least got to set up, but the rain kept people away. Sales were good, but we could have done without the rain. With the strength of the early market we won’t have enough Chevre for Saturday so I’ll start a batch tonight.
Post Script. After reading this and the scraps of notes I piled together over the past weeks I realize there are volumes of events and information that have been left out. This “daily diary” leaves out a great deal of work and effort not only done by myself, but on a larger scale by the people I have as partners—both business and personal. It would be unfair not to recognize the hours spent moving hay and grain, cleaning water tanks and pens, packing and labeling cheese. If any of the previous accounts seem like easy days add in several hours printing labels, contacting potential sale outlets, clipping goats, mowing weeds, repairing gates and fences. There is always something to do at our dairy, and somebody is always doing something.
I would also like to offer thanks to some of the people who from time to time just stop in and help both at the dairy and at the farmers markets: Scott and Julie Cline, Tina Steen, Christa White, Kimmy Lohman, Eileen Penner, Cassie Wahl, Dave and Heather Burke, and Cassie McGurk. Thank you all for your help, support, and faith in dreams. We would like to express our gratitude for the tremendous help and support of Beverly Goldthwaite, from Goldthwaithe Nubians in Boulder, CO—hers is probably a much more informative story than ours. Thanks for the interest in High Country Caprine. If you get the chance try our cheese; we would love to know what you think.