Vol. VI, No. 4, Spring 1993


A MEDLEY OF CHANGE IN OZARKS FARMING

Dairy Goats and Goat-Milk Markets

by Donald R. Holliday



"A good dairy goat," Hazel McTeer says, "will produce eight pounds of milk a day. Some of these will milk fourteen." Looking at some of her goats straddling their udders as they walk, I believe it. To people familiar with Holsteins and their hundred or hundred and twenty-five pounds of milk per day, eight or fourteen pounds of milk may not sound like much. To those fourteen-pound-per-day goats, I assure you, fourteen pounds is a great deal.

Compared to bovine milking, everything about goat dairies is miniature. Holsteins may weigh 1200 pounds, goats a hundred. Holstein dairy barns and holding pens cover acres, goat facilities maybe a quarter acre. Holstein waste lagoons could serve a city. Goat pills disappear in the grass. If a Holstein steps on your foot, or kicks you, you may go to the hospital. About the worst a goat can do is mesmerize you with its stare.

When I visited her, Hazel McTeer was milking forty-seven head of goats, with help from her cousin and brother. Her brother feeds and handles the goats outside the dairy. Her cousin turns the goats into the dairy parlor and assists there. Hazel personally oversees everything from feeding to applying the suction cups to the goats' teats. She sees everything. A champion of the healthy qualities of goat milk and the good character of dairy goats, Hazel is past president of the Missouri Goat Breeders' Association.

Hazel's goats are of both nubian (African) and alpine (European) breeds. Both breeds are vari-colored, though the nubians tend generally to be darker, and both step as daintily as their wild mountain cousins. They enter the milking parlor through a small door add jump onto a milk station elevated high enough the milker does not have to stoop. They take a bite of feed from a box mounted to the wall and look around at every detail, every movement while they munch their food as daintily as they walk. Socrates never had a more thoughtful look than these goats.

One other great difference between goats and cows is worth mentioning: goats can survive almost anywhere, with little care. They eat almost anything. No, they do not eat tin cans, but they do eat thistles, old leather shoes, oak trees, barn doors ....

Just as it does to bovine dairies, a milk truck comes to Hazel's barn door. In the past, her goat milk has been hauled to Stockton Cheese, a plant in Stockton, Missouri which makes both goat cheese and bovine cheese. Presently, Hazel's milk is transported to the Jackson-Mitchell goat milk condensing plant in Yellville, Arkansas.

Stockton Cheese is operated by Ezell and Alberta Goodwin on the site of what was a cow-cheese factory in the days when most sizeable Ozark towns had a cheese factory. The Goodwins process to finished packages both bovine and goat cheese. The bovine cheese is marketed primarily in their store in Stockton.

In their third year of making goat cheese, during the summer the Goodwins process three to four tons of goat milk each week. They run their own milk tank truck on a route through west-central Missouri. Their goat cheese is marketed in their own store, stores through the Ozarks, and beyond. Health-food stores are a primary outlet for goat cheese.

Goat milk is good for you.

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The Jackson-Mitchell goat milk condensing plant in Yellville, Arkansas is managed by Micki Biermann, a petite woman whose managerial qualifications are capped by her ability to perform every job in the plant--boiler, capper, weigh-in, milk testing, cartoner, can-conveyor maintenance ....She not only can do these tasks, she often does.

Jackson-Mitchell, processing for the Meyenberg brand of goat milk products, operates the only two plants in the world condensing goat milk, one in Turlock, California, the other in Yellville. The Yellville plant, also an old cow-cheese factory in the days of C-grade milk, began processing goat milk in 1976. Since then, its production has increased annually in 1992, 10,000 cases more than in 1991.

At the Yellville plant, goat milk is condensed, which means it is heated to evaporate part of the water content, and canned. The canned, evaporated milk is then heated in boilers to near 250F degrees for fifteen minutes to ensure full sterilization. After cooling, the cans are labeled, cased, plastic wrapped, and palleted for shipment throughout the United States and far eastern markets.

Long recognized as more easily digested than cow's milk, prescribed especially for babies who could not drink cow's milk or mother's milk, goat milk and other goat-milk products have benefited from the growth in health consciousness in the United States. The by-word of the goat-milk industry, from Hazel McTeer to Jackson-Mitchell' s Micki Biermann, is that "Goat Milk is Good for You."

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