Raising goats for milk & cheese or pure entertainment
Old Fort, Tennessee —
George Haynes was used to being around dairy goats as a kid because his family kept a few with their cattle.
"I was really big into cheese making and really fascinated with goat cheese. About five or six years ago, I started building up a dairy goat herd, milking them, and making cheese. I would work as a raft guide on the Ocoee. I had a raft and I would just leave them. The baby goats would come out and look at me. They would run up here and start playing on the raft and jumping around, so I started calling them the rafting goats," said George Haynes. This is how Rafting Goat Cheese began.
Before the cheese, Haynes said you need to have happy animals. Haynes has 16 milking goats and 12 babies.
"We mostly grass-feed, but we do give them a bit of grain so they can get the nutritional value, the nutrition they need to be dairy production animals," said Haynes.
They alternate the goats between various fields, so they can eat brush. Goats love eating honey suckle and blackberry bushes. They are forage animals, so they will also much on weeds.
"We use three different breeds -- mostly Alpines, Lamanchas, and Nubians. We have kind of cross bred between those three breeds and that gave us a variety of colors," said Haynes.
"I've noticed a lot of my goats have different personalities, but they are all fun animals that do a lot of silly things. One time I was sitting in my living room and watching TV and Sunny [a goat] was starting in the window at me. I thought it was pretty fun," said Haynes.
At Rafting Goat Cheese, they do have one billy goat named Theodore. Without Theodore, breeding would not be possible.
"We really only need this guy one month out of the year, but we keep him around because he is important for that one month," said Haynes.
Haynes explained they breed the goats during the month of September, so they can have enough goats to produce milk and eventually make cheese. Rafting Goat Cheese is considered a micro-dairy. They milk the goats on a "one-goat milk stand," then store the milk in a hold tank for three days. The next step is to pump the milk through the wall to the next room into the pasturizing cheese vat. Haynes said the cheese-making process, which involves scooping the cheese curd into molds and letting the whey drain out, takes about two days.
While goats may not be cuddle like dogs or cats, Haynes said they make for great pets and will be entertaining.
"The hardest part about raising goats is that they are very mischievous. They love to get out, but the funny this is, they will actually come looking for you and show you they got out," said Haynes.