For The Love Of Goats
In addition to being the author of the newly released book, Grow Your Own Spices, Tasha Greer is also a homesteader and goat owner. Today we are talking about extended lactations in Nigerian dwarf goats, as well as making cheese without a recipe.
Although most people only milk their goats for a few months or a year at most, many goats are capable of continuing to produce milk for two to three years. This is something we’ve been doing on our farm for a while, so I was excited to learn that Tasha milks her does for an extended period without rebreeding.
Tasha uses her goat milk to make homemade cheese for her family, and we also talk about how she doesn’t let her cheesemaking be defined by recipes. Instead, she has created her own unique cheeses.
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Grow Your Own Spices by Tasha Greer
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Deborah Niemann 0:18
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode. I am really excited today to be joined by goat owner Tasha Greer, who is the author of Grow Your Own Spices, and is also the voice behind the website Simplestead, which is basically a beginner’s guide to homesteading. Welcome to the show. Tasha.
Tasha Greer 0:39
Thank you, Deborah. It’s really nice to be here and actually get to talk to you. You’ve been one of my heroes for a very long time.
Deborah Niemann 0:44
Oh, my goodness!
Tasha Greer 0:45
It’s a dream.
Deborah Niemann 0:48
Thank you. Well, I was really excited when you first contacted me to let me know that you have just published a new book called Grow Your Own Spices. Tasha also wrote a really incredible article about growing turmeric that is going to be on my website. And so, I’m super excited about sharing that with everyone, because I’m also really excited about starting to grow tumeric and ginger myself. So, that’s gonna be fun. And then, as we were exchanging emails, I found out that Tasha milks her Nigerian Dwarf goats for extended lactations, which… I was so excited about that! I know, you’re probably going, “You’re excited about every episode.” But I was so excited to meet somebody who is doing extended lactations with Nigerian Dwarfs. Because it’s super uncommon. It’s not very common for people to do extended lactations with any breed of goat. But it’s even less common for people to even think that it’s possible with Nigerian Dwarfs. I have a forum, it’s NigerianDwarfGoats.ning.com, and somebody on there, like, probably about six months ago, made a comment that it’s impossible to do extended lactations with Nigerians. And I was like, “Oh, no, it’s not.” And I gave all the examples of what we had done in the past. And they’re like, “Well, I don’t understand. Like, if this is possible, then why don’t you hear about all of the biggest breeders doing it?” Well, there’s a really good answer for that. If you’re a really big breeder, and you’re getting $800 or $1,000 for a kid, you’re gonna have kids every year. You’re not gonna sit there and see, “Gee, I don’t know, can I milk this doe for two or three years? Do I want to lose $5,000?” No!
Tasha Greer 2:35
Deborah Niemann 2:37
So our thing is—because we used to freshen, like, 20 goats a year when my daughters were home, and they are not here anymore, and we don’t need to have all of the cheese that we used to make when we had so many people here. Because a goat is not going to produce as much milk after a year as it did in its first year. That’s why dairies breed them every year, is because they want the higher volume. But that’s not really important to me right now. So, what we’ve started doing now is just to see if it can be done with every goat. So, we’re now in the middle of this, where we are freshening half of our does one year, and then we’ll milk them for two, and then on the opposite year, we’re freshening the other half of the does, and we’re gonna do that. So, go ahead and tell us a little bit about, like, how did you get started with extended lactations? You know, and, like, is it just kind of a random thing, or do you purposely try to milk every doe through for two or three years?
Tasha Greer 3:40
Yeah, that’s… So, I think with me it was: I couldn’t find anything about anybody doing extended lactations with Nigerians, either, when I first started, but I really didn’t need the kids, as you said, because I’m a homesteader. I’m doing this for my own milk production and consumption. And I also… There’s, like, all these discussions about banding boys and how bad that is, but I was like, “Have you ever seen a goat in labor?” That’s extremely painful. And so I just started thinking, if there was a way that my girls wouldn’t have to have labor as often, but I could still get what I needed from them, it just seemed like it would be a perfect solution. So, I kind of started at first with my oldest goat. She was… I actually bought her when she was six years old, but she had a history of having quads; she had really good milk production. And so, I just bred her, and I just milked her as long as I could. And, you know, and she pretty much… She was usually doing between, like, 7-8 cups a day for the first eight or nine months. But then she would go down to about 5 or 6 cups for, like, you know, the next two years. So that’s when I was like, “Alright, this is possible.” And so, I just started kind of working through my herd, one by one, to see what they were capable of. And what I found is that it’s different with each goat. I mean, I’ve got some that are really great producers, but they can only do it for about 15 months, and then they’ll get down to, like, 1 or 2 cups a day. And at that point, I’m just, you know, I’ll decide to breed them and start drying them off, because it’s not really fun to milk a goat for a cup of milk. But the key thing I’ve noticed there is you really have to milk them twice a day. It doesn’t necessarily have to be, you know, every 12 hours, I never do it on a 12 hour schedule. But you really do need to keep milking twice a day if you want to maintain that production. Whenever I drop to once a day, then I can expect half my milk to go away if it’s if it’s past the one year mark.
Deborah Niemann 5:39
Yeah, that’s interesting, because I am very busy. Like, people ask me all the time, like, “How do you do it all?” And I’m like, “I don’t do at all.” As I was saying, before we even started recording today. My husband is the one who actually does all the milking now. And he works full-time as a college professor. And so, he is super patient. But, he only wants to milk once a day, because sometimes he teaches night classes, and he doesn’t want to come home at 11:00 and milk the goats, and then turn around and go back out there, eight hours later, and milk them again at 7:00 AM. And so, he does go to once a day, usually in the fall, which is, like, six months or so after the does have kidded. And yes, they do. The production does drop at that point. But he’s fine with that, you know, he’s like, “Oh, if I’m just getting a cup a day, that’s fine.” And then the other thing, too, and this sounds crazy, and it would have really scared me a long time ago. But there have been a couple times when he’s on break again, and he starts milking does twice a day again. So like, right now he’s just milking once a day. But we’re going to have more kids in April, and those does are going to be very fresh and big producers; they’ll need to be milked twice a day this summer. And he will probably just start milking the other does again twice a day. And then their supply will go up again—not all the way back to where it was. But it will go up again when he goes back to milking twice a day.
Tasha Greer 7:15
Yeah, that’s something I discovered, as well. It seems to be, if I start—you know, when I have kind of taken a break just to test it out—if I start them again, in spring, you know, when they’re getting all that fresh, you know, pasture, and if you do that when their diet is transitioning, you get more of an increase than if you were to try to do it in cold weather. I mean, in cold weather, they’re just not, you know, going to go back up at all. But once it starts to warm up, and they have lots of fresh pasture, it seems like it’s easier to drive them up a little bit. And I… Most of my experience has been that it, you know, I can increase it by maybe a third in my two most productive goats. I can push it back up to half of what it was before. But if I dropped down to 2 cups, I’m not going to push it all the way to 4 cups, I can only push it back up to 3 cups. But it really seems to depend on their diet, whether or not you can drive them back up.
Deborah Niemann 8:05
Yeah, that’s interesting. And one of the things that is interesting about you—because you also make these “impromptu” cheeses that I just think is fascinating. And hopefully we’ll get to that in a couple minutes. But you’re a lot like me. And then, you know, like, you hear people say, you know, “Well, this is how it goes. Your goats have their babies, and you have to milk them twice a day, and you dry them off after 10 months. And then, two months later, they kid again.” And it sounds like we’re both, like, “Well, gee, I don’t know, why do I have to do that?”
Tasha Greer 8:37
Yeah, I mean, it’s a good place to start.
Deborah Niemann 8:41
Tasha Greer 8:41
But the fun of keeping animals, and being a homesteader, is starting to push the limits and figure out what you can, you know, really get away with, I mean, I do the same thing, not just with these extended lactations, but with their diets. Sometimes I’ve experimented—I know minerals are really important—but I’ve actually experimented with different plants as an alternative to see if I can maintain health and still get good fertility. You know, for me, it’s… I really want to be able to be fully self-sufficient if I had to. And so, I play a lot with just trying to figure out exactly what my goats are capable of, what I need to do to keep them in good shape, because I think it just makes this more sustainable, and more self-sufficient, the more I know about it. So, you know, I mean, if you’re a dairy just wanting to be hyper-productive, and, you know, you want to give your employees a break or whatever in, you know, the offseason, then you might want to be breeding every year. But if you’re a homesteader trying to maintain milk year-round, you know, I don’t want to be freezing everything. I want to have fresh as, you know, much of the year I can. It just makes sense to start to experiment and to sort of push the limits of self-sufficiency. And goats, you know, I mean, they really are an excellent self-sufficient animal. And so, as long as you can give them room to forage, you know, and some good basic care, they can give back to you. And, you might not always get the full productivity, but you will still get, you know, what you need to keep yourself healthy from them. You know, it’s a nice trade-off.
Deborah Niemann 10:13
Yeah, that’s a really great point. And I… Nutrition, of course, is so important to me, and I talk about it all the time, that, you know, as long as you’re giving goats what they need, that they are very productive and they’re very healthy. So, if I was gonna say that I had one thing I don’t like about extended lactations, that is that I’ve noticed some of my goats tend to get overweight. Maybe we just milk too slow and they eat too much grain. But I have noticed that. Have you? Is there anything that you’ve noticed about extended lactations that you don’t like?
Tasha Greer 10:52
Um, not really, but I’ll be honest: I actually like my goats just a little bit heavier, because that way, if we, you know, did run into a situation where, like, I didn’t have grain or something like that, or couldn’t access hay, they’d have more leeway, you know? Or, if they got sick, you know? So far, thankfully, none of my goats have had any major illnesses. But if they did get sick, if they have a little bit more weight on them, it just buys you a little bit of time to address the problems. So, I kind of keep my girls a little bit heavier than is, you know, sort of what your typical dairy goat looks like. But if they get too heavy, their milk production declines. So that is a downside. So it’s kind of a fine line. But when they start to get overweight, I just make them go outside. I just kick them out, and don’t let them be in their house, so they’ll do more gazing and walking around and entertaining themselves.
Deborah Niemann 11:44
Have you ever been on milk test before?
Tasha Greer 11:46
I have not. Like I said, I’m really doing this as a homesteader. So I haven’t really gotten into being involved with other—I guess, outside of my homestead—agencies and things. So, I used to register my goats. But I even stopped that just because it’s overhead for me, since I’m really just trying to produce for myself.
Deborah Niemann 12:06
The reason I ask is because we used to be on milk test for eight years. And, one of the things that we learned when the does were milking year-round—because the books will tell you, and what it looks like if you look at ADGA data, is that goats freshen and then you have this inverse relationship between their production and their butterfat. So, you see these beautiful curves on this chart, you know, and they’re the exact opposite of each other, that goats freshen, and their production is very low, their butterfat is very high. And then, over the course of the first month, those two things flip, so that their production gets to its peak, and their butterfat gets to its lowest point in their lactation. And then the butterfat gradually starts to go up, and the production will plateau some, and/or gradually start to go down. And, people always would say that it’s totally related to when they freshen. The thing is, nobody notices—and this is fun. I’m going to be doing another episode with a researcher, and we’re going to talk about conflicting variables. And this is a really great example of conflicting variables. Because, what we discovered when we started milking our goats year-round, is that it has to do with the season.
Tasha Greer 13:22
Deborah Niemann 13:22
And, I should’ve known this looking at our yogurt, because, like, it’s been a thing in our family forever that, like, we love winter yogurt. Winter yogurt is like custard. You know, whereas summer yogurt is much thinner. And it’s because of the butterfat, like we discovered that. And it’s so hilarious, because the best example I can give you is that one year we had a doe that freshened in the beginning of October, and we had all these other goats that freshened in the spring, and we were keeping—this doe that freshened in October—we were keeping her milk separate. Because we thought, “Oh, she is two months fresh. That is when her butterfat is going to be at the absolute bottom. I don’t even want that low-fat milk.” You know. So, we’re going to keep her milk separate from everybody else’s, so that we can have our thick yogurt that we’re used to, you know, like, in December. And, we sent in our milk samples for that month, and they came back, and she actually had the highest butterfat of anybody. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, she has the highest butterfat and I’ve been wasting her milk!”
Tasha Greer 14:39
Well, that’s, I think, where I might have an advantage, because I’m a cheesemaker, I can literally feel the difference in my milk when I’m making cheese. I can feel it in the curds. I can taste it. And so, I absolutely know that it has nothing to do with when they freshen, and everything to do with what they eat. So, once they go on dry food, their fat always increases, especially because I give them alfalfa pellets in winter while I’m milking them. So, I’ve noticed that, you know, it’s like November, December, January, February, I get really good milk fat. But I also get that in… usually in June and July. And I think it’s just because there’s more weeds then. I think maybe some of those weeds might be increasing their fat. So that’s when I really like to make my soft-ripened cheeses. But, you know, I can’t tell you exactly the timing, you know, because it seems to vary a little bit with the year, but I can feel it in the milk, and it is not related to freshening.
Deborah Niemann 15:35
Right, yeah. And it’s funny, because now my husband is, like, the main cheesemaker in the family, and he’s an engineer, and so he loves to just geek out over numbers and stuff. And so, yeah, he does, too. Like, he figures out the cheese yield for every batch of cheese he does. And that’s one of the things, too—it was really funny. A bunch of years ago, he made cheese one day, and he was not happy. He’s, like, looking at it. He’s looking at it, and he’s, like, redoing the numbers, and he’s like, “I don’t understand. The yield on this batch was, like, so much lower than the the batch of cheddar that I did two days ago.” And I was like, “Oh, huh, I guess it’s true what they say about black oil sunflower seeds.” And he was like, “What’s that?” And I said, “Oh, it’s supposed to make their butterfat go up. And we ran out a couple days ago.”
Tasha Greer 16:24
Deborah Niemann 16:25
And that night—this is back when I was still the main milker and he was the cheesemaker already—that night I went out to milk, and there were black oil sunflower seeds next to the milk stand for me.
Tasha Greer 16:41
I have not actually tried those. I mean, I grow some, you know, different sunflower seeds and sunflowers in pasture for them. Sometimes they eat them and sometimes they don’t. But, yeah, I’m gonna have to give that a try and see what that does. Actually, fenugreek is the one I want to experiment with this year, because I’ve been growing it for myself for a long time. But, I’ve been reading research on it lately that it really helps with lactation, that it can actually increase yields. So… And I’m wondering what it does to the flavor and the taste, because fenugreek is, like, it smells like pancake syrup. So, I’m wondering if they’ll kind of sweeten things up.
Deborah Niemann 17:16
Tasha Greer 17:18
That will be some fun for this year. But yeah, definitely dietary. When you’re gonna milk your goats year-round, you really need to make sure that they’re eating good quality food the entire time. Because, otherwise, it’s going to be a strain on their bodies. So, I think it’s… Yeah, the black oil sunflower seeds is gonna be a good experiment to try next.
Deborah Niemann 17:39
Yeah, it’s funny, because a lot of people want to give those to their bucks and stuff. And it’s like, there’s no reason to give them to bucks. There’s like, it’s like a grain, they don’t need it. And they don’t make milk. So, it’s just really a waste of money if you’re giving it to your bucks.
Deborah Niemann 17:56
So, the other thing that was really interesting that I learned as we were visiting recently, is that you also do what I’m referring to as “impromptu cheeses.” Which I just think is the coolest thing, because I’ve been teaching cheesemaking for, I don’t know, over 10 years, a long time. And I mostly teach people how to make the simple stuff, you know, like chèvre and queso blanco and mozzarella and stuff like that. And I’ve got some videos, you know, that teach people how to make cheddar and Gouda and Parmesan and things like that. And people always ask, like, “Well, can I do ‘X’?” And my answer is always “Sure, but it’s not going to be cheddar.” Or, “It’s not going to be…” You know? Like, every single thing that you do with the milk is going to have a unique effect on the outcome. And so, you can do anything you want. And you will get something that’s probably edible. It may not be recognizable as a cheese you’ve eaten before. But, you know, pretty much as long as it’s not growing black mold, you’re probably okay. Like, it is something edible. And if you don’t like it, you can give it to the pigs or chickens or whoever. So, at what point did you decide that you were gonna just throw away the cheesemaking books and start doing your own thing?
Tasha Greer 19:23
To be honest, it was after I made cheese the right way. I was like, “Wait a minute, this is gonna drive me crazy.” So I just realized that, “You know what, people have been making cheese for forever.” You know, they might have discovered it by accident, just by either sort of having milk go, you know, go bad or something like that. So, you know, I just figured, long before we had all of this science to rely on, there were people making cheese. And so, I kind of looked at, like, the French cheesemakers. You know, I mean, they’ve been cultivating their own cultures, and they also have, you know, these cheese caves where they keep the cheese, and their cultures are so, like, alive and vibrant in there that they’ll just attach themselves to their cheeses while they’re aging, and that’ll have an influence. So, I just kind of thought if I did crazy stuff in my kitchen, then I’d start to get all these good cultures, and they’d just keep reproducing themselves. And, I’d say the first year that I made cheese just randomly, my results were pretty mixed. I probably only got good, edible cheese about half the time. But, it seems like the longer that you do it, the more good cultures you develop in your kitchen. And I’m not one of those people that’s hyper-clean, you know, I mean, soap and water is about all I ever use to clean my counters. So these cultures are always hanging around, because I make cheese so regularly. And so, I think because of that, it’s easier to not make mistakes and to get something edible and delicious every time. You know? So I just started with that premise. And so then I just started playing around. And really, it’s like, curds have a feeling. They… You can tell when you slice them if the cheese is going to set up thick, or if it’s going to be better a little bit moister, you know, if it’s going to be more like a, you know, something you want to use as a spreadable cheese, or if it’s going to set up as a nice cheddar-like cheese, and… I don’t make cheddar but I make something that in a blind taste test someone might think is cheddar. So, I’m not using that formal process. But it really, you know, you just kind of get a sense of the curds, and then you’ve got all these cultures hanging around, and so good cheese happens. And I think, you know, farmers knew that before. But people want more precision. They want the same product over and over again when you’re selling it to a client base. But when you’re doing at your homestead, it’s really just a matter of how much time you want to spend and what you want to eat. So, for me, if I can make a good, edible cheese in three minutes of work, I’m going to do it.
Deborah Niemann 21:51
Yeah, that is a really great point. I know, that’s why we make a mozzarella that uses citric acid rather than cultures, because we can do it in 20 minutes.
Tasha Greer 22:01
Deborah Niemann 22:02
Like, why do I want to spend a couple hours to make a cheese that isn’t going to be any better than the one I can make in 20 minutes?
Tasha Greer 22:10
Yeah, citric acid is definitely a tool that I use pretty regularly. So, I make a mozzarella and a chèvre with it. But, I also… I like to just pre-culture the milk, you know, just kind of let it sit out for a couple of hours, then put it back in the fridge, and then use it the next day. And that alters the flavor quite a bit and gets you sort of a creamier outcome sometimes. And so, that—I’ve even used that with the candidum. I’ve used that to make a soft-ripened cheese and ended up with a really nice product.
Deborah Niemann 22:35
That sounds promising. Okay, so this is interesting. How do you make the mozzarella then? Because you use citric acid and a culture, both?
Tasha Greer 22:55
Sometimes. Sometimes I’ll pre-culture the milk. But usually, when I’m making mozzarella, I’m just gonna stick some citric acid, you know, just an eighth of a teaspoon of citric acid and a gallon of milk and let it sit. I frequently actually do this outside, like, in the summer when it’s warm, because it just tastes so much fresher when, you know, you just do it right there, like, on a table adjacent to the goats. I don’t know why, but that seems to work really well. And so, I’ll just heat it up and make your mozzarella.
Deborah Niemann 23:26
Wow, that sounds like fun. So do you have some things that you’ve created now that you consistently keep repeating?
Tasha Greer 23:34
Yes. Well, I do—actually one of my favorites is I make a Paneer cheese. But, with the whey that I get from the mozzarella, I make a whey vinegar. And I put a little bit of fenugreek in that, because it gets that nice aroma, but to make whey vinegar, you basically need two quarts of whey and a half-cup of sugar. And then, you need about six months. And it makes a nice, really nice, vinegar. Because the whey doesn’t have quite the right sugars, I guess, to generate a good vinegar on its own. But if you kickstart it with some sugar, then it will convert to a really beautiful vinegar. And I just put some fenugreek seeds in there, just to aromatize it, and it gives it almost like a vanilla aroma. And then I use that to make my Paneer. And that one works really well. Because, normally, you would make the Paneer with lemon juice. And that’s also really nice, and an easy cheese to make. But the whey vinegar with that little bit of fenugreek… It tastes so nutty and rich, and I have never had a single person that ate that that didn’t think it was the best Paneer they’ve ever had. It’s just something special because of the whey and the sort of aroma that comes from the fenugreek seeds.
Deborah Niemann 24:45
So, you’ve probably been asked this before: How do you know that you’re not going to create something that’s going to make yourself sick?
Tasha Greer 24:53
Yes, that’s a great question. And, I will tell you honestly, I’m kind of… I’m a rebel, and I’m willing to take risks. You know, I mean I skydive, and scuba dive, and all that kind of stuff. Go rock climbing. So, I don’t think that everyone should be experimenting with cheeses like this. I think you have to be a person with high risk tolerance. I also think you need to have a good gut. Like, I eat fermented foods—kimchi, sauerruben, sauerkraut, yogurt. I eat these things constantly, every single day, multiple forms. And so, I think just having a really sort of active biome is one of those things that, even if you do make a mistake, it can sort of save you. I mean, I’ve literally never been sick from anything I’ve eaten. And I’ve taken lots of risks. But I don’t know that everybody should, you know? I mean, I think if you’re a person with a compromised immune system, you have to make different decisions than somebody like me who has, you know, a rock-solid gut and, you know, takes risks naturally. So I don’t think it is for everyone. I think for people who have concerns, they need to follow the rules, because there is absolutely always a risk that you could develop, you know, an off culture that might not be good. But I also think when you grow your own food, do a lot of cooking from scratch, you get a really good sense of when something is off. You know? There have certainly been times where I just, I can stand near something and realize something is wrong, and that I need to be careful about that thing. And so, I think that sense also helps.
Deborah Niemann 26:30
Yeah. And that’s what I’ve told people. I… because even though, like, we have always followed the rules, it has been super obvious to me when something was not right. Like, one time, I was making yogurt, and I came over there, and the yogurt had, like, exploded. The lid was off. And there was like all this foam. It looked like three inches of frosting had, like, pushed its way out of the container where the yogurt was supposed to be fermenting. And, when I pushed that aside, it looked like skim milk in the bottom of the container. Now, like, a three year old would look at that and be like, “Ew, that’s nasty.” You know? I mean, it was so obvious to me. I don’t know, I’d probably been making yogurt at that point, like five years or something, and I had no idea. And so I’m, like, in my little Yahoo group back then going “What happened?” And somebody said, “Does it smell like yeast?” And I’m like…
Tasha Greer 27:41
Deborah Niemann 27:42
“Well, now that you mention it, yeah, it does.” You know? And they said, “Well sounds like some kind of, like, either wild yeast, or maybe yeast from your bread baking, or something, got in there and took over.”
Tasha Greer 27:56
I had that exact same experience with yogurt. But for me, I think it was a temperature thing. Because I actually make my yogurt inside my oven, because it’s got a, like, lit pilot light all the time, so it tends to run around 95 degrees in there. And so I just stick it in there. But, I think one time it was just particularly hot, and so it developed some cultures that weren’t yogurt. Clearly weren’t yogurt.
Deborah Niemann 28:19
Tasha Greer 28:21
It actually, to me, it didn’t really smell yeasty. But it did smell a lot more like fermented… It smelled more like vinegar, actually. So, it might have even picked up a little bit of the vinegar cultures and just already started to digest those sugars in a different way.
Deborah Niemann 28:37
Yeah. Wow, that is so interesting. So is there any, like, final words of advice for anybody who wants to, like, step out of the cheesemaking box and do something original?
Tasha Greer 28:51
I think, yeah, I mean, I think really what you need to do is just kind of use your senses. Just pay attention to the smell of things as you’re going along, because your nose tells you a bunch about how a cheese is going to turn out. And then also play with your curds. You know, I mean, a lot of time we’re trying to be really tender and delicate with them. But to get a sense of curds, you got to stick your hands in them sometimes and just kind of feel what they feel like so that you can tell what the cheese is going to be like. And take notes. Take lots of notes. Because you won’t remember this stuff. As much as we like to think we will, we don’t.
Deborah Niemann 29:25
Tasha Greer 29:25
Our brains just don’t work that way. So notes are really important.
Deborah Niemann 29:29
Yeah. That is my number one recommendation to people who are new to cheesemaking. I would have shortened the learning curve on my cheesemaking by about five years if I had just been taking notes from the beginning. And that’s where my husband… Like, after about three years, I was just feeling really deflated about cheesemaking, because, like, maybe half of my batches would come out good, and the other half would be somewhere between “meh” and awful. And so, I told my husband, I said, “You know what? You’re the engineer.” I’m one of those cooks who throws in a little of this and a little of that. I don’t like to measure things. I don’t even like to use a timer half the time. And so, you know, but he’s an engineer. He likes to check temperature, and use stopwatches, and stuff like that. So, I convinced him to do it. And, of course, he, like… Every batch of cheese to him reminds me of the high-school science experiments, you know, that you had to write out all of your process and everything. But, wow, that makes such an incredibly huge difference! Because, especially once you get into aged cheese, like, six months down the road when you’ve made, like, 20 cheddars in the last six months, so when you pull this one out of the cheese cave to try it—you have no idea what you did back then. You know? So, it was really so much fun. You know, it used to be like, every time we cracked open a round of cheese, it was like a cheese tasting. The whole family would sit around, and we would be talking about it, you know, like, “Well, I don’t know, I think it could be creamier. I think it’s a little too dry. Let’s see how it melts.” And we would shred a little and throw it on a tortilla chip and stick it in the microwave. And so, keeping notes just is so very important.
Tasha Greer 31:23
Well, I think you just highlighted another really important thing: You’ve got to taste this stuff, and decide whether you like it, and decide what your favorite things are. You know, don’t just make cheese because someone, you know, give you a recipe. Pick the ones you really enjoy making and really enjoy eating, and keep duplicating those, because then you’ll get even better at it, and you’ll get more consistent, even if you’re not, you know, watching the timer and checking your temperatures. You just get a feel for the cheese.
Deborah Niemann 31:50
That’s a really great suggestion. Well, thank you so much for joining us today! It’s been so much fun to chat about extended lactations and cheesemaking with another homesteader.
Tasha Greer 32:02
Yeah. No, thank you so much. This has been a wonderful dream come true!
9 thoughts on “Extended Lactations and “Impromptu” Cheeses”
So informative and interesting. Thank you for sharing.
Glad you enjoyed it!
Thank you. Great information. Could you do something on how to set up a cheese cave at home? I’ve used a small wine cooler but it really doesn’t hold more than a 2-3 cheeses.
We use beverage refrigerators (wine coolers) to age our cheese and can fit a couple dozen in there. I don’t understand what you mean about it not holding more than 2-3. If you want something bigger, you can buy a Johnson controller and use it with a regular sized refrigerator. That allows you to set the temp between 50-55, which would be illegal for a refrigerator manufacturer to do because food is not safe when stored at more than 40 degrees. We tried creating a “cheese cave” the old-fashioned way, and it didn’t hold the temperature low enough in the summer, and all of the cheese molded.
Another great subject.
I am still milking two Alpine/Saanen mix goats who kidded in April or May of 2017. Production goes down in winter to as low as 5-6 cups combined, although most of the time it is 7-8 cups combined. From spring through fall I get 7-8 cups per goat every day. I think it is pretty amazing, because I don’t want to have new kids every year.
Is there a limit to long I can do this without stressing their health?
I am intrigued about the sunflower seed tip for higher butterfat. How much should I give a Alpine or Saanen goat?
This was a great episode, thank you!
I’ve heard of people continuing to milk for as long as 10 years, and I just saw this article about extended lactations in France — https://modernfarmer.com/2021/02/no-milk-without-meat/ . Lactation is much easier on their health than pregnancy and birth. Someone told me that their milk inspector told them that they would have trouble with high SCC counts if they milked for extended periods, but I did not see this when we were on milk test. But of course, as always, you should pay attention to the condition of the udder to be sure it’s not getting hard and the milk is not stringy or salty.
We just add a handful or two of sunflower seeds to our Nigerian dwarf’s grain on the milk stand. It’s not very scientific, but don’t use a ton because I was talking to this about a vet professor years ago, and he said he had recently read a study that showed that a certain point, it started to have a negative effect. I should do some searching and see if I can find that study.
Thank you for the additional details! I started adding a small amount of sunflower seeds to their grain yesterday. I set aside some milk from before to sit in the fridge for cream to separate to compare to some I will collect next week to try to see how much of a difference it makes. I don’t have any technical way to measure, so I am going to pour the same amount into identical jars and eyeball the cream line after a few days, maybe a week. I love doing experiments!
Sounds great! Let me know how it goes! My husband does the math to get a butterfat estimate based upon his yield when making cheese.