Achadinha Cheese Company, part 3
I had to save the best post (for me) for last, the one that lets me talk about goats. I don't know what it is about cuddly animals, but I can't resist them!
After a whirl around Achadinha Cheese Company’s creamery, Donna led us around to the “teenager” area of the farm. Here, adolescent goats can frolic in their own space before joining the rest of the herd in their enormous barn and pastures. From this vantage point, we had a superb view of Donna’s nearly 300 acres, vast emerald green fields with rolling hills. Larry Peter of Petaluma Creamery is a neighbor, and across the way, we saw McEvoy Ranch (think olive oil). All we heard were goats, birds of prey, and the wind. It was awesome. The farm cat, adopted from Peter, immediately came to inspect us newcomers as we held out our hands for the goats to sniff/nibble.
The next stop was the milking parlor. Twenty-two machines are at work, milking the goats twice a day. The goats have come to enjoy their milking time, and really show their different personalities here. Some goats fight to be among the first milked goats, and some fight to not be milked. I did not witness this, but apparently they are always the same ones. As Donna explained, she uses gravity as often as possible to transport this milk next door to the creamery. Just outside the parlor, a large trough of whey was available to passing goats. Apparently, they love drinking it. It may have looked kind of slimy to me, but what do I know? I'm not a goat.
The final stop on our visit was the barn, where a good number of mothers and their young ones were hanging out. There, we could see the variety of goats that Donna keeps—she has Alpines, Saanens, Toggenburgs, la Manchas, Oberhaslis, floppy-eared Nubians, and a mix of anything in between. The interesting part for Donna and for myself was that having so many goats together reveals their social behaviors and personalities perfectly. As we approached the barn, some mischievous young kids were jumping about outside their enclosure. When they saw us coming, they immediately knew to duck back in. Goats were everywhere—there are several tiers where they can live, and Donna explained that the most aggressive ones tend to stay on the higher tiers. We saw some scuffles between the higher-ups and the floor dwellers, but nothing minor. I thought it was great to see that other goats almost always watched these struggles with interest, and made the decision to stay out, or take a side.
A separate pen held newly-born kids and their mothers—one had just been born that morning, and still looked a bit wet. Another pen in the back was occupied by a mother in labor. The rearmost pen held the infamous billy goat Pete, who had rammed Donna’s truck after escaping once. He was noisily munching on alfalfa, but did find us worthy of snorting at once.
The goats spend at least the night in the barns, because coyotes do prowl the area. However, during the day, they are free to roam the fields and graze where they like. Their diet consists mainly of grass, but Donna regularly supplements that with brewers’ grain, reducing waste in the area, and providing extra nutrition for her animals.
Definitely the highlight of my day was when Donna reached into the goat pen, plucked out a tiny kid, and let me hold it! I love goats! This one looked like some mix between a Saanen and Nubian because it was white like a Saanen, but had big floppy ears. Cute goaty cuddliness. That made my day.
By the time we had finished our visit, Donna had lost track of the time and didn’t realize the time had passed to pick up her own kids from school. Oops! She spoke with such sincerity and such warmth, we had completely lost track of the time as well.
If I learned one thing from this visit, it’s that Donna is a superwoman. She manages both the farm and her family so gracefully! Thank you, Donna for showing us around, and for sharing your story.
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