My husband and I co-own Flying Goat Farm in southern Maine. We have been raising purebred Nubian dairy goats since 2007 and held our Maine dairy license since 2009. Ask me anything about running a dairy, milking goats, goat husbandry, making cheese, farmers' markets, raw milk, goats for land management, etc.

I also am a vet student and have a particular interest in reproduction, breeding and genetics, so happy to talk about all that stuff too!


Ask away reddit!

EDIT: Hey guys- this is really fun and you are asking some great questions, thank you so much! I have to take a break from the computer now that the feta is draining, I don't have a good excuse to not be doing other things. I will try to come back later on and answer more questions. Thanks!

EDIT2: Ok, I'm back and there are even more questions I'm excited to answer! Just to address a couple that have been asked more than once:

We are only licensed to sell our dairy products within the state of Maine at this time. We would absolutely LOVE to send you cheese anywhere in the country, but first we need to upgrade our equipment to the kind the FDA likes to see for interstate dairy requirements.
To this end- we are running a kickstarter campaign right now and we are about halfway through our time and almost halfway to our goal. You can check out more details about what we're doing at our project page: Also please feel free to ask questions here about our project too!

Right now you can find our cheeses and yogurts at the Kennebunk Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings, the Sanford Farmers' market also on Saturday mornings, North Berwick Farmers' Market on Friday evening, and Wells Farmers' Market on Wednesday afternoon.

EDIT3: I'm gonna wrap it up now, I think I've answered most of the questions. Gotta go say goodnight to the goats. THANK YOU ALL! This has been really fun and I never anticipated that I would get this many questions. I have to admit I've been a little bit intimidated by reddit, but y'all have made this really fun. If you want to keep up to speed on what's going on at FGF, facebook ( is the most often updated place, though I'm trying to be better about updating our blog more regularly. I hope to see some of you in the future at Open Creamery Day or farmers' market! Thanks so much!

Comments: 256 • Responses: 60  • Date: 

kidamazo42 karma

Thanks for doing this. Goats are my favorite animals and I have long dreamed of one day owning one, but I've heard horror stories of how hard they are to keep, especially males. Any advice for owning one or two of these beautiful amazing creatures?

FGFCara37 karma

Goats are awesome, I definitely agree! :)

They can be a bit problematic as far as the whole keeping them contained thing. The best possible advice I can give is to keep them busy! We have had really good experiences with portable electric net fencing and moving them regularly around in the woods and pasture. Even our buck respects this type of fence, and as long as he's happily munching on the pasture or trees.

Don't keep just one goat- they will drive you absolutely crazy. ;) They are herd animals and need a companion- in the absence of another goat, you will be that companion.

An intact male (buck) can get pretty stinky and obnoxious in the fall during the breeding season, but a castrated male (wether) is generally a really easy animal to keep- just do not feed them lots of grain! They do not need all that extra energy and are prone to urinary stones and obstruction. A female (doe) that is not in milk is pretty easy too, and you always have the option for kids and milk.

pedrocr6 karma

How high are your electric fences? We got a 90cm one and it worked well for a few weeks and then our goats figured out they could jump it. Now they complain that we leave them indoors too much... We've been wondering how high we need to make it.

FGFCara3 karma

At least 4 feet- 120ish cm. The dry yearling trouble makers want to jump it lately- but this is the woven wire one that they know won't zap them. We plan to put an electric line around the top before the end of the summer

mmcwade35 karma

Do your goats yell like people?

FGFCara101 karma

Nubians are kind of the diva princesses of the goat world. They like to talk. Some people find this annoying, but we generally get a kick out of it. We can tell many of them apart by their voices.

My husband was bottle feeding the kids a few years ago, and one of the kids lost sight of my husband. The kid immediately started yelling and it sounded like he was saying. "Dad? DAD?! DAAAAAADDD?!?!?!"

reddit_michael28 karma

In naming your goats, do you find that this at all makes it more difficult to sell them as meat as well? What happens to a goat that has passed their milk producing age?

FGFCara57 karma

Another great question, thanks!

When we first starting raising animals that we knew were destined for the dinner table, it was a little weird. We raise the wethers right alongside the doe kids, so there is no difference in the quality of life that the boys enjoy. We take them to a butcher that we feel confident in and comfortable with, all in a group so they have their herdmates with them. We thank them for contributing to our lives and the farm.

Our herd is overall, pretty young. We have a couple of older does that we will retire in a couple more seasons. These girls, Rain and Grace in particular, will live out their days on the farm for sure. A dry doe is a pretty easy keeper, and these ladies have done more than enough to earn their place chilling out in the pasture to live out their days.

As we have more animals that we need to part with, we will sell them to families, hope to get involved with 4H groups, etc. We have had a good number of interested people looking for does, but we have been keeping them all so far to continue to be able to make more cheese and yogurt.

alexdelicious21 karma

Do you feel more like a farmer or a scientist?

Do you think your veterinary training gives you an advantage in raising livestock over a layperson trying to do the same?

Do you create family trees of the livestock to limit interbreeding? Does interbreeding matter as much for livestock quality?

How did you go about acquiring the land, the livestock and all the other items necessary to get involved in this world?

I have been curious about this profession as a later in life retirement in 20-30 years, is this something that an older person could do or does it require the vitality of youth?

FGFCara25 karma

Do you feel more like a farmer or a scientist?

Yes. There is so much science involved with so many aspects of all different types of farming! Maybe that's one of the reasons I like it. For our farm, I am more into the animal husbandry, and my husband is more into the cheesemaking, though either of us can pick up the other when there is a need. Cheesemaking is part science and part art. My husband has learned how to coax some pretty amazing cheese out of the milk that the ladies make for sure. There are lots of variables at play and keeping track of them is something we both enjoy.

Do you think your veterinary training gives you an advantage in raising livestock over a layperson trying to do the same?

I certainly don't think it hurts. I really enjoy understanding the physiology and anatomy of my animals. I think it helps me make their lives better. The goats were really what pushed me towards veterinary medicine as a profession. Up here, it's difficult to find a vet who will even see goats, let alone knows all of the things about them. I don't think it's necessary to be a vet to be an excellent farmer of livestock, though.

Do you create family trees of the livestock to limit interbreeding? Does interbreeding matter as much for livestock quality?

The American Dairy Goat Association actually does this for us! It's really cool- for all of the registered animals, you can put their registration numbers into the genetic database, and it will highlight inbreeding and give you an inbreeding coefficient. My experience is that people who show goats a lot might be more inclined to line breed. My experience with line bred animals is that, while they may be absolutely stunning to look at, they can be a little neurotic. We have tried to bring more genetic variety into our herd since we really started breeding more animals, and I'm really excited to see what the first fresheners (first time milkers) next year look like.

How did you go about acquiring the land, the livestock and all the other items necessary to get involved in this world?

The property that the farm is at is owned by my family. Last year, we purchased some more land adjacent to the farm to make more room for the goats. The family we purchased the lad from has lived on our road for generations. The whole area used to be farmed, and they were happy to see it going back to that use. We have been growing our herd as fast as our does of breeding age give us more daughters. Next year, we expect to have ~20 does in milk, but we started out with just two in 2009.

I have been curious about this profession as a later in life retirement in 20-30 years, is this something that an older person could do or does it require the vitality of youth?

If you were in a position where you could purchase a farmstead dairy that was already in operation, and the owners/operators had already done the leg work to maximize efficiency, this could be an enjoyable retirement. I don't think I'd recommend starting out with two goats and trying to grow from there. It also depends on what kind of goats you are interested in raising. Our Nubians can push 200lbs and are pretty big- an older person might not be as comfortable handling them as for example, a Nigerian Dwarf goat. I do know a couple of goat ladies who are into their 70's and still breeding and kidding and milking, and one who was pushing 90 before she stopped.

reddit_michael20 karma

It doesn't look like you're certified organic. As a food provider, do you feel this is not important?

FGFCara124 karma

Thanks for asking this question!
You are correct that we are not certified organic. During our initial dairy build and licensing in 2009, my husband and I discussed in depth whether we thought that being certified organic was a direction we wanted to go. There were two major factors in our decision to not certify organic:

1) As much as possible, we try to keep our purchases local- especially when it comes to feed for the animals. We purchase the vast majority of our hay from farms within a 10-20 mile radius of our farm. We personally know the farmer who is tending the fields and how he is managing them. He regularly has come to pick up our manure pile to fertilize these fields, but he is not certified organic. We purchase bedding (shavings are the common bedding up here) from a local lumber mill. The lumber mill is not certified organic. If we were to pursue organic certification, we would be trucking these things from all over the state and region, if not farther. We feel better about knowing our fellow farmers and producers- being able to see the field where the hay is cut, etc.

2) Animal health and well being. For dairy animals to remain in a productive certified organic herd, there is a very narrow range of medical options available for treatment should a problem arise. Most traditional western medicine options, antibiotics, NSAIDs, etc, are out. We feel that our animals should be able to get the best treatment available are not comfortable limiting our options when it comes to their comfort.

I am certainly not anti-organic by any stretch of the imagination. This was a decision based on our set of circumstances and experiences.

moojj13 karma

Here in Australia it's continuously reported that farmers are facing dwindling margins. Largely due to the super market duopoly.

Do you face the same issues over there?

Also, as it's a niche product, have you found demand increasing/decreasing or staying put? On that note what was the deciding factors for choosing goats over cows?

FGFCara25 karma

The dairy industry in the US definitely has its issues. In Maine, I have seen the number of traditional cow dairy farms decrease throughout the course of my lifetime. There are plenty of farmers who will tell you that they accumulated massive debt trying to keep their dairy farm afloat and eventually had to fold anyway because they are paid less for their product that it costs to produce. The farmers that I know personally, who are finding themselves able to continue to make a living with their dairies are ones who have established a niche product.

Maine is one of the US states that allows the sale of raw milk, and several cow dairies have been able to pull themselves back from the brink of bankruptcy by being able to sell this product. MOOMilk (Maine's Own Organic Milk Company) and Cabot still purchase bulk milk from several farmers we know, and they add value to the milk before selling it by processing it into cheese or by working with the producers who do certify organic.

Overall, the demand for our product has been increasing. We have had to choose carefully what markets and restaurants we can commit to supplying because we don't want to overextend ourselves.

We got our first goat as a companion to my horse that I had while growing up. When we moved to the farm, it was the first time I was able to have my horse live with me. I didn't want him to be alone, and had no interest in buying another horse, so we bought a goat. My horse died a couple of years later (he was an old guy at that point), and we had to get another goat.

Steezed6 karma

Fellow organic goat dairy operator here. And trust me we LOVE the Nubians.... Haha. Anyways are you guys milking with a bucket and dump method or a pipeline?

FGFCara12 karma

We are using a bucket with two girls at a time right now. Our ultimate future goal is to completely renovate our old barn into a milking parlor for six does at a time with a pipeline system and cheesemaking space immediately adjacent. .... someday.... :)

LINEemUP13 karma

How do you feel about factory farming? Upon learning about factory farming and the mistreatment of animals all over the world, I went vegan/vegetarian as much as possible. What steps do you take, if any, to make sure your animals live happy healthy lives? How can we stop the abuses done to animals in factory farms. Whenever I eat meat or dairy, which is very seldom, I try to get it at the farmer's market, which is great here in Raleigh!

I am from Maine btw! I grew up in Orrington (15 minutes outside of Bangor).

FGFCara28 karma

I was born in Bangor- small world :)

Factory farming certainly is the source of some horrific images and stories. Before we started raising our own animals, I didn't eat meat for years, unless it was game from hunting- my dad has hunted deer regularly for as long as I can remember.

Our main goal at our farm is raising animals is a low stress, happy and comfortable environment. We raise the goats for diary and meat, and we have also been raising pigs for the past few years. The pigs are a great addition to the dairy because we feed them the whey from the cheesemaking. And they are such cool animals.

Anyway- to answer your question- how do we make sure they have happy healthy lives? We take into account what that animal is supposed to be doing. Goats want to browse in the woods and on pasture if it's there, they want a protected place to sleep and rest, they want space to interact and caper around. We give them those things. We make sure they are doing well in terms of health by knowing all of our animals. We very quickly can tell if someone is feeling a bit off, or needs their hooves trimmed or a change in their food just by watching how they act.

The pigs want space to root around and dig in the dirt and plants and acorns to eat. We make sure they have water and mud to wallow in. Our sow is due to farrow in the next few weeks and we've moved her to a private shelter with her own pen and wallow and lots of space to have her piglets.

In one of my classes in vet school this past year, there was a discussion about the "animal-ness of the animal." "The pig-ness of the pig or the cow-ness of the cow." How much can that animal do the things that would come naturally to it? That's the environment we really try to provide.

How can we stop factory farming? Know where your food is coming from. Buy from the farmers' market. You probably will pay more money for it, but maybe it's worth it.

harlangarland10 karma

How do you decide where to sell your cheeses? Have you ever stopped attending a farmers market due to low sales? Are you considering selling any of your products through co-ops or grocery stores?

FGFCara9 karma

We participate in farmers' markets mostly based on location. We're a bit out in the boonies, so used to driving a ways, but we try to keep it within an hour or so drive.
We did switch from one farmers' market to another this past season due to lower sales than we'd have liked to see. Farmers' markets are interesting because when you're a new vendor, the customers need to get used to you. But we really like to connect with the end customer.
We hope to be able to regularly supply grocery stores next season. Like I said, we like the farmers' markets, but it is a lot of work and a big time commitment. Also, so far we've been limited by our herd size and expect to be doubling up the milk production next year. It's going to be exciting!

GroovyGoat8 karma

What school are you going to?

I've bred purebred Nubians for about a decade, and I'm entering UC Davis' school of veterinary medicine this fall. I smiled when I saw this post, because I'm happy to see someone like me! Except on the other side of the country of course :)

Edit: Do you G6S test?

FGFCara11 karma

I'm skipping over other questions here because I'm excited to talk about G6S! We have just started screening for this. We purchased a doe from another farm who was affected (obviously the breeder didn't know, and neither did we) and we lost her last fall. Our vet didn't know anything about it, and in talking with other New England breeders, very few people over here are screening for it. I brought her to Tufts (that's where I'm at school) for necropsy and the path department got it all sorted out. One of my histo professors hooked me up with another doctor at U Michigan to test some of our other animals.

I'm working on a SARE Research and Education grant proposal to test as many animals as I can in New England next summer and try to get everyone up here on the same page and breeding G6S out of our herds. We've tested our bucks and they are normal, so that's a start.

giant_hero7 karma

how much dose it cost to make milk ? how much do you sell milk ? how much do they sell milk ?

FGFCara19 karma

We actually make all of our milk into cheese and yogurt. Making a "value-added" product is part of what has allowed our farm to grow. Plus- we simply do not have the space to store a large volume of milk!

A dairy goat is a pretty reasonable animal to keep as far as value for your dollar. Our does will produce about a gallon a day. As far as costs, you are looking at initial investment in the animal, shelter, fencing, other equipment, then ongoing costs of feed, bedding, veterinary care, etc.

As far as a per-animal basis, you may be looking at $1000-2000 per animal per year for the ongoing costs. We did some financial projections of this type last year, and our numbers are based on our smaller number of milking does supporting the dry yearlings, the growing kids, and the breeding bucks, so depending on the numbers of animals at different life stages, this number probably varies a bit.

Goats are seasonal milkers, some people milk up to 9 or 10 months out of the year, we milk for closer to 7. So to divide your costs (let's say $1000) by 200 days in milk you're at $5 minimum cost per gallon of milk.

RidinBiden8 karma

This cost doesn't seem to include the value of your labor. On a related note, how many hours does it take you to milk, to do other chores, and to do your cheesemaking activities each day?

FGFCara21 karma

You are absolutely correct! This is one of the big issues facing the dairy industry in Maine and all over the country- it costs more to produce a gallon of milk than the end customer pays.

My husband and I can get the twice daily chores- feeding all the kids, dry yearlings, buck, pigs and milking done in under 2 hours. But this does not include milk handling and cheese making time. My husband does most of the cheese making. The daily processing of milk right now takes us 4+ hours average daily. We are making cheese and yogurt in small batches multiple times each day. We are in the process of trying to expand our cheesemaking space and acquiring larger scale equipment, which will allow us to make fewer, larger batches of cheese and yogurt, and we hope will allow us to find the time to do those fun things like eat and sleep again.

I'm in the process of making feta this morning, which requires several hours of babysitting the cheese- multitasking with this AMA ;)

TheRealKingJoffrey4 karma

I also live in Southern Maine. Do you sell them from the farm? I'd love to swing by next weekend and buy some cheese! Some fresh feta sounds amazing.

FGFCara8 karma

We sell at the Sanford, Kennebunk, North Berwick and Wells farmers' markets. We don't have a farm store, and my husband and I both work outside the farm right now, so we ask people to please contact us in advance if you want to visit, or visit us on Open Creamery Day in October. But we're pretty far out in the sticks, so probably one of our farmers' markets is more convenient anyway!

Leuku7 karma

Can I get a confirmation from you that lactose intolerant people can indeed drink goat's milk and eat goat's milk based products because of fundamental ways in which goat's milk differs from cow's milk?

FGFCara11 karma

Agree with the other reply. I can't make a sweeping generalization here because I think everyone is a little different on this.
I have a friend who is extremely lactose intolerant but she can tolerate a fair amount of goat cheese. Personally, since I have started eating/drinking much more goat dairy than cow, I have noticed that I do not tolerate cow dairy as well as I used to.


Do you feel weird having crooked-eyed beasts watch your every move?

FGFCara7 karma

nope. :)

cutanddried7 karma

question # 2; Mom worked in the court system, and no one wanted to believe we had these goats and drank their milk daily. So this came to her brining milk in for the coworkers, and further, coworkers brining milk home and giving it to their unknowing families, non of whom were ever the wiser. More of an anecdote than a question. guess your AMA is just brining back memories.

FGFCara7 karma

I had a recent customer at the farmers' market who wanted to sneak goat products into her family's food. I hooked her up with some of our Greek vanilla yogurt. She reported back that they loved it. :)

eminoff6 karma

My parents just moved to a horse farm in southern Maine. Do you mind me asking what area you are in? Do you hold any kind of open farm events?

FGFCara6 karma

We participate in the Maine Cheese Guild's Open Creamery Day. Generally it's on Columbus Day weekend in October.

HalfManAlligator6 karma

Hey guys, thanks for doing this AMA!

Just a very quick question, but have you ever thought of investing in a goat tower?

FGFCara9 karma

Maybe someday. They are really cool. I like when there are bridges to let the goats cross over a road between pastures too.

DrOPotnic6 karma

I worked on a goat dairy farm here in MI with about 120 goats. Are any of your goats aggressive? and if so, how do you generally deal with them? One of the goats on this particular farm was very aggressive and it was his favorite game to ram the back of my legs while I was carrying hay bales out to the feeder baskets.

FGFCara8 karma

Our girls are generally very laid back. During the fall, the bucks can be a little... rude? Our young herdsire buck occasionally gets fresh with me, but not my husband. I have a couple of responses- most commonly I will stand up as tall as possible and lean towards him. He knows he's misbehaving and he'll back down. When he has gotten really pushy and rude (this has happened maybe twice in the 18 months that we've had him) I've tipped him like a sheep and held him for a minute before letting him up. I like the buck, but I have to be able to handle him.

ala-akbar5 karma

What's an AI?

FGFCara14 karma

When you see "AI" on a goat registration, it means that that animal was the result of an artificial insemination breeding. The American Dairy Goat Association requires that all animals that are registered as the product of an AI breeding have "AI" in their registered names.

mtthmmnd8 karma

What is the main reason for AI? a stronger bloodline? Also, when you tag them as the product of AI, what is the purpose of knowing the goat was conceived through AI?

FGFCara7 karma

Yes- AI give breeders the chance to bring new genetics into their herd without having to visit that particular animal. It is also a good way to bank the genetics of a particularly great herdsire- frozen semen will last for years, the animal might be deceased and still have semen straws floating around. We have some straws from animals in completely different parts of the country.

I think that ADGA wants to make sure that their registries are accurate. There's lots of record keeping that goes along with AI. When the semen is collected, it has to be recorded and reported and assigned a number to the straws. Then these numbers have to follow to the does that are bred via AI. When you register an AI animal, all of this background information needs to check out. ADGA, reasonably, doesn't want people saying that an animal was an AI product of some fancy sire when it wasn't.

Arloste5 karma

They make goat cheese, why don't they make goat butter? Is something off about the fat content so it won't work, or does it just taste like butts?

FGFCara3 karma

They do! I've actually never had it because it tends to be super expensive, but I have seen it in the natural food store closest to me. You need a cream separator to get the cream out of goat milk- it is naturally homogenized. We will probably try making it someday.

hashmon5 karma

Any plans to expand to sheep or cows? Just curious. I eat all kinds of cheeses.

FGFCara4 karma

We think that someday we will get a Jersey cow. We have had really good experiences feeding the kids raw cow milk from some local farmer friends, and by doing that, we can divert their moms' milk to cheesemaking faster.

I'm sure that will also result in making some cheeses from a blend of cow and goat milk. Probably not any sheep in the future of FGF though...

SangfroidSlackJester4 karma

Hello, No question, just wanted to say thanks for doing this AMA. My family has a pick your own apple orchard the next town over from you, and if you participate in the local farmers market you probably know my uncle Captain Jack! I upvoted this thread for visibility and pledged your kickstarter. Goats are stellar! Keep up all the great work you are doing!

FGFCara2 karma

Thanks! We do know Jack- good people. :) Thanks for the support!

dupap4 karma

Have you tried drinking the 'raw milk' (if it's possible), and If you have, how would you compare it to regular store bought milk?

FGFCara9 karma

We drink raw milk regularly. I love it, and I've always been a big milk drinker. I guess the whole raw milk has a more creamy feel in the mouth than pasteurized. I have had raw cows' milk too, and feel the same way, though I do notice that with raw cows' milk, I tend to notice the flavors/smells of whatever the cow was eating in the milk- silage for example, I can smell.

CircleJerkAmbassador4 karma

Man I love goat cheese. I don't understand why no one else does. That said,

What's up with their funky pupils and neck testicles? Is there some advantage to having those or is it just some sort of mating swag?

FGFCara6 karma

The funky pupils are a prey animal thing- they can see a wide area around their body, but not with a great level of detail or depth perception. You get used to it.
The neck testicles are wattles. They don't have any function as far as I am aware, and Nubians do not have them. I have heard that the breeds that do have them might bite on each other's wattles if they are bossing each other around.

meowiezowie4 karma

What do you do with the spent goats? Are they allowed to continue to live on the farm until they die a natural death or are they sent off for slaughter?

FGFCara5 karma

I mentioned in another answer that we have a pretty young herd. A couple of our older girls will have reached retirement age in a few more years. They will definitely live out their days on the farm. I have seen dairy goats milk until they are more than ten years old, and by that time, I think they have earned a cushy retirement. We also can kind of afford them that because we have taken care to be breeding purebred animals that have a more diverse value- someone could show our goats for example, we just don't have the time or inclination. We will have to start parting with some of our younger girls next year, but we already have people interested in buying them- other dairies and families and individuals.

deletes_all_posts3 karma


FGFCara9 karma

Goats are pretty adaptable as far as housing. You can have anything from a big barn to a polydome hutch. As long as they have someplace to get out of the wind/rain/snow they can do very well.

I would recommend not getting goats at an auction. I would also recommend trying to get goats from a herd that is CAE (caprine arthritis encephalitis) negative. We met Helen Ramsdell at the Fryeburg Fair and we bought our first goat from her. The state fairs with livestock are great places to meet people and find someone you feel comfortable with.

The one big piece of advice I tell people who are thinking about keeping animals is to have your support in place before you need it. Find a vet who will see the goats and establish a relationship. Find some other people in your area who maybe have animal experience and can help you out. Do this ahead of time before you need help and don't know where to look. I know my animals are depending on me, so I'd rather seek help and not have a problem than not ask or know where to ask and have a disaster.

ju22213 karma

You mentioned you only milk your goats ~7 months out of the year. Do the goats milk seasonly in any season pattern, or do they not milk in winter?

FGFCara7 karma

Goats generally are bred in the fall, pregnant through the winter and freshen (give birth and come back into milk production) in the spring. Goat pregnancy lasts 5 months. You can milk a goat for the first couple months of her pregnancy, but we generally stop right around breeding time and let them put all of their energy into making babies.

Different goat breeds are less seasonal. We know another nearby dairy that breeds Nigerian Dwarf goats and they have babies being born all year round.

sir_nosepick3 karma


FGFCara5 karma

It's pretty easy to get involved with a project that is already going on. Tufts has a "summer research" grant program that basically pays for students to hop onto a research project that is already in progress. Of course, not too much goat research happening.... I'm in the process of writing a SARE grant proposal and I hope to be able to do some genetic research with practical clinical application for farmers next summer....

fredtheotherfish3 karma

Hey! I actually backed your kickstarted last week because I wanted the post card! No questions, just hope you are able to raise the funds!

FGFCara1 karma

Thank you!!! We got a couple of the paintings this weekend and I just posted an update with the painting of Beatrix- I love it!

Selpai3 karma

How long do the goats produce milk, before you redirect them to "other efforts" (slaughter)?

I know that you get about 3 years out of a humanely raised cow. I can't imagine a goat giving less.

FGFCara5 karma

Depending on how the goat is doing, we can expect to get ~10 or more seasons of milk out of them. There are some things we do to make it easier on the older girls- dry them off earlier so they have a longer time to recover before making babies again is the big one. Give them a year off. Their babies are valuable to us too, whether as future cabrito, sale as a future milker or as a place in our milking herd, so it's worth it to us to keep them.

plus- good goat karma. ;)

cutanddried3 karma

awesome AMA! Im from southern maine. (might need to take a trip to flying goat farm!) We kept goats when I was young. Mostly we drank the milk and just thought goats were cool to have around. (also had horses, steer, and pigs) I remember one season when the kids came in February, and were basically freezing instantly. Memories of CPR and kids (that made it) running around the living room. anything like that happen on your farm?

FGFCara7 karma

We try to be present for every birth in case something happens, especially if someone is due as early as February. We have definitely had kids in the house hanging out in diapers on the couch with the dogs. Yep.

MrMyxolodian2 karma

How long we're you making cheeses before you decided to do it professionally?

FGFCara7 karma

We started making cheese in 2008. I took a cheesemaking class from another goat farmer, and then we started experimenting on our own. Our first year with our dairy license, we were only milking 2 does, and then only 4 the next year- it was more of a hobby. The second year, my husband really started throwing himself into the cheesemaking and he developed our Flying Goat Farm Specialty Cheeses- Scapegoat, Bloomy Goat and Chevre Noir. The Bloomy Goat is a chevre aged to develop a bloomy white rind and a stronger flavor. That type of cheese is really touchy to make- needs just the right humidity and temperature and to be patted and flipped daily. It's his baby.
We hope, that as we up our production, we will be able to make more hard cheeses. Have made a very limited amount of cheddar the past couple of years, and people really like it.

poutina2 karma

Hi! Thanks for this AMA!

I am an aspiring small farmer (I would really love to raise goats, chickens, and bees on a small scale, and maybe move up to medium scale). How would you recommend one get into the business? What sorts of things should I absolutely know about my goats before taking the plunge? Also, is Maine totally awesome and should I move there? My husband and I are trying to decide where to move. Currently in Jersey and it's most awful.

Thank you again!

FGFCara2 karma

Get into the dairy business? Or just have a few animals or yourself. It's probably slightly less crazy to start by keeping the animals for your own use, then seeing where your business could go. You can do a lot of things with goats- the food way or the soap/lotion/beauty products way. There's generally less regulation involved with the soap making stuff. Having diversity in your farm is good. Everyone always wants fresh eggs.

Maine is pretty good. It was a beautiful perfect summer day today, but we've been having very hot and humid weather the past couple of weeks, and I definitely get the seasonal depression thing around mid-February when I'm shoveling out from our 800th snowstorm. New England is expensive. But overall, I like it. :)

assultrider2 karma

What made you interested in a goat farm as opposed to cows or other farm animals?

FGFCara4 karma

It was kind of an accident. If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be doing this, I would have told them they were nuts.

We got our first goat, Grace, as a companion for my horse. When my horse passed away, we needed to get a companion for Grace. We started breeding the girls that year and have since purchased a few animals here and there, in addition to keeping all of our does born on the farm. We started raising pigs and now have a breeding pair on the farm as well. The pigs are excellent help for why disposal from all the cheesemaking.

cunttard2 karma

Never had goat milk in my life. I prefer whole cow milk, but don't like the processed milk they sell in the US. So I just stopped drinking milk in entirety.

What is goat milk like?

FGFCara4 karma

Raw goat milk is a completely different thing than pasteurized. I wouldn't recommend pasteurized- I got it at Trader Joe's one time out of curiosity, and I think pasteurized goat milk is what gives it a bad name. It tastes goaty. Fresh cold raw milk right from the goat is creamy and delicious. :)

kziv2 karma

I raise registered Sables and unregistered Jersey cows for home use in FL. I was wondering if you have some thoughts on the lack of equipment and reasonable food laws for dairies that are larger than one or two animals, but smaller than a full production dairy, and anything else that could help a small household dairy transition to production. For example, we were looking at pasteurizers and found 1-2 gallon ones, and 30 gallon ones, but nothing in the 10-15 gallon range. Same with cream separators, milk tanks, etc. And we looked at the cost of building a certifiable separate dairy building and it's just not going to happen.

Between the regulations and the cost of equipment, it seems like the only way a small dairy can get started is to sell raw milk and milk derivatives "for pet food only" (i.e. skirt the law) or to go deeply into debt on the off chance that the dairy might pan out; there's no way to build reasonably as profit allows.

Thank you for doing this AMA!

FGFCara2 karma

This is really a difficult thing in terms of getting your foot in the door of the dairy industry, and we just happen to be lucky that we live in Maine. Maine has a nice stepping stone where we are permitted to sell products that are labeled "Not Pasteurized," where we follow the pasteurizing procedure (heating to 145 for 30 min) but we do not have the agitator, airspace heater, chart recorder etc. That is the only way we got our feet under us. It's still kind of scary at times, a bad market week or a cheese mess up is a big bummer. We have some not insignificant debt from putting up the new barn for the does last year, but they are at least making enough milk to pay for that.

The Jaybee "Vat" pasteurizer is available in a 15 gallon model. There's also the classifieds which have really good deals come up once in a while. Glengarry Cheesemaking in Canada also has some smaller scale stuff- 30-40gallon bulk tanks, etc. And Frank Kipe in Maryland makes custom dairy equipment for smaller scale producers. I've also heard of universities renting space to people to process dairy products, or co-ops where a group gets together to build a portable milk parlor or cheesemaking set up. I've seen some crazy deals from dairies going out of business in VT on craigslist. Full milking pipeline set ups for a few thousand dollars.

There's also a small goat dairy in MA, who made their own legal pasteurizer for 4 gallons of milk.

poutinethrowaway2 karma


FGFCara3 karma

Right now we are only licensed to sell dairy products in Maine. We are actually running a kickstarter campaign to try to raise funds to expand our cheesery and meet the interstate dairy shipping requirements. If we make our goal, we could be up and running for sales across the country as soon as this fall.

Youngmanandthelake1 karma

I recently purchased 10 acres of mixed old-field and poor-quality woodlands that we have our house on. Assuming I get the fence in better working order, do you feel that 10 acres is enough for my wife to at least make a small income off dairy goats? She'd love to quit her job and stay at home with kids while doing the milking/marketing/driving product.

TLDR can we pull a profit off 10 acres, and how many goats would you suggest to start with?

Is it actually dangerous to have goats on leashes throughout the day or is that something that people just say?

FGFCara1 karma

I wouldn't put goats on leashes or recommend it. I'm sure people get away with it, but it makes me nervous- they're very likely to chew through them or get really tangled up and injured.

Our farm is 11 acres. You don't need tons of space for goats. It depends how much product you want to make and how much time you want to devote. You do need to invest in a lot of equipment (at least for edible dairy stuff- not sure if you're interested in soap etc or cheese), good animals, space to make your products, etc.

You may have to bring in additional feed- especially if you are somewhere with a serious winter, you will need hay to get you through. We feed our milkers grain as well to help them have the energy necessary to keep production up. They're not likely to get all the nutrition they need from just the pasture and woods, though they will love it.

I would start with a pair of goats. You could get two does or a doe and a wether.

apestate1 karma

Back in 2009, I worked for 3 months as an intern at a similar sized goat dairy in North Carolina. I was wondering if you pasture your goats?

FGFCara5 karma

Our girls now have access to ~4 acres of mixed pasture and woods. They go in and out of the barn all day, disappear into the woods for a while, come back, repeat.

DerpYu1 karma

Goats are the best! I avoid goat milk and goat milk products because I have heard bad stories about goat babies um disappearing so the mothers can produce milk for the products - is this ever true? How much space is needed for a few goats? Not minimum but average for them to be happy. Also, please tell some stories from your experiences! Thanks!

FGFCara6 karma

Unfortunately, I'm sure it is true in some cases. We raise up all of the kids born on the farm. We bottle feed them so they associate us with being "mom" and they are easier to handle as they get older. I think this varies from farm to farm.

A couple of goats can be quite happy on less than an acre as long as they are supplemented with hay. They are not hard on the ground the same way that horses are- they will trim down the grass like a lawnmower, but will not chew it right down to the ground like horses. They need some space to bounce around and a good fence.

There are some stories about our goats on our blog: If I think of any other good ones I will come back to this and add them.

ScrotusLotus1 karma

I understand the regulations are different in Maine from what you have already answered. Can you briefly explain some of the regulations you have to deal with? Do you have regulations about how to manage your farm and animals? Do you have regulations about creating and packaging milk and cheese? Do you have regulations about selling your products? I'm really curious (even though I know it is completely different in my state).

FGFCara2 karma

We had to build a dedicated dairy space to process our cheese and yogurt in order to get our milk producer license. It is required to be used only for cheese and milk, be clean, impermeable surfaces, floor drain, hot and cold running water. Pretty straightforward.

There are very few regulations about how we manage the farm. Cows produce much more waste, and Maine requires farms producing more than a certain amount of waste to have a nutrient management plan, but our animals will never be producing enough manure for the state to be worried about it. We are required to test any new animals for TB and Brucellosis.

We are required to "heat treat" our milk before making it into cheese or yogurt. This is the specific to Maine thing- we follow the pasteurization process, but do not have the equipment to monitor to ensure that "every particle of milk is heated to the required temperature for the required period of time." But after we heat treat, we can do whatever we like with the cheese, provided that we do not have violations on our product samples tested by the state lab.
We are not allowed to reuse containers for packaging cheese for sale. When we go to farmers' markets, we are required to keep everything properly contained and cooled, and samples must be covered and discarded after four hours.

It's all pretty reasonable overall- the state wants us to provide a safe, clean product and we want the same.

prodevel1 karma

Why is goat meat so hard to find in the U.S.?

FGFCara3 karma

I think it's not commonly thought of as being the delicious meat that it is. We have actually had a lot of interest in it at farmers' markets, though. I was worried at first that we would not have a market for it, but people really seem to enjoy it when they try it. Kind of a niche product, I guess...

zolinie1 karma

I'd like to introduce some goat farming projects here in China. Any advice?

FGFCara2 karma

Are there many goats around already? What is the general public opinion on goats? Do they eat them or use the dairy products already? What aspect of goat farming are you most interested in?

bryan5201 karma

What is your opinion on the raw milk law in the US? I'm in the cheese business and know we are missing out on some fantastic fresh raw cheeses. What's your opinion on Vermont Butter Creamery cheeses?

FGFCara3 karma

The raw milk laws vary by state, so I'm mostly familiar with Maine's. Raw milk sales by licensed milk producers are legal in Maine still. It can be done safely and well. We are not permitted to sell raw cheeses unless they are aged more than 60 days though- that's a national rule as far as I know. I'm sure we are missing out on some great cheese.

I haven't actually had any of the VT Buttery and Cheese Co's cheese! My husband and I have been meaning to find some because they won the classes in a cheese competition we are going to enter this summer, so we want to taste the competition. ;)

chusmeria1 karma

Thanks for doing this - love me some goats, their milk products, and cabrito! Also, love the name Mr. Tumnus for a goat - it would definitely be the name I'd give my first goat! A question from a Brooklynite who sometimes asks Portlandiaesque questions before I purchase my food - in another reply you said that your farm wasn't organic because you 2) wanted to be able to provide your goats antibiotics/best care available - I know a similar cow farmer in Jersey that does the same thing, but has not had to use antibiotics for the past 9 years. How frequently do you administer antibiotics, or have you ever had to? And do you sell them/their products while they are on medicine? Thanks again!

FGFCara2 karma

We absolutely do not sell our products if there is even a remote chance of antibiotic residues. This is one of the things the state screens for in our milk and cheese samples. We work with our vet to be sure that we are following proper milk withholding time for any time we need to give medication, and we generally withhold for even longer than she recommends.

We do not give antibiotics unless necessary. The most common reason we may have to give a course is after kidding. If we need to assist with the birth and untangle or reposition kids to make the delivery possible for the mother, we will generally give a prophylactic course of antibiotics. Birth can be a stressful thing, so their immune system is already at a disadvantage, and while we scrub and sterilize as best we can before we assist, there is always the possibility of introducing a pathogen to the uterus. We'd rather avoid a sick goat. Our preferred go-to med in this situation is one that is metabolized in such a way that residues are not present in the milk. It is labeled in this way, even for goats, and we still withhold.

WeedScientist1 karma

If I just wanted enough goats to make cheese for myself, (kind of like a home chicken flock) How many would I need, how much space do they need, and what kind of care do they need (can I go to work every day or do they need to be watched. What are the warnings you would give me to change my mind.

FGFCara4 karma

If you went with a full sized dairy goat, probably one would be sufficient for a family of four- we get about a gallon a day from each of our girls. I would never keep less than two goats. You could have a doe and a wether for the bare minimum of possible labor and still getting milk.

Having an animal in milk is a lot of work. You do need to be there every day. You can go to work, but staying out or overnight is difficult. (Less difficult if you only have a couple rather than the 40 ish that we have!) There are ways to get around milking twice a day (, but you really need to be there to feed, etc.
Birthing can be scary. Your social life will become a thing of the past.