Monday, March 23, 2015

Dam Raising Kids

Let's talk about dam raising kids. Most of the dairy/ show goat world pulls kids at birth and puts them on a bottle. Maybe it's just me, but I did enough middle of the night feedings with my human twins. I am happy to let the goat moms take care of that job.

Dam raising has several advantages. It takes less time and effort, my dam raised kids have overall been healthier, had fewer problems with parasites, and have grown better than their bottle raised counterparts.

Dam raising also comes with its own set of challenges. It is certainly not a "leave them and forget it" kind of system. Take Opal (pictured below) as an example. Opal is a first freshener and gave us a single doeling, Jade. As you can see in this picture, Jade prefered Opal's right side all day that day. To keep Opal's udder even, I milk her out twice a day, even if it means I am only getting a quart of milk out of her.

Left alone, the kid would continue to favor the soft side leading to permanent lopsidedness of her dam's udder. Starting around two weeks, I lock all the kids away for the night (12-13 hours) and milk their dams in the morning. This gives me plenty of milk, and allows the udders to be used evenly each day. Mothers of singletons require extra attention. Jade will probably be locked up at night around 10 days.

I want an udder that can stand up to many years of use. I have heard that kids can be rough on an udder, but in my mind a good udder should be up to the task. Take 8-year old Konstance, she has raised many sets of kids. Even before I had her, care was taken to make sure she stayed even and now at her advanced age, she has a lovely, productive udder.

Here is the other side of the spectrum. Trixie came to me this way. Somewhere along the way her udder became quite uneven. She still is a very productive doe.
I try to keep their udders well moisturized to keep the skin flexible. Watch that kids have not bitten teats (it's happened a few times) but usually with some use, the skin gets stronger is able to take it better. Be ready to intervene if things aren't going the way they should.

With some care and attention, I believe does can raise their own kids and have udders that are just as beautiful as their counterparts.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Welcome to the World, Jade

Opal had a baby girl on Thursday. In keeping with the stone names, I am calling her Jade.

Seeing the world for the first time.
The other girls wanted to check out the new baby.

Striking a pose. This is my first Rocco baby of the year and he didn't disappoint!
Snuggling up with Asher.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Little Bit of Cuteness

Trixie's little family was enjoying the sunshine this morning. The triplets don't seem to be growing quite as fast as the single and twins, so I am leaving them out with their dams every other night.
Good Asher, chillin' with his babies.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

How I Wax Cheese

There are many different ways people wax cheese. I have tried several of them and this is what works for me.

I have three colors of wax- red, clear, and black. Each color has its own old saute pan that is used exclusively for it. It is way too hard to clean wax out of your pans. Check thrift stores, you don't need anything fancy here.

I slowly heat the wax over low heat on my gas cooktop. Since I do not use a double boiler, I never leave the stove as I am melting my wax and I am continually swirling it and checking the temperature. Cheese wax has a flash point of about 300 degrees. That's nothing I want to mess with.

Heat the wax to just over 200 degrees. Some people go 225-240, but I don't want to risk getting it that hot and have never had trouble with mold growth under the wax at 200 (unless the wax gets punctured).
When the wax reaches about 204-205, turn off the heat. Place your cheeses on a rack over a cookie sheet next to your stove. I allow the cheeses to air dry 2-3 days before waxing them to get a good bond. 

Holding the cheese by the edges, dip one end leaving it in the wax for 10-12 seconds. This gives the heat time to kill any mold spores that may have settled on the cheese surface. Place cheese on the rack wax side up. Pat out any large air bubbles that may have gotten trapped.

While you are allowing the wax to set, check your temperature. If it has dropped below 200, heat it back up. I check the temp between every dip at this stage. 

Now repeat the 10 second dip with the other side of the cheese. Take care not to dent the wax as you set it back on the rack to firm up. 

Dip each end a second time. This time you do not have to hold it in for 10 seconds, just dip and remove. Let me add here, keep a good grip on your cheese. It is a huge mess when you accidentally drop one into the pan and splatter wax all over yourself and the kitchen. Trust me.

Check your temperature again and allow each end to firm up. At this point you are going to hold the cheese by the ends and roll the edge in the wax. If it's not firm enough, you will leave fingerprints in the new wax. 

Slowly roll the edges in wax. Remember, you are trying to kill mold spores here, so go slowly. Allow the wax to cool and repeat, moving more quickly with the second coating. Let the wax on the cheeses firm up. 

As you can see in the picture above, even with two coats on the cheese, the wax is still a bit transparent. I like a nice, even solid color on the cheese. Without reheating the wax, roll the sides again and let set. Then dip top and bottom again. The cooler temperature will allow more wax to stick with each coat now. 

You can rewarm the wax a bit if it starts to solidify, but it should remain melted for you to finish coating your cheeses. Continue dipping and rolling until you are satisfied with the look of your cheese. Touch up any places the wax looks thin or damaged.

 Now the cheeses are dated and put in the cave for aging. When you are flipping them as they age, check the wax for damage. Damaged areas can be cut off and redipped before mold has time to set in.