In attempting to make the decision on whether or not we will open our own creamery, I have been interviewing the owners of various creameries. I will highlight them as I go…in the hopes it will help others who are also on our path and as thanks to the creamery owners who took their valuable time to talk to me.
Christian and Lisa Seger own Blue Heron Farm in Field Store, Texas. He and his wife started their goat dairy in 2007, and if you take a look at their website, you’ll see how much they love their goats. They make and sell chevre, feta and cajeta. I spoke with Christian a few weeks ago and he was very kind to answer all of my questions.
According to Christian, he is in charge of the animals, the grass, the fences and the milking. He milks 28 Nubian goats and raises them on 10.5 acres because their belief is that Nubians produce the best milk and therefore the best cheese. While he dries most of them off for the winter, he milks at least 4-5 through the winter, thus never having a dry period. The goats graze on pasture grasses (during grass season) consisting mostly of common Bermuda grass, which Christian confesses is low in protein and low quality, so he throws some higher protein legume seeds out every so often. When the pasture is dormant, the goats eat a hay mix containing a Sorghum Sudan hybrid. During milking, he feeds them a no-corn, no-soy, GMO free oat based feed mix he buys in 50 pound bags for $13.50 from West Feeds in Texas. The hay is $70 per roll.
Lisa is in charge of making the cheese, marketing the cheese and maintaining their internet presence. Per gallon of milk, she can make 1.32 pounds of chevre, but, he advised, the weight per gallon can be more or less depending on how much whey you drain…wetter cheese whey’s more. (You should be laughing now…a wetter cheese whey’s more…I know, it took you a minute.) She specializes in chevre, feta and cajeta. The feta and chevre are sold by the 1/2 pound for $10.00 ($20.00 per pound).
As far as employees for their business, they have none. They have had the help of woofers over the years, but have determined it is more cost effective and efficient to do the work themselves. The two of them do everything. They haven’t had a day off in seven years.
When I asked him if he would change anything about their business, he responded that the main thing he would change would be the age of the goats they started with. Initially, they bought all 3-year-old goats, with the thought that they would get the highest milk production. That was true, until they all turned 8. Milking all 8-year-old goats was challenging because their milk supply dropped significantly (and unexpectedly) due to their age. He suggests starting with a bell curve of goat ages: heavy on the 4-5 year olds, light on the young and light on the old. The one other thing he would change is to make their cheeses and cajeta available seasonally so they could have a break from milking and cheese making in the winter, but he and Lisa have established their business without the dry period, so they haven’t wanted to make the change.
You can find them and their cheese here.
And, you can see them on Tedx Houston here! They do an exceptional presentation on their journey from “being regular eaters to ethical omnivores.”
– The Goat Cheese Lady
P.S. Thanks to our student, Marcia Bennett for telling me about Blue Heron Farm.