Despite the fact that many of my old friends in Boston still have snow on the ground and the potential for more in the near future, here in Virginia spring is in the air, and a sure sign of that is all the kids running around at Caromont Farm in Nelson County. A couple of weeks ago I attended a hog slaughter at Caromont, and at the time farmer Gail Hobbs-Page, invited me back to see her cheese making. In the interim I ran into her husband Daniel at Hamilton’s at First and Main, and he mentioned that they were having a kid explosion.
I arrived on Friday to a chorus of bleating, the vocalizations of goats, from does in labor and the newly born kids testing their fresh lungs. Goats are among the earliest of domesticated animals, and they can be found throughout mythology and within various religious texts. Throughout history they have been used for meat, milk, their skin as well as being trained to pull carts, They are extremely intelligent and curious, and as I found out yesterday, wicked cute as babies.
The goats at Caromont are a combination of La Mancha’s, a Spanish dual purpose breed (meat and cheese) and Saanen’s, as well as a few Alpine’s here and there. The various breeds have different traits and for the last nine “Freshening” or breeding seasons, Gail has been breeding her animals with an eye towards creating hardy, strong milk producers. ”We have a heard book, and we keep really good records on what every doe had, and whether or not she’s had problems … it’s good to know from season to season who had an easy birth and who had problems,” said Gail as she sat down with another doe, Redd, who was just about to give birth. ”Did you see that … when she arched her back there, that was the kid going into the birth canal” she explained.
Surrounded by does in some form of pre- or post-birth, the inquisitive kids jumped over each other, nibbling on straw despite not really understanding why, or curl up with their kin in the fresh hay to stay warm as they dried off. Within minutes of birth they would be up on their feet, wobbling around in a halting robotic manner, crying out as they stretched their necks out for fresh milk from their mothers.
With 45 does, half of them giving birth, spring has arrived in Nelson county, and the kids are multiplying every time Gail turns her back. When I asked how many kids she had now, Gail responded in her sweet North Carolina drawl, ”Oh heck, I don’t know. I knew yesterday … ” she said looking around, “they multiply really fast.”
Most of these kids will be removed from the farm after three or four days, and will be raised on cow milk, and eventually sold for meat. Some of the does will remain in Gail’s flock, and down the road will be giving up kids of their own, as Gail and Caromont Farm continues to expand and produce some of their amazing cheese.
Thanks to Gail and the other folks at Caromont Farm for having me over.
Remember, F2% Because Heavy Cream is Always Better.