Cheese Production

If you read about the herd, you could quickly surmise there was more milk than any family of three could drink. Ah ha! The birth of cheese-making. There were three milking seasons (approximately 25 months in total) of home kitchen cheese creations. Rhonda, the eternal student, quickly discovered and signed up for the Cheesemakers Short Course at Washington State University in Pullman. This kicked off the professional drive of "I can do this!!!"

With much planning and financial investment, a new barn was built in June 2003 for the goats with a to-be-built cheese facility in place. Keep in mind this total building is 36' x 36'. Total milking and cheese square footage is merely 12' x 36' divided into three equal rooms (less than 150 sq. ft per room). Summer 2004 saw the completion of the milking area, milk storage room, and cheese room. In August 2004, Grade A Goat Dairy status and Cheese Producer licenses were granted by Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). We found the inspectors from WSDA to be extremely helpful and knowledgeable throughout the whole process. If you are considering a similar adventure, I highly suggest you contact them early in your planning.

Voila!! Official cheesemaking begins! With just a short three month start-up season (remember, goats are "dry" for winter), Skagit Valley now has local goat cheese with chevre, feta, gouda, and cheddar as intro products. With many blessings it has been very well received and successful.

We have been blessed by a growing business. In December 2008, the barn was expanded to total 76 x 36 ft, plus a new carport for the delivery van. This gives lots more room for the goats, and certainly to Rhonda and the ever-able and capable farm helpers.

All cheese milk is machine milked, cooled quickly, and processed into cheese.  The pasteurizer was the piece of equipment requiring the most consideration. They are pretty sophisticated by my standards and are not inexpensive. After much consideration, van't Reit Dairy in the Netherlands was selected. We have not regretted this choice.

We have made the decision to increase the pasteurizer size to 52 gallons (from the 26 gallon). We have again chosen van't Riet for the excellent quality and workability of their equipment.

All cheese is totally handcrafted. All moulds are filled by hand, turned by hand, and salted by hand. All wrapping and packaging is by hand, some with hand lettering on the labels. Yes, this is labor intensive but affords quality checks at every turn. The low-tech approach is always favored whenever possible.

It is still magic to me every time the milk turns to curd! I love the entire process, from goats, to kidding, to milking, and cheesemaking. This is a life style change which is most welcome and most rewarding. I look forward to you staying with me during the coming years as skills and processes evolve with me and my magnificent animals.

Waikato Goat Milk Meters
Used for DHIA Milk Test Monthly

The meters "plumbed in" for milking.

Stainless steel milk cans for holding and cooling the milk after it is collected from the goats.

Dairy teat wipes, iodine teat dip, and strip cup-milking essentials here.

Rhonda on WSDA inspection day.

WSDA inspector.  I consider them colleagues and have worked well with all of them.

More SS milk cans.

Chart recorder for pasteurizer.

The Cheese Room with the 26 gal vat/pasteurizer.

The 26 gal vat/pasteurizer.

Cutting the curds in the 26 gal vat.

Wash, rinse, sanitize-triple sink required.

LOTS of mould washing goes on here.

Delicious, fresh chevre-salted and ready to wrap.

Chevre ready for market.