Food allergies lead mother to take up goat farming
BLACKSBURG, Va. — A baby with food allergies led Kim Driggs in search of goat milk. When her search began, she had no idea it would lead to her starting a small dairy goat operation.
Driggs said that her now 13-year-old child was allergic to multiple foods, including cow’s milk. She said she tried commercially sold goat milk but was not satisfied with it. So she began acquiring goat milk from a friend but that required a 40-mile trip each way once a week.
“There’s got to be an easier way,” she remembers thinking.
That thought led to her purchasing her first two dairy goats from Kismet Nubians in Pearisburg, Va. Since then she has tried to add two milking does to her herd each year.
She said it actually took a while for her to go into goat farming starting the venture that includes a herdshare, about five years ago.
“I’m trying to grow so I don’t go into debt,” she said. “I grew as I could and shareholders increased.”
She milked seven of the goats during the past year and will be kidding nine in the spring.
She explained the herd-share option is made possible by Virginia law which prohibits the sale of liquid milk by anyone except a Grade-A dairy. The system she uses allows the shareholders to be legal owners of the goats. They make monthly payments to her for feeding the goats and caring for them and as owners, they are entitled to the goat’s milk.
Driggs raises purebred Nubian goats registered by the American Dairy Goat Association. She said she builds her flock from within and sells seed-stock.
She added Nubians do not produce the most milk but has a good taste and the highest butterfat content of the milking goat breeds.
She uses a milking machine to milk the animals and then bottles the raw milk in her kitchen. She first filters the milk and then puts it in half-gallon canning jars with plastic caps, she said.
She then chills it in the freezer before storing it in a refrigerator on her front porch where the shareholders can pick it up.
“Eighty percent of the calls I get interested in shares ask if it is raw,” she said. “That’s what the market wants.”
The goats at 4Farthings farm graze on pasture and receive a free-choice grass mix hay in the winter. When they are milking they graze on the four-acre farm and get a daily ration of alfalfa and grain. Driggs buys her grain from a local supplier, Big Spring Mills, in nearby Elliston, Va.
“Since I’ve started this I’ve found what they eat really affects the quality and quantity of milk,” she said.
Driggs has also found a way to add value to her goat milk. She makes goat milk soap and lotions that are sold at two local restaurants in Blacksburg, which also buy chicken and duck eggs from her.
She has a large flock of each with ducks and chickens roaming free-range, sharing the pastures where the goats roam.
“Of course, it’s not easier,” Driggs said of the dairy goat business, recalling
her initial thinking that there had to be an easier way to get goat milk for her child.
“But it is more enjoyable. I love goats.”
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