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Raising goats more than kids' play

August 12, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

"Kids love goat milk."

Those words are painted on the back of Caprikorn Farms' stainless steel goat milk transportation truck and stamped on the Gapland farm's goat cheese wrappers. The statement also seems to be true for the young Saanen kids on Alice Orzechowski and Scott Hoyman's farm.

The kids, which are bottle fed pasteurized milk from the herd's females, probably don't realize they have a celebrity in their mother herd: Stargate, a 3-year-old doe, is not just the top milk producer on the farm, she's the top milk producing doe in the United States.

Between March 2006 and March 2007, Stargate produced 5,150 pounds of milk, or 44,393 gallons, Orzechowski said, but added that Stargate has some fierce competitors on the farm.

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The American Dairy Goat Association listed Stargate as the country's No. 1 milker in July, according to a written release from the farm.

Orzechowski said it's not the first time the farm has had a No. 1 milk producing doe. Stargate's grandmother, Atlas's Cruzeiro, was No. 1 in the country in 1994.

She said she attributes the farm's milk production rankings to a 50/50 combination of genetics and good management.

Orzechowski said it's not the first time the farm has had a No. 1 milk producing doe. She attributes the farm's milk production rankings to a 50/50 combination of genetics and good management.

Saanen dairy goats got their name from a Switzerland valley where they were first bred in the late 1890s, and are famous for producing a lot of milk, according to the National Saanen Breeders Association's Web site.

"Our animals are not cheap. Saanens are like the holsteins of the goat world," Orzechowski said.

"We show. We appraise. We milk," she said.

On a recent day, two kids joined the couple's Saanen herd, bringing to 87 the number of goats roaming in different pens on the 8.25-acre farm south of Boonsboro. Orzechowski said her ideal goat number is 80.

Seated in front of a large rectangular window in the kitchen of the couple's home, Orzechowski pulled up statistics from her laptop computer and told stories of the scenes she's seen unfold in the kids' pen she overlooked. Like all kids, Orzechowski's kids use their imaginations: They spring from the tops of old furniture set up like playground equipment in their pen. They routinely butt heads.

"Sometimes they're having World War III out there until they get to the top of the heap," she said with a laugh.

Orzechowski and her husband have no children of their own, but have many nieces and nephews who love to visit the farm.

A "Goat Raisers Have More Kids" tin plate hangs in their kitchen.

Orzechowski, a public speaker on income taxes, and Hoyman, an accountant who works from home, have no trouble calculating their herd's potential.

They keep careful track of which doe produces what and which buck produces the best line.

"We try to raise them as natural as possible," she said, adding that they are careful about the animals' food and care.

"We do more than we are required by law. We want to produce the best milk, the best cheese as possible," she said.

The couple moved from Washington, D.C., to the county in 1978 to try their hand at farming.

"We tried pigs. We tried cows. We fell in love with goats," she said.

Small animals are the future of farming, according to Orzechowski. Smaller land tracts make caring for smaller animals more feasible than caring for larger ones, she said.

Plus, she said, the market for goat's milk continues to grow. People in many other countries routinely drink goat's milk instead of cow's milk, and Orzechowski said more and more Americans are turning their tastes to goat's milk and goat's cheese.

Like cow's milk, the cost of goat's milk fluctuates, but Orzechowski said that for 100 pounds of milk, she can get between $17 and $50.

Their farm recently received a license to sell cheese. The dairy sends its milk to a Pennsylvania cheese maker and then sells it at the Middletown, Md., Farmer's Market.

The farm's goat milk cheese - cheddar, Italian cheddar and Kids Goat Milk Pizza cheese - is being sold for $15.99 a pound.

"We're trying to do more upscale than curd," she said.

On the Web: www.caprikornfarms.com

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