I am visiting Catapano Dairy Farm when I get the chance to hold a two-day-old baby goat in my arms. I can feel it relax as if it knows it’s in safe hands. It even crosses its front legs in a casual pose. I can feel the umbilical cord, still attached but beginning to dry out. I think I need a goat.
And I’m not kidding—the goats are. Kidding is the season when baby goats are born.
Debbie Slack, who has been working at Catapano for eight years, fills us in on goat husbandry. She loves her job and says, “I can’t wait to get up in the morning to come to work.”
Goats are bred when they’re one-year-old and gestation takes five months. They stagger the breeding beginning in September with births from February to June so they have a continuous supply of milk to make goat cheese, Catapano’s primary business. If there is a difficult delivery such as breech or with twins or triplets, someone is around to help the goats and to ease delivery.
The babies are weaned from their mothers at five or six weeks but are returned to their moms at night to nurse. They are extremely friendly goats because they’re used to being handled and fed by humans since the moment of their birth.
Karen and Michael Catapano, the farm’s owners, have around 100 goats, all with identifying numbers around their necks to keep track of them. Breeds include Saanen, whose does are heavy milk producers, La Mancha, with tiny ears, Nubian, from Egypt with long floppy ears, and Alpine and Toggenberg, both from Switzerland. Toggenberg is the oldest known dairy goat breed. The male goats are all white Saanens. But the Nubian’s milk has the highest butterfat content. Each gallon of milk that a goat produces makes about one pound of cheese.
Varieties of cheese include many different types of Chèvre with fig, mango jalapeño, sweet fire pepper, with herbs and one with lemon pepper. Catapano makes other award winning hard, semi-soft and ricotta cheeses and yogurts that are sold in a charming little blue house at the farm. You can sample the different varieties before you make your purchase. Karen Catapano also produces a great line of beauty products made with goat milk called The Delicate Doe that is nourishing and moisturizing for the skin.
Stop by with your kids and pet the local kids and take home some delicious, creamy goat cheese. Just don’t be surprised if the visit makes you say, “God, I think I need a goat.”