These quotes were taken from an interview with Rene Deleeuw, the herdsman at Coach Farm in Pine Plains, NY
My father started a goat dairy when I was knee high because I needed the milk . . . I had a sensitivity to cow’s milk. So that was my background. Goats turned out to be very suitable for me.
They are great Houdinis—goats can get out of gates and go through fences. We have double latches everywhere. They can get in all kinds of mischief, but they also know when they’ve done something wrong. They get that guilty look.
One of the worst things to subject a goat to is loneliness. They can’t tolerate being by themselves. They stop eating and are really vocal . . . generally, they’re all out of sorts if left by themselves.
I’ve been the herdsman at Coach for 23 years . . . I can’t say enough good things about goats. They’re highly intelligent and personable. Each one is such an individual . . . with a mind of its own. Which means there’s any number of things they can be blamed for.
I’ve seen a lot of change in the dairy goat industry, which started in this country as a show-animal industry—like the American Kennel Club. But over years that has shifted to goats being seen as more usable and productive.
I am excited by every birth. When I deliver a new kid, I always pick it up, look it in the eye, and say, “Welcome to the world!”
Our goats don’t graze because they could eat random things that would change the flavor of the milk. Pasturing animals for cheesemaking means carefully monitoring what’s in the pasture. We feed them baleage—fermented alfalfa grass—that we grow and ferment right here. And they get to go out in the yard and play on the cairns, unless it’s raining. Goats abhor water. They love to be dry, so they stay very clean.
My day typically starts around 7 a.m. when I make my rounds, checking the goats as they go through the milking parlor. I can walk front and back and see everything about them. See if their eyes are alert and their ears are up. Goats are not complainers, so you have to examine them closely; otherwise, by the time you see something is wrong with them, they can be quite sick.
My job is also about constantly trying to improve the genetics of our animals. We have a closed herd of 750 Alpine goats. We don’t bring in any animals for breeding, so we’re in kind of a bubble here. If I brought in outside animals, we’d see disease spread through here like a brushfire
Photo: Gregory Cherin