If somehow you have found our blog, Welcome!!  Chad and I will be taking turns blogging about our Willow Valley Farms adventures.  While we may be late to the blogging party, it is our hope that this blog will bring much needed attention to the plight of the critically endangered San Clemente Island Goat as well as chronicle our efforts in turning them into a dairy breed and in turn us into Artisan Goat Cheese makers.

We are in the process of building a Grade A microdairy on our property.  There is a lot of work to be done.  We are doing it for many reasons, but the main one is our way of saving the San Clemente Island Goat from extinction.  There are less than 600 of these beautiful animals left.  For more about their story, please visit our web site, www.willowvalleyfarms.org and www.scigoats.org

In 2008, our San Clemente Island Goats made their first appearance.  There are a number of different versions of how our goats made it here.  Chad will tell you that I may have in passing said something about wanting goats.  Long story short, Chad got about 12 minutes notice that we were about to get goats.  Turns out our first were barren.  They are the only two goats that are barren around here.  We now have over 100 of them running around here.  I have been told that we have the largest herd in the world right here in Nebraska.

I can tell you San Clementes and rabbits have a lot in common.  SCI's, as they are called by those in the know, breed all year round.  Most, if not all, traditional breeds come into season at the same time deer do, in the fall and early winter, which creates a big break in production between October and April.   SCIs are not encumbered by that problem.  They do however have a big hurdle to overcome: supernumerary teats.

That is a fancy way of saying that SCI does have too many teats.  Dairy cows have four teats that are milked.  Goats are supposed to have two.  All of the systems are set up to milk two teats.  Most of the extra teats either do not function properly or if they do, they are in the way of the good teat.  In order to make SCIs a viable dairy breed, the extra teats have to be bred out.

Both males, bucks, and females, does, carry the extra teat gene.  Two teats are the dominant gene in goats, but because the SCIs were on the island for so many years and were inbred, the recessive extra teats became the norm.  We are in the process of flipping that around and at the same time maintaining as much genetic diversity as possible.  We currently have enough two teated does to move forward with our dairy plans.  The question is whether we will have enough SCI milk to make the dairy operation viable. As we identify two teated SCIs in other herds and bring them into our herd, we will be able to balance two important pieces to quality goat cheese making, production and butterfat. 

SCIs naturally have a high butterfat content.  Testing has shown a range between 5-7% butterfat.  That is better than most of the common breeds.  If you want milk production, the Saanens, Alpines, and Nubians of the world are the way to go.   We have been told that if we want sweet creamy cheese, called chèvre, quality versus quantity, is the key.  We believe that the SCIs have a distinct advantage over the big producers, a higher butterfat and they breed all year round.  Which means you can have better milk for cheese through out the year. 

I am very excited about this new journey.  I cannot tell you how this will end, but I can tell you we are ready to do what we can to keep these beautiful goats from going extinct.  It is my belief their salvation is through the dairy world.  Stay tuned!


 

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    Two guys living on a hobby farm in Nebraska raising critically endangered San Clemente Island Goats, and a whole lot more.  We are in the process of developing a Grade A Microdairy.  We will be the first to use San Clemente Island Goat milk.  It is about time these girls earn their keep around here!

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