Dairy on a smaller scale
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)--A Payne County farm is complete with pasture, barns and even a milking parlor, but there are no cows.
Chester and Dora Busch operate Feather Creek Farm, located between Stillwater and Glencoe. The farm is a full production goat dairy with about 100 milking goats, 48 of which are being milked at this time.
Dora Busch said they started in the dairy goat industry about seven years ago when their oldest son wanted to show dairy goats. After he graduated and moved away from the farm, the Busches decided to transform into a grade A goat dairy.
Feather Creek Farm became grade A in 2007 and they began selling their milk at Pure Prairie Creamery, LLC, a cheese factory in Ada. The cheese is sold in local groceries throughout Oklahoma including Consumers IGA and Companies Comin II in Stillwater.
"We sell it locally, we are legal to sell 100 gallons of raw goat's milk, which is un-pasturized,'' Dora Busch said. "The only thing that has been done to the milk is that it has been filtered for cleanness. We can sell that from the farm every month.''
Pure Prairie Creamery, LLC Partner Bill Clark said the creamery produces a market for Oklahoma goat dairy producers. He said the Busches are one of his best producers.
"It's been excellent,'' Clark said. "They have the highest quality of milk of any producer we buy from. Their quality has been superb.''
Clark said he can't talk enough about the quality of their milk and attributes their success to careful genetic selection. He said milk usually gives an average 9 percent yield on cheese, but Feather Creek Farm's milk yields 10 to 11 percent.
The Busches hope to add a cheese factory to their dairy and sell direct to consumers, but Dora Busch said the Stillwater market is a tough market.
Chester Busch said he has wanted to milk for a long time, and took losing his job as an opportunity to farm full-time. He said now was a good time to get into the dairy goat industry because people are becoming more health conscious.
"It's something I always liked doing,'' he said. "It's a specialty item, a novelty item. More people are getting more health conscious so goat's milk is on the rise.''
Dora Busch said milking goats is the same process as milking cows, but is actually a little easier.
"The only difference is you've got two teats instead of four,'' Dora Busch said. "My husband's favorite saying is 'If God had intended us to milk cows he would have given us four hands.'''
She said the size makes them easier to handle and the milk is a little easier to digest. She said the goats are good to work with and develop better personalities than dairy cattle.
"They're very personable,'' Dora Busch said. "Every single one of these goats has its own personality. They're just lovable.''
Goats are considered browsers; they will pick through weeds and leaves instead of eating grasses. Dora Busch said the dairy goats are kept on an alfalfa and sweet feed diet to help with production.
"If all we did was let them browse, they would milk but it wouldn't be what it is now,'' she said. "It's the same as with a cow dairy, the more production you can get out of one animal, the better off you are.''
Chester Busch lost his job in April and along with running the farm, distributes cheese for Pure Prairie Creamery. Dora Busch said this was a "mixed blessing'' because he can now make more money on the farm.
"You don't have to go out to an eight-to-five job,'' Chester Busch said. "Farming's really 24/7, but it's something I enjoy doing.''
The Busches said they would like to expand their operation to around 150 milking goats. They also want to raise awareness for the industry and let people know the opportunity is out there.