As a 4-Her, Matt Carman took pride in his herd of registered dairy goats. With the help of his parents Don and Deb, he learned how to select quality dairy goats, how to feed and care for young kids and how to fit and show. Most 4-Hers draw on their 4-H experience throughout life, but Matt turned what he learned into a career.
Matt’s original concept for the operation known as Liberty View Creamery in Littlestown, PA was to make goat’s milk ice cream and that’s still an option for the future. For now, he’s focusing on developing the milking herd as well as additional markets for Grade A goat milk.
While in the planning stages for the creamery, the Carmans visited goat dairies to explore options for facilities. “We went to several farms to see what we liked,” said Matt, explaining how they came up with their eight-goat pit parlor equipped with a pipeline, “Pits are easier to keep clean than the scaffold kind where they go up a ramp.” The Carmans agree that working with experts from the start helped them design what would work best for them; ensuring what they planned would be appropriate for their goats.
Deb says working with state regulatory officials throughout the process was helpful, “Once Matthew decided we were going to do it, it was a two year process,” she said, “We try to tell people who want to start dairies to have the inspectors involved from the start and make sure they initial everything that they’ve okayed.” After years of planning, the Carmans settled on a facility design, and Liberty View Creamery became official in late 2012.
Three breeds – Saanen, LaMancha and Alpine – comprise the herd. Each doe is hand bred to one of seven carefully selected purebred bucks to ensure parentage and accurate due dates. Genetically superior bucks that will improve milk production and conformation are obtained from well-established dairy herds. “We’re trying to make good conformation animals that will produce,” said Deb. “Many of the goats in the herd trace back to home-grown champions that Matt bred and raised, some of which achieved top 10 national status.”
Don confirms pregnancies through ultrasound, does are dried off two months prior to freshening. Does remain dry-lotted and receive good quality hay during the dry period and are introduced to the ration prior to freshening. “We try to bring them in about a week ahead to get them used to the grain we feed,” said Deb, adding that goats are doing well on a soy-free pellet. Although the milking herd currently includes about 40 does that are milked twice a day, that number will increase to between 85 and 90 by mid-summer.
Part of the Carman’s intensive CAE management program is watching close-up does so that newborn kids don’t have an opportunity to nurse. Kids are removed from does immediately after kidding and fed heat-treated colostrum from CAE-negative does. Whenever possible, kids receive colostrum from their own dam. Newborns are fed colostrum four times a day for the first day and then receive pasteurized milk three times a day until the age of three months.
Goats are milked twice a day in the parlor that was designed with the help of a consultant who knew what the Carmans wanted. Many of the goats were accustomed to being machine-milked on a stand, so training was mostly a matter of the animals becoming familiar with a different routine. Although one person can easily handle milking, it’s faster and more efficient with two.
Matt processes milk, pasteurization and bottling, three times a week. Liberty View is one of only three federally inspected and approved plants in Pennsylvania that processes Grade A pasteurized goat milk and the only facility to process its own milk.
One aspect of operating a Grade A dairy is strict animal and milk handling procedures throughout every step of the process. Deb is certified to test milk for antibiotics, which she must do prior to every batch that’s pasteurized. Before they could operate and sell milk, Deb had to run a minimum of 15 tests that were conducted concurrently by an independent laboratory to make sure her results matched those of a certified lab.
Throughout processing, temperatures are carefully recorded to show that milk has reached and maintained a certain temperature. “The air space above the milk also has to be a certain temperature,” said Don. “The chart also includes the wash cycle. After it’s pasteurized, milk goes through the cooler and into the holding tank.” The milk drops in temperature from 145° F to 50°F in 10 minutes, and in another 10 minutes, the temperature is 34°F, that’s when milk goes into the bottle.
Milk is marketed both through a distributor and directly from the farm. Some of the milk is delivered to a cheese maker too. In addition to selling Grade A goat milk, Liberty View also offers select breeding animals for sale.
Although the processing room is appropriately plumbed for ice cream making, there is significant expense involved to purchase the necessary equipment. Matt has already attended Penn State’s Ice Cream Short Course, but wants to be sure there’s a market for both the ice cream and the waste product of skim milk. Meanwhile, Liberty View is gaining more happy customers who seek the benefits of drinking all-natural, naturally homogenized goat milk.