What started as a 4-H project more than 20 years ago has blossomed into big business at this Orfordville goat farm
ORFORDVILLE - Aaron Dooley's dairy herd is small — in stature. In numbers, he and his wife, Kim, have about 1,000 goats and milk around 400 twice a day in a double-15 parlor.
His herd started about 23 years ago with a goat for a 4-H project. He started milking goats as a senior in high school and as time went on his herd grew.
It was "something new at the time," Aaron explained, "not many young people were getting into it," and the startup investment was less than with dairy cows.
Now the herd at O'Dools Dairy Goats, LLC., consists of Saanen goats, which produce the most milk, Alpines, Lamanchas and crossbreeds.
Each goat produces about a gallon per day with the current milk price at about $39 per hundredweight. In November, December and January, the price will go up to around $50 - $55 per hundredweight.
"That doesn't change like cows milk," said Aaron.
"We can actually budget, for the most part, because we know what we're going to get," Kim added.
Even with a more steady milk price Kim and Aaron diversify their business. Aaron has a bale wrapping business, along with other crop services. Kim makes goats milk products.
With the majority of goats freshening between January and March, it's "baby fever" for the first four months of the year as sometimes 70 kids a day are born, Kim said. This year they had about 400 does, Kim told a group of FFA members touring the farm on June 13.
"When moms freshen, we take the babies away right away," said Kim. "I tube every single one of them with artificial colostrum."
Aaron and Kim also sell goat meat.
"Goat meat is the most eaten protein in third world countries," Kim said. "Goats are easy keepers. Women can handle them."
Goat milk products
Kim learned the art and science of soap making from her cousin about 20 years ago.
At first she made goats milk soap as gifts for family members. When they started liking how the soap made their skin feel, she decided it was another way to diversify their business.
"I always say, 'promote the goat,' and it was a way to do that, Kim explained. Goat milk soap will help any kind of skin condition.
"You will feel the difference the first time you use it," added Kim.
About three years ago, Kim left her corporate job to farm full-time with Aaron and devote more time to making and promoting the goat products.
While she makes goat milk lotion also, its a longer process than soap making.
"I love making soap," said Kim. "Basically, I kick everyone out of the house and I have my own little world when I make soap because you really have to concentrate to make it last."
Making about 600 bars a week, Kim sells the soap at the Beloit Farmer's Market along with a few other businesses.
Between milk, meat, and soap, Kim said, "I don't think people realize the benefit of goats."