HARRISBURG — While goat milk hasn’t gone mainstream, it’s getting closer, several dairy goat owners said Thursday at the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show.
“The market for goat milk is strong,” Helen Snyder, Farm Show Dairy Goat superintendent, said during junior dairy goat showmanship judging on the Farm Show’s sixth day. The Farm Show runs through 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free but parking is $15 a vehicle.
Goats are front and center during the last three Farm Show days, with junior dairy goat showmanship on Thursday, open dairy goat judging on Friday and a Boer (meat) goat show on Saturday.
Snyder, who has been raising dairy goats for 44 years, called goat milk the most consumed milk in the world.
“We have a demand for goat milk, and we are producing it,” she said. “But there’s a link missing from that chain and that’s the goat milk processors.”
She said Pennsylvania’s dairy goat industry took a hit when Trickling Springs Creamery of Chambersburg, one of the few large dairies that handled goat milk, stopped buying and processing it. Some small goat dairies went out of business, she said, while others tried to find new ways to use their milk.
“Vermont Creamery in Webersville, Vermont, processes goat milk,” she said. “But it’s pretty far away.” That creamery started in 1984 on an 80-goat dairy farm. Today, 20 Vermont goat farms ship their milk there.
Snyder called Pennsylvania a good state for dairy and meat goats.
“Goat meat is the most consumed meat in the world,” she said, adding that it is more than 50 percent lower in fat than beef and 40 percent lower than chicken yet has a high protein rating. Goat milk is the most popular milk, she said. “But a lot of people have never tasted either.”
She said goat owners are trying to change that. In the Food Court, the Pennsylvania Livestock Association has been selling goat sloppy joes. A goat and three of her kids are on display in one of the Maclay Street lobbies.
On Thursday, the public also spent time in the Farm Show Complex Northwest Hall, where dairy goats were competing in the show ring and Boer (meat) goats were being groomed in preparation for showing. Snyder said 411 dairy goats were being judged. One of them was Rosie, a 3-year-old Lamancha owned by Kali Snyder, 9, of Liverpool.
“I’ve been coming to the Farm Show since I was 2,” said the Greenwood Elementary School fourth-grade student. “I like the competition.”
Abby Beidel of Newville brought seven goats to the Farm Show in her father’s cattle truck. The Big Spring High School ninth-grader said that in addition to showing goats, she has been educating the public.
“People ask a lot of questions about goats,” she said as a family photographed and petted her friendly goats. “I got my first goat when I was 8 and having a birthday party at a roller skating rink. My Aunt Heather Ocker gave me a black Nubian goat named Flower. “
Beidel, whose goats have names like Frosty, LuLu and Harley, said she considers her goats to be pets. “Each has her own name,” she said. “My goats are sassy, curious, intelligent and wonderful. I love them.”
Robert Diehl of Wheatfield Township was grooming Marshmallow, a 5-year-old Saanen. “My wife and I have 20 meat goats and 20 dairy goats,” he said, adding that they brought six goats to the Farm Show. He said goats are a way of life for the couple, who previously were beef farmers.
“My wife had goats when she was growing up,” he said. “So she wanted goats as a novelty. We bought one and it screamed for attention. So we bought another one to keep her company. It grew from there.”
Eventually, they got out of the beef business and into the goat business.
Like other dairy goat owners, Diehl laments the fact that “nobody around here processes goat milk. We drink our goat milk. I grew up drinking raw cow milk and there’s not much difference between that and goat milk. We also feed it to market calves and use it to make cheese and soap.”
The Diehls milk their goats twice daily, getting between one and two gallons of milk each day from each goat. They also raise Boers, which they sell at Carlisle Livestock market or Middleburg Livestock Market.
“We like raising goats,” he said, adding that they have “quirks. They don’t like to get their feet wet. Our goats won’t even walk on the dew. During the blizzards last year, we had to shovel a path from the barn to the water tubs because they wouldn’t walk in the snow.”
Skip Bowen of York Haven was trimming one of the 10 Boers he brought to the Farm Show.
“The goat meat industry is doing very well,” he said, adding that he has 60 Boers at home. “More and more people are eating goat meat, although the biggest market is immigrants.”
Kyle Miller of Newport said he considers his 20 dairy goats a hobby.
“We milk them every 12 hours, getting an average of 8 pounds of milk a day from each,” he said. “Goats are fun. If you have a bad day, just spend time with your goats and you’ll feel better. They are excellent therapy.”