Hildene Farm Goat Dairy

Frequently Asked Questions

How old is the barn? This barn was built in 2008 with mostly lumber that was harvested and milled on property.

Was there a farm here during Lincoln’s time? Yes, they raised cows in the Dene (the lower part of our property) and milked them to make butter. This farm area has been pastureland, however, since the Lincoln’s built Hildene.

What kind of goats are they? Nubian goats. They have large floppy ears and “Roman” noses.

Where do the Nubian goats come from? They were developed in Great Britain from native milking stock and goats from the Middle East and North Africa.

How many goats do we have? The number of milking does (girls), dry does (non-milking), bucks (boys) and kids (babies) changes depending on the time of year and is listed on our chalkboards.

How old are milking does? They are first milked at 2 years old and can be milked until their early teens.

How old do goats live to be? Does and bucks can live into their early teens.

What time of the year are kids born? Normally March through May, it can vary depending on when the does are dried off and bred. 

What is the gestation period? 5 months.

What age are the kids weaned? When they are 2 to 3 months old.

Are multiple births common? Yes, goats can have twins, triplets, and even quads. One year we had a very rare birth with five kids.

When do kids get their teeth? They have some teeth at birth but at a few weeks old they begin to develop more. At a year old they will begin to lose their baby teeth and get adult teeth.

What do goats eat? Hay, grass and brush whenever they want and grain on the milking stand. They also have minerals and salt as they please.

When are kids horns removed and why? At about 10 days old. They are removed for safety to themselves, other goats and people. The horns are numbed with lidocaine, then cauterized with a disbudding iron, and observed closely for some time afterward. Both does and bucks grow horns.

Why do females have beards? It is all based on genetics. Having a beard does not signify higher levels of testosterone.

How much milk does each goat give daily? When milked once a day, mature milkers give about 1/2 gallon and when milked twice a day about 1 gallon.

How much milk does it take to make a gallon of cheese? 1 gallon of milk = 1 pound of cheese.

What kind of cheese do we make? Chèvre (a soft, fresh goat cheese), Maple Rum Leaf (a soft-ripened, leaf wrapped, fresh cow cheese) and Tomme (a hard, aged cheese from both goat and cow milk).

How long do hard cheeses age? 4 to 6 months. By law it must in the cave for a minimum of 2 months but specific aging time depends on the type of cheese. The aged cheeses are cared for during the aging process with brushing and washing.

What temperature is the aging cave kept? 51ºF and 85% humidity Why are aged hard cheeses waxed? How many times are they waxed?

What is the wax made of? The cheese wax that is applied after aging is complete holds in moisture, acts as packaging and lengthens the shelf life of the cheese. Each wedge gets three coats. The wax is a food grade wax made in Holland.

Do we sell our cheese to stores? We sell our cheese in The Museum Store at the Welcome Center and to a company that distributes it to other restaurants and retailers. We also use our goat milk to make soap.

Who inspects the farm? There are 3 state inspectors who come every 3 to 4 months but may come unannounced. One inspects the dairy, one the creamery and one the overall plant.

How many solar panels do we have? There are 109 solar panels on the south-facing roof.

What do we do when we have too many kids? They are sold to other dairies, local farms or meat producers. Some may become therapy animals or pets.

Where do the goats go in the winter? They stay here on the farm and in this barn, which has radiant floor heating that provides warm shelter for our pregnant goats and also reduces the amount of bedding material needed. Goats do not like to be out in rain or snow.

What are the minerals in the buckets? Sodium bicarbonate, which helps to regulate stomach acid, loose minerals, kelp and salt, which supplement their grain and pasture forage.

What is added to the milk to make cheese? Culture, rennet, calcium and salt. What temperature is the milk heated to for pasteurization? 145ºF or above and then it is held at that temperature for 30 minutes.

How long does it take to make chèvre? About 5 days. Day 1 is pasteurizing and the initial make process, day 2 is ladling curd into the molds, days 3 and 4 are unmolding and drying and day 5 is wrapping.

Are goats bred every year? Yes, once they are about 2 years old.

Do we only use goat milk for cheese? No, in the winter when the goats are dried off and pregnant, we make cow’s milk cheeses.

What is a female goat called? Female goats are called does.

What is a male goat called? Male goats are called bucks. Castrated males are called wethers.

What are young goats called? Young goats are called kids.