Quarterly Herd Update: May 2024 Spring update on the Stepladder goat herd!

As you likely know by now, Spring is a very busy time of year for us on the ranch; it is full of growth in the herd as we welcome 100+ new lives onto the farm, a swell in milk production as the mamma goats are added to the milking line, and major shifts in the creamery and farmers market program as we welcome our delicious goat milk cheese back into the Stepladder cheese lineup.
All those moving pieces take a lot of attention and care, but luckily our amazing team is up for the challenge. This year has been no different in terms of the general uptick in the workflow of Spring, but there have been a few big developments in the goat herd that have been exciting to watch! 
One major change we made this year was the addition of our automatic kid feeder. This little machine has had a huge impact on our kidding season, as it allows the kids to free feed throughout the day. In years past, we fed the babies manually several times a day with the help of our milk bar (you may have seen images of the large pink contraption attached to the fencing with 10 kids guzzling milk from it).

This system was great in some ways, but created some logistical challenges when it came to staffing and scheduling around the milking shifts. The addition of the new kid feeder has taken a huge weight off the shoulders of the dairy team. We have also seen some differences in the personalities of the babies; they are still very friendly as always, but much less prone to nibbling and jumping on us. We attribute this to the fact that they associate us less with food and more with snuggles and scratches!

Another big difference between this year and previous years is the number of 1st fresheners we have joining the milking herd this year. A 1st freshener is a doe who is in her first year of kidding and milking. We usually have somewhere between 8 and 10 every year, but this year we decided to grow the herd a bit and have added 15 young does to our milking line!

We generally train these girls for the milking line all winter long, making sure to pay special attention to ensuring that the milking parlor is a comfortable and stress free environment full of good snacks so that they are not skittish or uncomfortable when it comes time for their first milking shift. So far these girls have been doing phenomenally and have taken to their new roles as dairy goats like old hats. We were very fortunate this year to have had plenty of beautiful doelings born that will be added to our herd next year. In fact, almost all of our sponsored does had daughters this year and all of those little ladies will be joining the herd next year!
We did have a couple of our sponsored does who do not have daughters joining the herd next year; Carolina and Wanda. Wanda was bred later in the year so she has not yet kidded and if she has a daughter, she will be born too late in the year to join the herd next year. And unfortunately Carolina did not get pregnant at all last year so she will not have kids. However, Carolina’s daughter from 2023 - Aji Dulce - had a daughter and son this year, so has joined the milking herd and is doing great!
We hope this herd update finds you all well! We want to extend our immense gratitude to you for being such loyal fans, friends, and patrons of our ranch and creamery - we really could not do it without you!
As always, we thank you so much for your continued support! Us, the goats, and the entire Stepladder team couldn't do it without you! 
 
♥️ Michelle & Jack Rudolph 

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