Bonnie Blue

10Jul13

On July 9, we visited Bonnie Blue Farm, a dairy goat farm in Waynesboro Tennessee owned by Jim and Gayle Tanner. We toured the farm with 2 other couples.

Upon starting the tour, Jim gave us some interesting facts about goats, how they started their dairy and their work history. Before starting their dairy business, Jim had done carpentry, had a motorcycle repair business, went back to school to get his degree in the Navy, was a college teacher, and a stock broker. Gayle has a degree in culinary arts and was a world class swimmer. Gayle works with the animals, makes most of the cheese and Jim does most of the farm maintenance, animal husbandry, tours and sales & marketing.

Jim gave everyone a list of questions to answer before they think of starting a commercial dairy. It’s an eye opener for anyone looking to get into this business; with more hard work and surprisingly less income than one might expect.

Their herd consists of purebred Nubians and Saanens. Nubians are known for their high butterfat of 4.6% and Saanen have a butterfat of 3.2% and are known for their high milk production. (Think about the 2% milk and whole milk (3.25%) you buy in the store and you’ll get a better idea about butterfat.) There’s about 75 dairy does, but only 38 are milking. The others are freshening which is a period of time off for the goats. They have about 11 bucks for breeding purposes, but also use artificial insemination which gives them more options to improve the breed.

The dairy goats all eat alfalfa. Their alfalfa is brought by the truck load. They do not purchase their alfalfa locally because it is not grown locally or free of pesticides. I like the responsibility this farm is taking for feeding their animals clean food.

Other animals on the farm include chickens and there’s two Great Pyrenees dogs to protect their 300 acre farm. There’s one jersey cow who supplies milk to the goat kids and some of their products.

The Tanners bought their property in 1995 moved in 1999. A modest log cabin was the first home they built on the property which is now a guest cabin. The other farm buildings consist of: A cheese cave (to age cheese), cheese studio (a cheese kitchen), barn, milking parlor/milk room (milk bulk tank storage).

When it’s milking time, the goats are herded in with an ATV. The goat are let into the milking parlor 6 at a time, 4 being milked at a time. Each go to their own slot to feed and stand to be milked. Before each of the pumps are put on each of the goat’s two teats, they are cleaned with a sanitizer wipe. Afterwards, the teats are dipped in an anit-bacterial dip that protects them from bacterial infections when they go lay down somewhere. Both breed’s milks are combined into one 5 gallon stainless collection container.

Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized. The structure of the milk is different than that of cow’s milk.  Fat globules in cow’s milk tend to separate to the surface, while goat’s milk fat globules are much smaller and will remain suspended in the solution.

I got to milk one of the goats. It was easier than I thought. After the dairy goats were all milked, Gayle milked the Jersey cow and I got to taste the raw milk. It was pretty good.

At the end of the tour, we returned to the cheese studio to taste the cheeses. Bonnie Blue makes several cheeses. We sampled a few different delicious chevres (goat cheese) prepared with herbs and one with garlic and chives. We also tried the “Moolean” which is an aged raw cow’s milk cheese. Raw milk cheese aged longer than 60 days can be sold commercially. In Tennessee, raw milk cannot be sold unless it is bottled for pets or sold through shares (in which the share owner owns part of the herd).

The tour concluded after two hours. It was evident to me that having a goat farm takes a lot of dedication and hard work as well as being savy and frugallity. Anyway, we certainly got a appreciation for what it takes to raise goats.

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4 Responses to “Bonnie Blue”

  1. 1 Mom

    I wouldn’t expect them to encourage anyone from getting into the business. Completion isn’t good for them.

  2. 2 lavI

    Wow. Higher in fat for sure. How cool. Too much work for me. My goodness.

  3. 3 Sandra Pyle

    Are you really thinking of doing this? You guys already work so hard already. I am impressed but it sounds like too much work to me. Anyway, you both are having a wonderful time in your new home so we are very happy for you!!!!!!


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