Herd through the grapevines
Without a doubt, the most recognisable members of the Fairview team are the goats who call our famous tower their home. The tower was built in 1981 and it’s residents are well known around the winelands. These proud few represent the herd of more than 1000 does (female goats), who provide milk to our Vineyard Cheesery each day.
Cyril Back brought the first goats to Fairview in 1980, with the aim of producing South Africa’s first goat’s milk cheeses. This aim was soon achieved and three decades later Fairview is firmly positioned as the market leader in the artisanal cheese category. While the majority of the production today uses Jersey cow’s milk, the Fairview herd remains an integral part of the farm’s activities and our more traditional lines.
Goats are gregarious and inquisitive animals and are extremely intelligent. They are quite easy to farm with, provided they are kept healthy and fed well. Being of European origin, goats don’t take too kindly to very hot weather. Our sheds have sprinklers on the roofs to keep them cool during the warm Paarl summers.
The daily routine
The Fairview herd comprises three goat breeds. The majority are Saanen; a Swiss-origin mountain breed. These white goats are excellent dairy animals, providing a good volume of high quality milk. There are also the brown Toggenbergs and the black British Alpines in the herd and the milk from these goats adds complexity to the overall flavour of the Fairview goat’s milk.
Our goats follow a regular daily routine beginning early with a milking at 04:30. They are milked twice a day, providing approximately 3.5 litres per milking. The Fairview milking parlour is modern and stringently controlled and hygiene standards are strictly maintained in accordance with HACCP standards. Once a goat comes into milk production it needs to be milked each day, both for the sake of the comfort of the animal as well as the continued production for cheesemaking.
After milking, the goats head out to the open grass pastures for two to three hours, before being brought into their sheds where they are fed on a combination of lucerne (alfalfa) and a special supplementary pellet feed. They are milked again mid afternoon.
The kidding season
The Fairview goats kid once a year, during the months of August to October. As they near the term of their five month gestation period, we stop milking the does, as they need all their energy and nutrients to ensure that their kids are healthy and strong. It is for this reason that there is usually a scarcity of supply of our goats milk cheeses during these months. Our does normally have two kids, but triplets do occur. However carrying three kids puts a lot of stress on the animal and they need to be cared for very carefully. Our consulting veterinarian visits regularly during the pregnancy, performing ultrasounds as well as monitoring the health of the prospective mums! Once the kids start to arrive, there is a noticeable lift in the spirit on the farm, brought about by these cute little kids and their inquisitive personalities. The kids spend a few days with the mother goat, and are then hand reared and moved over to bottle feeding. Our kidding sheds are kept warm during the late winter months, to ensure the new arrivals are kept warm and comfortable.
We were proud to produce the first goats' milk cheese to be awarded Product of the Year at the SA National Dairy Championships - Chevin with Garlic & Herbs. Our goats' milk also adds a unique character to our flagship Roydon Camembert.
This traditional recipe Camembert has won no less than five gold medals in seven years at the World Cheese Awards, so our goats are clearly earning their keep!
Donald Mouton is responsible for the care of the Fairview herd. For any more information he can be contacted by email on firstname.lastname@example.org