Did you know that goats can smile? It’s true. They totally do. At least on this farm they do. This happy critter chomping on premium, lush, green alfalfa hay (trucked in from Utah at $9800 a truckload!) is just one of 331 goats that farmer and veterinarian Dan Drake takes care of.
This is the Drake Family Farm in Ontario, California. How on earth did I end up photographing a goat farm in Ontario, you ask? Well, it goes like this…
One of my favorite local clients is Mendocino Farms in the Los Angeles area. Mendocino Farms is a sandwich market like no other. I’m addicted to several of their sandwiches and salads, oh and side salads, and lemonades, you get the idea.
Mendo was founded by Mario del Pero, and this man LOVES food and KNOWS food. Talking to Mario is always fun and interesting. I learn so much about so many foods each time we shoot. His passion for this is beyond obsession, it is his way of life. Everyone I’ve met at Mendo so far has the same love for food.
Mendo takes farm-to-table as serious, if not more serious than, any high-end restaurant claiming to do so. Mario and his team have researched every food product they sell. And if they can’t find the most perfect specimen of (fill in the blank here), then he and his crew will make it themselves.
I was lucky to shoot for them this past October. If you have a look at their menu, you will notice some very memorable names of their sandwiches. The one that led me to the cutest goat farm on the planet is called, “Save Drake’s Farm Salad”.
This salad has really tasty goat cheese in it – from Drake’s farm, as well as other fresh, crispy fruits and lettuces. I asked Mario about the name of the salad and he told me all about his research of finding the best goat cheese around. That’s how he found Dan Drake’s farm and when he was telling me about how beautiful it was, I knew I had to go and photograph it.
The name of the salad, “Save Drake’s Farm”, helped to do exactly that. We all know that farming is a tough business and goat farming is no exception. Mario’s goal was to save the farm, and he did. Now Drake’s goat cheese is sold to many restaurants in Los Angeles and they are selling their cheeses at many of the Farmer’s Markets in Los Angeles county. You can also find these products at several stores, and also on their website.
Here’s a cute shot where all the goats are watching farmer Dan walk away. They all know him and he has named each goat.
Dan raises four types of goats: Nubians, Saanens, Alpines, and Snubians, a cross between Nubians and Saanens. Dan does not sell his goats for meat. He will sell goats for milking and breeding.
This little girl is about a year old. She is a Nubian goat. They have the lovely long ears. It’s fascinating how many different color variations can happen in these goats.
Dan describes the breads in this way: Saanans are the easiest going and very calm. The Nubians are a lot more high strung and get more excited about change. For instance, they don’t like walking on wet cement. The Alpines are just evil – they will kill for food, water, or shade or just to be mean.
The goats are amazingly quiet. We stood in front of pens that had about 75 goats in it. When they see Dan, they come right over to see what’s going on. Many of them stick their heads out willing to be petted. They were extremely curious about my camera as I was shooting. The noise was very intriguing to them.
If your back is turned to a goat, you will feel a soft pair of lips nibbling on your elbow or a slight tug on your shirt. They are so sweet, they just love attention.
Many of these goats really appear to be smiling, like this Saanen goat above. The Saanens have rigid upright ears that just stick straight out.
The upper left shot above, is of an Alpine goat. They look so similar to a deer. Every pen has plenty of fresh alfalfa hay for everyone to nibble on all day long.
Goats are born with horns. Dan humanely removes the horns of the goats he is keeping when they are born so there is less chance of them using them against each other and possibly getting hurt.
He separates the goats based in the following way: goats who are retired from milking, male goats in heat, baby goats, very ambitious milking goats, and yearlings.
The ambitious goats are goats that have been milking for two years without having babies. Normally the baby is what triggers the lactating process, so with these ladies, after their first baby, they kept on producing milk.
With the older goats that are no longer milk producers, Dan will breed them and then sell the pregnant goats to other goat breeders. As he says, “I will not turn them into taco meat”.
Dan really takes good care of the goats. How his farm is different from all others is that when milking the goats, which happens twice a day, each goat is washed and dried with single use wash cloths and then they get disinfected, and finally get a conditioning treatment called Teat Dip.
Other farms will run the goats in, clamp the machines on, then run them out. No cleaning, no disinfecting, no conditioning treatment.
Dan raises his goats humanely. He defines this as taking care of them so they are as healthy and happy as they can be. As he is a vet, he believes in giving them medicine if they get sick. If he has to give them antibiotics then he will take them out of milk production.
In January, Dan is estimating that he will have about 100 baby goats being born. I can’t wait to meet those kids!
This is not a sponsored post. I love supporting local, small farmers.