A prize-winning goat dairy on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is establishing an enviable reputation for quality cheeses.

Story By Ken Eastwood

It's an impressive feat: each of the 400 goats in Bess and Damien Noxon’s Main Ridge Dairy herd, near the bottom of the Mornington Peninsula, Vic, is known by name. They do have nametags around their necks, but the couple know them by their coat and characteristics.
Eight years ago, the Noxons started with just a few dozen goats – Saanen, British Alpine and Toggenburg breeds – then Damien learned how to make cheese, and they now produce from scratch more than nine tonnes of cheese a year, as well as supplying extra milk to local cheese-makers. They’ve won the gold medal at the Melbourne Specialist Cheese Show for marinated chevre, a delicious silky, creamy variety. Their harder, aged caprinella also won a gold medal.
“Goat’s milk is the closest to human milk,” Bess says. “It has very small fat molecules. It’s quite light – it’s not really a heavy milk. And we slow pasteurise, we don’t blitz it, so it’s really good healthy milk.”
Bess, 38, and Damien, 42, met while they were both studying natural-resource management in Melbourne. Damien, then 22, was running the family’s 100-hectare Angus cattle farm, which adjoins their current property. Then he took over 50 hectares to start the goat enterprise.
“They’re very smart animals and very inquisitive,” Bess says, as a few of the beasts playfully explore pockets and pull at zips. “If you’ve got shoelaces on, they’ll untie them, and if they can find a way of getting out, they will. But they’re great fun and very rewarding.”
Goats have notoriously bad feet and need to be constantly wormed. Fox control can also be an issue, so alpacas are employed to help protect the herd.
The farm has an eight-a-side herringbone milk shed that can service 100 goats an hour. Goats are milked at 6.30am and 3pm, and the quantity and taste (the milk is pasteurised but not homogenised) varies greatly throughout the year. During winter the volume drops off to about a litre per goat per day, but it has a much creamier curd and stronger flavours. The goats are on a 20-month lactating period, so half the herd is rested over winter before the August–October kidding season, meaning that milk supply is quite short. “But in spring you have lots of milk,” Damien says. “We’ll have a couple of hundred kids this year. Most have twins.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #85

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2012