ARGYLE — Judy Thurston had never milked a goat in her life before starting a dairy.
When Thurston bought her first goats in 2008, the goal was to produce enough milk for her family, she said. But after talking with people from other goat dairies in the area, the Thurston family decided to get licensed to sell milk from their Argyle farm.
The permitting process took a couple of years, she said, and the state granted their permit in 2010. It allows the Thurstons to sell Grade A unpasteurized milk.
“I can sell raw milk on the farm only,” Thurston said.
On Wednesday morning, she and her family made their usual walk to the barn to milk their goats. Thurston’s plan for the day was to make soap from the milk.
She and her husband, Trey, a Plano firefighter, started selling soap in order to use up excess milk. They sell the soap bars online and at Dallas farmers markets.
Thurston uses the cold process of making soap, which means starting with partially frozen milk. She makes about 45 bars at a time, and they take four to six weeks to cure.
There is no regulation on soap as far as the FDA goes, she said.
“It’s a wash-off product,” she said. “It doesn’t need to be regulated.”
A lot of chemistry is involved in the process — which is why her daughter Caitlin is scared to help.
But Caitlin Thurston, 17, enjoys milking the goats because it gives her a break from her other job — baby-sitting.
“It’s something quiet to do,” she said.
“They go to the markets and help me sell,” Judy Thurston said as she poured the fresh milk into containers.
Trey Thurston said he hopes his wife will focus on the soap side of their business.
Judy Thurston said she wants to slowly move into selling her products at different stores.
The family milks the goats twice daily, 365 days a year, she said.
Hidden Valley Dairy has nine LaMancha goats, seven of which produce milk, making about five gallons a day.
“It allows us to have milk through the winter,” Thurston said.
She said the dairy had more goats before last year’s drought, but the cost of keeping them became too expensive.
Caitlin and her sister, Ashley, normally take the evening milking shift, but they help out in the morning during the summer.
The goats produced about two gallons of milk Wednesday morning.
The dairy sells the milk for $14 a gallon.
Customers include those who are allergic to cow milk. For some, goat milk is easier to digest. Other customers drink goat milk for health benefits, Thurston said.
But most are concerned with the fact that it’s local, she said.
A question Judy Thurston hears often is whether her milk is organic. The short answer is no, she said.
The dairy’s goats aren’t certified as organic. Getting an animal certified as organic takes more than it does for a plant, Thurston said.
The family doesn’t treat the goats with antibiotics regularly, but they will if there is a need. Organic certification would mean the family couldn’t use antibiotics on their goats if anything happened, Thurston said.
“We practice near organic,” she said.
Several of the current goats were born on the farm, and the family bottle-fed them.
“These are our pets as well as our livestock,” Thurston said, calling them “gregarious.”
The goats even know their names, she said.
“I never thought I would enjoy them as much as I do,” Thurston said.
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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