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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Animal Science Department welcomes new goat facility

Noel-Nordfelt Animal Science Goat Dairy and Creamery offers unique educational opportunities in cheese making

Located off of Old Davis Road and nestled between the Center for Equine Health and the California Raptor Center is the Goat Teaching and Research Facility. Home to a herd of 90 goats, with breeds ranging from alpines, saaens and lamanchas to transgenic goats, the facility serves to educate UC Davis undergraduates on goat management skills. Additionally, a variety of goat-oriented research, conducted by professors and graduate students, takes place at the facility. 

“The main role for this facility is a teaching role for undergraduates and the well over 1,000 students that come in contact with the goats each year,” said Benjamin Rupchis, the manager of the goat facility. 

This January, the facility welcomed a brand new milking parlor and creamery, adding many new and exciting opportunities for students, researchers and the public. The Noel-Nordfelt Animal Science Goat Dairy and Creamery, approved and inspected by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CFDA), provides the equipment necessary to milk, produce and sell Grade A goat cheese products. Although the facility is overseen by the Animal Sciences Department, educational opportunities will be available for animal science, food science and animal science and management majors.

When asked about the main goals for the new parlor, Dan Sehnert, the coordinator of all animal sciences facilities on campus, said, “Education, for sure.” 

“It’s an opportunity for UC Davis students to work in a modern and up-to-date milking parlor and also have the opportunity to process the milk and make cheese” Sehnert said.

The ANS 49 course, which Rupchis teaches, offers an overview of goat management — and it will now include a section dedicated to cheese-making. The new parlor and creamery can be incorporated into the existing course, expanding the breadth of goat management. 

Internships will be available to students who are eager to learn even more about the process of cheese-making. The department hopes to add quarterly internships focused on the cheese-making process. Students will be able to start in the milking parlor and follow the process to the cheese-making room where the aging and packaging process takes place. This internship will be in addition to the kidding internship offered in Spring Quarter, a chance for students to individually raise a goat.

For the general public, UC Extension seminars on cheese-making will be offered. The department hopes to offer these courses to anyone who wants to learn the full process of cheese-making.

 “One of the aspects of this facility will be outreach opportunities,” Sehnert said. “We are thinking, several times throughout the year, [of] having cheese-making workshops for the public and students and bringing in specialists to offer that chance to learn about cheese-making.”

With all this cheese being produced, we can expect to see the cheese being offered at the meat lab and on-campus dining services. The meat lab is where meat and eggs produced at animal science facilities are currently being sold. Due to certification from the CDFA, dairy products produced at the creamery can be sold and consumed.

“First thing we would really like to do is produce goat cheese,” Rupchis said. “Before now, any of the milk produced hasn’t been able to be used and now we can sell the cheese through the meat lab and campus dining services.”

Chevre will be the main cheese produced initially since it has the shortest aging period. The public will soon be able to purchase all the key necessities of an incredible breakfast at the meat lab, all locally produced by UC Davis. 

The facility is still in the early stages of functioning as more milking and processing licenses are required to produce certified cheese. The first batch of goats to be milked is set for spring as the goats will be birthing soon. Jim Murry, the chair of the animal sciences department, hopes to see the full facility in production mode and offering all these educational opportunities within a year. 

“We are thinking it will take a year to get up and running, but, by next fall, we hope to start making cheese,” Murry said.

It is an exciting time at the goat teaching and research facility. As a top-ranked university for animal science, the parlor and creamery will add to the excellent educational opportunities that exist for UC Davis students. The animal science department strives to offer as many hands-on learning experiences to their students as it can. 

“There are many educational opportunities at the new facility and that’s what we are all about,” Murry said.

Written by: Alma Meckler-Pacheco — science@theaggie.org


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