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length of lactation and cheese making

 
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My does have been in milk since last February and March. But it seems in the past month or so, my cheeses just don't make like they did early this year. For example, for the life of me, I can't make a mozzarella that will stretch. I'm not doing anything differently, so the only difference I can pinpoint is how far into her lactation my does are. Has anyone else noticed this with milk from the goats, cows, or sheep? Do you think there's any correlation between how long a gal has been in milk and how it affects cheese made with it?  I'd sure like to figure out what's going on!
 
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Leigh,

I am shooting blind here ...  would the protein in the cheese .... hence animal diet make a difference?
 
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We've been making cheese, but with whole, raw (cow) milk from the Mennonites. John tried doing mozzarella, last week, that just went totally sideways. I know from past experience with cows (not goats, but I'm sure at least some of it translates), that is often more about the season, what they're eating, and the water, than duration, until you get more than a year or two out. With the Jerseys, they can go several years between calving, with no loss/change of quality, as long as they're milked regularly, feed well, and their water supply quality is high, and their parasite load is low.

I've not gotten this far yet, with my goats, but the milk quality/time issue has come up, in a couple of the forums & groups I belong to, and the reports seem to vary primarily between breeds. Some need to freshen more frequently, others can go 2 to 4 years - which was contrary to other information I'd received, that they all must freshen every year.  The way this affects the cheese, is in that there do seem to be differences in how soon the milk quality starts to drop off, among breeds. Add to that the season, food, and water differences over the course of the year, and it does seem, at least in my mind, that there is the potential for a good bit of variation in the cheeses, too. I'm hoping to learn more, too!
 
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Oh, yeh! I've noticed I'm struggling to get good kefir going, too!
 
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Could it be the condition of the pasture? We are getting well into fall here.
 
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John F Dean wrote:Could it be the condition of the pasture? We are getting well into fall here.


Absolutely!! That's kinda what I was (obviously not clearly) trying to say. Another reason I'm fairly sure this is at least part of the issue is because we once had a 2-week stretch of strongly onion-flavored milk, until we found and harvested for ourselves, the wild onion patch. What they eat can have incredible influence in the milk flavor. Another example is just how sweet my doe's milk(during the short 2weeks I was able to milk her) was. I was blown away that such a tiny amount of blackstrap molasses (less than 1t/day) could sweeten her milk so much.
 
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Hmm. Some good food for thought here. The forage is definitely changing with the change of seasons. We don't actually drink milk, so I'm not very in tune with the change in flavor. I do know that B vitamin shortage can make the milk bitterish. I suppose breeding season has an impact! It does with milk production, so possibly the hormones could change the composition of the milk and it's ability to coagulate. (???)

This happened last year too, so I tried to get my mozzarella, especially, done early. Now, even today's paneer is strange. Lots of curd, but it's like it's suspended in the whey and doesn't want to drain. The whey is milking looking too, which is strange.

I have Kinders and they are supposed to have long lactations, although most breeders agree it depends on the individual. I haven't had such an individual yet.

 
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Here's one more tidbit of information I wanted to add. It's not length-of-lactation related, but rather it relates to cheese making. My goat guru (who's been keeping goats decades longer than I have) once mentioned that the milk withdrawal time for using chemical wormers is primarily there for commercial cheese making. Back when I used chemical wormers, I accidentally mixed in some milk from a doe that had been given ivermectin. The cheese coagulated almost immediately after adding the rennet! I had other concerns, so I didn't continue with the cheese, but it was an interesting observation. Thinking about that and the discussion here, perhaps it's possible that specific plants affect not only flavor of milk, but also how it renders cheese curds.
 
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Leigh,
I don't have truly knowledgeable answers, but I will echo the change in cheese curd formation over the course of a lactation.  I make cheese at least weekly (for 8 years now) , from my three does and from a friend's cow, and the late-lactation cheeses do form curd... well, just differently.  A little more temperamental.  Sometimes I can track it to higher white blood cell counts (seen by proxy in a CA mastitis test).  My goat lactations range from 8 months to 18+.  Cow is a pretty standard 10 months.  

I deal with it by using a touch more rennet and keeping the temperature within the optimal range.  And if a batch goes wonky, I salvage it by just hanging it in a bag rather than pressing a wheel.  

On another note, I just bought your goat butter mini-book.  Thumbs up!

Alexia of Hawthorn Farm
 
Leigh Tate
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Alexia Allen wrote:On another note, I just bought your goat butter mini-book.  Thumbs up!


Alexia, you just made my day! Thank you for your kind words!

I will echo the change in cheese curd formation over the course of a lactation.  I make cheese at least weekly (for 8 years now) , from my three does and from a friend's cow, and the late-lactation cheeses do form curd... well, just differently.  A little more temperamental.  Sometimes I can track it to higher white blood cell counts (seen by proxy in a CA mastitis test).  My goat lactations range from 8 months to 18+.  Cow is a pretty standard 10 months.  

I deal with it by using a touch more rennet and keeping the temperature within the optimal range.  And if a batch goes wonky, I salvage it by just hanging it in a bag rather than pressing a wheel.


Interesting observations; I appreciate your sharing them.

I made a batch of mozzarella yesterday from 8-months lactation milk. It just didn't want to stretch, which is what I've noticed in past years as well. I salvaged it as well, and we'll use it on pizza just the same! This would be a fascinating topic for thorough research.

 
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Are you watching your temperature close enough?  Some cheeses just a few degrees over for even a little bit can completely change the cheese you get out.  I think back to my mother doing cheddar that could be pan fried without melting.  It tasted like cheddar, had a mildly rubbery texture but otherwise seemed like all the other batches.  But that batch you could brown the cheese on both sides and never melt any of it to the pan.  The key to prevention was precisely controlling temperature and never allowing an overshoot on it.
 
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Could be a combination of the season/forage change, and it's affect on the milk, and each animal will have a curve of production from birth and colostrum, more production, then holding at the level, then declining, and either tapering off to nothing or just milking a tiny bit. I believe there are studies that showed how the makeup of the milk changed over the time of the curve so that is likely a factor.

My parents had goats that some would taper off in the fall and we'd dry off. And some would be solid high volume milking with no stop from the first freshening til four years old. Never dropping production through breeding or gestation or kidding all over again.
Some animals can do that and some can only do short milk season enough to feed a baby and only that. You will have to select for what you want/need.
 
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