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Getting into the goat business

Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny Molly Kroiz lets 3-week-old goat Edy nuzzle her finger outside the Lovettsville barn where her goat cheese creamery is being constructed March 25.
With any new business, entrepreneurs are going to run into problems.

However, most entrepreneurs don't list becoming a goat mid-wife as one of those problems.

As eventual mass producers of goat cheese, Molly Kroiz and her husband Sam, don't have that option.

As owners of the soon to open George's Mill Farm Artisan Cheese in Lovettsville, obtaining enough goats to allow them to meet production needs is a business requirement.

As a result, this last month has been littered with the birth of kids.

So far, the couple has helped birth five young goats and have eight more on the way.

'Births have been a little interesting'

While most of the lengthy development process has been free of major setbacks, Molly and Sam Kroiz both acknowledged the births have been interesting.

So far they have had five births this spring and only four have gone smoothly.

“During one of our births, I had to go in and move the baby around and pull him out. That was a first for me, playing the vet,” Molly Kroiz said. “I knew something was wrong with that one because only one leg was coming out and that is not supposed to happen. So I called one of my friends who has a lot of goats and she talked me through it on speakerphone.

“After doing the research, I knew what needed to be done and it wasn't too serious,” Molly Kroiz said.

Through reading books, trolling forums and speaking to goat farmers, Molly Kroiz felt prepared for the process only to find out birthing the goats has been a real hands-on-experience. Reading about it is a whole different ball game.

“For me the goat stuff has been a learning curve, because that wasn't something I knew a huge amount about because I came to it from the cheesemaking perspective,” Molly Kroiz said. “A lot of it has been learning on the spot and it has been interesting so far.”

The construction work is ongoing and the new kids require hourly monitoring.

“I also haven't been getting a whole lot of sleep, because I have been getting up every two hours to make sure the goats aren't having any problems. That has allowed me to make sure everything is going smoothly and I can assist if needed,” Molly Kroiz said. “And of course with everything that needs to be done, there is no time for naps.”

The Kroiz goat herd

Dairy products from goats have become an increasingly popular product with the growth of organic and healthy foods.

They can be used for a variety of different purposes including dairy, as a meat source and as pets.

George's Mill Farm Artisan Cheese has only Alpine goats.

“I got them because I liked the way they looked. They are multiple colored,” Molly Kroiz said. “Some people like the Nubians because they have a higher butter fat content than the Alpines. Alpines tend to have a higher production rate of milk and I like that about them.”

At this point, with five kids delivered, Kroiz is getting about 3 gallons of milk a day. The kids are consuming about a half a gallon of milk a day and the rest Molly Kroiz is making into cheese for personal consumption.

The Kroizs own 14 goats, which are all female. Molly Kroiz is hoping to keep at least six female kids once all are delivered, as well as one stud buck for future breeding. If so, they will need to retain a couple castrated males to keep the breeding buck company because he must be separated from the does. In total, Molly is expecting to keep approximately 10 kids.

In addition to being a source for milk and meat, there is also a market for selling them.

The Kroizs have already sold two male kids. One male will become a stud buck and the other was sold to a family as a pet.

“We put Craigslist ads out throughout the region and I was surprised at the response,” Molly Kroiz said. “I would like to sell a couple more studs as well. The girls tend to be more valuable and we are selling them for $150 and the studs are being sold from somewhere between $100 and $150.”

Knocking on wood

Kroiz acknowledged she and her husband have been fortunate not to have had to deal with any major hurdles thus far with implementing their business plan.
Molly Kroiz said as she knocked on her wooden kitchen table with a smile, “As far as struggles, I think it was more of a product of things taking longer than I had expected.”

While George's Mill Farm Artisan Cheese has been mostly challenge free thus far, Robin Suomi, director of Loudoun County's Small Business Development Center, noted there are several challenges new small businesses encounter through the development stages.

“Overall, lack of time is a pretty common theme and having to do it all themselves. Most can't afford to hire help and they just get bogged down and overwhelmed, then lack of focus comes into play,” Suomi said.

Other difficulties new businesses run into, Suomi said, include cash flow and capital, acquiring loans, competition and working with strategic alliances.
While most entrepreneurs dive headfirst into business building and are met with a laundry list of problems, the Kroizs got a leg up from competing in the Loudoun County Small Business Development Center's Business Plan Awards last fall, a program that Molly Kroiz feels helped prepare the couple immensely for starting their business.

“I feel like I have been very well prepared because of all the research I had to do for the business plan,” Kroiz said. “I started off thinking I could get a lot of my necessary materials from restaurant auctions and I found out it wasn't always a good deal and it allowed us ample time to reconsider our budget.”

This is the second of four recurring stories detailing the process of starting a small, rural business.


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