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Love for 'critters' spurs goat dairy

'There's a lot of art to it, and there's a lot of chemistry'


For the Capital Press

CEDARVILLE, Calif. -- For Joanne Danielson, creating goat cheese is a mix of chemistry, animal science and art.

"There's a lot of art to it, and there's a lot of chemistry. And I love the critters," said Danielson, owner of Curds & Whey Dairy. Located in Modoc County's Surprise Valley in far northeastern California, her goat herd provides the milk at her dairy that she makes into a variety of cheddar, Gouda and Colby style cheeses.

Danielson, 54, a geochemist who taught college and high school animal agriculture, chemistry and geology, oversees a goat herd of about 100 milking does plus 20 bucks, 49 replacements and some "retired" does. Most of the goats are a long floppy-eared breed of Nubian and La Mancha/Nubian crosses that have little or no ears. She said Nubians are especially known for their high butterfat and protein.

Her herd is a result of 25 years of vigorous culling for high milk production, easy kidding and adaptation to the high desert environment of the northeastern corner of California.

"At the time I got into goats, goats weren't cool," Danielson said of her longtime fascination with goats. "I guess I waited 20 years for goats to become cool. Tastes are changing."

Danielson uses goat milk to make a variety of cheeses, including cheddar, Gouda type and Colby types. By later this summer or early fall, she also expects to have a smoked Gouda type and pepper Colby.

"I am seeing a great increase in demand," she said of goat cheese and goat products, including meat and sausage.

Because of her scientific background, Danielson takes a studied approach to her business. She grows her own hay and carefully shapes her goat herd -- "You have to have the foundation animals to build with," she explains of her small, select herd of does, which have higher than usual birth rates and produce higher than normal amounts of milk. "That's genetics at work."

In recent weeks, she's been working almost nonstop with kidding, with most does giving birth to twins and triplets.

"It was wild, really wild," Danielson said. "The goats have kept me busy."

Her cheese is available in minimum sizes of a half-pound up to whole wheels. Along with farmers' markets in nearby Cedarville and possibly Alturas and Lakeview, Ore., various Modoc County grocery stores are expected to offer Curds & Whey cheeses. Danielson said she's taking suggestions from people on potential outlets.

Because her Internet site is being reworked, she asks people wanting more information to contact her by email at


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