About Raggedy Range Cheese
The 80 hectare family farm and cheesery is located in the heart of beautiful Central Otago on the foothills of the Raggedy Range near Alexandra. The area is notable for some of Central's earliest European history and settlement, predating even the gold-rush booms of the 1860s. It still produces some of the world's finest merino wool, and is hugely popular with visitors who quietly cycle along the Rail Trail which is on our doorstep. The property has a mix of irrigated pastures and dryland hill, with numerous schist rock outcrops.
We strive to make high quality cheese, which begins by producing excellent milk from healthy contented livestock.
Our philosophy is to farm naturally and organically (see our organic disclaimer below). Our goats keep their horns, and they are free to roam and browse on the hills and pastures, expressing their natural behaviours.
While not certified with organic registration, we have been farming our animals (red deer, sheep and goats) organically for more than a quarter of our 40 year farming careers. Our animal health strategies are based on chemical-free farming practices, selective breeding, natural dietry supplements and remedies, and allowing animals to free-range on the widest range of pasture and dry hill herbage available.
Our dairy goats are a mixture of Toggenburg, Nubian and Saanen. Each one is a character; stroppy or timid, noisy and nosy, greedy or fussy. Numbers are small with a maximum of thirty being milked plus replacement kids.
The kids are raised on their mums until three to four months old when they are weaned onto a steep schist-rock hill block, with tussock, bugloss, sweet briar and a willow-lined creek. They thrive in these conditions.
They shelter in caves and under rock overhangs and generally live on the wild side until they kid as two year olds when they are bribed back into the milking herd. The milking herd forages in paddocks with our red deer. This combination of animal species promotes good stock health.
Goats learn the milking routine generally within a week. They are clean animals and almost never disgrace themselves at milking time.
We introduced milking genetics into our flock of 100 sheep in 2012 using East Freisian, Awassi and Dorper composites.
From October 2014 we milked 25 selected sheep. Our immediate aim is to milk up to 40 animals.
The lambs are drafted off their mothers in the evening and returned after milking in the morning. Mums and lambs do well.
After a few weeks they are used to the routine and almost do it themselves.
Training the sheep to milk is a slow process. Most of them eventually learn how to put their heads into the headbails for their daily treat of crushed barley and molasses.
But for some they never learn and have to be gently guided into the head bails.
Patience is the key,and calmness makes for a pleasant shed environment.
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