Birgit and Kevin Conlen raise AWA dairy goats at their 30-acre Conlen Farm, which is situated near Leicester, North Carolina, about 10 miles northwest of Asheville. Birgit has been involved in farming since childhood; her family owned farms in Germany, France, and Denmark, and she finally fulfilled her lifelong dream by purchasing her own farm. The Conlens became interested in animal welfare in 2003, and purchased their current farm in 2010 in order to expand their operation and put their interest into practice.
“Our farm is the oldest in the area the first recorded in the 1800s,” says Birgit. “The lower region of the farm is inhabited by our horses and donkey, while the hilly area of the farm is inhabited by the goats.” The Calypso Moon section of the farm consists of prime goat land and is home to a herd of breeding goats, including French Alpine, Oberhasli, and Toggenburg breeds.”.
“We currently have 22 goats in the Calypso Moon section, all of which conform to and are bred according to American Dairy Goat Association standards,” says Birgit. “The does regularly produce high quality offspring and are offering superb milk.” The couple enjoys spending time with the goats every day from the moment they are born: “They accept us as members of the herd and enjoy our attention,” says Birgit. “We do not separate kids from their mothers, as we believe they need their mothers to love them and teach them. We also note that without their mothers the kids can become stressed, leading to disease. Kids that have access to their own mother's milk grow bigger and stronger, and are hardier and more disease resistant as adults.”
The Conlens believe that pasture-based management is the healthiest and most natural way to keep farm animals: “Pasture based farming is a far, far cry from feedlot farming,” explains Brigid. “It is good for the soil, makes the animal healthier, is non-polluting, and lets the animals express their true being. And, of course, pasture based management is more cost-effective. ”
Brigid explains that applying for AWA certification was an important decision for the couple: “Animal welfare has always been an important aspect of my life, not just in abstract, but also when it comes to our own practices. It made perfect sense.”
So what are the couple’s long-term goals? “We want to continue growing the goat herd in a holistic manner,” says Brigid. “And we want to set a positive example for future generations.”
AWA goat dairy products from Conlen Farm are available directly from their on-farm market stand. For more information about Conlen Farm’s AWA breeding stock and dairy products – including goat milk yogurt – visit www.conlenfarms.com.