Nicole Holley utilizes a herd of Nubian goats to provide customers with goat milk soap

A desire to find a gentler type of soap for her own skin and a better healthier life style for her children led Nicole Holley of Polk County, Mo., into her own new business.

“I work full time from home as a financial analyst and have two young daughters who are home-schooled,” Nicole said. “It’s not like I needed something else to do but here I am.”

She and her daughters, Gabriella, 6, and Ellyana, 4, were busy this day presiding over a table of different types of raw goat milk soap. Nicole and her husband, Dean, a career National Guardsman, both grew up in Lebanon, Mo., and lived in Rogersville on 5 acres before moving to Polk County just over a year ago. They now live on 40 acres outside Bolivar, Mo., with 44 registered Nubian goats, 11 dairy and beef cows, chickens and ducks.

“I found the goat milk soap was so much better for my really sensitive skin that I decided to try making it for myself,” Nicole explained. “I gave some to a few family members and friends and the next thing I knew, people were asking for it so we started making more. Four years ago, we purchased our first goats. They are easier for me to handle by myself. I milk them and the cows. Dean worked so well with the original recipe, helping to figure it all out. He really is involved in this, too.”

Nicole said she gets anywhere from half a gallon to more than a gallon of milk per day, per goat.

“Right now, I’m sharing with a number of the does who are still nursing kids so it’s not as much as usual. I have one older doe who is really good and gives a gallon and a half a day, but she is getting older, too. I researched the Nubians before getting into this and discovered their milk is sweeter with a higher butterfat content, similar to Jersey cows, compared to other dairy breeds. I’ve heard people comment that sometimes goat milk can taste ‘goaty’ or strong, but that’s never been an issue with our goats. I make cheese and yogurt, and we drink the milk from our cows and goats.”

Nicole is currently milking three goats, which will be dried off soon. Because goats are seasonal milkers, most of her goats are dry at the same time.

“We’re going to start breeding in a couple of months, and the goats will be back in milk again around the first of the year,” Nicole said.

During the most recent kidding season, Nicole allowed the kids to nurse for several weeks and weaned weaned no sooner than 12 weeks of age. After weaning the kids, Nicole milks until does are dried off.

Milking does are offered a custom mixed ration of barley, oats, organic alfalfa pellets, molasses oats and rolled corn. Animals are also offered a high-quality alfalfa and mixed grass hay at all times, which is purchased locally.

“The high protein really helps them keep the weight on and produce milk,” she said.

Nicole’s goats are bred through natural cover, but the bucks are not allowed to stay with the females. Nicole said she utilized a “pen bred” breeding system.

“I know when they’re going into heat, so I put them with the buck for the day,” she explained. “Keeping them with the buck can kind of make the milk a little gamey, so we just take the does out at the end of the day.”

Goats are dewormed about every six months with copper boluses, and Nicole recently experimented with a herbal product.

“I do an eye check on them about once a week,” she said. “If they are a little pale, then I have to do something about it. As long as you stay on top of parasites, you do pretty well, but it can just be a matter of days that they come down with something. We work with our vet for fecal checks and treat as needed.”

If chemical dewormers are used, milk from treated animals is not kept for seven days.

Nicole has taken a simple approach to her soap making.

“We only have six ingredients in our soap – raw goat milk, olive oil, coconut oil, lye, lard and an essential oil for those with scent,” she said. She also uses honey from their four hives. “I make a total of about 20 different varieties including some that are unscented, made with activated charcoal, but I make a lot of it upon request. The most popular is the oatmeal lavender but I also make quite a bit of the citrus and jasmine. Like me, a number of people with sensitive skin really appreciate it.”

While most of her marketing of Cloven Hoof Holler Soaps is done over the internet, Nicole also has some help locally.

“In addition to our family and friends, my mom takes it to a number of her contacts at the county courthouse where she works. I also have it in a couple of nearby country stores to see how it does there.”

Nicole plans on retaining all of her doelings from the next kidding season, focusing on kids that are from high-production does.

“I want to build our herd up,” she said. “I know I won’t be able to keep them all, but I want to keep the best of all of them and get the best milkers.”

During their last kidding season, Nicole and her family had only one doeling, so they have an over abundance of bucks. They typically sell their registered bucks to other breeders, but Nicole said they may wether some to sell as brush eaters.

“I’ve had several sets of twins and triplets but this year, we had our first set of quads. All of them are healthy and are doing well so we are excited about the future,” she concluded with a smile.


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