June 12, 2023 at 3:29 p.m.

Goats bearing gifts

C-R Farm finds joy in dairying

By Jan Lefebvre- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

MURDOCK, Minn. – Carmen Maus simply could not help herself; a goat was brought up for sale, and she made it hers.
“In hopped this little wether, and he was so stinking cute,” Carmen Maus said. “I bid on him.”
It was a gut reaction to the little guy.
Maus looked over and her best friend, who first introduced her to the idea of goats, was grinning.
“My husband was not stopping me, so that was my permission,” she said.
That was just the beginning.
Today Maus, along with her husband, Ryan, and that same best friend, Theresa Smith, run C-R Farm, a goat dairy with over 80 goats being milked twice each day in a straight-16 parlor. The whole herd numbers 200.
The farm’s name is a nod to Carmen and Ryan’s initials but also a welcoming play on words meaning, “See our farm.” The dairy is located on the farm site near Murdock owned by the Mauses where they raised their two children, Faith and Thomas, and reside today.
“We buy the goat,” Maus said. “I hug him and I squeeze him and I kiss him and I call him George. He becomes our gateway goat.”
Maus said she held back on buying more goats for about a year, but then she bought five more.
“They’re like potato chips,” Maus said. “You can’t have just one.”
That is when goat space became an issue.
“They couldn’t be in the garage anymore,” Maus said.
Maus had never liked goats. The times she fed and milked Smith’s dozen goats when Smith was on vacation, Maus said she did not enjoy it one bit.
“I said that I was never having goats because they jumped all over you,” Maus said. “Then you had to lead them up to the milk stand, tie them up and milk them by hand. It seemed so inefficient.”
C-R Farm now is home to a variety of goat breeds: Oberhasli, Alpine, Nubian, Nigerian, Saanen, Sable, Lamancha, Angora and crossbreds. Maus calls each individual goat by name.
Around 7% of the dairy’s milk is used on the farm to make soaps and lotions. The rest is picked up twice per week by Stickney Hill Dairy, of Cold Spring, which uses the milk to produce cheese.
“It’s Theresa’s fault we have goats,” Maus said. “I remind her often when they are being naughty.”
Long before she and Ryan bought their farm from her brother, she milked cows for him. He still owns a fifth-generation farm across the road. Ryan worked and continues to work, for CNH Industrial in Benson.
 Maus had a back injury in 2002 that ended her milking days. She went to school to earn a degree in counseling and spent 14 years working for the state of Minnesota in outpatient programs.
During that time, the Maus children were showing cows, heifers and rabbits for 4-H.
Smith’s children were showing goats. A trip that the Mauses and Smith took in 2017 to the local sales barn to sell some rabbits changed Maus’ goat disdain to goat joy in under a minute when little George appeared.
However, the space problem created by George and the other five goats that followed needed to be addressed. The problem was solved when Maus’ brother decided to sell the cows and farm site on which the Mauses lived. They bought the land and buildings but not the cows. Instead, they used the space to grow the goat herd. The barn’s existing milking system was converted for goat milking.
Within the herd, the first kid, Flopsy, was born in 2019. They began to plan for a larger dairy and to eventually create an on-farm creamery. In the meantime, Maus, along with her husband and Smith, learned how to make soaps and lotions and sold the products at farmers markets and craft shows.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic began.
Maus lost her job in outpatient counseling.
“I was devastated,” Maus said. “Here comes this virus, and no one can go anywhere or do anything. We were milking six goats, and we just bought the farm.”
Ryan continued his job with CNH Industrial. Smith had her job with Select Genetics of Willmar. Maus wondered if she could carve out a full-time career with the goat dairy. The pandemic made the reality of building a creamery next to impossible with materials and contractor costs skyrocketing, Maus said.
However, the herd was multiplying.
“In the meantime, our goats were having babies, and their babies were having babies,” Maus said. “Our herd had now increased from 6 to 50, and we had more milk than we could make into soap and lotion or give away.”
Maus contacted Stickney Hill Dairy and received the answer she needed. Stickney Hill Dairy was looking for more milk. With a buyer, Maus was in business.
“Stickney has been great to us,” Maus said. “They have been so easy to work with.”
Today, Stickney Hill Dairy picks up milk from C-R Farm twice a week. Maus milks the goats every morning. Her husband and Smith help milk in the evenings. All three owners use time on weekends and evenings to make soaps and lotions that they sell at farmers markets several days a week during the summer and craft fairs in the fall.  
They also have groups visiting the farm by appointment to see the dairy, make soap or shop and make gift baskets that Maus shrink wraps for them.
While C-R Farm has a number of goat breeds, the 12 Angora goats on the farm, with their prized mohair, were given to the farm from an owner who could no longer care for them. Once the Angoras were on the property, Maus acquired a spinning wheel.
“I plan to be spinning Angora fiber in the future,” she said.
A friend knows how to knit hats, and the pair is considering making and selling hats.
Through it all, Maus keeps her goats in the forefront.
“I love all my animals,” she said.
That love includes creative ways to make sure they eat well.
“I have three brothers who farm,” she said. “I’ll exchange tractor time or some other labor for things such as feed.”
The Mauses and Smith also bale grass hay and have an alfalfa field 5 miles from the farm. The milking goats are fed alfalfa, corn, oats and a supplement. The other goats eat grass hay, corn and oats.
Kidding is spread throughout winter, from December to May, to have milk year-round. When other crafters and marketers are talking about winding down for winter, Maus laughs.
“My busiest time is just starting,” she said.
Maus has embraced her new career and cherishes all things goat. She serves as superintendent for the goat barn and is on the livestock board for the Swift County Fair. This past January, the farm hosted a Goat Information Day for Swift County 4-H’ers. Five families are currently prepping C-R Farm goats for upcoming show competitions this year. Other youth have shown the farm’s goats in the past. A C-R Farm Oberhasli goat named Éclair won grand champion the past two years in a row at the Minnesota State Fair.
Learning that llamas are natural protectors of goat herds by fending off coyotes and other predators, Maus set out to buy some of them as well. C-R Farm welcomed three llamas to the farm– plus one alpaca for good measure. This year, a surprise baby animal was born on Memorial Day. Maus named him Maurie as a nod to the holiday. Since alpacas can mate with llamas, Maus will not know who the sire is until the baby’s ears grow a bit more. Bigger ears will mean it is a cria; smaller ears will mean it is a llampaca.
With a goat processing facility recently breaking ground in nearby Willmar, C-R Farm might start raising wethers as well. They currently sell them when they are young.
Whatever happens in the future, it will involve goats.
“I love goats now,” Maus said. “They’re funny, … and they don’t care who I’m voting for. The stress level is so low here. You can’t have a bad day when you’re around a bunch of goats.”


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