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Goats in the Philippines

Goats in the Philippines

Bada & QueenieIn December 2012, the island of Panay in the Philippines suffered a flood. In some areas, the waters reached seven feet high, and I had relatives who live in the worst of it. Naturally, I wanted to help out. Being between jobs made it difficult to offer financial help, but easy for me to relocate, see what the real situation was, and take a direct hand in what was really needed. A hand up, instead of a hand-out.


It wasn’t so bad, and it wasn’t so good. Flimsy structures were torn down or washed away. The rice crop was damaged, but not destroyed. There was two inches of slimy, brown mud everywhere, but nearly everyone in the area managed to escape or climb high enough to wait the flood waters out. Sadly, in the panic to flee, many animals were left to their fate. Fortunately, my own relatives reported that they lost only a single duck to the flood. They were good to their animals, and also extremely lucky.


In addition to lending a hand to rebuild, I also wanted to help the local people make better use of the resources they have. Goats are fairly common here, and I have experience with them, so it was an obvious place to start. The goats here are Spanish grade, and used exclusively for meat. When I suggested milking them, the people looked at me like I was from Mars. They literally had no idea that goats could be used for such a thing. To them, milk comes as a yellow powder in a can, with huge amounts of sugar in it to cover the taste.


As luck would have it, a doe soon lost her only kid, and I had a goat I could milk. But when I offered it around, I got everything from a polite refusal to a grimace. This was not the yellow, lumpy stuff they grew up on, and new ideas, however old they may be, are always suspect. And then Heart, a six year old girl, dared to try it, and quickly came to prefer real milk to that stuff in a can. Fixed ideas aren’t the only problem. There is power here for refrigeration, but it’s a little unreliable and may go out without prior notice for anywhere from a few minutes to the rest of the day. I have taken to keeping several bottles of water in the refrigerator, both for the cold water and to help carry things over during an outage.


But I’m not going to be here forever, and my goal is to get enough people to see the benefit of goat milk that someone will continue to milk the goats, and maybe even develop their own milking herd after I’m gone. So I needed more than one six year old girl to want the milk. I needed to show them other uses. So I began looking up recipes. I started with Paneer/Lemon cheese, but they didn’t like it even when flavored in various ways or used as a tofu substitute. I then went on to Wara cheese, which is rather like cottage cheese, and uses locally available papaya leaves as a free source of rennet. I thought it was great, but they didn’t.


In desperation, I made a batch of vanilla ice cream. This was well received, and I had a lot of fun teasing people about how it was made with the goat milk. It also brought new hope to my project. I started looking up old, pre-WWII cookbooks, and finding recipes using milk and sour milk. These recipes were almost universally liked. I also began giving visiting relative’s children a glass of milk. They always go home asking for more, and I have sent several pints of frozen milk to them. Even an elder Aunt requested some. I am making progress.


But the cheese remained a problem. As with the milk, they are used to thinking of cheese as a smooth block of orange processed cheese, and nothing else will do. The budget is tight, almost nonexistent, and I can’t afford equipment or cultures. But I got a lucky break while looking for information on pioneer and Depression era cheese making, since they couldn’t afford anything either. Here, I learned about clabbering milk with the natural organisms in it. And from there, I found a Depression era recipe for what was called Mild American Cheese. And when I made a test batch, they loved it. Finally, a cheese they actually like!


In addition to using milk, I’ve also tried to show how to handle animals. When it’s milking time, I sing a little jingle from a local radio station, “Kanding, kanding (kanding means goat), IFM (the radio station call letters).” This tells the goats it’s time for milking and goat cookies. The locals were astonished when the goats would come to a simple call and say that the goats must really love me.


So now, after several months of trial and error, I’ve got several kids and one Aunt who want fresh milk. I’ve gotten repeated requests for ice cream, and have even gotten to the complexity of Rocky Road. I have demonstrated quite a few milk and sour milk recipes. And I’ve even managed to come up with a cheese that’s both popular and practically free. Now all I have to do is convince a couple of people to learn how to milk a goat and follow a few simple recipes. And as the realization that I won’t be here forever to do all this for them sinks in, I think I may get a willing student or two. In fact, I think I can see the beginning signs of interest already.


Last minute update: I’ve been saving cream in the freezer, and have just made my first batch of cultured butter, ever! And I love it. I’m just not using the “Shake a jar real hard until your arms repeatedly fall off” method, ever again. But the real surprise is that my test subjects were equally happy with it, and a full pint of butter disappeared in just three days. I think I may have finally broken through their prejudice against goat milk.


by Joan Parreno

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  1. by Traveler
    Comment made on: June 11 2013

    Have you ever tried using marbles in those jars? That’s how I make butter all the time. By adding 6 marbles, you add the ‘agitator’ to your jar! Takes about 30 minutes to make butter that way.

    Great story and wonderful news for all those on the island of Panay out in the Philippines!

  2. by agrolife
    Comment made on: June 12 2013

    Hey guys, great story! My family and I are missionaries and we also raise milking goats in the Philippines. We’ve had similar experiences in promoting goats milk but its catching on here as well. I’d love to hear more on your cheeses and recipes. We are located on the southern island of Mindinao near Davao City. Our website is: if you want to check in on what we’re up to. Please email me through our website If there is anything I can do to help.


  3. by DeborahJoyElliott
    Comment made on: July 22 2013

    Joan, that was a wonderful story. My grandfather was from the Philippines. You are an amazing woman. There is so much to learn about goats and cheese. I am just starting. Thank you so much for sharing.

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