Photo by Amber Hofstad
By Stacy Bronec
“Goats will come right up to you. People aren’t used to that,” says Deena Maier, founder of Windrift Hill in Conrad. “Goats are part of the family; they do the cutest things.”
Maier believes there are three main reasons why farmers and ranchers raise goats in Montana, the top being, “People love the dairy. Especially cheese—it’s shipped all over.”
Secondly, although she doesn’t think it’s as big as dairy, farmers raise them for their fibers—angora and cashmere.
Lastly, farmers and ranchers use goats for their meat. “The market is huge. There’s such a diverse population across the United States; farmers can’t keep up with the need.” So other countries raise goats and then ship them to the U.S. to match the demand.
She says per pound, goats make more money than cattle. “And they eat a fraction compared to cows.”
Prior to Windrift Hill, Maier was an occupational therapist and saw a lot of skin issues over the years. Through research, she found that goat’s milk was believed to be a form of natural therapy.
She and her husband, Dick, started their herd with three goats. Then she began experimenting in her kitchen, trying out goat’s milk products on her children. Now they run a herd of 40 does, in addition to bucks and kids. Dick hand-milks the goats twice a day, every day.
Maier quickly outgrew her kitchen, and they moved to a facility in town to hire help. The goats remain on their farm, but the soaps and other products are made in their 8,000-square-foot building in Conrad, “which we are quickly outgrowing,” she says.
At one time, they were raising goats for meat too. But Maier felt she had to make a decision on which direction they should go.
“Goats are easy to take care of,” she laughs. “Other than the milking. That really ties us down. But the soap and lotion took off—and I enjoy it.”
Their products can be purchased at their storefront in Conrad or through their website, windrifthill.com.