The Golden Guernsey goat is a rare breed goat indigenous to the island of Guernsey. There are estimated to be around 1200 left in the world, 200 of which can be found here on Guernsey with the largest single herd of 25 goats belonging to Peter and Mandy Girard of Le Douit Beuval who use their milk to produce Golden Guernsey Goat’s Cheese.
Described as “a useful household goat” thanks to their pleasant temperament and steady milk yield, the golden Guernsey is a fairly small goat with golden skin and hair, which can often take on a lighter look. The first reference to the breed was in a guidebook in 1826, alongside the golden Guernsey cow and donkey, however goat bones have been found in megalithic tombs on the island that date back to 2000 B.C. and the breed may have begun evolving into its current form around then. In the late 1960s and 70s Golden Guernsey goats were sent over to Great Britain, however the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 that resulted in the loss of so much livestock posed a serious threat to the existence of the breed.
“With the outbreak of foot and mouth in 2001, we realized that if the Golden Guernsey herds on the mainland were destroyed then those few that were still kept on the Channel Islands would be the only ones left. We grew our herd as a conservation effort to try and safeguard the breed’s future.”
Mandy Girard, Le Douit Beuval
The Girards now farm a herd of twenty-five Golden Guernsey goats, with the sale of the cheese, yoghurt and milk that they produce supporting their hobby. Golden Guernsey goats produce a lower yield of milk however, much like the Guernsey cow, it has a higher butterfat and protein content and so produces a creamier cheese. They have been producing goat’s cheese commercially for fourteen years now, and most of it is sold to local hotels, restaurants and delicatessens or is sold directly to the public from the farm gate. “I started making cheese simply because we had too much milk. The first two years I was just experimenting, as I had to learn how to make the cheese, but I had a French friend who knew a lot about cheeses and once it had been given the seal of approval by her we began to sell it” says Mandy, who won the Taste Guernsey Producer/Supplier of the year award in 2015. “We now make and sell a range of cheeses, so alongside our soft plain goat’s cheese we offer a creamed goat’s cheese, feta in olive oil with herbs, our “Chilli Billi” soft goat’s cheese, garlic and herb goat’s cheese and a hard cheese which we’ve called Girard Goat’s Cheese, as well as unpasteurized milk and a yoghurt.” Fortunately for both the Girards and local restaurants such as the Bella Luce, the production cycle for goat’s cheese mirrors the tourist season; goats kid in February and March so their most productive season runs right through the spring and summer, which happens to be when demand is highest. During this period, from the end of April until September, it is possible to arrange a visit to Le Douit Beuval with Mandy and Peter to help bottle-feed the young goat kids in return for a donation to help with their ongoing conservation efforts.
You’ll often find Le Douit Beuval goat’s cheese on the menu here at the Bella; this spring we served it with a green pea and broad bean risotto on a seasonal menu, and it will no doubt continue to feature in upcoming dishes as we endeavor to celebrate the fantastic local produce that is produced here on Guernsey.