It used to be a necessity to have a goat or cow in the barn so you had fresh healthy milk for the family. Well, it is back and is a rewarding thing to do. When you have your own fresh milk you can make many things, yogurt, kefir, cheeses, cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, etc….let your mind go wild, and all without hormones or antibiotics.
Goats can be rewarding or they can be trying or all of this at the same time.
Goats unlike popular belief will not eat anything. They like good leafy alfalfa hay, pasture and fresh water. I have never had one eat a tin can! Although they are curious creature and they do like to play with things in their mouth.
Some people think staking a goat out to eat the grasses is what they are made for. Yes they do like to eat the grasses but staking them out is not a good idea. They become very vulnerable to dog attacks, getting tangled up in the line they are on, getting scared and running only to possibly break their necks and going without water because the bucket has turned over many hours ago if not days.
Goats do need fairly good fences. Some can be escape artist. Some breeds are better at escaping than others.
There are many different breeds:
Nubians are the Jersey cow of the goat world. They produce the richest milk with the highest butter fat which make it the best flavored milk but also they have the lowest production. Nubians are known for their pendulous ears and Roman noses. They come in all colors. Of course, this is my favorite.
French Alpines are the next in this category. They have good flavored milk and are good producers. French Alpines have erect ears and many of them have distinctive color patterns.
La Mancha is a distinctly American breed. There is no mistaking them, they may look like they have no ears! Many people claim this is the most docile breed, and many of them are good milk producers.
Oberhasli is a nice goat with the production of the Nubian and Alpine. The Oberhasli is a rich bay color with black stripes on the face, ears, belly, udder, and lower legs.
Saanens are the heavy in milk production and are like the Holstein cow with low butter fat and washed out milk flavor. The Saanens are always white and have “dish” or concave faces.
Toggenburgs are the oldest registered breed of any animal in the world. Their milk generally has a very strong flavor. They rank slightly behind the Saanens and Alpines in production. Toggs are always some shade of brown with a white or light stripe down each side of the face, white on either side of the tail on the rump, and white on the insides of the legs.
Some things you will need for raising milk goats:
1. If you get a goat the first things to have are a barn or shed for shelter and to milk in, milking in the rain is no fun, goats do not like to be in the rain, two drops and they head for shelter, and a fenced area.
2. If your goat is in milk you will need (just in case you didn’t know, your goat has to have babies before she can come into milk production), or at least it is easier, if you have a milk stand. They are not hard to make and are worth their weight in gold. I have started dozens of them and my husband has finished the job when it comes to the head part. He does a great job.
3. Goat chow is a very balanced grain for the goats, they do very well on it and their coats stay sleek and shiny if they are not wormy.
4. If your goat is wormy you can buy Goat Wormer from farm suppliers. It comes in pellet form and you do not have to hold the milk as you do if you use a past wormer. You would feed this every 6 weeks to keep the worm populous down.
5. Goats need their hooves trimmed at least once a month. It is easiest to do with hoof trimmers. I also use an angle grinder with a coarse disk, works so well.
6. All animals need clean fresh water and goats are no different. They rely on it for making milk an staying alive.
7. Goats can be raised on pasture or good alfalfa hay or both.
8. A milking Doe has to be milked 2 times a day. You can set your own time to suit your schedule. The milking time should be at 12 hour intervals for good production.
Raising Babies, now comes the fun part.
A goat has a gestation of 145 to 155 days. The average is 150 days. Goats deliver very well on their own. Yes sometimes you may have a problems, one that either you or your vet can handle.
You may choose to either leave the babies to nurse or you can bottle feed. Bottle feeding makes for very tame babies while nursed babies will be wild unless you handle them A LOT.
If you bottle feed you will have to milk the Doe and feed the babies 4 times a day for the first week then you can go to 3 times a day till they are 2 mo old, the third month you can feed 2 times a day. Each month when you drop a feeding you will up the amount of milk. Never over feed at any one feeding or you will scour the baby. If this happens you can use 1 tsp slippery Elm in a cup of water and feed it in place of the milk for a day, then gradually go back to the milk starting you with less and working up to more. When the kid is 3 months old you can stop the bottle. You can introduce grain to them to make up for the lack of milk by sprinkling it on their hay and in no time they will be eating it from the container you have provided for that purpose. Here again start out light and build up.
If you have bucks and do not want to sell them as is or keep for a breeder you can castrate him with a elastrator, very easy if done in the first 3 to 5 days. Dehorning should be done when the kid is 3 to 10 old, depending on the breed you have. Nubians are the 10 day old ones, while the other breeds are done earlier.
Finding someone who is experienced in raising, milking, keeping and enjoying goats can be of great help when venturing out in the goat world. You will learn to love these little farm animals as much as you would a dog or a cat. They are just as much a pet when you spend as much time with them as I have!