Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Our Miniature Dairy Goats + Why We LOVE Raw Milk

If you follow my Instagram feed (see right sidebar) than you've probably seen lots of pictures of goats appear there since May of last year.  Unbelievably, though it has been eight months since our new four-legged-furry-friends came into our lives, I still have not written a single blog post about them!  So, here goes....

Last May, for my birthday, we got 5 miniature dairy goats.  After years of talking and dreaming about getting goats, it finally became a reality.  Now, let me point out here that we live in a typical suburban subdivision on a half-acre lot.  In the past, we felt this precluded us from getting any livestock (except chickens, we have always had plenty of those!).  We are outside the city limits, so technically we can own livestock, we just didn't think we had the space for it.  After discovering and researching Nigerian Dwarf goats, we went to visit Nigerian Meadows Dairy Farm in Wallace, North Carolina.  We met many goats there, played with adorable kids (baby goats), learned how to milk a goat, and learned more about their space and housing requirements, feeding, breeding, etc.  We even got to witness one of their goats (soon to become one of our goats!) in labor (she kidded 3 hours after we left!).  We were sold. Two weeks later I made the trip back up with the kids (hubby was at work this time) and we came home with five miniature goats in the back of our car.  Our starter herd.  Our herd consisted of two doelings (3 months and 6 months old), two does (first fresheners already in milk), and a buck.  Our adult girls weighed about 50 pounds at this point (still growing).  Adult Nigerian Dwarfs don't get to be more than 75 pounds full-grown and ours are still quite a bit smaller than that.  Nigerian dwarf goats are considered rare by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.  They are extremely gentle and loving pets and produce a startling amount of milk for their small size.  A doe in milk can produce up to 2 quarts (or one half gallon) of milk per day and can stay in milk for 9 or 10 months, being dried off a couple months before kidding again (goats have a 145-150 day or approx. 5 months gestation period).  Different breeds of goats produce milk with slightly different flavors and different butterfat content.  Nigerian Dwarfs produce the sweetest milk with the highest butterfat content (6-10%).  Let's just say it is delicious.  Nigerian Dwarfs can also breed year round, whereas standard breeds can only be bred in the fall.  Definitely an advantage for a small farm wanting to be in milk year round and stagger breedings.

There are a couple rumors floating around about owning dairy goats that I'd like to dispel here.  I've heard on forums and blogs people saying not to get "first fresheners."  A first freshener is a goat that is in milk for the first time.  All our goats were first fresheners and it was no problem at all!  I'm not really sure what the reason is for people saying not to purchase first fresheners...could be they think for a novice having a goat that hasn't been trained to the milk stand will be a hassle.  Goats are highly food motivated.  Put grains in the bin attached to their stanchion and believe me they will hop right up there and chow down and hardly notice you milking them!  One of our girls starts to tap dance around the stand a bit when she runs out of grains, so we have to either milk her fast or my husband gives her what he calls "magnet boots" and holds her back legs in place so I can finish milking without her dancing around, haha!  Another thing might be that first fresheners do not usually produce as much milk their first year.  We still got plenty out of our girls, that's for sure, but we are excited to see their production increase in their 2nd year.  So there you go, you just have to be patient.  I think the important thing is finding a healthy, happy goat from a reputable farm and even if they haven't freshened yet, look at their lineage as far as milk production goes and you can get a good idea of what their production might be like.  You can also get an idea of what their udder attachment will be like, although perfect udder attachment doesn't necessarily mean more milk and if you aren't going to show your goats conformation might not be your highest priority.  That said, poorly attached udders can cause other health concerns and discomfort, so if your goat is to produce milk and not just be a pet, do ask questions about this.  If your goat is just a pet (not to be bred and not to be in milk) they won't even 'make an udder' so no worries!  

Another myth, I heard repeatedly that you should pen your bucks far away from your does because they will go crazy trying to get to the females and because their proximity to the does can make the milk taste "goaty."  JUST NOT TRUE.  Goats are herd animals.  If they aren't near other goats or animals they will be desperately lonely and cry all day.  That IS true.  We only have one buck and he is penned right next to the girls, he shares a fence on one side.  Does he harass the girls?  Absolutely not.  Is he a crazy, wild beast?  He is the sweetest boy ever.  Does he stink up to high heaven?  Nope.  He has a "buck scent," whereas the girls don't have any scent at all, but it is not strong or offensive.  We actually never smell him except when the girls are in heat and even then you would need to actually be in the pen with him or touch him to notice it.  Does the milk taste "goaty"?  Not even a teeny, tiny bit.  Tastes just like cow milk, but better because it is FRESH!

We are anxiously awaiting our first goat babies, due next month!  Lots of pictures will be posted on our homestead's Facebook page and website!  If you're interested in owning Nigerian Dwarf goats, we will have a few babies to sell as well!

Now that you know all about our goats, here are some fun facts about RAW MILK from naturalnews.com:
Raw Vs Pasteurized Milk Graphic

Read more about RAW MILK:

Defending the rights and broadening the freedoms of family farms and protecting
consumer access to raw milk and nutrient dense foods

1 comment:

Becky Wilcox said...

I love this!! I'm going to go goat crazy now, you know that, right?! You make it sound so easy... I'm off to check if we're in city limits!