What Are Goats Good For?? Raising Dairy Goats and the Benefits of Goat Milk...

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Goat Milk Management

Keep the milk supply flowing by breeding your does once a year, starting when they are 8 months old or when the does weigh at least 80 pounds (for regular-size breeds). Dairy goats are usually bred in the fall; however, they may be in heat any time from August to January. Does remain in heat for three days, usually on a 17- to 21-day cycle. Put your does and buck together at this time. Once bred, the buck should be separated from the does to ensure fresh-tasting milk. Kidding (giving birth) will occur about 145 to 150 days after breeding. Does usually have twins — sometimes triplets, depending on the breed. The doe will "freshen" and give milk after the kids are born. If kept milked, she will continue producing for up to 10 months. Allow her a dry period of about two months before she delivers new kids and begins producing milk again.

During the milking period, you and the kids can share the milk; the doe should provide plenty. The best plan, says Gail, is — after the kids are 2 weeks old — confine them overnight and milk the doe in the morning. After her morning milking, leave the kids with the doe to nurse at will. Some people milk the does twice a day and give the kids bottles, which is labor-intensive but helps accustom kids to human handling.

Milking is easy to learn: Just ask anyone who's ever milked a cow or goat to show you how. Milking is easier if you feed the does grain as you milk them. Milk out both udders completely and milk at about the same time each day. If you milk twice a day, separate the milking time by about 12 hours. Keep your milking equipment and area clean. Once you've finished milking, cool the milk-filled container as quickly as possible by setting it into a large pan filled with cold water for about 15 minutes. Occasionally stirring the milk with a clean utensil will help it cool evenly. Once the milk has cooled, pour it into glass containers and refrigerate immediately.

Goat milk differs from cow milk in that the butterfat globules are smaller, so they disperse more easily, making goat milk naturally homogenized. Unlike cow milk, the cream will not separate on its own, so goat milk products will be much smoother and creamier. If you want to make butter, you'll need to buy or borrow a cream separator. Another difference you may notice is goat milk appears whiter than cow milk.

Avoiding Goat Health Problems

You can keep your goats healthy and avoid a lot of potential problems, such as pneumonia, diarrhea or parasites, by keeping the goat house and bedding clean and by providing draft-free housing with adequate ventilation. If you check your goats daily you'll be able to identify minor ailments before they become serious. Most likely, you'll need to worm and vaccinate your goats, although the amount and frequency needed will vary depending on your location and your goats. Some people worm their goats four times a year, others only once a year. Your county extension agent or breeder can give you valuable advice.

"Some herds suffer from excessive worm loads, to the point of dead goats, because their forage area isn't properly managed, and the goats aren't wormed often enough for their situation,” Gail says. Worms can be a serious problem for goats, especially in humid or rainy climates. "By periodically opening fresh pasture and worming seasonally, we've been able to avoid that problem," she says.

You'll need to castrate any buck kids (usually before they're 2 weeks old) that you aren't keeping for breeding purposes. Some people opt to dehorn the kids, usually when they are one week old, with a tool called a disbudding iron, which looks like a soldering iron with the tip sawed off. Trim the hooves regularly: how often will depend on where your goats spend most of their time, on soft ground and bedding or on hard ground and rough surfaces.

Beyond the bounty of wholesome products they provide, don't forget to spend time with your goats and enjoy their friendly nature and jovial behavior. They're sure to put a smile on your face.

Goat Goldmines

Dairy goats offer a goldmine of opportunity besides fresh milk for drinking. Having raised dairy goats for nearly 20 years, Gail Damerow says one reason she keeps a small herd of Nubians on their farm in Tennessee is for extra milk to make yogurt, simple cheese and ice cream — lots and lots of ice cream, in many flavors. Gail has compiled her large collection of ice cream recipes into her book, Ice Cream! The Whole Scoop. Gail also freezes as much milk as she has room for, which she later thaws when the does are dry. "We could produce milk year-round by staggering the breeding, but I like not having to milk during the worst of winter's freezing weather", she says.

At Dene and Ray Engeman's farm in Oregon, springtime often sees the goat population soaring to 100. "The high goat numbers don't last long," Dene says. The couple sells milkers to families and several dairies. Choice kids are kept as replacements or are sold for breeding stock, while the buck kids are made into wethers (castrated) and sold as pets, pack goats or for meat. "By the time fall comes around again, we're usually back down to 30," she says. Show and fair season can bring in extra money in the form of premiums.

By Kris Wetherbee 
June/July 2002

Source:  Mother Earth News



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