Dairy can be important staple in a nourishing diet. Goat’s milk is best suited for humans. With it you can make cheese, butter, cream, sour cream, yoghurt, ice cream but also cakes and candy. It is very empowering to be able to harvest such a rich food source without having to harm the animal.
Learn which breed of goat is right for your ecosystem. Goats are herd animals meaning they are happy living in a large group. More than any other animal goats must be kept securely in a fenced woodlot pen, there escape can be very destructive. Goats need their hooves trimmed twice a year. Place their water trough on a cement pad can help in this matter. You must have a dry place to store enough feed for the winter. Goats must have access to clean water year round and a place other than a pen to walk about and browse on branches.
Goats are browsers, which means their preferential food is the tender tips of tree and bush branches. A birch grove is the most sustaining environment for goats, as consumption only stimulates prolific growth of trees. Without this the preferred diet is almost impossible to maintain on a permanent basis, although a daily walk through the woods would be a wonderful treat for a herd. If you are kind and calm, goats can be led by their stomachs and will follow it anywhere.
Held in captivity goats mostly eat grass and hay. The first cut of hay is the best, which means you will be buying your hay in June to feed for the winter. Contrary to stereotype, goats are very fussy eaters. Most won’t eat anything that has been rained on or touched the dirty ground and so a lot of food can be wasted.
Goats benefit by supplementing their diet with reasonable portions of fruit and vegetables, apple cider vinegar, yoghurt, molasses, vitex, kudzu, nettles, sorrel, amaranth, buckwheat, dandelion, oats, plantain, alfalfa, raspberry leaf, dill, mineral salt, brewers yeast, kelp, oats, barley, corn wheat, kale, mustard, spinach, and chard. Don’t feed them leaves and branches from stone fruit trees.
Milk is only produced for a short time after she has given birth. After the kid is born the mother will let you share the milk with the baby. As the kid grows older it is weaned and stops taking from the mother. For year round milk production you need to stagger the pregnancies of two does. This intimate relationship requires additional learning the about conception, pregnancy, birthing and kid care. Herein lays the complications of raising goats and having milk all year long.
Goat males must have separate secure quarters from the females as they are very horny and smelly because they urinate to attract the females. Some would even say they stink, put them as far from your house as possible. If you only have one male be warned that a lonely longing lovelorn goat can be a handful.
Birthing mothers need have private maternity pens, a quiet peaceful place as possible. Know in advance what is going to happen and what your role in the delivery is. Use clean dry bedding in the pen. Make sure you wash your hands very well and apply a few drops of tea tree essential oil before touching the newborn. A few drops of lavender essential helps to calm an agitated goat and is especially relaxing for a goat about to birth.
Goats have to be milked at twice a day, by either your hand or their baby, if not she will progressively produce less milk. You also need to make a covered stall, hidden away from the other goats, to milk the does. Make a little platform so the goat stands at a level to make it comfortable for you to sit on a stool to milk her. Usually the goat will gladly let you milk her if you put a small bucket with grain in front of her.
It is not always so simple. One of my first goats, a give away from a neighbour, refused to submit to milking. I desperation I wrestled her to the ground one morning to my surprise she quietly got up, went to the feed bucket, and totally seemed to intimately enjoy letting me milk her. Everyday we wrestled, play of sorts for her to get her in the mood, but then she would milk. Other goats have been so happy and proud the let me milk them, it is almost a spiritual gift.
Goats have very sensitive feelings and it is best not to ignore their problems. They will remember if you are mean to them, they won’t sit like docile prisoners if they are not happy with their situation. They are protective of each other and their offspring and when agitated a mob mentality reins.
When handling goats you must stay calm, and peacefully accept the daily trials a goat herd presents. If you loose it, they will surely see it as weakness and you will loose credibility and authority with the alpha goats. You will be spending quite a bit of intimate time with your herd so take the time to get to know them individually. Each goat has a unique personality. By playing into their attributes and acknowledging their limitations managing your herd can be rewarding and great fun.
Even with the best planning and a minimal of herd, you will have three times enough milk needed for one family from one goat. All expenses for the herd remain the same no matter how much milk you use, so one must decide in advance if it is viable for you. If not, it is best to support another farmer who has invested his resources in large herd for milk production.