Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
We are in the beginning stages of building our house on our homestead. As soon as the home is complete I want to get some milk goats and learn to make cheese.
We have horses and meat cattle but have minimal goat experience.
Any advice on selecting and raising milking goats?
I love Oberhasli goats. Very gentle and very very quiet. Almost no noise. I had Nubians before that. Nubians are very good goats but they are noisy. Very very loud all day long. I have also milked cows but i always go back to goats. They eat less and produce as much as a family would need.
I raised a small herd of Nubians for many years. A neighbor had a very nice herd and always kept high quality bucks so it was a natural choice. My best advice would be to start with good purebred stock. When the kids start coming in the spring it can be a nice little income. Mixed or scrub goats, as we call them, do not fetch much. I also felt that the higher quality animals got a much better home. Do not believe any old wives tails...they are picky eaters, hate the rain, and can be real wimps if they don't feel good. ALWAYS have any animal you are interested in checked for CAE....Caprine arthritis encephalitis...it is very real and deadly! They are lovely intellegent creatures...and can be easy to keep...if you have good fence! If you have any specific questions let me know!
I have both la manchas and Nigerian dwarf goats, and our goats provide 100% of our dairy, including 17 different cheeses, yogurt, buttermilk, etc. If you are interested in cheese, the NDs really earn their keep because their butterfat runs about twice as high as most of the standard breeds -- 7-8% vs 3-4%. In fact, my best ND milker this year actually produced more pounds of butterfat than one of my la manchas, and la manchas eat more and are harder to handle just because of size. I got la manchas because they are actually super sweet and have a fairly high butterfat for a standard goat. Nubians have the highest butterfat of all the standard breeds, but their production is the lowest.
Regardless of which breed you choose, however, be sure to buy from someone who milks their goats and can give you real numbers on production. There are some goats out there that really don't earn their keep in the milk pail. I think it is also a good idea to buy from someone who has a similar management style to you and can be a mentor for you after you buy your goats. For example, we dam raise our kids and share milk with them, but a lot of people separate kids at birth and bottlefeed. If kids are bottlefed, you have no idea what their natural personality would be like, so even if they're friendly, their kids might not be as friendly if they're dam raised.
In addition to CAE, I'd suggest buying from a herd that is also tested negative for Johnes and CL. Like Kim said, it's a good idea to buy registered stock because the kids sell for me, and it costs just as much to feed a goat that's not registered. Plus, if they are registered, you can look at the pedigree and see what kind of animals you're getting and what you can expect in terms of production, if the goats were on milk test.
Goat people tend to be very internet saavy, so most have websites. Mine is http://www.nigeriandwarfdairygoats.com so you can get an idea of what kind of information you want on potential goats. I just cringe when I see ads that say "great for show, pet, or milk!" because very few animals would fit that description. And usually those ads are from people who don't show or milk, so how would they know what kind of quality they are breeding.
I also have an online goat community similar to this one, in case you'd like to visit:
I could talk goats all night, but that's probably enough to get you started! Although we have a diversified homestead with a little bit of everything (goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, and poultry), the goats are my favorite, and it's no secret!
I have a small herd of Alpines that I love. They give generous amounts of milk that is sweet. They are very personable and are just fun to watch and be around.
Things you will want to consider before you bring your goats home, no matter which breed you choose, are fencing, housing, feeding, and care.
We, personally, have found that goats are extremely good at escaping, if they want to and they also can be very destructive on fences. We have found a good system to containing them. We use 4 ft box wire with 2 strands of barb on top, or hot wire on top, since you have horses. We also run a line of wire on the middle to keep them from running their bellies on the wire and stretching it out.
Housing is really imprtant for goats. They HATE to get wet. They will need a rain proof shelter to get out of the elements.
Goats are herd animals, so you will want to have at least two. One goat is a miserable goat.
Research what you will want to feed them, IE, grains, hay, etc. We mix our own grains/seeds, because I do not want a GMO'd food and also want to stay away from soy. It is very hard for us to get a soy free organic goat food here, so naturally mixing it ourselves became they right choice. We buy non GMO'd or Organic. A goat in lactation should be fed a 18-22% protien feed.
Here is what we feed our girls:
2# Alfalfa Pellets
1# Steam Rolled Oats
1# 12% Sweet Feed
1# BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds)
1# Black Eyed Peas
1# Crushed Corn
We mix this into a big tub and feed accordingly. It provides 18% Protein.
1 tsp dolomite (Calcium) on each 1 lb serving
1 tsp vit A-D-E, on each 1 lb serving. We use Wheat Germ Oil which is a natural form of Vit E, it has extra A and D added in.
Free Choice Minerals:
We also always have available free choice:
Redmond Salt, Loose Minerals, Baking Soda, and Kelp
We use Molly's Herbals and Diatomaceous Earth for a natural worming schedule. We only use Safe Guard medicated wormer if an extreme out break occurs or just after kidding. We have had very good results using this system.
1 Tablespoon per goat
Administer in grain once a week.
1 cup per 50lbs of feed, mixed thoroughly.
When you get your girls, ask the seller what they are currently feeding and even it they would be willing to let you buy a few days worth of feed from them. Slowly, over the course of a week, transistion there feed to what you want to feed them. Goat's rumens do not react well to big changes. If they are suddenly switched over to a different feed they can get diarhea, which is not something you want to deal with from the start of you goat venture!
Also, take some time to invest in a good medicinal cabinet. Here is a list of things I keep on hand at all times.
Medicines we have on hand and what we use it for:
*Baking Soda Cure Bloat
*Mineral Oil Bloat
*LA200 Multi species antibiotic
*Agi Cillin Multi species antibiotic
Bentamine Injectable Pain reliever and fever reducer
Vitamin B Injectable Energy and immune boost
*Calcium Gluconate Milk fever
*3 ml/cc Syringes/ 20 G 1 inch Needle
*Wound Kote Spray wound dressing for external injuries
*Blood Stop Powder For heavy bleeding wounds
Vitamins and electrolytes dehydration
Mastitus Indicators Testing milk suspicious of mastitius
*Probiotic paste Immune boost, (Homemade plain yogurt works great, too)
Specific to pregnancy and delivery:
Shoulder length gloves pulling kids, palpating for pregnancy
*Safeguard Wormer Deworming after pregnancy
Specific to Kids
*Stomach Tube Tube feeding kids
*Colostrum Supplement To supplement a kid in the first 24 hours of life
*Bottle and nipples To supplement feed
*Di-Methox Coccidiosis in goats
Most everything listed you can get from Jeffers Livestock Supply.
*Most important things to have on hand first.
I know this looks like a lot, and not all of it do you HAVE to have, but when you have a goat that is in need of meds, it can be a critical situation. We have learned this the hard way. There may not be time to go to the vet, or run to the feed store. It's better to be prepared, and actually much cheaper in the long run.
I am very pro natural on treatments, but I believe that there is wisdom and a responsibility as a livestock owner to be prepared to save a life.
Also, it's good to know what normal vital are for any animal in you care. That away, if you suspect a problem you can do a routin check up yourself. If something is off, you vet will thank you for having taken vitals before you call :)
Rectal temperature = 102.5 - 104 F is in normal range
Pulse rate = 70 - 80 beats per minute
Respiration = 15 to 30 breathes per minute
Rumen Movements = 1 - 1.5 contractions per minute
Puberty = Bucks can reach puberty as early as 7 weeks old; Does reach puberty around 4-7 months of age
Estrus Cycle = on an average of around every 25 days
Gestation = 145 to 155 days (5 months)
Life span = Average 12-18 years
I hope some of this helps you! Good luck on your venture!
Thank you for all of the great advice! I took a look at all of the web sites...I have a lot to learn! We signed the closing paperwork today to start building on our homestead and I am so excited! I'll be searching the web for the next 6 months learning as much as I can.
Do any of you know any breeders in S. Texas. We went to the local stock show (in Mercedes, TX) and only saw meat goats. I'm pretty sure we'd be able to find some near San Antonio. Thanks again for the info.
If you want milkers, one of the top Nigerian milking herds is in Texas -- Jobi -- it's Joanna Jelke, but I don't know which part of Texas she is in. The Lost Valley herd is near San Antonio, and they have some good milkers too. Jobi also has Alpines and Lost Valley also has la manchas, so you could see how the little ladies compare. Lost Valley has a website, but Jobi doesn't. Still it would be worth it to call her and visit. Lots of her goats have been Top Ten for way more than a decade. You definitely don't want meat goats for milk. They'll produce enough to raise their kids, but that's about it.
We are newbie Texas homesteaders and acquired three Nubian kids last year and raised them from babies. Our breeder let us borrow his buck providing we kept a closed herd. Now they are pregnant and expecting late April. I was planning to leave the kids on the mom and just milk once a day. However, I've heard the babies are hard to sell unless they are only fed pasteurized milk b/c of disease that can spread through breast milk. Is it true that nursed kids are hard to sell?
Also, do we need to check for any diseases before our family drinks the milk? We bought from a very reputable breeder who has a licensed dairy, so I have confidence they arrived at our place healthy. How do you check for disease? Can we draw blood and send it off?
And finally, if each mom keeps one kid nursing and we milk once a day, how much milk should we expect for our family?
Is it true that nursed kids are hard to sell?
There are people who prefer to buy kids raised on pasteurized milk, but there are also people who prefer to buy kids that are dam raised by moms who are tested negative from diseases. I've been dam raising for ten years and have no trouble selling my kids to people who want home milkers. It is rather frustrating that the pasteurized milk people tend to be rather loud and insist that their way is the only way; however, it's not. And if you're new to goats and have never milked before, you will get a better milk supply from your does if they have kids on them. I know too many people who are new to goats who had their does practically dry up because they weren't doing a good job of getting the milk out. There are actually many benefits to dam raising, so I could go on and on.
Also, do we need to check for any diseases before our family drinks the milk?
If it's a licensed dairy, the animals there are probably TB-free, which is one that can be transmitted to humans. You can always test though if it would make you feel better.
How do you check for disease? Can we draw blood and send it off?
CAE is a blood test. You can draw the blood yourself and send it to Biotracking or WADDL (Washington State). You can also test for Johnes, CL, and brucellosis with the same blood sample if you send it to WADDL.
And finally, if each mom keeps one kid nursing and we milk once a day, how much milk should we expect for our family?
Not sure I understand the question about one kid nursing. Are you assuming they'll only have singles? What we do on our farm is keep an eye on the does. You probably won't have this problem with first fresheners, but with some really good producers, they will need to be milked even if they have kids on them. This is what we do on our farm -- if a doe has a single, we start separating the overnight at a week of age, and milk the dam in the morning. The doe should be able to produce enough milk to feed two, so if she only has one, she will have a terrible milk supply and you'll have a fat kid if she is only feeding one. It's supply and demand. So, you want to separate the kid overnight, so it has to get all of its milk within the 12 hours during the day. Basically you're the twin! If a doe has twins, and she's not overproducing, you can start separating at two weeks every two or three nights if the kids are chunky, and by a month, you can separate every night. On our farm, does are never weaned by us. They stay with mom forever and can nurse as long as they want, but we separate them every night for milking in the morning. If we need a lot of milk for cheese purposes or whatever, we will sometimes keep them separate for several days (after two months of age) and milk the doe twice a day.
This type of milking gives us more flexibility. We don't have to milk every goat twice a day every day for 365 days a year. There are not many people who want to do that! And a lot of people who do the bottle raising wind up drying up all of their does for a couple months every year so they can have a vacation -- and then they're buying milk. Our goats have been providing 100% of our dairy products for several years now -- that means everything from buttermilk to mozzarella and cheddar and parmesan, etc. It took us a few years to learn to make all those things, but we love it!
Don't let anyone make you think that there is only one way to have homestead goats. You have to do what works for you. I know there are people out there who are into high-intensity management, but a lot of people who want their own goats are doing it because they don't want that. People buy my goats because I dam raise, because I do NOT vaccinate, because I do NOT use chemical dewormers on a schedule, because I do NOT feed medicated feed, etc., and I have healthy, tested, good-producing goats.
Thanks so much for the info. We are so new at this.
I appreciate your comments about learning to milk and goats drying up. I do want help from the kids during my learning period. I've never milked before. I think we will leave the kids on the dam. And there's something to be said for the flexibility that provides.
Regarding milk production, I'm trying to determine if three Nubians will be enough for our family's dairy needs. I realize that depends on our milk consumption and how many kids the dams are supporting (so I assume they will have at least one). We are a family of 5 with a moderate dairy intake. I plan to make all our cheese. If this is not enough milk, then I'll save the kid does for breeding.
We plan to save the males for meat, although we've never actually eaten goat meat. These are not meat goats, so not sure how a nubian will be for the freezer. We are trying to live sustainably and eat as much from our homestead as possible, so this seemed like a good use for the male goats. I've heard we need to castrate them if they will be used for meat.
When you decide to get a kid to become a milker, it all seems pretty simple. However, it is not. So many decision points. As a new homesteader, it brings you to the place of having to decide what type of values you have on your homestead. Many of these are not right/wrong, but rather who are we?
Thanks again for taking the time to address my questions.
Many people actually consider Nubians to be a dual-purpose goat because they tend to be meatier than some of the dairy breeds. All that means is that they have a good amount of meat on them -- it has nothing to do with the quality of the meat. We've eaten out Nigerian dwarf wethers, and the meat is excellent, although there isn't a lot of it. Goat meat is similar to lamb or beef.
We don't castrate our lambs or bulls, and we butcher them in the fall so that we don't have to feed them hay through the winter. This works very well. Castration causes the animals to slow their growth rate because they don't have the testosterone anymore. If you butchered the goats before they hit sexual maturity, you could avoid castration, but it might be tricky initially figuring out when you can get the most meat before the taste starts to change. Unfortunately sexually mature bucks are stinky critters! So far, we have been castrating our goats, but I am really thinking that I might be able to get the same amount of meat by butchering earlier if a buck is intact.
I would think that three Nubians would be enough for a family of five, but as you learn to make more dairy products, you might decide you want more goats. That's what happened to us! I thought I'd only need 3-4 Nigerians for our dairy needs, which was true as long as we only used them for milk and a little yogurt and chevre. Well, now we make 17 different dairy products, so we average about 12 goats in milk (3 to 19 daily, depending upon the month). You'll figure out what works for you!
Bottle versus dam feeding is a subject you will never get agreement on. I bottle raised my herd and had a strict milking schedule. Next time I have goats I am going to rethink that. What are we doing to a group of animals when we start breeding away their mothering instinct? Humans have bred so many undesirable traits into their domestic animals and I think it is safe to assume that animals not bred for good mothering instincts is not a good thing. My Nubians would give birth and do nothing for their kids. They would get up and go eat leaving the poor babies for me to dry off and feed. They never seemed to notice or care that someone took their kids.......try doing that to a horse!