Goats are a great multi-purpose animal. They can provide you with milk, meat and companionship.
Goats are great at escaping a fenced-in area. Make sure when you fence in pasture that the fence is escape proof. The saying good fences makes good neighbors is very true.
Milking goats can be fun once a goat understands the process and why they need to be on a milking stand.
Having a cow or two is often not an option for most of us who have just a few acres and that is what makes having dairy goats the perfect solution for anyone who wants fresh milk and only has a few acres or less. Dan Beffa owns and operates Dansha Farms in Florida, which manufacturers milking machines that are perfect for the backyard farmer. According to him, people of all ages are getting into dairy goats and goat milk. “People want to know where their milk comes from because they hear horror stories about the hormones and chemicals that find their way into store-bought milk,” he explained. The solution is to buy a goat or two and produce your own milk.
Picking A Breed
According to Beffa, there are plenty of different breeds to choose from and the animal will likely make its new owner happy. “Goats have a great personality and when they get to know their owner, they often become pets. What people must ask is how much milk they need and how much space do they have. If the goal is to produce enough milk for one family, odds are that one or two goats will do the job. In some cases, one Nigerian Dwarf may be enough and, if the family is large, a Saanen goat may be needed.
Dwarf goats typically produce a pint or two of milk daily and the larger breeds produce half a gallon of goat milk or more daily. A Saanen, which is the largest goat breed, can produce as much as a gallon and a half of milk per day! The larger the breed, the more room you will need. People in suburban areas will probably want to go with the smaller breeds because they don’t need a large pasture or produce as much waste. The smaller breeds won’t upset the neighbors,” he explained.
Buy A Mama Goat
Everybody loves the thought of purchasing a kid goat and watching her grow, having her bred and milking her once she has kids of her own. This is a great idea if you have time and patience. If you want a goat to start producing goat milk for a family, the best option is to buy a goat that is pregnant or recently had kids. If you buy a kid and then have to have it bred and wait for it to have kids, it will be a year or two before you will have fresh goat’s milk in the refrigerator.
There are advantages to purchasing a goat that is pregnant or already has kids. If the goat is pregnant, it has probably already been milked by a person before.
“I think people sometimes think a goat is going to want to give its goat milk to the owner,” Beffa said with a laugh. “That is not the case. It wants the kids to have the milk, so it can take some time to train a goat that has never been milked before.”
If you decide to milk a goat that has never been milked before, be extremely patient. Get her used to a milking stand long before you start milking her in the stand. Feed her a little grain while she is on the stand so she gets used to the routine. This will make the process of milking her on the stand easier after you start milking because she will understand the program. Goats are an animal of routine. Create a stress-free routine and milking will go more smoothly. Most people remove the kids from their mom after about eight weeks and then milk the goat once or twice daily.
“The easiest way to introduce a new goat to the milking process is to make sure the goat is full of milk and is a little uncomfortable because she needs to be milked,” explained Beffa. “I wash the udders off and then attach my milker and start the process of milking. The goat quickly realizes that I am taking the discomfort away. At the same time, she is getting a little bit of grain so she is happy. It can take a few days or even a week before a goat really understands the process of being milked, but once she has it down, milking should go smoothly.”
Many people who are interested in having dairy goats worry about being tied down by a goat that needs to be milked. There is no question that having goats in milk is a big commitment. Many people milk their goats every 12 hours, which means they need to be at home a lot and will be somewhat tied down. I am a very busy person and travel a lot.
My solution is to leave the kids with their mom for 12 hours and then separate them for 12 hours and milk only once a day. This gives me a lot of flexibility and, if I am on the road for a couple days, I can keep the kids in with mom and I don’t have to worry about milking. The downside is I get less goat milk. That said, I have never run out of milk. My one Oberhasli goat produces enough for my family of four.
One question Dan Beffa often gets asked is whether or not the goat milk should be pasteurized. That is a tricky question. “With our milkers, the milk goes right from the animal into a jar so the milk is really clean. I drink my milk raw so I get all the enzymes, vitamins and other benefits from the milk that are killed by pasteurization. As long as the animal is clean and isn’t sick, I believe drinking the milk raw is best. That said, some people aren’t comfortable drinking raw milk and they strain it and pasteurize it. The choice is a personal one, which is one of the benefits about milking your own goat—the decision is yours,” Beffa noted.
The nice thing about dairy goats is that they aren’t very expensive and you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started. When I purchased my first goat, I got a homemade milking stand from a friend, who had made it. Making one can be done without spending much money. I purchased a strainer and filter system that cost less than $30 and I was on my way. A few weeks after I started milking my goat, my hands really started to hurt because I was milking by hand. I have arthritis and realized something needed to change. That is when I discovered the Dansha Farms milkers.
These small rechargeable milkers are inexpensive, keep the milk clean and eliminate the need to use my hands to milk. Best of all, they save a lot of time. There are several types of milkers on the market. Regardless of what kind you purchase, I suggest having one. Milking by hand can be difficult, especially if you have problems with your hands, and the milk is always cleaner when a machine is used.
If you have been thinking about getting a dairy goat, why wait? There is something about never having to purchase milk at the store that makes the work worth it. The truth for most of us who have dairy goats is that it really isn’t work anyway… the entire process is fun!
Milking Machines & More
Dansha Farms Brute Milking Kit
Those who are looking for a simple milking machine that doesn’t cost a month’s wages should check out the Brute Milking Kit from Dansha Farms. This machine sells for $139 and gives you everything you need to start milking, including a pump and a bottle. This pump can be plugged into a wall outlet or an optional power cable can be purchased so it can run off a 12-volt battery. (danshafarms.com)
Whynter Ice Cream Maker
One of the neat things about having a lot of milk around is making yummy treats like ice cream. Fresh goats milk ice cream tastes great. Probably the easiest way to make it is by purchasing an ice cream maker. One of the ones that I have found to have the best reviews is the Whynter ICM-200LS. This machine makes 2.1 quarts at a time and is completely self-contained, so pre-freezing isn’t needed. I plan to purchase one this summer. (whynter.com)
Some people just don’t like the taste of goat milk. If that sounds like you, consider buying a miniature dairy cow. Mini-Jersey cows are gaining in popularity because they are easy to handle and produce great tasting milk. They can produce a few gallons of milk per day, require a lot less pasture than a full-sized cow, and are typically half the size of a full-size Jersey cow or smaller.
Goat Cheese Ice Cream
A clever recipe for a decadent treat made from goat’s milk and cheese. Here’s a great recipe from goatjusticleague.com for a delicious and creamy goat’s milk ice cream made from goat cheese. The secret to the smooth texture is the cheese, which stands in for goat’s milk cream, a hard to procure item. It’s sure to please a crowd!
- 1 1/2 cups goat’s milk
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 5 ounces goat cheese
- 6 egg yolks
- 4 ounces dark chocolate
- 1 teaspoon rum, almond extract, or vanilla
Bring goat cheese to room temperature. Warm milk and sugar in a saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk together egg yolks and slowly add to milk and sugar mixture. Return to heat and bring mixture to 170 degrees F. Remove from heat again and add goat cheese, stirring until it dissolves. (Place in blender, if needed, to achieve smoothness.) Melt three ounces of the dark chocolate and add to mixture. Cool the mix to at least 40 degrees F. by placing in a metal bowl or mason jar and setting in an ice filled sink or large bowl. Churn according to ice cream machine instructions. During the last five minutes of the churn, add remaining ounce of dark chocolate in small pieces. Experiment with different extracts and fruits instead of chocolate for a bevy of delicious flavors and textures.
This article is from a previous issue of The New Pioneer Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.
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