Volume VII, No. 4, Summer 1980
by Linda C. Lee
Traditionally, many farmers in the Ozarks have kept a herd of goats to clear out the underbrush and keep down the sprouts on newly cleared land. But recently there is a new interest in goats, not for their eating habits, but for their milk. Whether it is a one or two goat owner or one having over a hundred goats, their appeal stems from the fact that they cost and eat less than a cow and that the milk, which has the same nutritional content as cow's milk, is easier to digest.
Goats have another asset. They are intelligent, personable animals. I doubt if my family would be quite so willing to work as we do on our dairy goat farm, milking sixty-four goats for three hours twice a day every single day if the goats were not individuals--loving, funny, pitiful and aggravating. They are almost like members of our family.
Goats are extremely intelligent animals. Sometimes, it will get to the point where I could almost swear that they understand English. Each of our goats have a name and each knows its name. I can be talking to one goat, and without changing any quality of my voice, or changing my position in any way, tell another goat that if it doesn't settle down, I'll thump it. Instantly, there is no more trouble from that goat.
Goats display many traits found in humans. They exhibit aggressiveness, jealousy, homesickness, anger, friendship, cunning and desire for revenge.
Melanie and Agnes are two of the biggest bullies in the herd. They have several of the younger goats totally intimidated to the point that the younger goats are terrified to even be near them for fear of being butted.
I was once caught between two goats when one tried to butt the other. I was talking to Deborah when Cassy came up to be petted. Since Deborah didn't want to share my attention, she tried to knock Cassy for a loop, just as I leaned forward to pet still another goat. Ail she got for her efforts was a sound slap. I was extremely upset because I was caught between them and received a large bruise on my cheek.
Estelle, one of the goats that we bought from a friend, was fine and healthy when she arrived on our farm. For some reason, she didn't adapt well and got sick. We tried everything we knew to bring her around, but nothing helped. After a couple weeks she laid down and died. The only logical reason that we could think of for her death was that she missed her old home.
Sweet Pea was an old goat we bought from a lady who had hand raised her. She had been born in Alaska and moved with the family to Missouri. Sweet Pea was unhappy from the moment we put her in the van to bring her home. She cried and refused all food and attention from us. The lady called us up several days later to ask how she was, and if we didn't mind, could she have her back. It seemed her flock of goats couldn't find its way home without Sweet Pea, and she was having to go hunt goats every night.
The minute we loaded Sweet Pea in the van she perked up and began licking our faces and hands. When we got her home, she stepped out of the van, looked around, bleated at the flock, sniffed at her owner and accepted the welcome of the other goats as she strolled off into the woods like the queen she was.
Sometimes, in the milkroom, a goat will get out of line and be reprimanded. If she feels that she did not deserve the punishment, she is likely to stick her foot in the bucket just to get even, and then go out the door, supremely happy, satisfied that she has bested us once again.
Goats will often form cliques, usually consisting of grandmothers, mothers, and daughters, refusing to let other goats come near them. Each night they lie in the same spot, which they consider their territory. If another goat is sleeping there, they will run it off before lying down to rest.
Felicity, one of our few fence-jumpers is an example of a "reasoning" goat. One winter we had a birdfeeder in the back yard. Felicity discovered that it was filled with grain and found that it was a nice area to be in. After being repeatedly chased away, she decided to try different tactics. Instead of brazenly walking through the front yard, she would go farther down into the barnyard in a roundabout route. What she didn't realize was that we could see her from the house. Each time she would sneak a little farther down in the barnyard, after checking the front porch to make sure we weren't watching, and each time, we would run out the door and catch her. Finally she went clear down around the barn and came in the back yard gate only to find that I was standing on the back porch. Temporarily stumped, she returned to the goat lot and resumed eating hay waiting for the next chance.
One of our first goats, Alice, used to snitch on my brother, sister and me when we played on our swings, which were suspended from a tall tree. Every time we would start swinging, she would go to the front door and cry for Mom to come and make us get down. When Mom didn't come, Alice would then return to watch over us, unhappily bleating until we got down. Immediately after we stopped swinging, she would nose over us to make sure we were unhurt. Then, and only then, was she satisfied that we were safe.
While we were on our vacation, this same goat stayed with the neighbors. Through the plate glass patio doors, Alice could see their two little girls inside playing. One day the crying of one of the girls upset Alice so much that she ran right through the glass door to comfort the child. The neighbors had to repeat the story time after time in our insurance office for them to believe it. They said they'd never had such a strange claim turned in before, but they paid for the door and screen.
Our family got our first goats when my little brother developed stomach problems and doctors prescribed goat's milk. Since it was hard to find in stores, and very expensive when we could get it, my parents decided that it would be easier and less expensive to buy a goat.
We soon discovered that goats do better if they have company, so we bought two goats. We liked the goats so well that we kept their kids. Then, over a period of years, since we had accumulated about fifteen goats which were producing more milk than we were able to use, my mother came up with the idea of starting a goat dairy. We searched the Midwest for good milk goats. To acquire the top quality 120 adult goats that we now have, we purchased over 200 adult goats, until we had enough good goats to satisfy us.
At first we had to haul our milk every six days in milk cans to the nearest market which was the Ozark Milk Products in Yellville, Arkansas, 150 miles away, where it was processed into cheese, and evaporated and powdered milk. Now the milk plant has regular routes each week to pick-up stations over the Ozarks where the producers haul their milk in portable milk tanks to store in sanitary bulk milk tanks awaiting pickup. We average fifty gallons of milk a day. At the present, all milk sold is grade C.
The milk goat industry in the Ozarks is being renewed. It is an ideal place for goats because of the relatively mild winters, and the large amount of rocky, hilly land which is not suited for farming. The demand for goat's milk and its products is increasing in the united States. Its first market was probably its use as a substitute for cow's milk for infants and adults who have allergies or digestive problems. For years doctors have recommended a soybean substitute for gastronomical problems, but more and more people are wanting natural milk with its greater nutritional value and other characteristics not found in substitutes. The fat globules are smaller in goat's milk and the goat's system is a natural homogenizing machine. These qualities make it easier to digest than cow's milk.
Until goat milk products were on the market, people who wanted the milk had to do as we did, buy a goat. But we were lucky. We lived on a farm. Most people do not live on a farm. Such was the case of Katherine, a daughter of our friends, Abby and Brony Majauckas. Her story almost proves a common belief that children raised on goat's milk would grow to become stronger and healthier than those who were raised on cow's milk.
Several years ago the Majauckas family, who came from a small town outside of Boston visited us. Their very tiny seven month old baby was allergic to everything from dog hair and dust to milk. Her bedroom had to be sterilized to prevent respiratory problems. They had to get rid of all their pets, remove all the carpets and put her on a liquid meat diet. She cried and spit up the liquid meat constantly. When they came to our house we were extremely worried for our cats, as well as various other baby animals, were in and out of the house. We decided to give Katherine a little goat's milk to see if it would bother her. The baby drank a bottle right down and cried for more. The days passed and Katherine got happier. Never a sneeze or a sniffle, nor red runny eyes and nose, a sure sign of allergies. She even played with the kitten.
At the end of the week when they got ready to go home, we packed all the goat's milk we could collect into a cooler. The supply ran out when they reached Maryland, so they put her back on the liquid meat. Immediately she started spitting it up. They took her back to the specialist and told him what had happened. He wrote out a prescription for goat's milk, but keeping a goat in their suburban town had to be approved by the town selectmen. The hearings began. For several months the family drove twenty miles out in the country to a farm for milk for Katherine. Finally the request for the goat was approved, much to the chagrin of the neighbors. I have a stack of newspaper clippings reporting the progress of the hearings, ending with "Katherine Gets Her Goat."
All went well for about a year until someone poisoned the goat. The parents decided to see if Katherine could manage now without the goat, but soon she was back in the hospital with pneumonia. All winter she was in and out of the hospital, so when spring came they bought another goat. Katherine's problems disappeared once again. When they went to Nantucket for a vacation, the goat went along. Not being content to ride in back, she lay on the front seat with Katherine, causing much amazement from passersby and toll takers on the bridges. On the Nantucket Ferry she was allowed to be exercised in the car bay and was completely content as long as one of the family was with her.
Today they have moved to another small town a little farther out from the city and can keep several goats. Katherine is a happy healthy little girl--as long as she gets her goat's milk.
Just owning a goat is not the cure-all it seems. Though goats are cheaper to feed than cows, they will not eat just anything. In fact, goats are extremely choosy about what they eat. If you should happen to see a goat licking a tin can, it is because they like the glue, which is sweet. But as for actually eating the tin can, as one boy put it at a goat show, "That's only in the movies." It takes knowledge of goats and good care and management to produce milk the year around.
The first thing to do is to buy the goats. When buying goats look for general good health--a coat of healthy looking hair, good teeth, alert, bright eyes, and good posture, standing and walking firmly on four feet. The bag should be soft and pliant. A fat doe is usually not a good milk producer.
Price range on dairy stock will run from $30.00 for a goat purchased at a local sale barn to several hundred dollars for a purebred goat from a goat breeder. Average price for a goat that will give three-fourths to one gallon of milk a day is $125.00.
Buying goats with good milking backgrounds helps to raise the production average. We: bought several large herds consisting of thirty to thirty-five head of goats. We then picked out the ones with the very best udders to keep in the herd, selling the others. This procedure is called culling. Culling goats should be done every year, taking out goats that can't stand the pressure of a commercial dairy, or those that are growing too old. Culling is not easy because each goat is a personal friend but these culls usually prove to be good goats for those wanting milk just for the family. Actually, don't expect a commercial dairy to sell you anything but a cull goat, unless you are prepared to pay huge sums of money. Even then, it is doubtful that they will sell a top producing goat unless they are dispersing their herd.
A goat gives a varied amount of milk and people have the misconception that a quart of milk is what you should expect from a day's milking. We do keep goats that give a minimum of a quart or two pounds per milking as a first freshener. The older goats should give three pounds.
We have many goats that will milk five pounds. We are breeding goats to improve the milk production and hope to have an eight pound, or gallon, per goat per day herd average within the next five years. At present we have a six pound herd average.
Each goat needs about half an acre of pasture. They are browsers by nature and enjoy coarse weeds and woodland, however, they can't be expected to produce milk without hay and grain.
While they are milking, each doe needs one and one-half pounds of twelve or sixteen percent protein dairy feed, which can be purchased at the local feed store. While goats are not milking, they need one-half pound of feed per day. A good quality legume hay--preferably alfalfa--should be fed free choice. However, do not put out more than the does will eat, because the left over hay will mold, providing a perfect place for infection-causing bacteria to grow.
Always give goats fresh feed and water. If it is possible, rinse out the water tub frequently to prevent algae from growing on the sides.
We use a variety of fences on our farm. The ones we like best are the lots that have either split rail fences six to eight rails high or galvanized steel woven beef panels. These are both portable fences so we can rearrange the lots as we need. The perimeter fences and cross fencing are woven wire. We don't care for woven wire fencing, for if there is a break in the wire or any larger-than-usual opening, the goats will stick their heads through. Then because their curved horns get caught, they cannot get loose and must stay there until we find them.
It is possible to train a goat to electric fencing, but it can be painful to both you and the goat. Some people put up two strands of wire, tie the goat to a rope and pull it into the charged fence. The resulting shock is supposed to teach the goats to stay away from all wires.
Although goats can withstand tremendous cold, they hate wind, rain or snow and need some sort of shelter, though they don't need a special barn. Any well-built shed that is draft-free and dry will suit them admirably. Straw is good for bedding, but do not use sawdust or wood shavings as in dairy animals these cause mastitis--an infection of the udder.
It is important to milk goats at the same time each day to get the maximum amount of milk--seven A. M. and seven P. M., or as we do, ten A. M. and ten P.M. Any hour is satisfactory as long as it is twelve hours apart and regular. Treat the does gently, and try not to upset them, for if a goat gets upset, her milk production tends to drop. For this reason, it is important not to beat on them, even though they may irritate you until you are ready to kill them.
Stainless steel is the very best equipment you can use in the care of milk. There is a special bucket made for goats that is partially covered to keep the trash out. Glass is also good although extra care must be taken to prevent breakage. You can also use plastic or galvanized buckets for home use, but this is not approved in a commercial dairy. The problem with these comes during the sanitizing steps. To clean the equipment, wash it in hot, soapy water, rinse it, and rinse again in a strong chlorine bleach solution. Plastic is porous and will absorb the chlorine odor, and if you store milk in the plastic container the milk will have a chlorine taste. Galvanized buckets have seams that don't always wash clean, and undesirable bacteria can grow in them, causing the milk to develop an off flavor.
The milk should be strained and cooled quickly. If at all possible it is better to cool with water instead of putting the milk in the refrigerator. The faster the milk is cooled, the better it will taste and the longer it will keep.
To produce the maximum amount of milk, a doe must be kept in top condition and health. This means the owner must be on the alert for any problems. Just as goats can be bred to produce more milk, they can be bred for good health. Be sure to purchase only healthy goats, and do not allow unsound goats to remain in the herd.
A goat's feet must be kept trimmed although with access to a rocky pasture she will do a fair job of keeping them trimmed herself.
Goats are susceptible to common livestock diseases such as pink eye, pneumonia and mastitis. However, parasites are probably the greatest common problem of goats. Most ailments of goats can be traced back to parasites which lower their resistance to infections. Worm at least twice a year and check skin along backbone and behind ears for lice and ticks. If any are visible, dust them with dairy dust and brush their coat.
To get into the goat business, you can either buy your stock or grow your own. Purchasing goats gets you into the business faster, but raising your own takes less initial investment. It takes five months from the time a goat is bred until she produces her kid or kids, for it is more common for a goat to have twins than a single kid.
When a goat is about eight months old she can be bred. During the first year, the average goat will not be a really good producer, but by her second freshening, she will be in top production and produce milk for twelve to fourteen years.
Goats come in heat approximately every three weeks between August and January. When they are in heat they are restless, unusually playful, and constantly shake their tail.
Breed the doe to the best buck you can find. Try to find a buck that has produced daughters with good milking records. Artificial insemination is available in some parts of the country. The usual cost is twenty to thirty dollars per doe-far less than it costs to feed and keep a billy.
When a goat is near kidding time, it is usually a good idea to separate her from the rest of the herd. Watch for certain signs to tell that she is about to give birth. A few days before she kids, her flanks become sunken, her udder fills and she claims other goats' kids. On the day the birth occurs, the nanny will be restless, pawing at the ground as if digging a nest. She will also have a slight discharge.
In a normal birth, the kid's nose and front feet emerge first with the rest of the body following. Sometimes, even with the kid in the correct position, the nanny cannot deliver the kid by herself, usually because of the size of the baby. When this situation occurs, you must aid the goat by pulling the kid. To pull the kid, grasp the forelegs and firmly but gently pull until the kid has totally emerged. Wait until you are absolutely positive that the mother cannot manage on her own, because goats often will not claim a baby that has been pulled.
If the back feet come first there will be very few problems-the birth will be normal. Problems come when just one foot is present with the other crossways to the opening, or when the head is turned sideways so the body cannot emerge. With either of these positions, the kid must be pushed back into the uterus and properly positioned.
After the kid is born, make sure its airways are clear of mucus. If the nanny will clean the kid herself, allow her to, but if she doesn't, wipe the birth membrane and fluid off the kid with clean hay or a dry burlap sack or towel. Then place the kid near the goat's head so that she may continue cleaning it.
After the kid is relatively clean, it must have colostrum, which is the first milk. Colostrum contains special antibiotics not found in normal milk which help the kid to fight infection. If the kid is strong enough to stand up and nurse, make sure the mother's udder is open by milking a few streams and showing the kid where to find the milk. If the kid is not strong enough to nurse, milk the nanny into a bottle and feed the kid by hand.
Sometimes, if a kid is extremely weak, it may not be able to swallow milk from the bottle. The milk will run down its throat and into its lungs drowning the kid. When a kid is this weak, it is necessary to feed it with a stomach tube. Push the tube down the kid's throat as far as it will go. Then listen at the end. If you hear a gurgling sound, the tube is correctly positioned, but if you hear a whistling sound and/or can feel air moving in and out of the tube, the tube is in the lungs. Take it out and try again. When you're sure the tube is positioned properly, attach a plastic syringe to the end of the tube, fill the tube with milk and replace the plunger in tube. Now gently push all the milk down the tube with the plunger. Lay the kid in a very warm place for awhile for it to gain some strength. This process must be repeated if goat kid still cannot suck.
Usually, when a kid is weak, it is also chilled. You can tell the degree of chill in a kid by placing a finger in its mouth. In a good strong kid, the mouth will be warm. You must restore body heat to the chilled kid by covering it and placing it near a source of heat, such as a stove, fireplace or register. Another alternative is to place the kid on a heating pad and cover it up. If the kid is extremely cold, submerge its body into warm water. Start with lukewarm water and increase the temperature gradually until the water is as hot as your hand can stand it.
There are several ways to go about raising the kids. You can leave them nursing their mothers at all times if you wish, but you don't get very much milk with this method. A variation of this method is to leave the kid with the nanny during the day, and lock it away during the night. The kids do very well nursing their mothers for twelve hours and you will get half the production from the goat.
You can also feed them by hand with a bottle. This is an inconvenient method because the babies must be fed four to six ounces three to four times a day the first few days. Then they need a sixteen ounce bottle twice a day until they are six weeks to two months old, at which time they are old enough to be weaned.
Hay and grain should be placed before the kids when they are several days old. A grain mix for baby calves is good for the young goats. By the time they are weaned, the kids should be greedily eating both hay and grain.
Don't stop feeding the kids milk suddenly. Decrease the amount of milk that they are receiving while increasing the amount of solid food that they get. Always make sure that the food and water is fresh.
In a short time after the initial purchase of a couple of goats, with good care and management, you will probably have a sizeable herd. I'll guarantee that you will get personally involved with each of the goats, as we did. Their companionship may be a fringe benefit you don't expect if you wanted them just for their milk.
You will soon discover that you can use goat's milk for anything which you have previously used cow's milk for. Goat's milk has all of the nutritional value of cow's milk. It is not a substitute, but another type of milk. One does not have to have problems or allergies to drink it. My brother has long since outgrown his problems, but obviously, with our farm overflowing with goats, we use the milk. We enjoy its taste and the richer, creamier consistency the milk gives to my mother's recipes.
3 cups goat's milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh strawberries
Chill milk until ice crystals form. Put into blender. Add sugar and blend 7 seconds. Add strawberries and blend 3 seconds. Frozen strawberries may be used, but if frozen in sugar omit the sugar from the recipe. Makes 4 servings.
GOAT'S MILK FUDGE
3 Tbs. cornstarch
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup goat milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. goat butter
Dash of salt
Mix cocoa, sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a pan. Add goat milk and place over low heat stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until a medium hard ball forms when drop falls into cold water (234° on candy thermometer). Cool until lukewarm, add goat butter and vanilla. Beat until thick and creamy. Pour into buttered pan and cool until set.
APPLE-GRAHAM CRACKER PUDDING
12 graham crackers
2 cups goat milk
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Crumble 6 crackers in the bottom of a well greased baking dish. Cover with 4 sliced apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Make another layer by repeating these steps. Pour milk over all. Bake about 30 minutes at 350°.
INSTANT COTTAGE CHEESE
1 gallon fresh goat's milk
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Bring milk almost to a boil, add cider vinegar and remove from heat. Add baking soda and salt. Stir gently a few times. Allow to cool to room temperature. Strain through a cheesecloth lined colander. Chill and serve. This yields one pound of cheese and will keep about one week in the refrigerator or freeze for later use.
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.
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