Thursday, July 10, 2014

What am I Getting Myself Into???

Our neighbors approached me about a month ago about possibly going in with them and one other family on a milking goat.  They were thinking, between three families, taking care of a goat would not be all that much trouble.  I jumped at the idea.  It'll be a great experience for the kids caring for a farm animal and milking it everyday.   Milk goats are a tad high maintenance.  They need to be bred every 300 days or so to keep their milk supply up, they need to be fed a clean and healthy diet, their living quarters must be very clean, their udders must be carefully cleaned before and after each milking and they must be milked consistently. It really is too much work for one family for just one little goat, especially if this is not their livelihood or lifestyle.

Last week, the ladies and I went and spoke with two different goat farmers, and while it certainly is something doable, we saw it really is quite a commitment.  Goats are herd animals and so we need at least two.  In the end, after a lot of back and forth, we settled on three goats.  Two are a hearty mix of Nubian and Saanen and the third is a more delicate La Mancha--whose milk and milk production is considered superior tot most other goats.  They are awful cute and very affectionate, almost like dogs.  One goat can give up to 1 gallon of milk at a milking, between three families and three goats, that is a lot of milk, but what really got me excited was the prospect of making fresh Chèvre, kefir, and yogurt.  With the abundance we project, I'll be making more than enough cheese for our family. We go through a lot of Chèvre and it is really expensive in the store.  One of the farmers mentioned she also makes goat feta and mozzarella!  Whoop!

Monday one of the neighbors dropped by 2 quarts of fresh goat milk for us to try.  I'd tasted it at one of the farms and knew I liked it, but the rest of the family was still pretty skittish about the idea, having had grocery store goat's milk, which is gamey and sour.  Fresh goat's milk tastes very much like cow's milk.  It is much better for you, too.  Goat's milk is less allergenic, is naturally homogenized, is easier to digest, rarely causes lactose intolerance, and more closely matches human milk.  Goat's milk is a good source of protein, contains less sugar, 13% more calcium, 25% more vitamin B6, 47% more vitamin A, and 134% more potassium than cow's milk.  I've used the donated milk in smoothies, coffee, and in pancakes.  It is slightly more thick and creamy than the cow's milk I'm used to, but it tastes great.  I believe it must have a lower water content, too, as the pancakes I made had slightly crispy edges and browned very nicely.

Our biggest issue with the goats is where will we house them?  Our property has the most unimproved land of all three of us, but absolutely no fencing or shelter for animals, just yet.  We plan on putting in an area for chickens and other small animals, but not just yet.  One neighbor has a nice barn with electricity--perfect for sheltering and milking, but the yard is smaller and they will need to fence a good portion off because of their fruit trees.  Goats will strip fruit trees bare.  The other neighbor has a smaller barn, no electricity, but an already large fenced off area with shade.  She also has three pygmy goats and 6 chickens that would share the space with our milkers.  It will be at least 9 month before our two mixed breeds will be able to provide milk and 15 months until the La Mancha will be ready, so temporarily, we are going with the second neighbor's setup with the hopes to move them into an area provided by our family for at least part of the year.

The next issue will be dividing up the care of the goats. Each family has a responsible girl 13 years or  older that will be capable of milking and caring for the goats on a rotating schedule.  Each family then has an 11 year old child, that is not quite as responsible, but could definitely do the job with supervision--which is absolutely fine by me, as I had really wanted to get my hands a bit dirty too and learn alongside my kiddos.  I'm excited for this venture.  It should be a lot of hard work, but so worth it in the end.

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Katie said...

I have wanted goats for a long time and wish we lived in an area where we could have them.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mau,
This sounded like a commercial for a minute there. I almost felt like going to Mom's and buy some goat milk.
You know, goats will take care of any vegetation you need gone. I'd herd them over to the side yard and take care of the overgrown grass. Maybe some kind of holding pen, 10ft. square? And then move it around. Have fun!
Katie! Calvert county is calling you!! The Godfather

Natalie said...

Good Luck!!!

Mikki said...

It's so nice to see your oldest son around. I hope life is treating him great. Very handsome, too.