Remember Heidi, the orphan, who went to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps? She fell in love with her grandfather and his goats. Remember Swanli and Bearli? Goats are still a wonderful addition to the homestead.
They produce delicious milk, healthful low-fat meat, and fiber for spinning. They are wonderful lawn-mowers, can be used as pack animals on a hiking trip or to draw a cart helping out around the farm. The female goats are called does and male goats are bucks - like deer. The young are called kids - like people. They are a ruminant - cud chewer (like cows, deer, elk, moose, giraffe and antelope). They are easy to handle and transport, inexpensive to maintain and don’t take up a lot of space. Goats can be kept on an acre of land or even less. They can however, be escape artists who need sturdy fencing.
They are social animals so you need at least two. Even then they will probably follow you around. Of all the types of livestock, goats are probably the most intelligent. They form strong emotional bonds with the goat herder. If you have both sexes your herd can start to grow quickly.
You’ve probably heard some say that goats are stinky. Really, the only time you’ll get that strong goaty smell is when you have a buck (male) around during the breeding season. Their presence near a lactating female can effect the taste of the milk. Some people like to keep only does and hire out for stud services or isolate milkers in a separate paddock.
Dairy goats produce scads of milk (up to 90 quarts per month for 10 months out of the year) for yogurt, cheese, ice cream or just straight drinking. Surplus milk can be fed to cats, puppies, dogs, chickens, pigs, calves or orphaned livestock and wildlife such as a motherless fawn.
From a meat wether (castrated buck), you can get 25 to 40 pounds of delicious, lean meat. If you raise Angora fiber goats, you will get 5—7 pounds of mohair twice a year. That’s mohair—not angora. Angora comes from rabbits. Go figure. A Cashmere goat will produce just under a pound of spin-able cashmere down per year. Each doe will drop one or more kids per year. Some consistently have twins. A goat will also drop a little over a pound of manure each day which is great garden fertilizer.
Goats are not boring animals. They seem to have a lot of good ideas about how to have a good time and love things to climb on. They are amusing to watch. They find people very interestng and will follow you around the barn yard.
Source: Barnyard in Your Backyard edited by Gail Damerow
Worldwide more people drink the milk of goats than any other single animal. The fats and proteins in goat milk are more easily digested than those in cows’ milk. The increased digestibility of protein gives goat milk the preference over cows milk for infants, children, elderly and those with digestive problems.
Goat milk tends to have a better buffering quality, which is good for the treatment of ulcers.
Often people who are allergic to cows’ milk have no problem drinking goat milk.
Goat milk is naturally homogenized. This is a health advantage over mechanically homogenized cow milk. It appears that when fat globules are forcibly broken up by mechanical means, it allows an enzyme associated with milk fat, known as xanthine oxidase to become free and penetrate the intestinal wall. Once xanthine oxidase gets through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream, it can create scar damage in the heart and arteries, which in turn may stimulate the body to release cholesterol into the blood in an attempt to lay a protective fatty material on the scarred areas. This can lead to arteriosclerosis. This is why the homestead homemaker may feed her family healthy, yummy goat milk.
American Dairy Goat Products Association
Extension Goat Handbook-USDA
George F.W. Haenlein Ph.D
Goat Medicine-Mary C. Smith DVM & David M Sherman DVM, MS
Own a Dairy Goat-ADGA
On the stanchion (milk stand), waiting to be milked. Clear instructions on how to milk a goat by hand right here.
The United States has more dairy cattle than dairy goats but that’s not the case for many other countries of the world. In fact, more goat milk products are consumed worldwide than cow milk products.
THE DAIRY GOAT BREEDS
Though there are numerous dairy goat breeds, the American Dairy Goat Association recognizes the following six breeds of dairy goats:
Nubians, LaManchas, Alpines, Oberhaslis, Toggenburgs, and Saanens
Nubien: The Nubien goat possesses a Roman nose and has wide, floppy ears. It is one of the larger breeds and can be any color. The Nubien is the most popular breed in North America today. It tolerates heat better than the Swiss breeds (Alpine, Oberhasli, Toggenburg) but doesn’t tolerate the cold as well. The milk is a little higher in proteins and butter fats but production is slightly less than the Swiss breeds. Still a Nubien doe could average over 2½ quarts (2.5 litres) per day over a 10 month lactation.
LaM ancha: A North American breed developed in California. This goat has the distinctive of having very tiny ears. The LaMancha is a medium-size breed with a straight nose. Any color or combination of colors is acceptable. Though milk production is also a little less than the Swiss breeds, a good doe should still average a little more than 3 quarts (3 litres) per day over a 10 month lactation period.
Alpine: Generally thought of as a Swiss breed, however, it’s origins have both Swiss and French influence. The size of this goat is said to be medium to large. Alpines can be almost any color or combination of colors. The face is straight or slightly dished. Their ears are erect. A good doe will produce over 3 quarts (3 or more litres) per day over a 10 month lactation.
Oberhasli: My Swiss isn’t good enough to give a certain pronunciation but some just call them Obers. This is a medium-sized Swiss dairy goat. There are very specific color standards for the Oberhasli. It’s color is called “chamois” and is pronounced “shem’ wa” and not “shammy” as in a piece of leather. It is described as a bay— that is a reddish-brown moving to black points. The markings should include 2 black stripes down the face, black muzzle and forehead, a black stripe along the back to the tail, a black underside and udder, and black on the lower part of the legs. All black is acceptable for does. The ears stand erect. Milk production is variable.¹
Toggenburg: The Toggenburg, an old Swiss breed of goat, is the smallest of the major dairy breeds. They also have specific color requirements. Ranging in color from light fawn brown to dark chocolate, they must have white ears, lower legs and two white stripes on the face. The ears are erect and the coat is a little shaggier than other dairy goat breeds. They are excellent producers averaging 3 litres of mild per day during the 10 month lactation season. At her peak, a good doe may produce 1 to 1½ gallons (4 to 6 litres) per day.
Saanen: This is our big girl and the Holstein of dairy goats. This is a Swiss breed of goat which is cream colored to pure white. A good doe will easily average a ilttle over 3 quarts (3 litres) per day during the 10 month lactation period. However, on record is a Saanen doe who produced 6,675 pounds (3028 kg.) of milk in 305 days. That averages out to about 2½ gallons (10 litres) of milk per day over a 10 month period. That is the world record!
Sources: Dairy Goat Handbook, www.goats4h.com, www.kountrylife.com/articles/about_goats.htm
1. Goats were the first animals to be used for milk by humans.
2. Goats were first brought to America by Columbus in 1493.
3. Goats do not have teeth in their upper front jaw.
4. Both male and female goats can have beards.
5. Normally goats have two teats and cows have four.
6. Goats do not eat tin cans, clothing or garbage, but are selective eaters when provided a well-balanced diet.
7. Lactating does that are kept in a pen with a musky buck may produce milk that taste “goaty.”
8. Goats can be born with or without horns (polled).
9. Worldwide, more people eat meat and drink milk from goats than any other animal.
10. A mature, healthy male buck can breed 20 to 40 does. Good for him.
11. Depending on the breed, adult female goats can weigh between 12 to 300 pounds and adult males between 27 to 350 pounds of body weight.
13. Before coins were used for money, goats were traded for silver because they were so valuable.
14. The pharaoh Cephranes thought so much of his goats that he had 2,234 buried with him.
15. Goats are very social creatures.
16. Wattles are those little tufts of hair that covers the skin that dangles from the throat of some goats. Wattles serve no function
17. Goat’s milk is easily digestible and less allergenic than cow’s milk.
18. Goat’s milk is higher in calcium, vitamin A and niacin than cow’s milk.
19. Goat meat is lower in fat and cholesterol compared to beef, pork, mutton and poultry.
20. Mahatma Gandhi consumed goat milk everyday for more than 30 years.
21. Carl Sandburg loved his goats so much that when Life Magazine (1938 issue) asked him to pose for a picture with his favorite dog he insisted the picture be taken with his goats.
22. Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized and it can be digested in less than 20 minutes where as cow’s milk can take almost all day.
23. Approximately 1.5 million pounds of goat meat is imported into the U.S. every week from Australia and New Zealand because domestic production and processing systems in this country can not keep pace with demand.
24. In the biblical town of Jericho, people kept goats.
25. Healthy kids (baby goats) can stand within minutes after birth and are able to move with the herd almost immediately.
26. The early explorers used goat skins for water and wine bottles when they traveled.
27. During biblical times, goat skins were used for writing parchment.
28. Goats’ and octopus’ eyes have rectangular pupils.
29. The Tennessee Stiff-Leg also known as the wooden leg or fainting goat is native to the U.S. This breed suffers from a recessive trait called myotonia. When frightened this animal will experience extreme muscle stiffness causing extension of the neck and hind legs before it topples over onto the ground.
30. Coffee was first discovered when goat herders noticed the animals acting very energetic after nibbling on coffee beans.
31. Abraham Lincoln’s sons had two goats that lived in the white house with them.
32. In earlier centuries, goats were often used to nurse babies.
33. According to Roman history, on February 15th, young men would run around wearing only the skins of goats and hit women with strips of goat skin, known as februa, to promote fertility. It is from this practice that the month of February gets its name.
34. The proper name for a group of goats is a trip.
35. Goats are great swimmers.
36. Anything you make with cow's milk, you can make with goat's milk.
37. Wild goats don't sleep.
38. Goats use straw to scratch their backs.
39. Goats are great as stock animals. Goats are easier on the trail than other pack/stock animals. Properly conditioned, a goat can carry up to 25%-30% of its body weight.
40. The fat molecules in goat milk are five times smaller than the fat molecules in cow milk.
These miniature dairy goats continue to have a big future. They are colorful, hardy, friendly and utterly (get it?) adorable. Nigerian Dwarfs are quickly rising in popularity as a multi-purpose goat. The Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goat is similiar in conformation to the larger dairy breeds, but proportionately scaled down to the mini size.
A healthy Nigerian Dwarf doe can produce over 2 quarts of sweet milk per day. However, due to their gentle, lovable personalities, many dwarf owners breed their goats for the companionship and pleasure these little caprines offer. Nigerians have a calm, even temperament making them ideal for children, the elderly, and disabled. Even breeding bucks can be handled with ease.
These "knee-high" miniatures do not require the space their larger counterpart dairy goats do, making them practical for the small-scale homesteader.
Does average 17 - 22 inches high at the top of the withers and bucks 18 - 23 inches. The average adult weight of a Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat is about 75 pounds.