We’ve raised dairy goats since our second year here. First we had French Alpines for a few years. Then after having another baby it all got to be too much and I sold the 3 we had. A year or so later I decided that I wanted a goat again. A fellow homeschooling mom had a doe for sale that was “in milk” – just what I wanted. So I bought Daisy and brought her home. I was able to milk her through that winter and the following summer. It was then I decided I wanted another goat and bought Lily, from a friend. My plan was to breed them every other year. The one I didn’t have bred would be milked through the winter and following summer, then get dried up and get bred while I continued to milk the other. That way we would have our own milk year-round. So far that hasn’t worked for me, though I’m still trying! This year I was able to can and freeze a bunch of milk during our more productive part of the summer. That should get us through a large part of the “dry” period before kidding season.
Currently we have 7 goats here. All our goats are purebred Nubians, registered with the American Dairy Goat Association: Daisy and her daughters – Rosie born in 2010, and Tigerlily born in 2011. Lily and her daughters – Petunia born in 2010, and Dandelion born in 2011. (Notice the names are all flowers. The first two were named by other people, but since they both happened to be flowers, we decided to continue that trend.) Then there is Sage, a new buck we bought recently from a farm in Bloomington, IL. (We couldn’t name the boys after flowers – so we chose herbs.) He will be the sire of 2012’s kids. This year we were milking Daisy, Lily and Petunia. Rosie was too young last year to be bred, and the other two were just born this year. We’re hoping that in 2012 we’ll be milking everyone but Dandelion, who is too young to be bred this year, and we’ll be able to make more soap, cheese, yogurt, etc. Something we really want is to be able to make enough cheese so we don’t have to buy any at the store anymore.
The big news of 2011 is we finally were able to put up a nice barn for the goats. Until now they lived in an 8’ x 12’ shed. Now we have a 20’ x 36’ building! In it Keith built 6 stalls with 3 mangers for hay and a “hallway” wide enough to fit a wheelbarrow, AND left about 1/3 of the building free for hay storage, the 2 milking stands he built, and storage for other grains,
supplements, extra buckets, etc. There are 2 doors in two of the stalls leading to 2 good-sized outdoor pens so they can go in and out as they please. It’s WONDERFUL! This winter they should be nice and cozy! And now that gardening is over for the year, we opened part of the fence that is adjacent to the garden so they can graze in there, eating weeds and leftover plants while fertilizing for us Since we have such a small piece of property, we have given them as much land to roam as possible but don’t really have a pasture that keeps them fed.
They’ve eaten most everything they want to eat, though every year brings a new crop of weeds and grass that they can eat by sticking their heads through the fence. It eliminates weed-whacking along the fence line! We also feed them extra garden produce, weeds we pull from elsewhere around the yard and garden, and dried grass clippings when we have them. But mostly they get hay we purchase from local farmers and some commercial grain mix designed for goats. We also periodically give them loose mineral supplements, Thorvin kelp, diatomaceous earth, herbal wormers, and other supplements designed for goats, as needed, or to just help them to be more healthy.