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: Lily and her daughters – Petunia born in 2010, Dandelion born in 2011 and her son, Poppy Seed, born 2013. Poppy Seed is a whether, being kept as a companion for our buck. Petunia’s daughter, Nightshade, born 2013. Rosie was born in 2010 to Daisy. (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, our buck whom we bought from Six-Point Farm in Bloomington, IL, in the fall of 2011. (We decided we couldn’t name the boys after flowers – so we chose herbs.) This season we spread out the breedings so we aren’t so busy all at once with a bunch of new kids, plus my goal has been to supply all our own milk year-round. Lily just had twins last night. Petunia is due in a few weeks. Dandelion is due about a month after that, and then Rosie is due in May. All are currently dry (Jan 13, 2014), except for Rosie who I continue to milk every morning. She’s giving only a quart a day, but it’s enough to cover our bare minimum fresh milk needs. For baking, I have several gallons of milk I canned over the summer when we had extra. Nightshade has been living with Sage to be bred when that works out. I don’t believe she’ll have kids this year, but she could surprise us.
In 2011 is we finally were able to put up a nice barn for the goats. Until then, 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. This past summer we decided that six small stalls wasn’t working so well, so we pulled out the divider on the two sides, giving them larger indoor areas for inclement weather, that still have access to the outdoors.
They’ve eaten most everything they want to eat in their “pasture”, 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, kelp, diatomaceous earth, herbal wormers, and other supplements designed for goats, as needed, or to just help them to be more healthy.