Domestic Goats: Man's Second Best Friend

Bob Olmstead talks about the benefits of domestic goats, why goats make the perfect addition to your homestead, the quality of their milk and cheese, and the savings compared to raising cows.
By Bob Olmstead
November/December 1970
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Human is a well-chosen word for all farm animals, the goat is by long odds the most nearly human. The goat family holds dances and plays games like Follow the Leader and King of the Mountain.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/MONDEGOFOTO


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Ah yes. That has to be the domestic goat. The goat was the first animal to be domesticated, besides the dog. And it still isn't really housebroken. This is a matter of the highest importance for he or she who would master a goat. Master a goat? Well I guess I have to use some word for it. Unlike other farm animals who meet danger (like you for instance) by running away, a goat's instinct is to face his enemy and dodge him. You can drive a cow, but as for the goat, to hell with it. The goat will come with you providing that you have something good for it. Something like leguminous hays and wheats and vegetables to eat.

Of all domestic dairy animals, the domestic goat has the widest range—from the Equator to within ten or fifteen degrees of the Poles. In severe climates the goat does need warm shelter but the Finns have settled that. The goat warms the family and the family warms the goat, in separate but equal stalls. One caution: The goat does need a chance to dry his hoofs every day or our caprine friend will develop hoof rot.

The goat has utility—he can survive and prosper in country that would starve a cow. With his leathery mouth and fantastic digestive system, there's mighty little a goat won't eat. True, some plants are poisonous to him (such as the False Hellebore, whatever that is) but it is only starvation which drives a goat to eat such.

There is an obvious hint for us admirers of the goat in all this. Almost any scrubby leftover land is good enough for this animal. And he's content in much smaller confines than the cow. Your backyard is plenty for a buck, a doe and a yearling. So long as you have the leguminous hay, the wheat, the alfalfa, and the vegetables. In theory it's quite all right to keep a goat in Seattle but beware of disturbing your middle class neighbors. Figure about 100 square feet per goat, about what you need for a human in an office.

Human is a well-chosen word for all farm animals, the goat is by long odds the most nearly human. The goat family holds dances and plays games like Follow the Leader and King of the Mountain. The bucks enjoy pretending to butt you, especially when you bend over. And sometimes it isn't pretense, as I found once when I was digging portholes. If a buck butts you, he immediately loses respect for you. So. With one hand you bend his head backwards to the backbone, with the other hand you twist his tail and you throw him on the ground. A lot of growers do this every two weeks to their bucks. Agricolan brutality. Yep.

Goats are famous leapers and can survive perfectly well in the wild. So build your fences at least five feet high. Electric fences must be three strand affairs.

Purchasing a goat is far too complicated to go into here, so I'll just mention a few things. You had jolly well better be acquainted with this subject before you do any purchasing. The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have pamphlets but you're better off buying a book written by some English author. They're the world's best farmers and gardeners.

Fact. It is important that you understand four words. Thoroughbred, crossbred, grade and scrub. A thoroughbred goat, bottle-broke, i.e., a weaned animal, is a product of a registered dam (that's mom) and a registered sire (that's dad). And a thoroughbred can't be had for much less than $100. At least the buck should be thoroughbred, and should be the most expensive buck you can afford. Just be sure he's a milking buck, if you're interested in milk.

A crossbred is the product of a registered dam of one variety and a registered sire of another variety—a Toggenburg and a Saanen for example. These cost about $75—around in there—even bottle broke, and are often excellent choices for a family operation or for the rank and file of a milking or meat or fleece herd.

Scrubs are the product of an unregistered dam and an unregistered sire and come cheap—usually worth it, too. Say $5 for an unbroken kid and $25 for one that's bottle-broken. For a Mom and Pop operation—say a milking doe—for the backyard—you can get by with these, especially if the dam and sire had good records. But if you have to make money off scrubs, you'd better get a doe. Keep this tip in mind. For milkers, buy bone, good thick bones to hang heavy mammaries from. For meat animals, buy a sleek appearance.

How much milk can you expect from an average good doe? Six to eight quarts a day. A goat costs about a third of what a cow costs, about a sixth as much to feed and gives a third as much milk. Twice as much milk per poundage. And the milk is worth three times as much as cow's milk.

A word should be put in about the superiority of goat milk. As far as fats, milk sugars, proteins, calcium and other solids go, cow milk and goat milk are fairly close on a percentage basis . . . but goat's milk is far superior in Vitamins A, B, C, D and G. The fat globules of goat milk are smaller and the milk is more digestible. Goat proteins differ from cow proteins and goat's milk does not cause allergies.

Many crib deaths are due to allergy to cow milk proteins. Cow milk allergy is quite common. I have it myself to some extent. I'm not smart enough to remember which of the proteins cause this but the English authors know. And then, goat milk is alkaline whereas cow milk is acid. And goat milk has more mineral salts.

Goat milk has a much lower bacterial count than cow milk. Very much less. So you don't have to pasteurize goat milk. And of course, once cow milk gets to the dairy, the dairy employs lots of ingenuity to make sure that all of the good things in cows milk are extracted. So what you get out of Safeway is a little bit better than colored water. Listen, if you'd seen what I've seen and know what I know, you'd never touch cow milk.

Goat cheese is not only superior to cow cheese in all the departments mentioned above but it does not, to my knowledge, decay.

And then you have Mohair, which comes from goats—real genuine mohair that is. And Moroccan leather comes from goats. Everybody else in the world loves goats. Why don't you Americans dig goats? I don't know. I just don't know. I don't know if it's stupidity or if it's because you love to squander.

Anyway, I, assuming an unbending attitude, cheerfully salute the goat. Oh. Somebody (my wife) just asked how come goat's milk stinks. Mismanagement, that's why.

Among the mammals, see, milk is produced only when the female is or has been pregnant. And, when a male approaches a lactating female, certain odorous chemicals are released into the milk. This is true for humans. Caress your wife while she's nursing a baby and the baby will wrinkle it's face. So. To keep goat milk from smelling, segregate the bucks from the lactating does. And wash off the udder. Keep the hair clipped back. Stuff like that.


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May Lattanzio
1/7/2009 6:19:28 PM
Sorry - I disagree w/the part that goats can't be housebroken. I lived in the California desert, and the flies were so bad, my goat was milked in the kitchen. When that was done, she would always tiptoe through the house, checking the rooms and come back to the kitchen to be let out. Never had an accident. She, by the way, was a rescue. We used to take long walks - she was kept with our donkey. Donkey on a leadline, Flopsy following, and our German Shepherd off lead, taking up the rear. And sometimes a raven on my shoulder. (I was also doing raven rehab.) Wonderful memories. I am currently goatless, but would love to find an Alpine/Nubian cross or two. My Flopsy made wonderful mozzarella.








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