Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Spring Goat School 2012 is now history. It was fabulous! What fun we had, even in the pouring rain that we were blessed with on Sunday. We did however; make it all the way through Saturday with not much problem. Sunday was a completely different story!
We knew it was going to rain, so we lowered the two canopies that we use for our luncheon buffets. We never expected that it would rain so hard, nearly 8 inches of the stuff that the canopies would collapse and break into smithereens!
On Sunday we had to corral our goats into a small section of the barn so that all of the Goat School attendees could sit and enjoy. All of our girls behaved beautifully.
Sweet Pea, who was due to kid at any moment, was perfect for demonstrating how the tail ligaments disappear and how the udder enlarges and becomes striated. She did kid, by the way, on Monday morning, so the folks who stayed for the Soap and Cheese class had the fun of seeing new born babies and feeding them for the first time.
As we slowly but surely get our farm back to normal, I reflect back to the many questions that were asked and answered and what the Mother Earth News audience can glean from these inquiries.
Many of the questions centered on milking and what was normal and of course what’s not. While doing our milking demonstration and allowing all those who wanted to try to squeeze a bit of milk out of some udders, nearly everyone asked if all goats were as easy to milk. The answer? No. Over the years, we have culled difficult milkers, girls who do not produce enough milk to make it worth feeding them all that grain, and girls who will not behave. The milking does that we have our herd whittled down to all produce over 6 pounds a day. A gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds by the way. The average amount of milk produced by one of the full sized breeds is between 4 pounds and 16 pounds. Most fall somewhere in the middle. If you are told that a goat produces more than 16 pounds please ask to see the records and the milking stars that are awarded by the American Dairy Goat Association for champion milkers.
Another subject that we covered was udders. An awful lot of first fresheners (girls who have kidded for the first time) end up developing hard udders. 99% of the time, this is a congested udder rather than mastitis. A congested udder, though not easy to deal with, is far easier than mastitis. A friend’s Nubian, first freshener, developed congested udder about 2 weeks ago and was very upset because she couldn’t squeeze more than a few drops out. I suggested that she make a warm tea from comfrey and apply compresses dipped in this tea to her udder. It worked! After about 15 minutes everything loosened up and my friend was able to drain the udder completely. Whew!
Mastitis normally shows up as bloody, stringy milk.
Next question was about what we at Stony Knolls label as “pink milk”. One drop of blood in the milk can cause it to have a pink tinge. Where does the blood come from? The udder has a complex capillary system and every now and then one of those tiny blood vessels break, drip a drop or two of blood into the milk supply, then heal right up. If babies are nursing off the mom, you would never even know it had happened, but if you are milking your doe, a bucket full of pink colored milk might freak you out! Most of the time, it goes completely unnoticed until the milk is in a bottle and has gathered at the bottom of the bottle after the milk has chilled down.
And, what about taste, do different breeds produce different tasting milk? Yes, they do! But, they are all wonderful!
From the creamy richness of a Nubian, an Oberhasli or a Toggenburg, to the clean, fresh taste of an Alpine or Saanan, they are all good! My suggestion to folks is to taste the milk before they buy the breed of goat! See what suits your palate!
Our next Goat School is already in the planning. The dates are Saturday, October 6th, and Sunday, October 7th, with a Soap and Cheese Making Class scheduled for Monday, October 8th. Come and join us, you’ll have the time of your life!