Picking Milking Goats for the Homestead

Picking milking goats for the homestead. Milking goats are easier to care for than cows, eat off the land and need only half or less of the barn space a cow requires.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Editors
September/October 1982
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How to pick a milking goat for your homestead.
ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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Picking milking goats: A poor man's cow no homestead should be without. (See the goat illustrations in the image gallery.)

Picking Milking Goats for the Homestead

Solomon said, "Thou shalt have goat's milk enough for thy food, for the good of thy household, and for the maintenance of thy maiden" . . . a statement that — besides extolling the beverage-producing attributes of these caprine creatures — goes to show that the generous beasts have been domesticated for a long time! However, a modern goat enthusiast might wish to add to Solomon's wisdom, noting that — over and above its ability to produce healthful dairy products — the "poor man's cow" can be a pretty danged amusing and lovable animal to have around.

Furthermore, the milkers are exceptionally easy keepers, each requiring only half (or less) the barn space that the "competitor" cow needs... and they're able to forage nutrients from particularly barren land if necessary. Sadly goats, are often taken for granted and looked upon as mere "lawn mowers". Yet — like many other animals — if they're treated with care and affection, these lively and temperamental characters can provide any homestead with plenty of milk and cheese . . . plus a great deal of pleasure.

Perhaps this "goat fieldbook" will help you decide which of the common breeds might best serve your family.

French Alpines attain a minimum height of 30 inches and a weight of about 135 pounds. One of the hardiest of all goat breeds, they are very ruggedly built and can be any of an almost endless variety of color combinations. "Alps" will sometimes produce as much as 5,000 pounds of milk per lactation period (37 to 48 weeks long).

Toggenburgs hail originally from the Toggenburg Valley in the Swiss Alps. They're small (about 26 inches and 120 pounds), sturdy, vigorours goats . . . and in spite of their size, the animals can produce 3,500 pounds of milk in a lactation period.

Saanens, also natives of Switzerland, are very popular . . . they can produce up to 5,200 pounds of milk per lactation period. Saanens may be 30 inces tall and weigh about 135 pounds. They are placid animals and distinguished looking in their white coats.

La Manchas are a recently developed American goat, derived from a cross between a Spanish breed and other varieties. They reach a minimum height of 28 inches and a weight of 130 pounds . . . and in one lactation period are able to produce close to 2,500 pounds of milk. Their most outstanding physical characteristic is ears so small that they seem almost nonexistent.

Nubians, which are sometimes referred to as "the Jersey of goats" because of their milk is quite rich in butterfat, are among the most popular of all breeds and can produce as much as 4,000 pounds of milk in one lactation period. "Nubes grow to a minimum height of 30 inches and a weight of some 135 pounds. They can be very affectionate and, at the same time, very stubborn creatures.








Post a comment below.

 

Blessedhomestead
3/4/2014 7:46:23 PM
Ruth, ANY breed of goat can have wonderful tasting milk. Just like, or even better, than cow milk. I once held a blind taste test for several of my Equestrian clients, who swore they'd never drink goat milk, because they heard it was awful. I had three samples of raw goat milk from three different does, raw, whole cow milk and 2% from the store. They ALL picked the goat milk, though they each had their favorite doe. They were shocked to see that they had chosen goat milk over their usual milk choices. Diet plays a huge factor in taste, as does proper nutrition, parasite control, cleanliness and correct handling of the milk after milking. If you get gross goat milk, something is off, or being done wrong. Pasteurization often will make it taste horrid.

Blessedhomestead
3/4/2014 7:23:24 PM
Ruth, ANY goat milk can taste like, or better than, cow milk. I did a blind taste test one year on a bunch of my equestrian clients that swore up and down they'd never drink goats milk because it tasted yucky. I had samples of my raw goat milk, from 3 different does, all raw, raw, whole cow milk, and 2% cow milk from the grocery store. EVERY person chose a goat milk, though they each had their own favorite doe. They were stunned that they liked it better than any of the cow milk. It boils down to the care of the doe and the milk. Proper diet, good parasite control, clean milking practices, and quick cooling of the milk are all very important.

Blessedhomestead
3/4/2014 7:22:36 PM
Ruth, ANY goat milk can taste like, or better than, cow milk. I did a blind taste test one year on a bunch of my equestrian clients that swore up and down they'd never drink goats milk because it tasted yucky. I had samples of my raw goat milk, from 3 different does, all raw, raw, whole cow milk, and 2% cow milk from the grocery store. EVERY person chose a goat milk, though they each had their own favorite doe. They were stunned that they liked it better than any of the cow milk. It boils down to the care of the doe and the milk. Proper diet, good parasite control, clean milking practices, and quick cooling of the milk are all very important.

Blessedhomestead
3/4/2014 7:17:32 PM
Nice, but you neglected the mini and Dwarf breeds. Often even more efficient than their larger counterparts, and producing higher butterfat content than the large breeds. It's not all about quantity, Quite a few other factors to be considered. After 20 years of playing with several breeds, I've personally chosen the Mini Lamancha for our small homestead. Hardy, quiet, gentle, smaller stature (all which make them a delight to handle), producing an average 6 lbs of milk a day (a gallon is 8 lbs), on as little as 2 1/2 lbs of feed a day, with an average butter fat of 7%. Nubians are said to be the highest butterfat producers of the larger breeds, but they top out at 4%. Lots of sweet, rich milk, with very little input. Perfect for my farm.

Ruth Lidstone
12/5/2012 4:03:09 PM
Is there a breed of goat who's milk tastes close to cow's milk? I think that'll be the only way I can get my family to consider goats milk. lidstoner@hotmail.com thank you for any respose. Ruth

Tracy Dixon
10/28/2012 10:06:24 PM
I raise nubians and I couldn't ask for a better goat. I have a family blog of our farm. I have two pages dedicated to the care and maintenance of goats and one page for cheesemaking. Go to http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/4dfarms

Stormie Stafford
10/25/2012 12:11:11 PM
I am surprised that you did not include Nigerian Dwarf goats! They produce almost as much milk as their larger cousins, are extremely easy to handle because of their size and personality, and will cause less damage to your fruit trees because they cannot reach very high, even on their hind legs. I think they are especially good for small homesteads.








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