When starting a farm business, make sure you know your states rules and regulations. You can contact your states Department of Agriculture and/or your county Cooperative Extension Agency for info. Make sure you know what you need to know about the basic safety and maintenance of goats to begin with: What are their needs when it comes to health, shelter, food, etc., and what are concerns such as plant toxins and predators?
You've heard of a one-horse town? Well, we are a one-goat micro-dairy! That doesn't mean we only have one goat to milk, but that our milking parlor is set up to take only one goat in at a time for feeding and milking. Here is a story about a little goat kid who wouldn't give up so, how could we?
Rotational grazing can reduce the parasite load of goats, but this is difficult to accomplish with a dairy herd which needs to return to the same location every day for milking. On our homestead, we developed a rotational shelter and management system that allowed us to keep the herd on pasture 24/7 during the warm season. This significantly reduced our reliance on chemical de-wormers and helped us feel better about the quality of our milk and our soils.
Not many people in our sphere of influence drink goat’s milk, so we have a great opportunity to educate those we come in contact with about the benefits. These are our four main reasons why we drink goat's milk.
Goats tie you down, particularly dairy goats. Even an overnight absence, or a short trip to visit family for the holidays, creates a management problem for the daily needs of your left-behind livestock. By developing working relationships with other goat enthusiasts, you can have your milk and travel, too.
How should you choose good hay for your dairy goats? Hay should be composed of plants goats like to eat, cut and cured properly for best nutritional content and storage life, and free of unwanted chemicals and weed seeds. If you can, buy hay fresh from the field of a trusted source, where you can inspect it and its growing conditions.
Many garden vegetable crops produce excess leafy material perfect for feeding goats. Using these materials as milking snacks helps reduce the need for purchased grain & hay while recycling these waste products on the homestead.
Goats need to be held still in various contexts, including slaughtering, hoof-trimming, and milking. Ideally, the method of restraint should be comfortable/humane, strong, portable, easy to use, and affordable. We’ve developed a homemade goat restraint that fits these categories and has worked for many years.
White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) is a potentially toxic plant, particularly for dairy animals as the toxins can be passed through the milk. It caused many human deaths during the age of European settlement in eastern North America, due to dairy animals grazing in brushy areas and woodlands. Modern homesteaders using such landscapes for their goats or other ruminants should learn to identify and remove white snakeroot to ensure the safety of their milk supply.
Homestead dairy goats need proper shelters. Ideally these would be easy to set up and move, while providing all the animals’ needs. A variety of basic shelters can be based on simple, reusable pieces like cattle panels, pop-up tents, and chain-link panels. These structures make pasture-based goat management easier on a budget.
Dairy goat farmer Julia Shewchuck learned a lot about keeping dairy goats in her first few months (and much more since). It was a learning curve too steep to be repeated willingly, but which has saved many other goats’ lives since.