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Getting my goat... - Random babblings of a fiber-obsessed nutcase

About Getting my goat...

Previous Entry Getting my goat... Oct. 20th, 2009 @ 07:49 am Next Entry
I decided to post my goat info here - some of it I may have posted before, some of it's new. I tend to over research stuff, and I don't mind sharing to keep your valuable time free for other stuff. I know a lot of you aren't "doing" goats....but you never know. The way the economy is going, you might find yourself in a position to *need* a safe dairy supply, and goats are the cheapest and best way to do it. So...that being said, here we go:

Links (but....you might get sucked in. These are time-sinks, just so you know):

Dairy Goat forum - lots of talk about medical needs, upkeep, and, of course, milking (you can read without joining):

Dairy Goat Info

This next one is cool - it's Homsteading. This link is specific to the goat forum, but they have forums for *everything* - chickens, bees, horses, etc. Some overlap in the goat area with the above, but there's enough difference for me to keep both (Again - don't have to join to read). If you decide to try and become self-sufficient, *this* is the place to start. (There's better chicken info out there, but because I am focusing on goats right now, I won't list that. :lol:)

Homesteading Goats

Here's one that focuses strictly on cheesemaking - some receipes, lots of stuff for sale, decent book selection:


Here's a site for a "milking machine" - the basic set up is $45...and let me tell you, I think it's worth it. I just bought a 2nd one (and...we aren't milking yet! :lol:), and Sweet Geek told me to buy a third one so we can get all 5 does milked out in 2 sets, instead of 3. Each one cost me $69 - because I upgraded to the gallon collection container (overkill), the larger teat cups (I think they may be *too* big, but :shrug:) and the in-line filter for the tubing. These are designed for pygmy/Nigerian Dwarf goats (smaller than mine!), so the basic set up would probably not do us very well - although it might. Our Nubians are smaller than normal - they were accidently stunted by the breeder.
Won't know until we actually start milking - better to be safe than sorry!

Maggidan's Milker

- the Homesteading forum has a thread on making your own for..about $20 or so. We discussed making a couple more for the kids to use - but decided our time was worth more than the $$ saved. Plus, when I went to price the "gun" part that does the suction, they were right at $20 by themselves.....so, the $45 looked like a deal to us. I can NOT milk by hand, not with my screwed up wrist. If you buy smaller goats, this would be a blessing (not trying to sell you anything, just.....this was designed for pygmy goats. It might also make it easier for children to help without damaging the goats.) Don't know if they're really a time-saver or not - my friend said it takes about 15 minutes per goat to milk them out. I *have* to get both kids to help, or it's just not gonna work for us. Since I'm the main milker) It will save me a little expense - we won't need to buy a strainer and pads, since there's a strainer built in, and it's a "closed" system.


I've got a few...the best one - the VERY best goat-specific book I've seen is "Dairy Goats the Modern Way"/"Storey's Guide to Dairy Goats" Same book, 2 titles - the Storey's Guide is the newest version. Fantastic book - a VERY good place to start.

Carla Emery's "Encyclopedia of Country Living" would be a better place, if you're wanting to do more than just 1 thing. Gardening? Chickens? Bees? Goats? Canning? Woodstove? Here's where you go. I have a copy, and wouldn't want to be without it. A lot of the stuff I don't need - yet - but you never know.

"Goats Produce Too" - Not so much with the care info, but FANTASTIC on everything you can do with what your goats'll give you. Wanna can excess milk? Freeze it? Make butter? Cheese? Cook chevon? This is where you'll go. At first I thought the price was excessive - this is a *tiny* book - but it is WELL worth the price.

"Living With Goats"...not bad, but not as extensive as the first book. Has a few pictures of the slaughtering process, which is good - now I know what to expect should I have to do it myself (I am looking for a butcher. I.....would prefer to take the cute l'il kids to the butcher, and come back a week later for nicely packaged kid chops.

Basic Stuff:

Now, there are 6 "official" dairy goat breeds in the US. The most common down here (TX) are Alpine, Saanan, La Mancha and Nubian. They are all full-size goats, and give (on average) 1 gallon of milk a day. The other 2 full-size breeds are Oberhasli and Toggenberg - I don't see many of them for sale here. The 2 smaller sized breeds are Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf......but they simply don't produce much milk. (You might get 1/2 gallon per day per goat - not bad, by any means, but if you're trying to produce ALL your dairy needs, it'd be more economical to go with a larger breed.)There are some "miniature breeds" out there - mini-LaManchas and mini-Nubians come to mind, but I don't know what they produce. Since I'm in this strictly for dairy/meat, we went with Nubians (and Cashmere - my breeder was getting about a gallon a day when she was milking hers - but Cashmere are NOT considered a dairy breed. Any goat will produce milk....just not as much as a "dedicated" dairy breed.)

I'm not going to go into basic care - they're animals, you feed/water/clean up after them. If you feed a goat feed, you'll be providing them with the nutrients they need. Make sure they have hay and access to browse.

Info for once you start milking:

OK, so you have your goats, and you have your daily routine down. Once they're bred, you need to make sure you're feeding grain and hay - our breeder told me they feed Sudan. It's cheap, it's nutritious, it's cheap, and the goats LOVE it (did I mention cheap?) Most books want you to feed alfalfa - dunno how it is elsewhere, but here it's a good $12/bale. Sudan? Maybe $4/bale. Yeah, my goats'll get Sudan.

Once they "freshen" (kid/drop/give birth), you'll be ready to start milking. Here's where it boils down to what works for *you* and your family. What works for me will probably NOT work for you....but, anyway. Here's some ideas, and some stuff you *have* to do, just to keep the does healthy. I look for cheap alternatives...:grin:

IF you bought your goats from diesease-free herds, you can leave the kids on the does. If you don't know for sure that the does are CAE/CL free, and IF you want to try and sell the excess kids (instead of eating them), you'll need to bottle feed from day 1, and heat treat the colostrum. (Sorry, but...I'm a diesease-phobe. I tried to buy from CraigsList, but either the goats were not tested, or they were *way* too expensive. Supposedly neither diesease transfers to humans, so that's not a big deal - but they ARE spread by contact - CAE from doe to kid via the milk.)(Heat treating the colostrum/milk: Bring it up to...120*, I think, and hold it there for an hour. Then bottle it and feed the (now-starving) kids.) You can either bottle feed goats milk, or buy cheap cows milk from the store (milk replacer is Expensive...we'll go with cows milk, I think - IF we decide to go this route. We're still discussing it - I had a few ideas, which I'll get to in a minute, and my friend had a few more).

Pros to bottle feeding: YOU get all the milk (once the colostrum is done). Kids are generally gentler. It's downright fun to feed babies! Cons: You have to feed them at least 4x a day at first...those late-night feedings are NO fun. You have milk the does at LEAST 2x a day - if you don't have a full-time job, you probably won't have as much of a problem as we will. My friend said it takes a good 15 minutes per doe to milk them....we'll have 5 in milk at the same time. Yeah - not looking forward to morning milkings before work! Even with both kids helping, it'll be a good 30 minutes of my morning gone (at *least* This is NOT counting bottle-feeding babies!).

Another con...if you're going to send the kids to freezer camp, it'll be harder if they're bottle-babies. We're working on that, too. :sigh: Now, you CAN bottle feed without actually interacting - it involves either building a holder for the bottles (a wooden rack with holes for the bottles to go into) or buying a "lambar" - basically a 5 gallon bucket with nipples spaced around it. Either way works...but it's still a bit labor-intensive - you have to fill and clean both at least 2x a day.

To make things easy on your back and knees while you milk, you'll need a stand. There are plans in the book, and tons online. Wood is fine; if you have access to a welder that would be better. You need something tall enough that you don't kill your back/knees while trying to milk. (We'll be building stands as well - I value my knees, thank you very much!) Some people sit on a 5 gallon bucket, some build stools...if you can find a stepstool/bench the right height on Craigslist, that would work. (We're going to have to build stools, I think.) Make sure you have a place for a feed bowl - it's easier (so I've been told!) to milk them while they are occupied with grain. I found my plans online: Scroungeman Milking Stand - free is good. :lol: They look easy enough for me to build, so....since we'll need 3, this is good! Plus, it includes plans for a stool - so, we've got it made! :lol:

You'll need to train the goats to the stand - what we're going to do is start feeding them on the stand from day 1. Also - and none of the books that I have mention this - I'm going to start fiddling with the udders from day 1, to get them used to being handled. I did this with my mares, and it made foaling/nursing a LOT easier. With my children having to milk some of the does, I want them as gentle as I can get them, so...it'll be more work at first, but I think it's worth it. I've been told that once they kid, there's no problem - they gentle right down and let you handle them, but I want to ensure that happens.

Now, you've got the doe on the stand...you need to clean the teats before you begin. Cheapest thing I've found: Diaper wipes. :lol: Work great, cheap - what more do you want? Some people add...chlorophex, I think it is, to them - most don't. I'm going to buy the cheapest brand I can get my hands on. You can make a mix of bleach water, (Here's a receipe from Fias Co Farms: 1 oz (2 T) of bleach (Clorox only), 1 quart water, 1 drop blue Original Formula Dawn dish detergent (DO NOT USE any other formula!)) Oh - the bleach water mixture is only good when used immediately, so you'll have to remix it every day - or so they say. ) cut a paper towel roll in half, plop it in a covered container (like an empty coffee can), then dump the bleach water on it....but bleach might dry the doe's/your skin out. You can also buy the "official" stuff....but unless you have a large number of goats, that wouldn't be cost effective. (Although...I *think* the offical stuff lasts (unlike the bleach water), so....that might be a route I need to investigate)

Before you start milking for real, you need to check to make sure there's nothing wrong - the first squirts from each teat go into a "strip cup". Some people use a dark-colored mug or bowl....I've found real strip cups on eBay for $10 - they have a screen. That's what I bought - but right now I have money to spend (I'm not always that "lucky". :grin:). (You can buy them from Hamby Dairy for $8.95, I think - I had some eBay bucks, so I used them. :lol:) You're looking for lumps/strings/blood. Probably won't find it...but you have to check. I bought 3 strip cups - 1 for each stand. You can get by with 1....but that'll add a wee bit of time to your milking routine if you have multiple goats. I'm trying to be as efficient as possible, so......:shrug: You can make one by taking a light-colored cup (a sippy-cup would work great - it has a handle!), a small piece of window screening, and a rubber band. Cut a square of the screen large enough to cover the top of the cup, and secure it with the rubber band. Not as pretty as the "real" thing, but not as expensive, either.

Once you know they're OK, commence milking. We'll be using the Maggidan Milker - it's supposed to be "faster" than hand milking. We'll see. Easier on the wrist, maybe. Milk into a clean pail/jar/bowl. You're supposed to keep records - you weigh the milk from each doe, then combine it all together. (You don't *have* to keep records. I will, just because I like doing that. I'm still counting eggs every day...:lol:) I found an 8 qt milk pail on eBay for $28.....you don't want plastic (supposedly), you want stainless...but y'know, I don't think it really matters. The milker has a plastic bucket attached to it, after all...and we're not doing this for sale purposes. :shrug: "They" say you have to cool the milk down quickly - I need to ask my friend about that - what we're planning on is making gel-packs (1/2 water, 1/2 alcohol in ziplock baggies (double bagged), frozen) and wrapping them around the big pail we're combining in. (Actually, I found a better way to quick chill the milk while writing this - and it's what I'll be doing. You fill a bucket that will hold your milk pail with water, then saturate it with rock salt - make a heavy brine. Freeze that - it will chill the milk down super-fast, according to the dairy forum. Sweet Geek is worried about the salt in the freezer, so what we will do is make the salt water mixture, double-bag it in large Ziplocks (the name-brand ones, for this), and freeze those. Take them out each milking and wrap them around the milk pail...and we're good to go).

Once you're done milking, you dip the teats with teat dip....Hamby's sells a cup-on-a-handle thingy, and I bought a couple (they're like $10 or so - I hit eBay. Need to get 1 more so we have 3.). A regular dixie cup would work, too (I just don't want to use too many disposable things - the diaper wipes are one thing, but adding 5 dixie cups to the trash, too.....I'd rather reuse). Use the teat dip again to close the orifaces (IF you leave the kids on them, and milk along with her nursing them, you don't have to do this - the kids will take care of that for you.) I was told to use Fight Bac as this dip....we'll see. I haven't priced it yet. :grin: Again, you could use 1 on all your goats....some people say that's not hygenic/safe...but if all the goats are running together, what's the difference? (I'm - again - only getting multiples to cut down on the time spent. If I were home during the day, I wouldn't worry so much about how long....but I'm not, and I have to. :sigh:) Some people use the same mixture they use to wipe the teats at the start of milking, but diaper wipes won't work for this. You have to dip them in something to close the orifaces to prevent bacteria getting in there.....I've read where iodine is used. I'll probably just spring for the Fight Bac, since that's what was recommended, but we'll see.

I was also told to use Udder Balm on them....again, we'll see. My friend told me this, but no one on the forums I've visited seems to do this. :shrug: Udder Balm isn't too expensive, and it'll last a long time with as few goats as I have, so......:sigh: I'm wondering if vaseline would work.....

Once you get the milk in the house, you need to strain it before putting it in the fridge. (Don't forget, you HAVE to chill it down to 40*-ish degrees within 30 minutes or so to keep it healthy!). The Maggidan's milker has a built in strainer, so we won't have to do that, plus everything is contained - there's simply no way for dirt/dust/bacteria to get into the milk once we start milking. (Another plus for buying the milker!) Now you have to decide what you're going to do with the milk....butter/cheese/yogurt/ice cream...:lol: (See Dairy section below)

Basic Care:

Foot trimming - Hoegger's has a kit for $34.15 that has everything you need. If you want to just buy the nippers, get the orange ones - those are the best, according to my friend. (I dunno...:lol:) She demo'd hoof trimming last weekend - it's easy, once the goat is contained. We'll use the stand (she did it with the buck just tied up).

Other than that, there's really not a lot to do for your goats - unless you get fiber-producers :wink:. Daily check to be sure there's no injuries, and you're good to go, I think. They're pretty self-sufficient, from what I've gathered.

Oh - I ran some numbers. Lactating goats need 2 pounds of grain per day, plus hay and browse. Here, goat feed runs $8/50 pound bag (well, $7.50, but let's keep the numbers easy, shall we?) and hay runs $4/bale (Sudan). 1 bag will last my 5 goats 10 days (not counting the kids - I have NO clue how many we'll end up with, but these numbers will work)..so, I'll need 6 bags/month. Hay...let's assume 1 flake per goat per day....most bales will give (working from memory here)..15 flakes. So....2 bales a week (roughly). That's $24/month for grain, and $32/month for hay. That's...$56 - round it up to $60. IF I get 1/2 gallon milk/goat/day....that'll be 17.5 gallons of milk PER WEEK. That's *70* gallons of milk PER MONTH - for $60. Cow's milk is running right at $4/gallon (some stores, $3.50, but prices are rising)...70 gallons would be $280. MUCH cheaper to raise my own!

Dairy stuff - the whole reason you want goats, yes?:

Butter - if you want to make butter, it's gonna be a little labor-intensive. Fastest way - buy a cream separator (I just bought one on eBay for $75 - it's a manual one, so I'll get a good arm workout. :lol:) - goats milk doesn't have as much cream as cow's milk, and it doesn't rise as quickly. If you don't want to spend that, you can skim the cream off and freeze it, and keep adding to the bottle with each new batch of milk. When you have enough cream, thaw it and go from there. If you have a mixer, you're good to go; hand-cranked butter churns are going for....$50+ on eBay (Daisey style glass bottomed ones. The old-fashioned pottery churns are about that, I think - I'm looking at Quart-sized churns, so haven't priced the other ones.) You can do the whole "put it in a jar and shake shake shake"...I'm a bit too lazy for that. :lol: To shape it, you can either buy a mold ($15 at Hoegger's) or pat it into a rectangular blob and wrap with wax paper. Most instructions say you need paddles.....I dunno. I haven't bought any yet, and I'm trying to figure out if I really *need* them - I think plastic spoons/spatulas would work just as well) You can make a butter churn out of an old coffee can and some tinker toys - use the wheel part, put in the spokes, and put a long "handle" thru the center hole. Poke a hole in the coffee can lid large enough for the handle to fit thru, and voila! A homemade butter churn! :lol:

Milk - ah, the whole billy-goat thing. I talked to my fiber-goat raising friend (she used to do dairy goats only), and here's what I WAS going to do. I will buy bred does (they are in the breeding pens now, actually. :lol:). The kids - in OUR set up - are all destined for the freezer - I am NOT getting into goat-breeding, I am only interested in the milk aspect. When the does kid, we will bottle-feed the kids (maybe - but probably not) (to prevent CAE - goat AIDS, basically - our does are from a clean, closed herd, so this is NOT an issue for us) for 2 or 3 weeks, then feed them until they are 20 - 30 pounds. Off to the butcher's they go - except for *1* buck. When the does come back into season, he'll breed 'em; once they're all preggers, off HE goes. Lather, rinse, repeat - since a buckling is capable of breeding at *3* months, we shouldn't have a buck for very long.

However, that changed when I found out that one of the bucks is a Star buck (he has fantastic dairy genes on both sides) - so now, we're building a buck barn and pen. Hopefully, we'll get at least 1 buckling from him (:fingers crossed!:), and we'll keep him and 1 of the cashmere bucklings (as a friend - they don't like being alone). Bucks SMELL during rut....but 2 shouldn't be too bad. Take your pick on what you're gonna do....if you keep a buck, you really shouldn't keep re-breeding him to his daughters/granddaughters/etc....I'm thinking on this. Right now, since all the kids are destined for the freezer, it shouldn't matter....but eventually we'll need to replace the older milkers. THAT's why I want a good buck - to make sure the new does will fill the pail!

Also, I am going to disbud them - remove the horns - just because. My friend has the tool; I can get one for about $30 at Tractor Supply if I want my own. That's a lot safer than keeping the horns - both for us and the does. (Torn udders are no fun, according to my friend. I don't want to find out.) Also, I won't have to worry about getting horned in the eye/kids getting hurt/barn getting torn up.....horns are a bother. :shrug:

Dairy goats will milk for a good 10 years (or more!), so I wouldn't be replacing the does often (Lord willing, anyway!) Plus, some does will lactate for 2+ years without being rebred - I am NOT counting on that, but it's an interesting fact to know.

Cheese - easy to do. Cheesemaking.com has a lot of kits/starters/etc - and their prices are not bad. Hoegger's (I really have no affiliation, they just have good prices and a good selection!) has a "Cheesemaker's Pantry" which has everything you need to get started for about $50. Alot of the stuff you can make-do.....but you'll need rennet and starters for anything other than the easy vinegar cheese. You can get a cheese press on eBay for...$35, if I remember right. You can also make one out of an old coffee can and old cutting boards (drill holes in the bottom of the coffee can for drainage, cut the cutting board into a circle that'll fit inside the coffee can, use clean bricks to add the right amount of pressure. Not as pretty as a real one, but works!)

All that being said, here's what our tentative routine is going to be. What I'm leaning towards:

Leave the kids on the does for 8 weeks, and milk the does 1x a day (in the evening). That will keep her supply up; we won't get much milk from each doe, because the kids will be drinking it too, but we should get enough from the 5 of them to keep us in drinking milk. We won't have to mess with bottle-feeding....although.........we *might* separate the does and kids during the night, so we get all the milk produced at night. Only problem - we'll HAVE to do a morning milking. We're still at the discussion stage on this. It all boils down to how much time it'll take. IF we only milk at night, then the does will get their grain in the feeders in the morning (OH! Premier One has plans online for hay/grain feeders designed for goats/sheep. You don't have to go into the pens to feed with these - and they're simple to build. The plans are in .pdf form, and they have a lot more than just feeder plans, too.)

You can leave the kids on the does, and still milk 2x a day - that'll boost her production even more. You can leave the kids on the does and not milk at all until you wean the kids - at about 8 weeks. (You start putting grain out for them at 2 weeks - you have to get their rumens going) It's all about what works best for you and your situation. For us, I think a once-a-day routine is the best we can do - we can always add another milking session if we find we need more milk.

*whew* That was long! But important - guys, things are bad now...and it's only going to get worse. I'm trying to get things together so my family and I will have food....IF I'm right, prices are going to shoot up so high, and incomes are going to drop. You have to have food/water....I'd rather grow as much of my own as possible. I ran the numbers - I can provide my family with ALL our dairy needs for much much less than buying commercial. (My eggs, too, come to think of it - but that's a different topic!). Plus - the excess kids will provide us with meat, and the Cashemere goats will give us warm clothing.

IF I'm wrong - I'm still saving my family money. I don't think I'm wrong, though....
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