Dairy Goats

How can I explain the love of goats? It is an infectious sort of feeling and one that sneaks up on you. One minute you’re a normal sort of person and the next, you get sucked in by their ridiculous ears (or lack thereof), their mischievous personalities, and their huge, alien eyes. It is a genius combination. Don’t believe me? Hmmm… don’t say you weren’t warned.

Asher (the first)          Breed: Lamancha/Toggenburg

Asher was purchased from my sister, Kelli’s herd. He was about 3 months old when we acquired him. At the time, we had no idea that goats really NEED to be in pairs, and we thought that getting just the one little guy would be a good way to ease into goat ownership. He had no ears (naturally, that was the Lamancha in him) and no horns (also, naturally polled). He was a sweet and clever lad.
"I am ready to joust, Sir! Now, to find you."
One of the funny things unique to Asher was his ability to improvise. Case in point, he took to emptying his water bucket and working it onto his head. The first time this was done caused alarm to ring through the house and the humans to race into the yard to save him from this agony, only to watch him repeat the fete immediately upon his “rescue”. Sean thought this was a deterrent to black flies and mosquitoes bothering him. I thought it was a clever helmet with which to engage in the traditional buck ramming with his horned “brother”. Either way, many a day was spent watching Asher prance about the yard with a bucket on his head. Now, remember, this was his water bucket. Which means, as funny as this all was, it made keeping fresh water available on hot summer days a Herculean chore.

Sadly, we only had Asher (the first) for about 6 months, but as our first goat, I thought it an appropriate memorial to mention him here in the “lists”.

Jedidiah             Breed: Boer/Oberhausli

Jedidiah was only just weaned when he made his arrival to our land. We got him about a week after buying Asher, as a companion for Asher. I know male goats are “bucks” if they are intact and “wethers” if they are castrated, (and you should use these terms to sound educated when discussing with others) I don’t care. Our lads were all “pet class” at this stage in our life. We had no idea that we would add to our herd and no desire to do so.

The boys played together well and worked together well. Sean and I would spend hours on the weekends or after work devising fencing plans. First, we secured two strands of wire electrified to the posts, then, three strands, but they would walk through it, unfazed. We added copper bells to their collars. We improvised a trailing wire to catch the electric fence on their way through. I can’t count how many times Sean would “test” the fence only to caper about for a bit waiting for the feeling to return to his fingers. We ran “cow” fencing around their pasture, sure this time of our success, only to return home to goats on the lawn. Now, intelligent creatures they are. Make no mistake. When we would drive into our yard, they would catch sight of us and run to the pasture door, the look on their sweet innocent faces, saying “How did I get out here? I was inside there, minding my own business and now, look! Here I am outside the fencing. Very strange, indeed.” Jedi, though younger by months and small because of this, would use his horns to lever under the goat fencing to allow Asher to walk through and then go through the fencing himself. Keeping them in became a game to them and a nightmare to us.

Eventually, we came up with a workable solution. We supplemented the “cow fencing” with electric tape top and bottom, and probably more importantly, they grew. We started supplementing their diet with a protein rich, “meat grower/finisher” grain which helped them to fill out and be too big to squeeze through the fencing. This arrangement still works and is our fencing of choice.

Rachel             Breed: Saanen/Lamancha
Leah                  Breed: Saanen/Lamancha

In September of 2011, we answered an ad in the local Uncle Henry's to look into buying a single doe to be company and perhaps provide some milk, should we decide to breed her with Jedi. The goats were for sale for $75 each and there were 2 does and 1 buck available. Sean and I implicitly agreed that we would come home with one doe. Only one. No matter what.

The does were friendly. Both were tawny white. One had ears and horns, resembling the traits of the Saanen buck that sired her. The other was naturally polled and had tiny "elf ears" resembling her mother, who was on site looking healthy and happy, herself.

The man was friendlier, so friendly, that he made us an offer of both does for $125. We came home with two. How could this happen? I blame this one on thrift and economics. They were not registered and would end up being more "pet", than "livestock", but they were both females, unrelated to Jedi. We only wanted the females to breed for milk for our own usage. We weren't, after all, going to be selling much of these product. And two does, would mean (at least) two kids the following year to sell, and would also result in twice the milk for cheeses, soaps and lotions... Plus, they were sooooo cute! And, we did have the room for them.

We named the one with ears, Rachel and the one without, Leah.

Ellie            Breed: Registered Lamancha
Pepper        Breed: Boer/Nubian-Lamancha cross
In November, 2011, I received a call from my sister, Kelli. Their family was ready for a change. Farming had had its day and their family was moving to town. She sold her herd of more than 30 goats, her cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, and geese. And, did we want her prized and pregnant, registered Lamancha doe, Ellie and a young red-coated Boer doeling, Pepper?

Decision time: Did we want to do this or not???

On the "PRO" side, we are personally against "in breeding" our stock, so this limited the keeping of any kids from the goats we had to grow our herd. This influx of new blood would be a good thing. Also, Ellie was valuable; registered Lamancha and pregnant with Lamancha/Boer babies, (registerable with either association) she was a proven milker and had previously birthed twins each time. Pepper was 50% Boer, like Jedi, and would produce beautiful kids with him. Two more does would mean 4-6 kids each Spring to sell. More milk to process into sellable goods. We liked the idea of growing much of our own food. Our land was good for goats, not so good for cows or horses, though.

In the "CON" column, we would need a bigger barn sooner than later. We would have to actually keep records. This "hobby" would have to start paying for itself. We would have to be capable of selling the kids when they started to arrive. And, our time would be used to a greater extent with milking, feeding, and care. Did we want to do this or not?

After much conversation, prayer, and more prayer, we decided to give it a try. We had grown so fond of Jedi and his girls over the past few months, we felt that we had room to add to our herd and our hearts to make a start to farming for real.

Asher            Breed: Lamancha/Boer
Abigail         Breed: Lamancha/Boer

April 1, 2012, the kids came. They were born at about 9pm, both healthy and whole. I won't repeat the story behind their arrival. You can read about it under the page "Birthing Kids" or in some of the blog posts from April 2012. They are lovely little creatures. At the time of this writing, they are less than a week old, but already they have a hold on my heart. And, we have big plans in the works for these kids. They complete our herd... for now. *wink*