Got milk?

Since we started our journey to self-sufficiency, we have wanted to have some form of milk supply.  We are all big milk-drinkers, so having a source of fresh, raw milk is very important to us.  The question still remained…cow or goats?

When I compared the care and quantity of milk produced in both, the cow just produces way more than our family could ever consume…plus, the cow needs more land, hay, feed, and care than we can comfortably provide.  It was looking like my only choice in milk for the near future would be goats.

Here’s the problem, though: goat milk?  Bleh!  That’s always been my thoughts, at least.  I’ve never known anyone (or so I thought) who drank goat milk, and I was certain it would taste bad…after all, goats are stinky, nasty little creatures.

The more I read, however, the more appealing goats became.  They are a smaller initial investment, require a much smaller space, easier to transport (since we don’t have a livestock trailer), require less food, less wormer, and the land we have is much more suitable for a foraging goat than a grazing cow.  Plus, everything I read told me that the milk is actually good when it’s fresh.  I read and heard many stories of how people were fooled into believing they were actually drinking store-bought cow milk.

The question still remained, though…can we tolerate drinking it?  I mean, surely I could cook with it, but could we drink it or would I still end up having to buy milk for us to drink?  Like I said before, we all love our milk – especially our teenager, Lindsay.  She’s very picky about her milk.  Would I ever get her to try it…much less drink it?

After researching the different breeds, it became apparent that the Nubian would be the best for our family.  They produce less milk than the other breeds, but the average butterfat content is higher, making for a sweeter milk that is also good for cheese-making.  They average about 1/2 gallon of milk per day, so with a couple of does in milk at one time, this would be more than enough milk for our family.

But, before we start preparing to buy goats, we still have to taste the stuff.  I set out to find a raw milk provider close by and ended up finding the #1 Nubian breeder in the state only 20 minutes from our house!  I purchased some of his raw milk, brought it home to the family, did a taste test, and wouldn’t you know it…it tasted like…milk!  Even Lindsay and my mom thought so!  (They are the most persnickety milk-drinkers of all of us, so they were the real taste-testers.)

So, there ya have it…goats it is.

We decided to take the whole family (minus Lindsay…she was on a trip) to the farm where I bought the milk and where we plan to soon purchase our first Nubian dairy goats.

Aren't those floppy-eared Nubians just so stinkin' cute? He has several doelings to choose from (which is what we will be buying), but how do you not just take them all?

He actually breeds Saanens, too, which are what Jadon is petting here.

These are his big girls (20+ are currently in milk)...and too expensive for us to buy.

Here's Lauren petting his best milker. She gives more than a gallon a day!

After seeing his set-up, Barry and I have been busy putting up about 400 feet of fencing.  We’re using welded wire with one strand of electric.  We’ll hopefully have this complete within a week or two.

We were so blessed to be able to recycle some of our cousin's and Barry's mom's unwanted T-posts. We were able to save over $200 by not having to buy these.

Barry has also been hard at work converting part of our barn into a divided goat barn. The left side will be for storage and milking, and the right will be their sleeping/eating quarters.

This divider wall was built almost entirely of repurposed lumber we already had in the barn. I'm so proud of how talented and resourceful Barry is!

He still has to build the manger (which he also plans to build from scrap lumber) and eventually the milking stand, but we have plenty of time for that.

We are so anxious to get our doelings…hopefully within the next month or so. We will have to get them bred this fall so that they will kid next spring…then we will have fresh, raw, goat milk…so excited!

I’m linking up over at the Barn Hop today…join me in checking out what other homesteaders are up to!

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17 comments

  1. Dawn · August 6, 2011

    That is so so cool, Amy! You guys are an inspiration! I wish we had it in us to live this way, but I’m pretty sure my husband wouldn’t go for it 🙂
    Anne and I will just have to come visit y’all!

  2. Amy · August 6, 2011

    Thanks, Dawn…it’s definitely an adventure learning to do all this stuff. Neither one of us grew up doing any kind of farming except having a garden. We would love to have y’all over to see the chickens and the goats when we get them!

  3. Geralyn · August 6, 2011

    Hi Amy
    I am assuming you know that if you buy young girls you will have to raise them to about 1 year before they are breedable. Rams are extremely stinky.
    and they are really gross, and aggressive. And after they have their babes if you are going to milk the MOM’s you will have to feed the kids powdered milk
    .Milking is not tht easy either, you will need a stand that is about 4 ft. high , it kills the back to milk and most goats need to be held or in a confined area to eat while you milk. We birthed 6 babies last year, OY YEY that was fun for first time mom’s .
    g. I will send photos of my son’s girl friend goats. We even have a goatel for them to climb on and a teater totter when they were small, they are adorable!
    Will eat your roses if they get out. They do eat almost anything green,
    g.

    • Amy · August 6, 2011

      Yes, Ms. Geralyn, I have read everything I can get my hands on about raising dairy goats. The ones we will get were born in 2010 or early 2011. The breeder told me that the ones born in February would probably be ready to breed in December, so we may get a later one, too so that we can stagger our kidding. We have no desire to get a buck because of their bad habits and their smell, so we’ll use our breeder’s bucks for that business. As for the milking, I’m sure it will be difficult at first, but we are determined…so you’re NOT talking us out of it, LOL. Oh, and we have fruit and citrus trees that my husband adores, so we’re taking every precaution to keep them from escaping. Thanks for the advice!

  4. Berte · August 8, 2011

    I love your post about the goats. Sometime in the (hopefully not too distant) future, we will be getting started on our goats. I plan on starting with a reg. Nubian doe. I’ll be back to catch up.
    Berte

    • Amy · August 8, 2011

      Thanks for stopping by…sounds like we’re both in for some adventures!

  5. Paula · August 8, 2011

    I want to say, either Nourished Kitchen or one of the other real food blogs out there had a blog post on putting milking on your schedule rather than on the goat’s schedule. Some schools of thought have the babies seperate from the moms at night so you can get a good milking in the morning and letting the babies nurse on the moms during the day. That would cut down on the powdered milk/hand feeding you’d have to do.

    Good luck with your venture. I’m still working on my husband to get some goats. IT took me 8 years to get chickens, so I’ve got to be patient!

    • Amy · August 9, 2011

      Thanks, Paula. I have read that about separating the kids from the moms at night. I think that’s an excellent idea, and I’m hoping to do that as well…at least at first so I’m not overwhelmed with milking twice per day. Plus, if I ever need to go out of town it would be much easier to get someone to milk once a day than twice, don’t ya think?
      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Lindsey · August 10, 2011

    We recently purchased two Alpines – we’re milking one now, and the other is a 5 month old doeling. It’s been a fun adventure so far, and while yes it is a change of schedule and it’s a lot of work, it’s also very rewarding.

    We’re planning on doing the once a day milking after kidding – I’ve read that if you go away, you just don’t separate them from the does, they’ll take care of the milking for you. 🙂

    • Amy · August 10, 2011

      I’m so looking forward to it, Lindsey. I’ve read the same thing as you, and I’m hoping that will work since we would like to go out of town once in a while. I’m sure it’s a lot easier to get someone to feed your animals than to milk them, too. Thanks for the comment!

  7. Becka · August 11, 2011

    Good choice picking Nubians 🙂 We raise them and they are the sweetest things. A gallon a day is really good, most of our does give that, which is a good thing since we drink a ton of milk here. I’ve been eye-balling a buck that’s mother gives a 1 1/2 gallon a day! He’s so pretty to lol You probably won’t want a buck for a while though, they aren’t the best for a first goat, since they do have some *ahem* nasty habits. But if you train them right they can be as sweet as the girls just with some added “perfume” in the fall lol if you do eventually get a buck though make sure the girls can’t get near him because if they rub on him their milk will smell like him and have a weird flavor (didn’t believe it ’till it happened but it’s true).
    Anyway, enjoy your new girls 🙂

    -Becka

    • Amy · August 11, 2011

      Thanks for the comment, Becka. I can’t believe what a huge number of babies you had all at once! Now, will you bottle feed all 7 of them or allow them to stay with their moms some? How on earth do you handle something this huge?
      Also, I saw you have some Nubian Boer crosses. How do they fare compared to the straight Nubians? I’ve read mixed reviews…some people say they’re great while others say they have utter problems and sometimes even have 4 teats. Is any of this true in your experience? The reason I ask is that we just had someone we know offer to sell us a pregnant Nubian Boer…just wondering if it’s something we should consider.

      • Becka · August 18, 2011

        We bottle fed all 9 of the babies from those three does. After they’re born we take them inside and the mama’s don’t help with them at all. we milk the mama’s and feed the babies the milk in bottles. By 2 weeks the mama’s are making enough milk for us to feed the babies and have some left over for us to drink. The first week is pretty crazy with so many needing to be taught to drink out of a bottle, but it probably would have been a bit easier this year if we’d have had more than one bottle top (we ordered more but they took a while to come in). We ended up taking a week off of homeschooling because there just wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything taken care of, we would get done feeding one time around and then it would be nearly time to start warming the next round of bottles. Once the tops came in the mail feedings went allot quicker since we could feed 6 at a time, and once they al figured it out we could each feed 2 at a time.(thank goodness we’ve worked into this gradually lol) If your wanting to get as much milk as possible from your does bottle feeding them is the way to do it, even though it can be a pain at times. If you let the kids nurse (even if you milk her too) their udder tissue will stay hard instead of turning soft and squishy inside and you won’t get as much milk. We let one young doe (one of the last 2 to kid) keep her buck kid out of laziness this year, since we had so many, and he only nurses one side, so that side is soft like it should be and the other is hard. There was another doe (twin to the doe with a little buck) that kept her’s and wasn’t milked at all and her udder stayed hard and she only makes enough milk for her kids.
        I have seen some crazy udders on Boer does, I’ve even heard of people that even breed for multiple teats o_O but we haven’t really had a problem with it. Out of 8 years worth of kids there’s only been 2, maybe 3 kids (all bucks) with an extra teat and one was a purebred Nubian. Just like anything else if you start with good breeding stock you will most likely get good kids. I would check her udder and any relatives that you have access to (bucks and does) and if they have good teats and udder’s I would give her a try, and if she turns out to be a bad milker you can always keep her to get meat babies. Goat meat is delicious, we eat any does that aren’t good enough for breeding, the boys get a chance to be somebody’s pet since it’s easier to guarantee that a wethered boy won’t breed. Our does right now are all Boer crosses and they all give at least a gallon a day. Lately they’ve been down quite a bit since we’ve had temperature over 100 nearly everyday for the last few weeks but that’s understandable. Our best doe, Cassie, gave almost 1 1/4 gallon at about 3 months out from kidding. That’s a lot more that her purebred Nubian mother ever gave (about 3/4 gallon). Also Boers average about 5.6% butterfat and Nubians at least 6%. We basically can our milk (pasteurize it and put it in mason jars hot) and if we leave it in the jars for 2 or 3 weeks there is about 1” of cream on top of a 1/2 gallon jar, and the milk is still good to drink. Just goes goes to show you that a goat doesn’t have to have a pedigree and papers to be a great milker.

      • Becka · August 18, 2011

        Oops I wrote a book there didn’t I? lol

      • Amy · August 18, 2011

        Thanks for the load of information, Becka…your “book” was great! Seriously, I think I’ve learned more from people like you than I could ever learn in books. I appreciate your input!

  8. Donna · August 13, 2011

    Good luck with your goats! I milk our Saanens and there is nothing better than fresh cold goats milk – and it makes the absolute best cheese. Plus goats are a lot more fun than cows to have and easier to handle! 🙂

    • Amy · August 13, 2011

      Thanks for the encouragement, Donna…can’t wait! Your Saanens are so pretty, by the way!

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