We are planning on adding some family milk goats to our farm early next year. We're trying to learn as much as possible before then. What would you recommend as a starting point, in terms of purchasing goats. We love milk, cheese, etc, so our biggest goal is to have and produce great family milkers on our homestead. How many does would you start with? I've been told to hold off on buying a buck, but would like some more input.
Also, do you have any recommendations for reading. I want to learn as much as possible. We're hoping to find some good milking lines so we can reserve some kids for the spring.
I enjoyed reading your intro and the replies. I hope you have the best of luck purchasing your first goats. I have only been introduced to ND's for a few months now but I wanted to tell you that my biggest surprise has been how attached I have gotten to them! They are truly an endearing animal even without the milk and cheese. But like you, I really want to start learning how to enjoy the practical benefits of having goats and NOT just have them for pets. The day that my husband and I can sit down to a dinner that has our own homemade cheese included in the recipe will be so exciting!
I have no expertise to help you begin (like the two ladies above-who have a wealth of knowledge and experience and are very kind and willing to share it) but I did want to address your question about recommendations for reading.
I have wanted to learn as much as possible, too, so I keep buying books about goats. I have recently purchased Personal Milkers: A Primer to Nigerian Dwarf Goats, the book mentioned above, and it goes into lots of specifics and is answering so many of my questions. While I am reading it, I keep thinking that Pat must have read my mind because she keeps addressing all the things I have been wondering about, and does it in such an interesting way. It is truly the most wonderful book!
Also, I have found that an added benefit to buying from an experienced and reputable breeder (along with acquiring a higher quality animal) is the advice they can give you after your purchase. I have called and emailed the gentleman I purchased my ND's from several times (who is very knowledgeable) and I have learned so much from him, too. I hope he joins our site!
Good Luck on your goat adventure! I am looking forward to reading more and hearing what/when you decide to purchase and how it goes!
We're considering a few mini la manchas or mini nubians along with NDs to keep up with our consumption of milk. I now have family members that are wanting to invest in our farm for the luxury of goat milk. Do you have plans for mini manchas?
I know any "extra" milk we have will end up being consumed--if not by us, than by the chickens, pigs, or dogs!
Deborah Niemann-Boehle said:
I don't often sell does in milk. Generally, after the second freshening, I'm attached to them and don't let them go. That said, I'll have four first fresheners in 2010, so I should sell one or two. I'm really trying to cut back on my numbers as my children are growing up and moving away. Also, in 2011, we'll have cows in milk, so our need for goat milk will go down then -- I'm thinking. Of course, I could be wrong about that. I used to say that I'd only need a couple goats after my kids were gone, but I know that's not true anymore! We make so much with the milk now! Even if the cows take over some of the cheeses, I will always need goats for chevre, parmesan, and feta -- and maybe some cheese that I haven't discovered yet. Can you tell we really have fun with this?
And, in case you're interested, I teach a cheesemaking class. I probably won't do any more until next spring when we're swimming in milk again.
I want to see what we can afford in terms of does that come from decent milking lines. Do you think it's taking on too much to keep a buck as well? Biosecurity is a priority for us, so I don't want to have worry about what I might be bringing into the herd every time my girls need bred.
Deborah- I've been perusing your blog since this weekend. Do you often sell any of your does in milk? We're only about 2.5 hours from Bloomington, IL.
If you're considering a Nigerian, that's a great choice for cheesemaking, because their butterfat is about double the milkfat of the larger breeds, which means better cheese yields. We're not big milk drinkers, but we love cheese, which is why we like NDs so much. The answers to your questions will vary depending upon how large your family is and how much milk you want.
I started with two adult does in milk and a doeling seven years ago. My first mistake was that I did not buy the goats from someone who milked them, so one turned out to be a good milker, and the other was impossible. She would lay down on the milkstand, so my husband had to hold her up over the bucket while I milked. After a week, we gave up, so I wound up milking only one goat that first year. She averaged about a quart a day, so I could make chevre once a week, and we had enough to also make queso blanco sometimes, as well as pudding and a few other things.
On the other end, we now milk about 10 does during the summer and make cheese every day -- chevre, queso blanco, cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, yogurt, buttermilk. A quart a day is a decent average for a ND, so we're getting a couple gallons a day when we're milking 8-10. That's enough for about 2 pounds of cheese every day during the summer. Yogurt and buttermilk is the same amount as the fluid volume of milk, since there is no whey to drain off. I also make a lot of cream soups, pudding, and ice cream at that time. By fall, the goat's butterfat has gone up to 8-10% (from 6-8% the first few months of lactation), so a gallon of milk gives us closer to a pound and a half of mozzarella or chevre, which are the only cheeses we make in fall. Usually by winter, we're only milking a couple goats, which just provide us with our fluid milk needs. We have made enough mozzarella over the summer that we've frozen enough to get us through the winter, so we can have our Friday night pizzas.
If you want more numbers on milk production and cheese, you can check out my blog post from last year, "How Many Goats Does a Homesteader Need?"
These number will vary from farm to farm, but I think they're a reasonable starting point for helping you decide how many goats you want. There are goats on milk test that make 2-3X as much as mine, but they belong to people who've been raising Nigerians for 10-15 years, and they didn't start out with numbers like they have today. This is why I started my herd with average does and bought the absolute best bucks I could afford -- one whose mother was on the Top Ten milker list three years in a row. I'm hoping his daughters will take after their grandmother and be great producers. Genetics is a crapshoot, so it seemed like a better idea to spend a lot of money on a buck instead of a lot of money on a lot of does. As they say, your buck is half your herd -- which is why I cringe when people say things like, "Oh, you can pick up a cheap buck anytime." If money is no option, then you could start with better genetics all the way around.
Have fun building your herd!