Goats are the easiest dairy animals anyone could ever raise. Learn how to raise these easy to handle animals.
Goats are, without a doubt, the easiest dairy animals anyone could ever raise. These easy to handle animals with their quick wit and excellent foraging ability produce 3 to 4 quarts of milk per day. In some ways a goats' milk is superior to cows' milk, but if you are allowing concerns about flavor and nutritional value to stop you from raising goats, don't. Not only is goats' milk easier to digest, the flavor and nutritional value are comparative with cow's milk. Goat milk is naturally homogenized with fat particles so small they do not separate from the milk. It is also less likely to provoke an allergic reaction.
But milk isn't the only reason to raise goats. There is goat cheese, butter and in some cases even goat meat. There are several different types of goats to choose from, all of which are good milk producers. The Saanens are excellent producers and gentle as well. Nubians are famed for the butterfat content of their milk, while Toggenburgs are hardy, affectionate browsers that produce a bit less but also eat less.
If you are buying a goat for milk production it is not necessary to buy a pure bred goat in order to get the best. The male goats, or bucks, are usually not kept by people interested in producing small amounts of milk. They tend to have a strong odor that has been known to taint the females' milk and except in cases of breeding, are kept separate from the females. Nannies should be bred when they reach about 18 months old and then bred yearly to insure a continuous supply of milk. Breeding season for goats begins in the fall and lasts through early spring, with the nannies coming into heat every 21 days until they become pregnant. Signs that your nanny is in heat will include bleating, restlessness and a continuous twitching of the tail. The kids are born within about 5 months after mating. It is very important that after their birth the kids get the first of the nanny's antibody rich milk. After a few days separate the kids from the nanny and continue to bottle feed them about 1\2 pint of mother's milk daily for about two weeks. Then reduce the milk and substitute grains or green hay.
It is fairly simple to provide space for one or two nannies. You will need a shed or small barn that is draft free and well bedded. Although goats fare well in cold weather they are sensitive to both drafts and overheating. The housing area for your goats will need access to a fenced outside area. The fence will need to be at least 4 feet tall or high enough that an agile animal will not be able to jump over it. Since this outside area is where your goats will get their exercise, it will need to be large enough to allow them to move about freely. Placing large rocks in the center of this outside area will give the goats a place to climb and is great for helping to keep their hooves trimmed.
The inside of your shed or barn should be equipped with a pen allowing a minimum of 5 square feet per goat. The floor can be dirt or concrete covered with a thick layer of hay. It is very important that the housing area floor is dry or well drained since goats are prone to foot rot. One wall of the pen should be solid with key hole openings large enough for each goat to easily put its head through to eat. A feeding trough should be attached to the outside of this wall. It should be deep enough for hay and grain, yet shallow enough that the goats do not have to strain to reach their food. Since goats are good foragers they will satisfy most of their nutritional needs if good quality forage is supplied within their pen. Nannies, due to their milk output, will need an additional 2 to 4 pounds of grain with legumes to ensure they are getting the proper protein. You will also want to make sure that your housing area has room for hay and feed storage. Grains will need to be stored in an air tight drum to keep the goats from eating through the feed sacks. A second stall should be provided for the kids or baby goats, with a separate feeding area. The housing area for your goats will need a door so that the animals can be in an enclosed space during the winter. It is also good to have a few windows so the area can be aired out and cooled during the summer months.
A milking stand will need to be placed outside the bedding areas. It is essential that this is removed from any area where hay or litter can be found. A key hole head opening and small feed trough should be attached to this table, making it possible for the animal to eat while being milked. The legs of the table should be at a height that is comfortable for you to sit down while milking. Goats should be milked for about three months after birthing and then allowed to dry up by discontinuing the daily milking. This allows the animal to refresh and will not overtax her strength. It is important with goats to have a milking routine.
Keep a calm atmosphere around the animal prior to milking to help her settle down in the milking stand. Wipe the udders with a warm, moist cloth for cleanliness and to stimulate the secretion of the hormone that relaxes the muscles holding the milk. Gently, yet firmly, grasp the teat between the first finger and thumb, pressing upward against the udder. Slowly close your other fingers successively and the milk will begin to flow. When the flow slows gently massage the udder from top to bottom and repeat alternating between each teat. When milking nannies cleanliness is very important. Brushing the animal before milking will remove particles that could otherwise end up in the milk. Also keep the hairs around the udders trimmed. Always be sure your hands, clothing, the milking area and equipment are clean.