Goat keeping is very simple, and the equipment for the “backyard dairy” is just as simple: A stanchion and a manger for feeding are the basic requirements. You may wish to add a milking stand, attached to the wall.
By their nature, goats are affectionate and gentle. They are highly intelligent and can be taught almost any trick that can be taught a dog. The milk they give is easier to digest than cow’s milk. Also, goats are easier to handle and less expensive than cows.
There are five principal breeds of dairy goats in America.
- Nubians are of English, African and Oriental origin. They are characterized by large size, long drooping ears, arched nose, and any color or combination.
- French Alpines range from white to black spotted. Ears are upright, face dished.
- Saanens are of Swiss origin. They are white, of good size, with short, erect ears, dished or straight faces.
- Toggenburgs are a Swiss breed. They are medium-large; brown in color with light markings down the face, on legs and under body; ears short and erect; face dished.
- La Manchas are very calm goats and excellent milk producers. They have small, almost unnoticeable external ears and long, straight faces.
Within each of these breeds there are grade classifications such as purebred, recorded grade, American, and crossbred. A purebred goat is one whose parents are registered as the same breed. A recorded grade goat has only one registered parent with the other one being of mixed or even unknown breed. American goats are the result of three successive crossings of a grade goat with a purebred. When two purebred goats of different breeds are mated, the result is a crossbreed. In addition to these types, there is the unrecorded grade goat whose parentage is unknown.
As with any animal, the purebred type is the most valuable goat though it will not always produce more milk than an unrecorded or crossed type. The main advantage to any of the graded goats over the unrecorded ones is that you have proof of the goat’s age, records of its parentage, and perhaps even some information on the dame’s milk production. A purebred, grade, American, or crossbred goat costs a bit more than one that has no papers, but at least you know what you are getting.
Buying horned goats is usually ill-advised, because of the harm they can cause. Horn growth can be stopped when the kids are tiny by applying dehorning paste or cauterizing the small from buds.
Goat’s milk is more easily digested than cow’s milk because of its smaller, more easily assimilated fat globules. For the same reason, it is also more nourishing, for people are nourished not by what they swallow but by what they digest. Tuberculosis does not exist among goats, so their milk needs no pasteurization and runs no danger of losing its vitamins or having its calcium salts altered by heat.
Many people start to use goat’s milk to help them through an illness, and then develop a taste for it. Goat’s milk is sweet and pleasant to the taste. Goats are particularly discriminating in their feeding habits. The doe is odorless and clean and nearly always produces high-quality milk.
A good doe will give three to four quarts of milk a day-plenty for most families’ needs. To produce this amount of milk about four pounds of hay and two pounds of grain daily are required. You should purchase two or more goats, however, and by having them freshen (produce milk) at different times of the year, a reasonably constant milk flow can be maintained throughout the entire year.
Young females may be bred to freshen at 14 or 15 months of age if the well developed. The gestation period is approximately 5 months. Fine, purebred males are available within driving distance of most communities.
The average suburban lot can provide, much of the maintenance for goats, unsprayed leaves and trimmings from family gardens will go far to meet the feed requirements. Add alfalfa hay, or any good leguminous hay, with a light grain ration and the goats will thrive at nominal cost.
Feed represents the major portion goat-raising budget. Goats, like cattle sheep, are ruminants. They have stomachs that lets them store large amounts in one compartment while “chewing their cud” (breaking down plant fibers adding the enzymes needed to extract). For this reason, goats should have regular access to hay, grass, bark, and roughages.
There are various commercial rations prepared specifically to insure proper nutritive goats. Hay and grain make good feed, with the proper protein and mineral (especially calcium) supplements. Organic garden can add kelp, molasses, cider vinegar, and other nutrients to their feed.
The goat also converts into high-grade manure. The goat’s digestive system is such that few if any weed seeds through her undigested. The composition of goat manure is about the same as that of manure, but of course varies depending the kind and quality of feed she receives. Disregarding minerals and some other similar nutrients, goat manure will contain about:
- Water – 64 percent
- Nitrogen – 1.44 percent
- Potassium – 1 percent
- Phosphorus – 0.22 percent
The manure of the goat, being dry and is clean and odorless. In fact, the dairy doe is perhaps the cleanest of any animal, and premises can be absolutely free of any if reasonably sanitary conditions are-rained.
Goats do not require costly housing. Only a few essentials must be remembered: House them in a clean, dry, free from drafts but well ventilated stay, they will stand almost unlimited cold in any climate.
Minimum space requirements for a goat is approximately 20 square feet per animal, sand or gravel floors are desirable since they remain dry and are easy to clean when the goat house or pen is scoured each spring and fall.
Bedding can be made from sawdust, straw even ground cornstalks. Old bedding makes excellent contribution to the compost heap. Stock fencing is often preferred in manger construction. A keyhole manger is one way to minimize hay, since the shape discourages goats from eating uneaten hay.
Goats require a constant supply of clean water. Salt and mineral blocks are essential.