Tips for Raising Dairy Goat Kids

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADairy goats are an animal that people seem to either love or hate. Raising dairy goat kids is a key part in keeping these animals as well as insuring that you have a continuous supply of milk with each generation being better than the one before. As you become familiar with these animals you will see a side that few others do. The purpose of breeding is to make the next generation better as even the best doe will not last forever. Having healthy, quality daughters to step up in her place insures a steady supply of milk, but this doesn’t come without a plan and a fair share of time.

Pound for pound a good dairy goat can outmilk a cow. In an open ag forum I would get teased by dairy cattle people and at the first insult of my goats I issued the challenge. The fact is a good Alpine in the herd milked 18 pounds per day on official test, and at roughly 100 pounds that’s producing more than her body weight in milk every week. Seen another way, a 1,000 pound cow at 10 times the body weight would have to produce 180 pounds (also 10 times) to equal her and that simply does not happen. This was a good doe but not even close to the world record holder. That title goes to a registered Toggenburg.

Heavy producing does need good management to maintain that kind of production without taking a toll on her body. These are the kind of does to product to the bucks for daughters that continue the family tradition. Often those criticizing the goat see the other side of the picture. This is the low production, hard keeping doe with poor tasting milk often because she’s grazing on brush and garbage forage that do not meet her nutritional needs. The dairy doe, like her growing kids, needs good nutrition to perform at her best.

As a homesteader you want the former type of animal or her daughters, whether or not they are purebred. Don’t gauge butterfat or production on breed as this can lead you wrong and any doe said to produce “a gallon a day” should have a clearly visible milk vein’ that runs on the underside of her belly. I’ve never seen a heavy milker without that vein clearly visible no matter what size the udder is.

Once you select your dairy kids from these types of animals you need to start early to keep them growing and healthy. If you are raising them from early on make sure they get plenty of colostrum from the doe, preferably two or three feedings. Due to some health issues many people remove the kids from the doe and pasteurize the milk. This also insures there is milk for the people as well as limits the damage a kid can do to a doe’s udder when aggressively nursing.

Contrary to often stated opinion goats do not “eat everything” and as you start feeding them you will wish sometimes that was true! They will nibble on many things and do have an appetite for boxes because it’s fiber. However, from early on the young dairy goat needs quality feed.

This means good clean hay and plenty of it! If you can find alfalfa mix hay so much the better. Have a feeder the goats need to reach into in order to eat and minimize what is pulled out of the feeder if it hits the ground many goats will not touch it! This adds up to a major cost for the homesteader as wasted hay may not be bad, just on the ground. Some people run a couple of hair sheep with their dairy goats to clean up such hay and make use of it!

Plenty of clean water is needed also for the growing dairy goat. Make sure the tank or bucket is cleaned often and keep it (again!) from where feet or debris can get into the water.

Many breeders provide a trace mineral block as well as a good mineral. If you run any lambs with the goats watch the copper level in the mineral goats need it but sheep can ingest toxic amounts of it. Don’t be tempted to feed sheep mineral but rather use a mineral for dairy cattle. The difference in this became clear when a change meant darker, richer colors on the Toggenburgs and a better hair coat on the goats. Some things goats and sheep are the same but in many you will need to adapt things down from dairy cattle.

Deworm young goats and treat for coccidia, a parasite that can kill a young goat remarkably quickly. This means treating with Albon or other drugs for coccidia as a regular wormer does not kill them. A good quality grain should be fed as soon as the kids will start nibbling on it. Don’t overfeed though as this can cause stomach upset which can be fatal.

There are not many vaccinations needed for dairy goats but a couple that shouldn’t be skimped on are tetanus and C&D. These will cost you under $8 including the disposable syringe and needle. The C&D helps protect against enterotoxaemia or “overeating”, a digestive upset that can be fatal. Tetanus is advised especially if there has been or are horses on the property.

Dairy got kids need a dry clean place to live. Dry is important as it not only prevents health problems but also prevents parasites. Good quality dairy got kids are an investment in your food supply. Feed and house them well and they will return it many times over not only in milk but also in their antics. There’s the occasional kid that especially likes people that grows into the doe that is always following you thisclose and it makes it even more rewarding to be able to say “I raised her.”


How to Make Goat Milk Soaps

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you have an abundance of goat’s milk and you use it for drinking, cheese, ice cream and every recipe you can find that has milk it’s natural to want to find other ways to use it. With heavy milking Toggenburgs, Alpines, Saanens and recorded grades there was plenty of milk and soaps were a natural extension to make and sell.

Goat’s milk soaps have been credited with clearing skin conditions and milk soaps as a rule are gentler than those with harsh chemicals. Making goats milk soaps is not difficult but it is exacting.

You will need to gather supplies. These include a large stainless steel kettle for mixing the soap. Make sure this is stainless steel rather than aluminum or other materials as it not only has to stand the heat but the caustic nature of the lye reacting to make soap. A stainless steel spoon helps as well as a stick blender used just for your soap making. A wide variety of molds can be used including plastic containers providing they can handle heat. A couple of candy or meat thermometers are needed also as you’ll need to watch temperatures.

Highly recommended are plastic safety goggles and long sleeves with gloves. Keep pets and small children out of the room or confined when mixing soap for their safety and yours.

You can follow an existing recipe or as you gain experience create your own. An excellent source for soapmakers is as you can plug in your type of lye, liquid, what kind of fats and it calculates how much lye to use for you.

For example to use 12 ounces of corn oil and 36 ounces soybean oil (vegetable oil) it calls for 12-18 ounces of milk and, for the medium range, 6.18 to 5.98 ounces of lye, with the lower range making a softer soap.

Measure the oils into a pan and place on low on the stove, with a thermometer attached to the pan to watch the temperature. While that is heating work on the other half of the equation.

Measure the milk into the pot and add the lye to it. Always add it this way and with milk soaps watch carefully your thermometer. I found better success by placing the pan I’m working in in a sink of cold water. As you add the lye you will find the milk heats up considerablythe cold water outside the pan helps disperse this heat somewhat. By watching the temperature try to keep it less than 140 degreesas it starts to heat up slow down pouring and keep gently stirring.

The reason for this caution is to keep the milk from curdling, a problem some soapmakers have found. By watching the heat and doing it this way I never had a problem with this issue. Once all the lye is added you’ll need to carefully balance things to bring the lye mixture and the oils to the same temperature. I used 100 degrees as my temperature. The important thing is that both are the same temperature.

Once the same temperature is reached add the oils to the lye mixture, stirring constantly. Some soapmakers use a stick blender once the oils are added while others prefer to stir by hand. Be careful not to splash it or allow pets or children to stir it. As you are stirring you are looking for “tracing” which can take more than 15 minutes but with a blender can take less. Look carefully for this which will leave a drop for several seconds or leave a pattern where you have stirred for several seconds. Once this is seen quickly pour into your prepared molds as the soap is soft but can set quickly.

Once in the molds lightly cover and cover with a blanket to regulate temperature. If the soap cools too quickly it can spoil a batch. Carefully check the soap daily to see when it is set soft but firm. If you are using a mold that requires cutting you’ll want to turn it out and cut while it’s firm but not hardened. Once your soap is cut place on a rack out of reach of pets and children to cure or harden.

As you gain experience you can add oatmeal and other things to your soaps after the oils but before tracing begins. Some even add shredded rose petals! The 48 ounce weight can make a dozen cut bars but if you pretty up’ the edges don’t throw away the peelings and pieces. You can make laundry soap and even soft soap also.

Don’t underestimate the danger of lye but don’t be afraid of it either. Treat it with respect and use it carefully. Always add the lye to liquid, not the other way around.

Soap making is a way to use some milk, although not large amounts, but is also one more thing you can produce at home. Milk soaps are not difficult to make.

Selective Crossbreeding for Dairy Goats

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore crossing any breeds, there must be a view of what you want to achieve. Crossing an average Alpine with an average Nubian will result in average or below average kids. Good quality stock is important, but even with this there are misconceptions.

If both parents are registered, the offspring that is 50 percent Alpine and 50 percent Nubian is known by the American Dairy Goat Association as Recorded Grade, specifically Experimental. That doeling can be bred to Alpine or Nubian toward American status in the breed. American Alpine or American Nubian indicates somewhere in the background there was a cross or a paperwork issue that prevented a doe from getting purebred papers.

Alpines have particular colors in order to be accepted. Anything resembling the brown of a Toggenburg is not accepted, nor is the all white of the Saanen. There is Cou Blanc, a pattern that is colored with the front end and neck white with dark on the head and hindquarters. Cou Clair the neck is tan, off white or shaded grey with black hindquarters. Cou Noir has black front end with white hindquarters, where the sundgau is black with white markings on the legs and facial stripes. Chamoisee is a brown or bay with markings including a black face, dorsal stripe, feet and legs. A two-tone chamoisee has light front quarters with brown or grey hindquarters. Pied is spotted or mottled, and there may be combinations of these patterns referred to as broken. These may have white into the pattern, such as a broken chamoisee. With a straight facial profile and erect ears, Alpines are sometimes slightly nervous. They can be heavy milkers.

Nubians are distinctive with the roman nose and long ears. With a wide range of colors in both solid and spotted, the Nubian is widely reported as being the highest butterfat. Many do not milk heavy enough to be competitive, but there are some breeders who have taken milking into selection traits. Many have a tendency to be noisy.

gguernseygoatsChristineBallColor is the last thing to look at when crossing these breeds. Choose a doe who is wide without being coarse. She should be feminine and produce a good amount of milk. Do not rely on udder size as an indication – many large uddered does won’t fill a quart jar. Instead, when looking at her in milk, look for the “milk vein” that runs along under the belly, usually from under the rib area to the udder. The larger this vein, the better she will milk. If you can’t see or feel this, do not believe she’ll milk “a gallon a day.”

Equally breed does not determine butterfat content. I’ve owned a purebred Alpine doe that tested at 4 percent butterfat, a purebred Nubian that was just over 3 percent and a half Nubian that was 2.6 percent. The only way to know butterfat and protein content is to have it tested.

Look for a wide udder when standing behind the doe, and a strong foreudder. Note the attachment. Pendulous udders and teats increase the chances of injury and damage to the udder. Once you have a good idea of your doe’s strengths and weaknesses go looking for a buck to breed her to.

PureglowGGBesides looking at the buck, look at his daughters. Could you handle those in your herd? The doe has a great deal of influence, but chances are if his daughters are solid, the chances of what you get being solid increases.

These same principles are involved when crossing other breeds. Have a plan. Remember when crossing under normal conditions, bucks cannot be recorded. If you end up with twin buck kids, it could be expensive meat. Alternately, you have really nice but unrecorded offspring.

Nubian crosses can be outstanding animals. Ideally you’ll end up with a quiet, calm recorded grade that milks well. Whatever you do, have a plan for the kids. If they are replacement milkers, pay special attention to the milk production records of the buck’s daughters as well as his mother.

They can be wonderful animals with great personality, but choosing to improve your stock is a good idea whether you show or not. If you’re breeding for milk, you’ll select for soundness, production, attitude and other characteristics that make them work for you