Meet Our Goats
UPDATE SPRING 2019: As our business has grown, so has our need for milk. Consequently, we have expanded our herd and moved it off-site to a remote location that is more accommodating to an ever-increasing goat herd. We also obtain some milk from select goat milk dairies around central Oregon. Read on to learn the ins and outs of managing a goat herd!
Dwight had always loved the idea of having goats, and our story really begins when he first started buying goat’s milk for the kids to drink after they were weaned. When the price per gallon began to increase (and we kept having children), Dwight decided to buy a few milk goats. In February of 2007, we welcomed our first goats to the farm: Molly, Velvet, and their 3 kids.
As we have grown and our uses for fresh goat’s milk have expanded, we’ve been able to welcome many more goats to our herd and now have a small herd of Nubian, Saanen, Alpine, and LaMancha goats.
In 2014, we adopted our first billy goat, Mr. Alpine. who is the most skittish thing you've ever met, but is loved and adored by all of us. We must have a buck present in order to breed our does and have new baby goats (kids) each Spring.
Every Spring, there can be anywhere between 20 and 40 kids (baby goats). On a rare occasion, we’ve even had does kidding all the way up into July. We bottle fed a few, which is always fun.
And, of course, we have our milk does. We are up to fifteen milk does right now, including our beloved Skitso, Coraline, Patches, Patch (her daughter), Goldy, Millie and Friendly. They are wonderful milk does who have been giving us milk for our family for years, along with several others. There are several other first-time does on our place, too, but we're not milking them yet. At one time, we had almost 100 goats on the property, with several ready to kid more! That was a few years ago and we've since realized that that was a bit extreme for us. So, we're back to a more manageable herd size located near-by at a local Bend dairy.
Caring for Our Goats
The Milking Routine
Milking at the Bend Soap Company farm is a family experience! A few years ago, Dwight and our older kids would head up to the milking barn in the upper pasture twice a day to milk our goats. Now, as our boys have gotten older and we got a milking machine, the boys have taken turns milking so they can earn more money (instead of splitting it 6 ways!).
There are several jobs to be done; Opening up the grain bucket and setting out the grain on the stanchions is the start. Getting the milking machine all prepped and in place is job #2. Then, the milk goats are let out into a separate pen to make sure each one is milked. One by one, they are loaded up, milked, and then let back into the big pen. On occasion, if the family gets home late and kids need to get directly to bed, Dwight and Marilee willI head up to the milking barn on a "date" after the kids are sleeping. It's a great time to catch up on all the days happenings (like sharing all the funny stories of what the kids did or said that day.)
In the Winter, when the does are being bred, we slow to milking once a day. Goats do not have to be pregnant to produce milk. When they are pregnant, we stop milking the goats at least two months leading up to their due dates so that they can rest and have plenty of milk for their little ones.
Fresh goat's milk is the most foundational ingredient in all of our soaps!
We grow our own hay on the farm and have a high-protein blend of Orchard Grass that we grow in the summers. Because of the warm summer days and the irrigation, we are able to make great hay! In fact, the hay in this area is often shipped all over the country because of its high nutrient value and growing conditions. We also give each milking doe a ration of grain when they are milked. This grain helps with their production and hormones.
Just like us folks who don't get all we need from the food we eat, there are certain nutrients that the goats need in addition to the hay they eat. For example, the area we live in tends to be low in selenium, an important mineral needed for baby development. So, we give the goats a free form mineral supplement (their vitamins!), especially during pregnancy. This helps to produce good looking offspring and great milk.
Our goats are never vaccinated or immunized which means you'll never get any of these ingredients in the goat milk that we use to our goat milk soap products. Since goats are prone to worms in their tummies, we give them a natural dewormer in the form of Juniper tree branches. Dwight and the boys will cut off branches from the numerous Juniper trees that surround our property and throw them in with the goats. The goats love the greens, the berries, and even the bark of the juniper trees and devour them like treats. This keeps them free of any worms!
We dehorn our goats when they’re young so that their horns don't get stuck in the fences. This also keeps them from being able to injure one another. In the wild, these horns would be more necessary for their protection, but not here in their home on the farm.
Trimming Their Hooves
Just like how humans have fingernails that need to be regularly trimmed, goats have hooves that need to be maintained and groomed. Without proper trimming, their hooves will grow long and may cause the goats to walk poorly or have joint troubles. This trimming can be done with either a special pair of trimming scissors or a razor blade which is Dwight's preference.
We try to breed a new doe when she has reached about 70% of her full weight. Before that time, it seems to be too early. We typically breed our does to Nubian, Boer, and Alpine billy goats and love seeing the difference that the kids each year.
Kidding season (when the baby goats are born) is in the spring, typically between March and June, and is one of our favorite times of year here on the farm. Marilee often gets to help with the delivery even though most of the does kid without us knowing and mother and baby are just fine. Sometimes the first-year does need a bit of extra help having the kids latch on, which we find to be a fun chance to be with the new kids.
It’s very common for goats to deliver twins — more common than a single kid or even triplets — and we’ve had our fair share of all three and have even had a goat delivery quads (4)! We like to leave the kids on the does for their first eight weeks and then begin to wean them off while we start picking back up with the milking schedule.
Our Motto: Happy Goats Produce Great Milk
It’s been quite a journey since adopting our first milk goats back in 2007, and our little herd of goats has certainly grown over time. We’re big believers in the idea that happy, healthy goats produce great milk, so going the extra mile to care for our goats is something that comes second nature to us. The top notch care we deliver to our goats shines through in the quality of the goat milk soap products we craft; give our goat milk soap and milk bath products a try to see and feel the difference for yourself.
We encourage folks to schedule a free Farm Tour where we can show you around our facilities and give you free travel size bars of our famous goat milk soap.