Our Little Goat Herd
The Johnson family has a small little herd of Nubian goats. Lately, our herd has been growing and we've added a few Saanans, an Alpine, and a LaMancha goat as well.
The BUCK: We have a new billy goat this year (2014) - Mr. Alpine - who is the most skittish thing you've ever met. :-) He practically does leaps above our heads whenever one of us gets close to him. Silly guy. :-) One must have a BUCK present in order to breed the does. Bred does give birth to baby goats (kids) and give MILK. Fresh goat milk is the reason we own goats. :-)
KIDS galore: We always seem to have a few kids running around. This year, we had 12 does kid and so there were lots of little goats all over the place in the spring. We bottle fed a few, too, which is always fun. And, as not-so-typical, we had does kidding all the way up into July.
DOES: And, of course, we have our milk does. We are up to FIVE milk does right now: Skitso, Chewy, Cori, Patches, and Gentle Lady. 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. Although, it does seem to be growing again.
Milking the Goats
Dwight and the 3 oldest boys are our faithful, consistent milkers. They milk twice a day - about every 12 hours. Milking is often a family experience! We all pile onto the quad and zip up to the upper pasture and the milking barn. Burnell, Orin, and Chance have been milking now for years and are quite proficient milkers. Lately, the next "crew" has begun taking their turns mastering the task. Ty and Quint have joined the milking ranks. In the winter, while the does are being bred, we slow to milking once a day. And then we "dry up the goats" completely 2 months before they kid. It gives both us and the does a little break.
The Milking Routine:
There are several jobs to be done. Burnell is usually the first to get to the grain bucket and set out the grain on the stanchions. Quint has recently deemed it his responsibility to let the goats out to be milked. Taking his job very seriously, he jumps off the quad, runs over to the gate, and unlatches it. Dwight, Orin, and Burnell milk (unless Burnell decides to scale the wall, ride his bike, chop down a tree, or some other boy-hood adventure), while visiting about life. Its a wonderful time to get to know the boys and spend quality time together. Quite often, the moon or the stars are out at night and one feels just a little bit closer to the great God that created all this.
On occasion, Dwight and I find it fun to walk up to the goats after the boys are sleeping, for the evening milking. Its a great time to catch up on all the days happenings... AKA sharing all the funny stories of what the boys did or said that day. :-)
Fresh Goat Milk is the most foundational ingredient in all of our soaps!
Caring for the Goats
We take great care of these "ladies." HAPPY GOATS GIVE LOTS OF GOOD MILK!
Their FEED: We grow our own hay on the property. We have a high-protein blend of Orchard Grass that we grow in the summers here. Because of the warm days and the irrigation, it happens to make for some very good hay. The hay in this area is often shipped all over the country because of its high nutrient value and growing conditions. We are blessed to have this hay for our goats.
Their GRAIN: We give each milking doe a ration of grain when they are milked. This grain helps with their production and hormones.
Their SUPPLEMENTS: 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 they hay. For example, this area tends to be low in celenium -- an important mineral needed for baby development. We give the goats a free form mineral supplement (their vitamins!) -- especially during pregnancy. This helps to produce good looking offspring... and good milk.
Their MEDICINE: We don't vaccinate or immunize our goats, which means you'll never get any of this in the goat milk that we use. However, since goats are prone to worms in their tummies, we give them a natural DEWORMER in the form of Juniper 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 worm free! YEAH!
Disbudding: We dehorn the goats when they are 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: We humans have fingernails that need to be regularly trimmed. Goats have hooves that need to be trimmed. 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).
Breeding: All the does must be bred if they are to give MILK. :-) 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 have typically bred our does to either a Nubian or Boer Billy goat, but this year (2014) we bred the does to an Alpine buck. It's been fun to watch the kids this year, as most have 2 cute little "waddles" under their chins.
Kidding: We love kidding season, here on the farm. It is Marilee's favorite time, and she often gets to help with the delivery. However, most of the does kid without us knowing, and are just fine. Someimes 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 is common for goats to deliver twins -- more common than a single kid, or even triples. However, we've had our fair share of all 3 -- and this year had quads (4) for the first time ever! Surprise, surprise! We like to leave the kids on the does for their first 8 weeks, and then begin to wean them off while we begin to milk. Occasionally, we have to start milking a doe early, when she only kids a single kid, as there is plenty of extra milk.