Have you been thinking of getting goats because you want fresh, clean milk? Concerned about all the commercial products and conventional handling practices many goat resources recommend? Never fear! There’s a way to get natural goat milk and more. From manure to meat, there are some wonderful publications that can teach you to care for your herd in healthy ways; including Deborah Niemann’s Raising Goats Naturally (reviewed here for your reading pleasure).
Natural Goat Milk From Healthy Goats
A lot of people become interested in raising goats because they have a hard time digesting cow milk and are hoping to be able to more easily digest goat’s milk. Due to it’s smaller fat molecules, goat milk can often be simpler to digest for those with sensitive tummies. The Healthy Home Economist has a quality article on the benefits of both cow and goat milk and a little on the difference between the two – click here to read it. (Note that when she or I talk about the benefits of dairy, we mean raw–not pasteurized–dairy.)
A quick note on the topic of Cow vs. Goat: A lot of homesteaders wonder what the difference is between having a dairy cow and a dairy goat and are confused trying to decide which to try. In our upcoming book, The Do It Yourself Homestead, we give this topic a whole section of debate. Using interviews from dairy farmers on both sides, we provide some things to think about and some suggestions on which might be right for you. To learn more about the release of that book, and to be privy to special discounts and offers, please join our Book Circle by clicking below (I’ll only send you book stuff, I promise):
Ok, back to goats! If you maintain your own caprine dairy herd, large or small, there are some basic things you should know about keeping you milkers healthy in a natural way, without undue amounts of manipulation and supplementation from you.
No, goats don’t eat tin cans. Though I’ve seen bored billies chew on random items. The fact is, goats are quiet picky about what they eat, but are voracious eaters when they find something they like. What they like is actually quite helpful for most pasture management practices. As Deborah Neimann points out,
“Goats may have earned a reputation for eating anything and everything because they will eat a lot of vegetation that other livestock won’t touch, such as young trees, rose bushes, and weeds.”
Before she even mentions grain rations (which, as Deborah points out, ruminants like goats really shouldn’t have much of, if any), Ms. Neimann talks about the importance of pasture rotation. Even if you’re only on an acre or two, rotating your goats’ grazing area is vital for several reasons.
Goats aren’t prone to eating from the ground; they much prefer brush and shrubs to grass. However, they will eat grass if it’s all that’s available, quickly consuming whatever you have that’s tasty. Keeping you herd moving from one grazing area to the next will keep them from over-grazing any one place. Goats can decimate and area if left too long on it.
Parasites and Diet
Also, since goats struggle with intestinal parasites whose life cycles are lived out on the ground, keeping your goats from grazing down to the dirt provides a natural barrier to worm infestations. Plus, as the goats poop out worm eggs and then move on to greener pastures, the worms hatch and die without their hosts. Obviously, pasture rotation is more effective, the more pasture land you have but don’t discount weedy and overgrown areas of your property if space is tight. Remember, goats are browsers by nature, not grazers, and will most likely love your bushy areas.
Deborah has some other really helpful information about a balanced goat diet in her book, Raising Goats Naturally. The one thing I was disappointed not to see was a discussion of fermenting and sprouting grain. Ms. Neimann has a very balanced approach to her writing, always providing several sides to any one topic. She quotes scientific research but also discusses anecdotal success stories and advice. I would have appreciated her presentation on the benefits and drawbacks of the practice of fermenting and sprouting grain for goats even though, as we’ve said, “grass” is not their first choice of feed.
For an article on this topic, you can start here. This is something we’re currently researching and experimenting with on our own homestead, so I’m keenly interested in the topic.
General Goat Health
Deborah reminds us,
“Having goats is a lot like having children. Illness and injury are inevitable, and it is easy to get paranoid about every little cough. In reality, goats seldom get sick when they are living in clean conditions and are well nourished. And buying healthy animals that come from herds free of contagious diseases is also key to avoiding disease. However, when a doe gets to be a little ‘off’, you want to know what’s wrong!”
Ms. Neimann touches on some key points here. First, goats are living things and sometimes they’ll have health issues. Second, don’t freak out. Goats are really very sturdy animals. Remember to purchase healthy stock in the first place, and to keep their living quarters clean, with fresh straw and lots of quality food and clean water. With those simple steps, you’ll knock out a lot of health problems before they even occur–prevention is a more effective use of your time than finding a cure.
However, if you have a goat that is feeling poorly, there are several things you can look for and to which you can administer. Deborah has a great deal of information in her book on various illnesses, common birthing and milking issues and problems caused by the various parasites and worms that can effect goats.
The key to being savvy on this topic is to have several books that address goat care. In that way, you can educate yourself and decide what you’d like to do. Ms. Neimann gives a good overview of different wormers. She discusses herbal wormers enough to say that we still need to do quality research on the topic, which is true. (Don’t you wish herbs were tested as vigorously as commercial meds in this country?!)
For More Natural Goat Care Information
Another good place for goat information and a balanced presentation for those looking to manage their herds naturally is Fiasco Farms (www.fiascofarms.com). Though not a publication, this website can add to what you learn in quality books and provide you with lots of advice from experienced goat owners. Molly, the voice behind the site, also provides an herbal wormer for sale, should you like to try one. Hers is the one we use with our goats.
When we lived in the dry climate of Utah, especially with its extremes in temperature (that nicely kills off many worm populations), this wormer worked so well that when our vet did a fecal test for worms, he couldn’t find any. Not that he didn’t find enough to bother mentioning, he couldn’t find ANY – not one worm. We’ve since moved to humid Missouri and I’m guessing that I’m going to have to up my pasture-rotation game to keep on top of the worms here. We’ll see…
While Neimann’s book is a great jumping off place for most of us beginning with dairy herds, if you’re already deep into holistic treatments for your livestock, you may also want this book:
The Fun Stuff of Natural Goat Milk!
Deborah takes a lot of the stress out of natural goat raising with lots of good information and solid advice. She also educates you on the fun parts of having goats!
The Natural Goat Milk, Of Course!
One of the fun parts is getting beautiful, natural goat milk and Ms. Neimann can educate you on what you need to do to learn to milk successfully. Truly, it just takes starting out with your first lactating doe and practicing from there. You can do it, I promise. (To learn to train a goat to a milk stand, click here.)
Learning to milk properly will keep your natural goat milk clean and your goats healthy. Always remember to use a strip cup to check for mastitis, as Deborah reminds you. You may also decide to use a teat dip to keep the teats clean and disease free. (For a homemade teat dip, here or here.)
Making Natural Goat Milk Cheeses
What to do with all that goat milk? Why, use it in your dairy kitchen, of course! Ms. Neimann has a whole chapter in her book devoted to just that. If you’re interested in goat milk soap making, you’re in luck because Deborah will teach you how to do that, too. In fact, if you’d like to know more about using your dairy goats for meat, there’s a section on that, too. For her, it all started with that one buck. His name was Hercules and he just…well, you can read about it on page 245 of her book.
With Help You Get Natural Goat Milk
If you’re new to the world of goats, or have gotten your feet wet but you’d like to learn to manage your herd in a more organized, deliberate way, I think you’ll enjoy Raising Goats Naturally, by Deborah Neimann. Her facts are presented in a well-balanced way. Although I would have liked to see more alternative health treatments presented and a broader discussion on some topics, you will get sound advice from this book.
Like I said, I think you need to read several quality books on any topic before you can really start to find your way on any homesteading topic. Raising Goat Naturally is a good place to begin.
The goal is to educate yourself as thoroughly as you can and then just begin. Be sure you know enough to get started and keep your goats healthy and then jump in! Rich, creamy, natural goat milk is just over the horizon for you…
To pick up a copy of Deborah Neimann’s Raising Goats Naturally, visit the fine folks at Amazon:
For learning more about raising meat goats specifically (which can take you into a different goat world from dairy herds), try this book:
Other Goat Concerns?
To learn to prepare for kids (the only way to get natural goat milk), be sure you’re ready for them by reading this article – click here.
If you’re on a small-space homestead, you may still have some forage available on your lot (or you can plan ahead and grow it), please read this article.
To give your goats a little boost of nutrition, try this “weed and feed” – click here.
*I received a free copy of Raising Goats Naturally in exchange for an honest review. Receiving a copy in no way influenced my review – these are the actual thoughts that I thunk.