Our First Dairy Goats
When I was a little girl, my Uncle Larry would take me to the Farmer’s Inn in Sigel, Pennsylvania. We’d have dinner, maybe play miniature golf, and we ALWAYS had to visit the animals. Back in the early 90s, they didn’t have quite the menagerie they do now; back then it was just a handful of farm animals, of which the goats were by far my favorite.
In the spring and summer, they had a booth where you could buy a bottle of milk and feed the goat kids. One lucky evening, my uncle and I arrived just as they were closing down for the night and they had a whole rack of bottles that had to be emptied into the kids’ tummies. Uncle Larry always had a knack for making friends where ever he went, so while he visited with the person tending the booth, I was given the task of feeding all the remaining bottles to the dozen or so baby goats that swarmed around me.
I think right then, at about 8 years old, was when I fell in love with goats.
The two photos above were taken by my lovely and talented friend, Erica Bickel.
From a practicality standpoint, it wasn’t hard for me to justify wanting dairy goats on our little homestead. A family dairy cow would give more milk than what we can handle right now, and quite honestly I’m still working up my comfort level with working with such large livestock. Nigerian Dwarf goats, at about 75 pounds max, are smaller than some of the dogs that I’ve owned in my lifetime. At peak production, they give 1 to 2 quarts of milk per day, which is a perfect amount for us to drink and cook with.
So, on February 7th, we brought home two goats in the back of our Honda Element. I was worried the breeder might give us the side-eye on that one, till I saw that she too is an Element-owner, and she informed us she has transported up to 7 goats at a time in hers before. Kindred spirits! (For the record, once again the Element proves to be the most versatile vehicle EVER. It worked perfectly and everyone arrived safe and sound!)
Candy, our mama doe pictured above, is about two years old. She kidded on January 2nd this year and had one buckling (who was sold to another family already), and a little doeling that we brought home and named Reese (in keeping with her candy-named maternal lineage). Reese is spring-loaded and nearly impossible to photograph, for the record. (As are most goat kids, I think.)
Nothing like bringing home a doe in milk and diving in head first, right?
We are just starting to separate Reese from her mama at night so that we can start once-a-day milkings. Unfortunately, Candy has never been on a milk stand before and the only thing that keeps her from kicking me is a hefty helping of black oil sunflower seeds. But oh boy, once those seeds run out — all bets are off. When she kicks and tries to scrape my hands away from her udder, it makes me very glad I’m dealing with a dwarf goat, not a thousand-plus pound cow! It is all just a learning-curve for the both of us. She’s learning what’s expected from her on a milk stand, and I’m learning how to be a milkmaid, I guess. And we’re learning to trust each other. All the while, Reese bounces off the walls in the background, knocking over anything that gets in her way. Not distracting at all.
Reprogramming my body to wake up at 5:30am to milk a goat is a whole new experience for me. The rabbits and chickens could wait, but not mama-goat. I have never been such an early riser, but I’m quickly finding that getting up and heading outside in 20 to 30 degree temperatures to do barn chores will wake you up pretty quickly! When chores are finished, coming back in to some hot coffee and the morning news or a good book, though, is priceless. I have few quiet moments of alone time, and my new morning routine has been great for that. Plus, bonus: milk!
Uh, yeah. That’s a quart jar, not even a quarter of the way full. Not going to make much cheese with that! But this is just the beginning, and I am hopeful.
P.S. Today I turn 34 — thirty-freakin-FOUR, people! — and I regularly have to look around and wonder, how did I get this lucky? This is the life, and I’m so happy to be living it with my family.
Amanda lives with her family on a little red farmstead in northwestern Pennsylvania. By day she's a web developer specializing in WordPress and in her off time she enjoys working with goats and other livestock on the farm, canning, knitting, and crocheting.