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Dairy Goats Have a Rightful
Place in the Food Chain

A Research Paper

By Jennife Riekeman

I try to have a glass of it when I get up, after school, and right before I go to bed. Yet, I doubt many people have ever tried it, or even thought of it. I am talking about a tall, foamy glass of goat milk. For a special treat, goat milk ice cream is delicious, and goat cheese is a great addition to party trays. At our house, and at any house, goat meat is always an option when deciding what is for dinner, or even just on the snack food tray on that all-important game day. While goat cheese is seen as a delicacy in many states, locally the only grocery store that sells goat cheese is Dillon’s. It is even harder to locate fresh goat milk in a grocery store.

Someone looking in our family freezer might be surprised; my last two Central Kansas Free Fair wethers are residing there. This year’s wether, named Watermelon, is lucky. He is still residing in the pens, but only until he gets a little bigger. While we don’t eat goat for every meal, it has been known to surface and be placed in a crock-pot to be eaten as dinner. One of the best ways that I have found to eat my wethers is as burritos, or as a substitute for beef in beef stew. My family and I belong to a dairy goat club that is centered in Lee’s Summit, a suburb of Kansas City, and to make the meetings more enjoyable, we have a potluck meal before we begin. For every meeting there is a meal theme, and occasionally it is Mexican, so when that happens, Mom makes cabrito burritos. "Cabrito" is the term that is used to describe goat meat.

Goats have been used for milk and cheese purposes for several centuries, yet many people living in the United States still believe that goats are just animals that you can see at the petting zoo or animals that eat tin cans. Many people don’t realize just how useful goats really are when comparing them to other animals, especially dairy cows.

"To most people the term milk is associated with cow milk, as if cows alone possess the ability to produce milk, especially in the United States where most of our dairy products come from dairy cattle" (Haenlein and Caccese).

"There are at least two goats (approximately 700 million) for every dairy cow (230 million) according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization residing within the United States" (Haenlein 24). There are over 200 breeders of dairy goats in my home state of Kansas and approximately 1,500 goats. My family and I own about 150 goats. Personally, I own about 25.

Growing up on a dairy cow farm which slowly made the transition to a dairy goat farm, made me more aware of the differences and similarities between goats and cows. One major difference is the difference between the attitudes, and the fact that the goats can be trusted to not run over their handlers, whether it is in the show ring or out in the pens. Goats bond well with humans, but can be mischievous and even outclass Houdini on some of the greatest escapes, especially from their pens.

When we sold the dairy cows and started showing the goats on a national level, we were amazed at everything there was to know about goats, goat production, and goat showing. I’m not saying I have learned it all, but I am well on my way, and hope to never stop learning new information that could help me in the future as a vet, potential judge, or just life in general. I am continuing my education and hope to attend the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) Convention for the first time next autumn when it is in Kansas City. I hope to walk away with more knowledge of the goat industry, and possibly my judging license. Maybe sometime in the next three years, before I turn 21, I will be able to compete for the privilege to become the ADGA Youth Representative.

Just the other day, I heard that a meat packing plant is opening in southern Kansas, and they are centering their production on the butchering of goats. Whether this is true, or just speculation, I am eager to learn more, and hope to become a supplier

Goats can live almost anywhere, because they are very well adapted animals. When comparing dairy goat breeds to dairy cattle breeds, there is more efficiency to the goat. There are breeds that can survive in all types of weather. The Nubian came from Egypt, and is suited for hot, humid areas that don’t have a lot of water. The Oberhasli, Saanen, and Toggenburg all came from the Swiss Alps, and can survive in the freezing cold. Then there are the Boer goats that can survive in the hot, dry, and desert types of environments, but they are known as the "beef" breed of goats.

Worldwide, goats have provided more food to people because they are less expensive and require less feed and area to live in. "The home consumption of goat milk, yogurt, cheese and meat sustains many more people than the consumption of cow products. In fact goats are the subsistence food for millions, who can’t afford cow products, or live where cows can not survive" (Haenlein 24).

Goats have been given many different "nicknames" over the years, because of the way that the American people saw them. They have been seen as animals that live in the dump and eat tin cans, and recently they have a new negative name "the poor man’s cow." "A goat will eat very little, occupy a small area, and produce enough milk for the average family. A goat can produce about a gallon a day. The idea of keeping a cow in a suburban backyard is more than the homeowner is willing to cope with and more production than the average family can use. This is why the goat is known as the ‘poor man’s cow’" (Haenlein 24).

When comparing one quart of goat milk to one quart of cow milk, goat milk has .25% less fat, and .5% less lactose than cow milk. A gallon of cow milk will sell for approximately $3.45, and a gallon of goat milk sells for $12.16 (Haenlein 25). While the prices of milk continue to rise, one thing is clear, the demand for goat milk is on the rise, and the demand must be met. In the state of Kansas, a person cannot advertise any type of raw farm product for sale, except for a sign at the end of the driveway. So unless dairy goat producers live on a major highway, the chances of selling milk and other dairy products are low. The only way to sell milk, or other products is by word of mouth. Greyhound breeders are a good potential market in this area, but they want the milk delivered and that is also illegal. Consumers must pick up the milk at the farm.

Recently we have begun to receive phone calls, letters and even e-mails from people wanting to purchase butcher sized wethers. While the demand is still small, it is beginning to rise, and being a producer, I must adapt to the changing markets to survive. "New York City has a new demand of goat meat. Of the top 20 immigrant groups in New York City, 18 or 19 come from goat meat eating countries. With new markets to meet, the number of goats living in the state of New York rose to 33,130, which was a 76% increase from five years before according to the 2002 Census of Agriculture. Goat meat fetches about $1.70 to $2.25 a pound in live markets and $4 to $6 in retail grocers. Goat meat has 50-65% less fat than prepared beef. The cholesterol content in goat meat is much lower than most dairy and poultry products" ("Immigrants spur demand for goat meat" 17B). "In 1998, over 450,000 goats were slaughtered at USDA inspected plants" (Gipson 24). This show that while the number of goats butchered is rising, it is still very small compared with the millions of cattle and sheep butchered annually in the United States.

"In New York City over 30 new live markets have sprung up where consumers can pick out the animal, and have it slaughtered to their specifications. Whether it is for religious purposes, or just for dinner" ("Immigrants spur demand for goat meat" 17B).

I prefer goat meat. I feel that it is a yummy, healthy alternative to the common types of meat that the American people eat. Every year at the county fair, when members of the community come through the barns, there are usually two different types of reactions to my wether’s names. They’re either one of total shock or interest. My wethers are usually named after food products. That way I don’t get attached to them when it comes time for butchering. In the last two year, I have had Pot Roast, and Tube Steak for my wether’s names. Most people don’t like to think about those innocent animals being eaten, but they don’t mind if they see a steer or a lamb ready for butchering. Where is the justice in that? Its okay for an innocent little lamb to become your next leg of lamb, but a goat can’t become a pot roast?

With a rise in the number of cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, many people in the medical field are dedicated to finding a cause and a treatment, or even a potential cure for this rising problem. "Some of the ‘sudden deaths’ of infants seem to be related to allergic reactions, which then result in anaphylactic shock. About 6% of the infants in the U.S. suffer allergic reactions to cow milk. Of this number about 14% (of the 6%) react to bovine serum present in cow milk. Individuals who are allergic to bovine serum in cow milk will have allergic reactions to a variety of dairy products that are also made with cow milk" (Haenlein and Caccese 2). "Goat milk is prescribed by many doctors for children that are sensitive to cow milk, and as an alternative for people who are allergic to cow milk" (Jandel 181).

While most of our customers are greyhound breeders for the puppies, occasionally people that need the milk either for themselves or for infants contact us. But again the state of Kansas limits how many gallons of raw milk can be sold off the farm, so the laws limit the number of people that we can help.

My siblings and I grew up on either soy milk or goat milk, because we could not handle the amounts of lactose in cow milk. While we all grew out of not being able to digest cow milk, to this day, I occasionally do get sick from drinking it, and have to take some time away from cow milk and drink something else. I would rather drink goat milk than soda pop or some other type of drink, but we only have the does milking in the summer and spring. The reason we don’t have the goats milking all year round, is that I am the only one in my family that milks the goats, and to ask me to milk all year round and put my school work on hold until I finish chores every day, is something my parents refuse to ask of me. While caring for the goats prepares me for my future occupation as a veterinarian, I still have to have the grades to get into vet school. I dry off the herd in October, at the end of show season, to allow me more time to do my homework, and then freshen the herd from late March to mid-May.

"Goat milk is very useful for people suffering from problems such as… asthma, migraines… stomach ulcers… and stress related symptoms such as insomnia" (Jandel 181). I always drink goat milk to cure a bad headache. My brother has frequent pains from his stomach ulcer, but refuses to try goat milk to see if it will help his pains, and possibly soothe the ulcer.

Goat milk is seen as a treatment for people with lactose intolerance because of the smaller composition of the fat globules in the milk. "Approximately 40% of all patients who are sensitive to cow milk proteins can tolerate goat milk proteins" (Jandel 181). Lactose intolerance is the reason why most of our clients come to us. Actually, on Monday, November 8, I was doing chores and a lady stopped by wanting to know if we had any goats for sale. Her son is lactose intolerant. They already own several goats but were looking for another one due to the fact that several of the animals were getting older, and she knew that those does wouldn’t be around forever. Even though our herd is currently not milking, she decided to purchase a doe, because she was bred and will kid out in February. I will miss the doe I sold, but I know where she is, and I have to remind myself, that she was just a recorded grade. While she was a nice doe, she wasn’t the cream of the crop.

So the next time I am in the grocery store, trying to decide what I want to have on the snack tray for the next "big" game day, or just searching the fridge to see what I want for my after school snack, I will always remember that I have another option with goat products. When I reach into the fridge and pull out a gallon of goat milk, and pour myself a glass, rather than asking "got milk?," I ask "why not goat milk?"

Works Cited:

Gipson, Terry. E (Kika) de la Garza Institute for Goat Research Goat Field Day. Langston: Langston University, 1999.
Haenlein, George. "Quality payment for quality milk around the world." DAIRY GOAT JOURNAL, Spring 2002: 24-25.
Haenlein, G. F. W., and Caccese R. "Goat Milk Versus Cow Milk." Newark: University of Delaware, 1984.
"Immigrants spur demand for goat meat." High Plains Journal 25 Oct: 17B

Jandal, J. M. "Comparative aspects of goat and sheep milk." Tikrit, Iraq: Tikrit University, 1996.

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