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Goat Notes For Beginners

By Martha Fehl

I never met a goat I didn’t like, well, except maybe the one who ate my morning glory plant roots and left the blooms dangling in mid-air. I had to forgive her though; she was just doing what goats do best, browsing the available forage in order to be able to give me lots of wonderful milk every morning and evening. According to Dr. Sandra Soleman, Animal Nutrition researcher, goats are the most popular animals in the world. And their popularity seems to be growing at a time when other livestock industries seem to be struggling with a variety of issues. Here are some basic notes about goats which I have complied to perhaps explain to others, why it is that goats are becoming such popular animals, worldwide.

The goat is known as a ruminant, or cud-chewing animal. It has a four-compartment stomach and can eat grass, leaves, hay, grain, commercial pellets, and drink water every day. Extra minerals provided in loose form or prepared blocks can add additional vitality to the normal goat through dietary intake.

Goats like to drink cool water in summer and warm water in winter. It is also in their best interest to have their hair coats trimmed or shaved in summer or at least brushed to help rid them of any hidden parasites. Hooves need to be trimmed every six months to encourage proper growth and leg structure.

The best part about raising dairy goats is being able to benefit from the milk they produce. Goat milk is thought to be the closest to human milk in composition and is delicious and sweet when handled correctly.

Goats like music and massage at milking time. It is best to create a regular schedule for milking twice daily, approximately 8-12 hours apart. A common goal for milking chores is 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., though variations work just as well. Regular milking encourages maximum production and optimal udder health. Stripping out the udder after milking keeps bacteria at bay, as does using a good teat dip to close the opening of the teat, called an orifice.

Good tasting milk is the result of immediate and proper cooling and the use of clean equipment. Milk should be chilled to 34 degrees as quickly as possible after it is taken from the goat. One way to do this is to have a sink full of ice water ready and immerse the milk bucket in the water while finishing up other chores. After it is cooled this way, strain it and put it in the refrigerator.

Pasteurization can help the milk hold it delicious flavor longer than raw milk. To pasteurize, the milk must be heated to 165 degrees and held there for 20 seconds. Then, to preserve the flavor, it must be cooled quickly and stored in glass jars in the refrigerator.

Milk can be used for human consumption or fed back to the goat kids. Dams, or dairy goat mothers, usually have one to four kids, but some have been known to have five at once. The first milk after kidding, or freshening, is called colostrum. It is usually darker yellow in color than regular milk and contains high nutritive value for the kids. The dam will usually produce colostrum for about three days, at which time the milk will become whiter and foam more freely when it enters the pail.

Kids eat three to five times a day for the first week of their life, but can then be fed by bottle twice daily, taking about 20-24 ounces per feeding. Most dairy goat breeders feed their kids milk at least eight weeks, some more, some less. Goat kids can be weaned when they are eating hay and grain readily and are growing well. They should be vaccinated for enterotoxaemia (aka overeating disease) and tetanus at weaning age. They should already be disbudded and tattooed by this time too.

After kids are weaned there should be an abundance of fresh goat milk. Most goats give five or six quarts of milk per day, or about 150 gallons per year. This can be made into delicious goat milk cheese, yogurt, ice cream fudge, or even soap and hand lotion.

Goat milk has a more easily digestible fat and protein content than cow milk. Its smaller fat globules allow for better dispersion during the digestion process and less stress on the human system.

People who are allergic to cow milk can often drink goat milk because it is naturally homogenized and because it passes very quickly through the stomach. It also has higher naturally occurring amounts of Vitamins A, B, B6, B12, and niacin, than cow milk. Goat milk is also higher in digestible calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, chlorine, and manganese. It is lower in sodium, iron, sulfur, zinc and molybdenum.

Goat milk cheeses are treasured in many countries. Some popular forms of goat milk cheeses are: cottage, blue, pot cheese, neufchatel, cream, romano, provolone, cheddar, brick, and ghee.

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