Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why We Have Goats

   I have always wanted goats. Ever since I was kid. So when we moved to our small property, it wasn't long before I found and purchased a pair of bottle baby wethers.


   Why did I get bottle babies? Doesn't that make for a lot of work and money? Yes, yes it does. However bottle raised goats develop a strong bond and that strong bond is what you need when hiking with goats. Formula for goats is expensive ($60 for a 5 gallon bucket. We used 2 buckets for our 2 goats) and there is a lot of debate about the safety of goat milk replacer. 

  We used Land O' Lakes brand and I highly recommend it. It is VERY important to get a goat milk replacer, not an all animal or goat and sheep replacer. Goats and sheep have very different nutritional requirements, I have no idea why the livestock industry still lumps them together. Oh well... It is also very important to make sure when you mix the milk there are no lumps. Lumps can make your little goat pal sick. Mix well!

 

   Why did I get wethers? Wethers make the best pack goats. They are very friendly, and grow fairly large, depending on the breed of course. 
   You can pack does, but they won't carry as much weight. You could pack a buck, but that's not a wise decision. Bucks are hormonal, and they reek to high heaven. 
   Our wethers (a Toggenburg and an Oberhasli) will grow to be around 160-200 pounds. That's a lot of goat. If I train and condition them properly they should be able to carry up to 60 pounds each. 
   At this point in our lives we don't have the time to take them out and get them in optimal physical condition, so these two should pack around 40 pounds each easily. They are yearlings now and will continue to grow for 2-3 more years, so light weight only until they are done growing. Maybe by then we can hike more and get them fit, here's for hoping!

   I will do a more in depth training post later on, but for now here are the basics of what we are teaching our packers.
   Goats learn in many the same ways as a dog. Very easy to train if you are patient and consistent, and have lots of treats. Goats are very food oriented.  
   Teach them to come when their name is called, teach them to load into a truck on their own. When they are 200 pounds you don't want to have to physically load your goats. Not fun...  
   When they are young you will want to start water training. Goats HATE water. The sooner you can get them in the water the easier this part will be.
I'm not going first, you go first.
  
   The best thing you can do when training you goats is to just take them with you when you go for a hike. Experience is the best teacher of all. 
   Whenever we go out for a hike, or go camping I try to take at least one goat with me. I don't take them all because that would be chaos for me. We have 3 kids and 2 dogs also, taking along 3-4 goats would be a bit overwhelming. :)


   Now, on to the ladies. Why did we get 2 does? We bought our does for their milk, obviously. My daughter can't have cow milk, it does bad things... 
   Goat's milk is much easier for our bodies to digest. It is naturally homogenized-ish (it will still separate, but not as much as cow milk). Why is this good for digestion? The fat globules in goat milk are smaller, making them easier to break down. Goat milk also contains less lactose and the casien (protein) is very different from that in cow milk. All around easier to digest and utilize. 
That is a win for Katie's tummy.
   So why didn't we just buy dairy free milk or goat milk from the store? Have you seen the price of that stuff?! Crazy... It ends up being cheaper for us to own and milk our goats than to buy milk from the store. 
   A lot of people say there is no taste difference from cow to goat milk. I have found this not true with our doe. She has strong milk. I'm not to the point where I can drink it straight or pour it on my cereal, Katie loves it though, and that's what matters. 
   This strong taste can be due to a number of factors, one could be that I haven't figured out how to cool the milk fast enough (the longer it is out of the goat and warm, the more sugars break down) or it could be Rosemary's feed, or even just her. Some goats are just more "goaty" than others. 
   I think Rosemary is just a goaty goat. I am hoping her kid, Ginger, will produce nice milk after she kids. We shall see if she inherited her mother's goatness or if she tends to be a little sweeter.
 
   Rosemary is a purebred Alpine, Ginger is 1/2 Alpine 1/2 Saanen. They were rescued from a meat truck and were in pretty sad shape when we got them. They are fat and happy now. Well, as fat as a dairy goat can be. 
   They have been bred to a Nigerian Dwarf buck and are due to kid in early March. I AM SO EXCITED!!!

   Well, there are my goats and the reason behind their life here in a nutshell. Goats are my passion so you can expect many more wordy, picture filled goat posts in the future. :) I love goats...

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