Keeping Goats for Milk
by Peggy Deland
If you want to keep animals for milk, you should buy cows, right? Think again.
Goats are easier to care for, easier to milk, and goat milk has unique
properties that make it better suited for human consumption.
Goat milk is widely believed to be a healthier choice than cow's milk, and a
study conducted by the University of Granada seems to confirm this. Rats fed
goat milk recovered more quickly from iron deficiency anemia and bone loss than
rats that that were given equivalent amounts of cow's milk. Goat milk is also
hypoallergenic because of its similarities to human milk; many people who cannot
drink cow's milk have no problem digesting goat milk.
Goat milk isn't just good to drink, either. Goat milk cheese, yogurt, and even
ice cream are easy to make at home. Goat milk soap is gentle on the skin and
rich in protein and minerals. Despite the hefty price tag that accompanies
commercial goat milk soap, it's easy and inexpensive to make yourself.
Caring for Goats
You'll need at least an acre or two of land to keep your goats on, or more if
you plan on keeping several goats. You'll also need a dry, well-ventilated
shelter that your goats can access at will. A shed or outbuilding will suffice,
but make sure that the roof is in good repair and it can be mucked out easily.
Goats are notorious escape artists and can get through fences used to contain
other livestock. Four-foot-high woven wire fencing will usually keep your goats
within their pasture, but make sure that you choose a goat-proof gate. Aluminum
gates won't stand up to goats; use heavy-duty welded metal gates to prevent
escape and injury.
SSaanens, LaManchas, and Nubian goats are all considered good dairy breeds
because they large quantities of high-butterfat milk. If you're short on space,
Nigerian Dwarf goats are quite small but still produce plenty of milk. Whenever
possible, buy goats from a local breeder rather than a livestock auction or
broker. They may cost a little more, but you're more likely to get healthy goats
and most breeders are happy to answer any questions you have.
Goats are very social animals and can become unhappy if kept alone. For best
results, buy at least two nanny goats, but don't buy a billy goat unless you
plan to house him far away from the females. Keeping a billy goat near your
nannies will give the milk an unpleasant flavor, probably as a result of hormone
Goats will graze on almost anything and appreciate variety, but dairy goats do
require two or three pounds of commercial feed each day to support pregnancy and
milk production. They should also receive hay and other roughage, such as corn
stalks, to promote good digestion. Although goats are very hardy, they're prone
to intestinal parasites and must be dewormed regularly. Herbal deworming
formulas and organic feed are available at retailers that cater to organic
Most nanny goats must be bred
yearly to continue producing milk. You'll need to stop milking the goats while
they're pregnant, but you can safely resume about a week after the kids are
born. Goats rarely encounter problems while giving birth, but keep an eye out
just in case and have your veterinarian's phone number on hand.
Once the kids have weaned, most nanny goats will continue to produce milk for
quite some time. Some will continue for years, but this is unusual. In general,
you should milk once a day until the kids wean and twice a day thereafter.
Keeping the nanny and her kids separated overnight will increase the amount of
milk you get each morning. The kids will still get plenty to drink throughout
Goats aren't difficult to milk by hand, but the technique is a bit different
than that used for cows. You'll need a raised platform, preferably with a
stanchion, for the goat to stand on while you milk her. Ask a local goat farmer
to show you the proper technique, or watch an instructional video before
attempting to milk your goats.
Although keeping goats for milk may sound like a purely practical endeavor,
goats are friendly, playful, and get along well with children and dogs. Raising
goats will provide your family with a constant supply of fresh goat milk and
goat milk products -- and you may just wind up with a new family pet!