Sunday, July 24, 2011

Homesteading for Dingbats: DAIRY Animals - part 2

Dairy Animals - part 1

So you have decided, let us say, that you want to go with dairy goats
with your farm's milk producing animals.

You like, then, the low impacte goats make on the land
and appreciate the way they clean up undesirable plants and thorns.

You like the small, manageable size dairy goats come in, and you do
not feel the need to be flooded in milk.

Maybe you like the look of goats over the larger dairy cows.

You do not want to own a bull or have access to AI services,
and you either know you can keep a buck and wether companion
for him, or know someone with a quality buck you can breed
your does to.

You like the idea of the amazing cheeses goat's milk
can provide verses the heaps of butter you might
get without a cream separated and little effort from,
say, a Jersey cow.

Maybe you say the snazzy tie dyed shirt
my Saanen pal Jim K. proudly wears
that reads,

No Goats No Glory Men Who Stare At Goats Dark by gleekgirl

"No Goat, No Glory" is 100% true 

Maybe you picked up the book
Goat Song at Borders at wanted to hear
your own goats create a personal
ditty for you.

All in all, goats, you've decided are for your
homesteading milk needs!


The biggest obstacle in the beginning is deciding
which breed to go with.
This will prove a simple obstacle compared to
the care after your purchase.
Let me stop here and say that you do not need
to do is try to do this the cheap way.
Do not consider buying the foundations
of your herd from an auction
or breeder who has no idea what CAE,
CL and Coccidia is.
Do not start with unregistered animals.

I will explain why later.

Back to the breeds:

Average size, milk yield (MY) and 

milk composition of dairy goat breeds.*
Height (in.)
Weight (lb)
MY (lb)
Fat (%)
Protein (%)
Am. La Mancha
* 1989, 305 day DHI breed averages for milk yield and composition.
The above chart tells you about statistics on milk and butterfat production.

You see Nubians lead the pack in Butterfat and are behind in production,
 though the Nigerian Dwarf, not listed, has a higher % still.
The Saanens lead the way in production,
 but they have nearly the lowest

I have limited experience being around Toggenburgs, Oberhasli and Lamanchas.
What I know of them I will go over, but Saanens, Alpines, Nigerians and Nubians are
the breeds I know best.

First, Nubians. . . the most lovely of all the breeds,
in my opinion. They are the most popular, so consider that in a
sellers market, you might have a flooded area when it comes to
selling kids.

Because they come in so many colors, people have had a
tendency to breed for spots and flash, and this has hurt the
breed. People have overlooked conformation. They have a
tendency sometimes to fickle, weak constitutions. 
They are known for having great feet, something some other
breeds have serious issues with. They have, often, the most
palatable milk,according to many folks. The rich milk is great
for cheeses. They are a large bodied goat, and they make a
great dual purpose breed if you want to produce meat with
extra bucklings.

They are a breed for the snobs, which means buy
 Purebred because it is the one
 breed people poo-poo American status on (meaning
one relative way-way back in the paperwork wasn't a

They give less milk than most of the other breeds.
They are quirky and very loud. They are stubborn,
but they have the most personality, short of, perhaps,
the Nigerian Dwarf. They are possibly the most personal
and intelligent. This is what endures them to me. That
and they are eye candy! And that butter fat, no other
large breed comes close! 4-6 lbs a day is what I've
found to be typical of the does. Some do 8lbs.

Second, Saanens. The milk house of the dairy goat world.
They are hardy. I got into this breed because of the hardy nature
 I observed in them.
They come in only white (Sable is a spring off breed, and they
have color).  This leads some to speculate, and likely justly so,
that the hardy constitution is do to having nothing but milk and
 body to breed for. . . no being drawn away into spots and color

They are very laid back, a bit lazy, even. They are not very
vocal. They are very large. Some people are put off by the
huge size, but that is what I liked so much about them. They
are prone to bad feet.
You have two camp in Saanen breeders. Those that breed
for mega production and very long lacations, and then you have
 those that breed for conformation and do not get that super milker.
Somewhere in between is your best bet. You do want
a doe giving over 8 lbs a day if you are dealing with a Saanen, and
you do want sound conformation, which means decent
feet, strong and straight back and good legs. . .but mainly,
 make sure the udder is correct. American Saanens are desirable,
verses Purebred status being what  you're looking for in Nubians.

They are also used as a dual purpose breed.

Alpines come third. They are, by all accounts, a fairly aggressive
goat with other goats, esp. other breeds.
 They are hardy, perhaps the most hard of all. They forgive mistakes
made by beginners in their care at lot more so than, say, Nubians
 ever would. They are also not very vocal, as a rule. They come in
a variety of colors,  though not nearly as many as the Nubian
 or Nigerian.
They are a medium sized to large breed. They are not typically
 thought of as a dual purpose breed. They rank right behind
Saanens in production, but you have a smaller, easier to manage
goat for the trouble.
Some people report to me the milk can sometimes not be as
palatable, but then many people feel it is no different than
other milks. They are also a very popular breed. I've found
 a gallon a day is typical, or more, of the breed.

Nigerian Dwarfs are a hard goat to not love.

They are tiny and winsome!

They come in all the colors of the rainbow, and they are also
popular pets. This makes finding quality milking stock a bit tough.
 Be sure to not get caught up in blue eyes and pretty  colors when
you opt for this breed.
They can really produce if well bred with milky lines,
but they typically have short teats and are so low to the
ground, you might need to invest in milking machine to
avoid issues milking efficiently.
They are amazingly hardy. They usually kid, even as first
freshening does, with triplets and quads are common later on.
The excess bucklings sell easily as pets, so if you're not
 wanting to sell bucklings for meat, this is a plus, too.

They can give 1/4 a gallon a day, if well bred for milking, and
 they consume a lot less than the large breeds.
They are zany and very fun to watch, but they are can be a bit loud.

Oberhasli, Toggenburgs and Lamanchas are breeds I have not been around
as much, and I have not owned any of these breeds. From what I
know of friends who breed them, the Lamancha usually lands at the top
of lists, despite what someone breeds, as a great producer and with a
great temperament. They consistently are said
to be the most likable breed. The Obers are a nice choice for someone
looking for a Mid sized goat, though they are uncommon and quality
animals are hard to find. The Toggenburg is basically the same, though
less so, I believe, than the Oberhasli. Both Togs and Obers come in
only a single color for each breed. Lamanchas come in a fairly wide
variety of colors.

An increasingly popular option for those looking for a smaller breed,
but those wanting more milk and easier milkability than what is
offered in Nigerians, is a cross between a Nigerian buck and
a large breed doe.

The Miniature Nubian produces a higher butterfat giving
doe than the Purebred Nubian, and the cross creates
a hardier animals than the Purebred Nubian. It is hard
to sell the first and second generation kids because
they usually have helicopter ears, so be prepared
for that. This is what discouraged me from repeating
this breeding. If you're able to buy 3rd and up generation
kids or adults, then they are a nice, hardy cross.
They, like other crosses, if out of Purebred
parents, can be registered through the MDGA.
The Mini Nubian cross will not produce as well
as the other crossed, but again, you're getting
super high butterfat.

Anytime, I have found, you cross a Nigerian
with a large breed, you're going to get a
smaller, hardier animal. The problem really
exists only in whether or not the kids will sell
well because they do or do not look like
the miniature version of the large breed.
The Nubian presents the hardest challenge
in this regard.
Goats have a steep learning curve.

You must watch out for CAE, CL,
Goat Polio, Copper deficiencies,
Bloat, kidding problems,
Selenium deficiencies, coccidia,
conformational and udder problems,
mastitis and other issues.

With proper management, goats
are a fantastic joy to own.
The next blog in the Homesteading
for Dingbats series will focus
on choosing a doe or future herd,
what to look for and on management
once you've made your purchase.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Homesteading for Dingbats: DAIRY Animals - part 1

So you are thinking of adding a dairy animal to your farm or maybe you have
already bitten the bullet and have done so.

 I find dairy animals the most complex of all farm livestock

The learning curve is high. The differences in breeds is vast.
The things you need to know create a list a mile long.

There is so much I have learned, and there is so much I wish
I had been aware of 3 years ago.

I would have done things quite a bit different, but that is all
water under the bridge, and it helped to teach me a great deal
that have proven invaluable.

First the question you should ask yourself is why do you
want the dairy animal?

These animals have been bred for production, and almost
all require milking daily, some even with the offspring
are on them, though not all.

Are you ready for milking 1-2 times a day, like clockwork?
If not, if you feel unsure about dedication
to milking, then look into a herd share program,
if your state allows them. Contact
a local Weston A Price chapter leader for info.

What will you do with the milk? How many animals do you
need to fulfill the farm needs? Are you in a state where
herdshares or raw milk farm sales are legal? Do you have
chickens, pigs or dogs you can give excess milk to?
Do you want to make butter, soap and cheese? Do
you plan to breed to sales and for a quality animal
in addition to breeding for milk for your farm?

Dairy goats are easier and better suited to most farms
when compared to dairy cattle. They are easier on the land,
wallet and easier to milk and handle. They produce, if
well bred for production, more than enough for most
families, though making butter is not easy without a
pricey cream separator with goat's milk.

Goat's milk is fragile. Some folks just
don't like the taste. If it is handled right,
it taste like cow's milk. Many people do
not handle it right, and you do not have to
be as careful in the cooling of cow's milk.

The problem with many dairy goats is that
many dairy herds carry CL and CAE, which
are two things you do NOT want to deal with.
CL is a Zoonotic disease. This means people
can catch CL from drinking an infected goat's
milk. CAE is not contagious to humans, but
it is transmitted to goat kids from colostrum,
is fatal and painful for the goat. CL and CAE
are found is more than 50% of goat herds.

You do have diseases to be concerned about dairy
cattle, but it does not appear nearly as
rampant as what you find in the goat world.

Many Breeders of goats, because they are cheaper
than dairy cattle, breed anything. They do not
regard quality, conformation, milk production
or hardiness. Dairy cattle typically run higher
in cost, do not come in flashy colors and
leave folks less room to breed for pets
or without thought. Also, keeping a
dairy bull is so dangerous, many people
use AI to breed their cows. This assures
at least half of many heifers brought great
genetics to the table. Goat breeders are
notorious for breeding pets, flashy colors
and for blue eyes in Nigerians. So many 
do not often seem to regard the importance
of milkable udders, good production
and hardiness!

All of that said, dairy cows are massive
creatures to feed. Jersey cows are
prone to milk fever, Holsteins
give enough milk to flood a family
out for weeks on end. Cattle do not
seem as forgiving as goats when
nutrition is not exact. They seem to
have a much, much higher incidence
of mastitis. They really do not
given as much milk considering
body size and feed amounts when
compared to a mega production dairy
goat, either. Milking a cow is a much
longer affair, messier and even a bit
dangerous compared to milking a
goat. Goats rarely share bodily
functions while on the stand, but
cows will do so quite often. One
can deal better with a pint of pee
and a cup of pelleted poop easier
than runny cow pies and so forth.
Still, many goats have very difficult
to milk teats, where cows typically
will have easy to milk teats.
If you're looking to buy a bucket milker,
then this will not matter, but few homestead
folks have $800 to buy something
to milk a single animal or
even a few. Besides, with the
proper teat size, milking by hand
is quicker than machine milking.

Dairy goats must have grain
to produce. Please do not believe
otherwise. They have been altered
by selective breeding for so long,
there is no possible way to avoid
a good amount of grain during
lactation. There are some dairy
cattle, especially milking
Dexters and Jerseys, which can milk
on only forage. This is less
expensive and more sustainable.
Holsteins and many Jerseys, as
well as Guernseys and Ashires,
are not typically able to milk
without some level of grain.
But Milking Shorthorns, Minis and Dexters,
to name a few, are often able to milk
on grass alone, if it is of good quality.

I have found goats to be, on average,
much higher maintenance in regards
to health when compared to cattle.
They have serious mineral
requirements, and they have a much
larger problem with parasites. They
are likely to have more kidding 
problem, fall victim to issues from
feed changes, too much grain,
founder, mold and so forth.   

Milking a goat is easier on the back when
compared to milking a cow,
and I must say, the goat is a lot
easier to handle all around when milking!

If I am to be frank, for the average homesteader
that doesn't feel the call of dairy production
in her soul, the Dexter Cow or low production Mini Jersey
or Dual purpose smaller breed cow
is likely the BEST choice.

Obviously, I am a dairy fanatic with
not enough sense to fill a spoon because
not only do I have several breeds of Dairy goats,
but I also have a Mini Jersey cow.

Don't ask what I do with all of the milk.
I have not a clue.

Pick a direction, go that way UNLESS
Your last name is, like mine,
CREAMER and you have
dairy written all over you!

The reason I argue for the Low production
cows for most homesteaders, like a Dexter, is
you can leave a calf on her and
milk as needed. She isn't going to give so
much that you're doing to harm her
by not milking and allowing her calf
to take all of the milk. She doesn't make
so much milk, like a real full size Dairy cow, that a calf
can't consume it all. She can be dried up
quickly if need be. She can produce on only
grass/hay if high quality. The size is small
when compared to a full size Jersey.

NOW, if you are really more into the
goats for their personalities,
cheese making, small size (esp. when
talking Nigerians), ease of impact
on the land or so forth, then
YOU DO NOT want to miss my next
Dairy Animals: Part 2

This next blog with explain all you need
to know about buying goats, why goats,
things to look out for and what breeds
you want to consider and why!!

I will not further address cattle beyond this blog
in the Homesteading for Dingbats series (ha ha!).
My expertise, little as it may be, lies more with goats.

 I believe, for now,
I've given the average homesteader
A LOT to mull over and certainly enough
to decide which dairy animal she or he would like
to bring to the farm. Heck, you might realize
you are like us "Creamer's" and you need them all!

Gosh, I hope not - for your sake!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Garden: Summer's Bounty

We are truly not green thumbs here.

We tried to start plants indoors this year.

We failed.

Not only did we fail, but we waited too long to even
buy started plants, and so when we finally did do so,
our peas shriveled and died right away from the heat.
Our peppers are all paying the price for a late planting,
as well.

However, some plants grow in spite of our silliness!

Anyone can grow cucumbers, summer squash and

Thankfully, those are some of our favorite veggies!

So far, the tomatoes, corn, squash, zucchini, cucumbers,
string beans, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower  and collards
are all doing well.

We've harvested tons of yellow squash, a few zucchini,
a few beans and lots of cucumbers, though we did not pick
the first few in time, and they became overlarge.

We happily go out and pick the newly ripe veggies
each morning or evening, and tonight was the first time
we did so and were able to use the vegetables in
our fare!

In addition, the biscuits include our fresh, free range

The cucumbers will be made into bread - n - butter pickles,
as well as dill pickles tonight!

I do have lots of blog plans in the next few days,
weeks and months! I have been so busy,
writing blogs has been a HARD THING to fit in,
but I plan to play catch up!



Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens

- Proverbs 27:23-27

"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares."

- George Washington