I often get strange looks when we mention that we have goats. Nothing to obvious mind you, since most people are polite or at least try to be. I can tell though that many people just don’t understand why we have them or why we spend the time milking them every day. Then there are others who find it somewhat fascinating that we have them and once I tell them the reasons they are even more intrigued and some even want to come and see them. I don’t mind and I enjoy having curious visitors come and see what we are up to. The next few posts will talk about the different reasons why goats are a smart choice for an urban or most likely a hobby farmer.
My number one reason for getting our first goat just after we moved here in November of 2004 was to have something for my then 6 year old boy and girl to be responsible for, not all on their own of course, but they began taking care of our Boer/Nubian cross doe the day we got her home and in her new pen. It wasn’t much of a pen but it worked. The kids have been taking care of goats since then and I really don’t see any end in sight.
4H and other clubs
Not long after we got the first goat we found out about the Nigerian Dwarf breed we immediately got our first two. They were the perfect size for the kids (human), easy to handle and in general as well mannered as could be. Shortly after adding them to our farm we found a miniature goat club and went to their yearly gathering and show in Cottonwood, Arizona and spent the week observing. We met some great people that were more than happy to help show us the ropes and tell us all of their secrets. We are friends with several of these great folks now and still call on them occasionally for info and ideas.
The kids (human) have competed in shows and have even won a few ribbons. At a young age they learned to pay attention to details and listen to directions. Clubs are a great way to get started and a little competition is never a bad thing. They learned that it is ok to not win and to have fun in the whole process.
Milking the goats has become a daily ritual and is actually relaxing when you get into it. Before we had goats we, meaning the kids and I, would be sitting in front of the TV after dinner until bedtime. Now after dinner we spend about 45 to an hour each night out back milking and feeding animals. There is something relaxing about milking and watching the bucket or jar fill up while you go through the motions. The kids have even said that they feel relaxed while they are milking. The kids rotate every other night so everyone gets a chance to do the milking.
We use the milk every day and then sell what we don’t use to friends and neighbors. I use it on my milk in the mornings and in waffles or pancakes when I make them. I make ice cream and from what I am told by everyone who has tried it some darn good soft cheese called Chevre that is really good on a cracker or sprinkled over certain dishes.
Goat milk is healthy and most people that are lactose intolerant can use goat milk for their dairy needs. I recently had a woman stop by to buy some milk that had not had any dairy in 12 years. Her doctor had told her that she was allergic and to stop consuming it. He failed to tell her that goat milk was ok and once she found out she could have it she started making cheese and ice cream and enjoying something that she had dearly missed.
Although we haven’t yet slaughtered our goats we have purchased goat meat to eat. The meat tastes more like game than beef does but it isn’t bad. The goats we have are all for dairy purposes and that is what we use them for. You can of course use a dairy goat for meat production but we have not gotten to that stage yet. Who knows, we might soon enough.
Yes, yard maintenance with goats can really work out well. Once a year when the weeds really start coming in I let the goats out to roam the yard and eat to their hearts content. Not only do they get rid of many of the weeds lining the border of the property and spruce up the place, they get extra feed which saves me money.
We have an elderly neighbor right next door to us who has a half acre pasture. Since he is older and does not have animals anymore this pasture was severely overgrown with dead grass at least eighteen inches tall. The only way for him to get it under control would be to bring in some heavy duty commercial mowers and that was going to cost him. So I asked him if he would let me put in a gate between his place and mine so I could let the goats in during the day and then put them away at night. He agreed and within about a month the whole pasture was trim all the way to the fence line and looking great. This is our second season of doing free yard maintenance for him and of course we love the extra pasture and feed for the animals.
So there are a few reasons to have a goat, or two, or ten like we do. There are more reasons but I think I will write about those individually. These are the main reasons for an urban or hobby farm to have them. They are actually the main focus of our little operation and not only are they productive, they are fun. Each one has its own personality and we have our favorites. So if you are so inclined then get one for yourself. You will be glad you did.