We are in love with goats. These gentle creatures fit perfectly into our homestead. Even with the smallest breed of dairy cow, a Jersey and her calf, we were running out of cleared land for pasture, hay, grain and gardens. Her and her calf alone required at least 8 acres, since we need to put up hay for six months of the year. And we ended up feeding a lot of excess milk to the chickens.
So we have made the transition to goats to provide our milk and meat. After watching our Jersey cow mow down the pasture with anxious worries of running out of pasture too early in the fall, which would run us short on our hay supply come spring, we both breathed a sigh of relief watching these two goats graze. It is almost absurd how little they eat, and between the two of them we will have enough milk and butter on the table.
Goats are much easier to handle, and as a woman who did not grow up on a farm, I appreciate that difference. But they are notoriously difficult to keep in a fence. For this time of year, we are tethering them in the pasture during the day, and feeding them in the barn at night. With the moose moving through the pastures, we cannot reliably keep a fence up, and tethered, they would be vulnerable to hungry bears or coyotes at night.
Pilgrim is not too sure about the goats. Nostrils flared.
But he is pretty quick to make friends with them. After this picture, he actually spent the entire afternoon with the goats. I think he was a bit infatuated.
This is Penelope. She is a year and ten months old. Half Alpine (dairy breed) and half Boer (meat breed). She throws more to the Alpine in her features, and looks to be a good little milker. She is still giving a liter of milk a day from her spring lactation, but I will dry her off this week. Both of the goats are bred and due to kid in mid-January. Penelope was handled by her previous owner and had been milked a few times. She has settled in well with treats of apples and mangles (fodder beets) and plenty of attention.
This is Juniper, Penelope's daughter from a Boer buck, making her one-quarter Alpine and three-quarters Boer. She is ten months old, and the reason why Penelope is still milking... Juniper was never weaned. This little Juniper berry is a little wild though. She was never really handled or caught, so she runs off when we approach, and is skiddish. We are training her to be caught and to approach us, with offered beet tops as her favorite lure. With each day she is less skiddish. It is critical to settle them both in, if they were to get loose, we would need to be able to catch them. Penelope would be easy, and most likely, Juniper would stay close to her, but she could just as easily run off in the first week of being moved to a new place.
All in all we are happy goat herders. And by the way, the milk is delicious. It does taste different than the rich Jersey milk we have been drinking. But to be honest, the cream was so rich it sometimes gave me a stomach ache. Not so with the goat milk, and it does not taste "goaty". I have yet to try separating the cream. With only a pint at a milking, I don't think I would get much but a dirty cream separator. So we will have to wait until January to try making goat butter.