Saturday, April 26, 2014
The Great Goat Experiment - The Results!
For the first 13 years on our farm, I raised and milked full sized goats. La Mancha's and Nubian's to be exact.
I started out all involved in ADGA (The American Dairy Goat Association) Breeding acording to their showing and breed standards. We had a herd name and number, papered our animals, tatooed our herd letters on our animals...the whole nine yards. We kept a reputable clean closed herd. After a few years of doing this I was exhausted. It took me and several other family members four hours a day to do all the, milking and goat care. We ran two separate herds, one pure bread Nubian and one pure Lamancha. We had over thirty goats.
One day while I was milking... and so very tired, I asked myself why I was doing all this... I realized I was not doing this for my family or myself. All I wanted was enough milk for my family. I was doing all this to provide good goats for others to show. Since I had been breeding these goats for several years, I also learned that what ADGA wanted in goats as a breed standard, the things that made them valuable for show points, was not valuable to me. Although I wanted a nicly put together animal that looked good and held up for years...I also wanted goats that were easy to hand milk and gave a good amount of milk over thier lifetime. I made some decisions that changed everything on that day. All our goals for our farm and goat herd were now to make them what I wanted in a dairy goat and hopefully what other small farm milking people wanted as well...I am a much happier back yard farmer for it. Having goats was enjoyable once again.
I have found that there is just as much of a market for good back yard milkers, that are easy to hand milk, no matter what breed they are. It doenst matter if they are pure bred or a cross breed. (As a matter of fact, over all, I have found the cross bred goats to be healthier and more worm resistant) In our area if they are from good milk stock they will sell. Add to that, we still keep a clean closed herd and I usually have a waiting list on baby goats when they are born. I keep the best of the best and only keep a small herd. Enought does to rotate milking from year to year. Enough to not be a lot of work for anyone and enjoyable. Back then, I found I only needed two bucks and four does to keep my family in milk and genetics going for customers who bought the babies from me. I would have to change my bucks out every few years to bring in new blood if I kept any does for myself.
In 2011 I was in the market for a new buck. If I was going to keep any does out of my favorite does for my herd I needed an unrelated buck to breed to them. So I started researching herds in my area. I had not shopped for a Nubian buck in a long time. I found that many of the herds I used to look at stock from, had gotten out of Nubains. There were no really great herds in my area anymore. So I thought I would look for a Lamancha. Same thing. What I found is many of the breeders that used to breed the larger goats had moved over into Nigerian Dwarfs. This puzzled me and I wondered why. After doing much research I found that Nigerians Dwarfs were much more efficient on feed to milk ratio if from good milk stock. They were also more lucrative, as a good pure bred, papered Nigerian Doe from good milk stock can cost you 600.00 or more in our state. Add in moon spots and blue eyes and the price goes way up there. I also learned that they didn't need to be fed grain year round and only really needed grain while milking. I was intrigued. I was getting older and had some health issues and was having trouble handling the larger goats. Also my family no longer needed the gallon a day milk production that my goats each gave. I prayed about it, did some more research and in 2012 began the Great Goat Experiment.
I sold off my whole herd of full sized goats execpt for my two best milkers. Twinkie and Bluebell.
It was emotional as I had bred for years to get exactly what I wanted and had some really great, easy to hand milk, back yard milkers. I did a ton of research and looked at herd after herd online that bred Nigerian Dwarfs. I looked at udders of certain goats, calling owners and questioning ease of hand milking, teat size, orifice size, amount of milk given and proof of clean herd status. I narrowed it down to wanting to reserve several does born out of a few very good does, in herds within driving distance. I took the money from the sale of my goats from my full sized herd and bought four baby bottle fed does. These were out of four does that had what I was going to breed for. Ease of hand milking, large amount of milk for a Nigerian and sturdy bodies. I also bought two nice none related buckings that were out of really great milk does. (A buck is 50% of your herd, one should always by the best you can afford as you always want to have your goal to be... to improve upon what you have with each breeding you do.) I could not afford to buy adult goats, so bought bottle babies and raised them up and bred them. I knew that not all babies out of the moms I liked, would be like their mom genetically and what I wanted in my herd. I knew I might have to cull some. But raised them up and prayed for the best.
I also did a side experiment. I just did not want to let all those past years of breeding full sized goats go to waste. I wanted to somehow preserve my hard work and genetics in my two best full sized milkers and try out some mid-sized goats bred down from my two favoirte milkers that I had kept back, in case the Nigerians didnt work out. So I bred a very good Nigerian buck to my best full sized milkers that I had kept, to give me some mid-sized milkers to try. Out of those breedings I ended up with three does to keep, raise and see how they milked. Well, this was the spring I had been waiting for! I bred Amelia and Mini Bell last fall to a full blooded Nigerian buck and they freshened several weeks ago. I was so happy with them that I went ahead and sent my two full sized milkers that I had kept back off to another farm to be enjoyed.
Whew...I said all this to share my thoughts and findings on my Great Goat Experiment!
First, I will share about the pure bred Nigerian Dwarfs.
I have found they are very sweet tempered and easy to handle, even the bucks when they are in rutt. I can easily trim hooves and give wormer by myself with no issues.
The bucks and non-milkers do indeed stay fat and healthy on good pasture, when it is growing and Bermuda hay thru the winter(and a handful of grain a day to keep them coming to me easily as a treat.)
The milking does require way less grain for the amount of milk they give than my full sized milkers did. Also, this is the first year I was able to make cheese from the Nigerian Dwarf milk. It makes almost double the amount of cheese as I got from my Nubian and Lamancha milk. We don't drink a huge amount of milk but use it for cheese, custards and ice cream. So this milk is much better suited for our large family that makes these products frequently. We are going thru less than half the amount of hay thru the winter so there is a cost saving there and my feed bill is down by half for them as well. That is with me having 4 buck now, as apposed to the 2 full sized ones I used to keep and I have six does/milkers now as apposed to four full sized ones I used to keep. So they are much more economical for our family and saving us hundreds of dollars a year. Actually, to be very specific, I figured it out... $1,200.00 in grain and $300.00 in hay cost savings a year!
Since I bought from stock that was from proven milk lines, they are giving more milk than I thought they would. Most people say their Nigerians give on average about a quart of milk a day. Milky Whey is giving two quarts of delicious, rich, milk a day. This is her second freshening.
So to sum it all up. I am very happy to have made the decision to switch over to the Nigerian Dwarf goats. I am getting plenty of high fat, tasty sweet milk and they are very good, easy to handle goats. They have saved me a lot of money per month, something that really helps with a large family like we have. For our family, good quality Nigerian Dwarfs from good milking stock has been better for us than full sized dairy goats from good milk stock at this stage in our life.
Now for the experiment with the mid-sized milkers...
Amelia (she got her Nigerian ears from the dads side) kidded this year, her first freshening, with a single large buck.
Amelia's twin sister Mini Bell got the La Mancha ears from her mom.
So to sum up the breeding experiment of taking my best two full sized milkers and breeding them to my best Nigerian Dwarf buck to give me some mid-sized milkers... This breeding yielded three wonderful, smaller easy to handle does. The two that I bred so far carried over the good milking genetics from thier mom I was hoping for. They are a little larger than a Nigerian Dwarfs but much leaner so have the same body weight and mass. So are needing about the same amount of feed to make the same amount of milk as my pure good quality Nigerian Dwarf does I have freshened. I am glad I did this experiment and can't wait to freshen Calfy, the last doe from this breeding I have not bred yet!
I hope this helps anyone considering buying and milking Nigerian Dwarfs or breeding mini-manchas. As, if they are from good milk stock, can give you a lot of milk for much less money. God has bless us so much in this experiment and I believe God led me to do this as it is saving us so much money and so much easier than farming the larger goats for me at this stage of my life.
Blessings and Happy Farming!