Alpine & Pygmy Goats
Also referred to as: The Ladies, Hey You, and Captain Sprinkles
In the spring of 2015 my first three Alpine Goats arrived. Every year since then I have been breeding two or more does and selling the kids as companion animals or to other farmers for dairy stock. Although I let them dry up as their due date approaches, every year I milk those does that have been freshened and make as much cheese as possible. The whey (and some milk) is given to the pigs in order to promote growth and help them bulk up without the use of any additives or processed foods.
Goats are herd animals by nature and prey in the wild. They can spook easily and are incapable of defending themselves against predators such as coyotes or wandering dogs. As such I keep my small herd safely behind an electric fence which they have learned early on to respect. At night the herd is tucked safely inside the barn.
Although I aim for a late spring / early summer kidding season, temperatures are still often quite cold when the kids arrive in late April, early May. Keeping them inside during the first few weeks allows me to better monitor their health, speed up their socialization and bonding with people, and makes those late night feedings much easier!
Constructed of two by fours and plywood, the Playpen disassembles into six parts which are stacked in the garage until needed. A plastic sheet underneath and a generous amount of shavings serve to keep everything clean and nice smelling.
Needless to say it also makes working from home quite interesting as the peanut gallery in the kitchen is always ready with a quick critic if you’re even a little late with a feeding.
The Goat Barn
Built to comfortably hold a small herd of eight goats and 50 bales of hay at a time, the Goat Barn also allows for a small milking area and, with the removal of some hay in the spring, a small pen for the kids once they move out of the Playpen.
This is where adult goats spend their days and where the kids go after their first few weeks in the house. Built so that the goat door faces to the South East, most days the door is locked open and the goats can come and go as they please. Ample ventilation means there are no problems with condensation or mold and the inner cribbing ensures that even on the coldest, windiest days the goats are tucked safely out of the wind and free of any drafts.
Goats love to forage and will happily spend all day outside in the field – until they see someone head toward the goat barn – at that point the promise of potential treats sets off a mad stampede!
Aside from grazing in their field, the goats have constant access to fresh water and hay. Their diet is supplemented each day with a half cup of sunflower seeds in the morning and a half cup of dairy ration grain in the evening. Does that have freshened and are producing milk receive an extra four cups of grain a day to help them maintain a steady production. The all-time favorite treat is alfalfa cubes by far.
In Nova Scotia it is not legal to sell goats milk or goat cheese at the farm gate unless it has been processed at a government inspected facility. Therefore I do not sell either goat milk or goat cheese at this time.
Although the feeding (and eventual weaning) of the kids is a priority, it isn’t long after birth that a doe will start producing surplus milk. After the kids are fully weaned (in about two and half months) the entirety of the milk produced is available and the bulk of it goes towards making cheese. What little isn’t used for cheese production is either consumed at the dinner table or used to supplement the diet of the piggies.
Of all the types of cheese I’ve made, chevre is by far my favorite. A soft, easily spreadable cheese, chevre is easily flavoured, stores nicely in the fridge for up to three weeks, and does not take any overly specialized or expensive equipment to create.
Every year I bottle feed the kids born to my does. Kept inside, in a giant playpen for the first few weeks, the kids are heavily socialized and as a result are very friendly, almost puppy-like in their relationship with people. After the first few weeks the kids move out to a seperate pen in the goat barn where they are introduced to solid food and begin meeting the adults in supervised visits.
After they are eating solid food, have had their shots, and show no evidence of any health issues the kids are sold as pets, companion animals, or for milk production at another farm.