Basic Needs for Owning Dairy Goats

I recently had occasion to put together a list of basics for some folks new to owning dairy goats, and though it may look intimidating, remember that you don’t have to go out and buy all this stuff at once! Most of it you will accumulate here and there as time goes by. You will need to have some items assembled before you can proceed, though. Milking equipment falls into this category. It’s pretty difficult to do a good job of milking without the things you need to do it. If at all possible, be sure to check the local classifieds, Craigslist, or eBay to see if you can find used equipment before rushing out to by new items. Lots of times you can find what you need and save some money!


  • Always have your veterinarian’s phone number available where you can find it immediately.


    • Phone numbers of friends and acquaintances who own goats and are willing to help you if need be.
    • Always be sure goats have shelter from the weather, access to clean, fresh water, and an adequate mineral supplement for your area (ask your vet to recommend one).
    • Invest in a good all-purpose reference book on dairy goat management. There are a number of excellent ones on the market—many are even available in Kindle editions (a few titles are Goats for Dummies by Cheryl K. Smith, Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats by Jerry Belanger, and The Whole Goat Handbook by Janet Hurst. There are many more. Check them out!)
    • Know the normal range of vital signs:
      • Temperature:    101.5-104⁰ F.
      • Pulse:                70-80 beats/minute (can be faster in kids)
      • Respirations:     12-20/minute (can be faster in kids)

For newborns:

    • 7% Iodine for dipping navels. Tamed iodine spray is not sufficient for this job.
    • Rounded- end scissors for clipping navels
    • Rubbing alcohol for cleaning scissors after use
    • A supply of clean old towels for drying newborn kids
    • Tetanus antitoxin (kids need 250-500 IU. Injections—this is roughly 1 ml. or 300 units)
    • Sterile disposable 3 cc. syringes with 1-inch 20 gauge needles
    • For bottle-feeding: Bottles & nipples (your choice Pritchard or regular lamb nipples) or a Lambar set-up for feeding kids. Your choice, depending on how many you have and if you can/want to feed by hand or not. You will also need a brush to scrub the inside of the bottles or comparable equipment to clean Lambar tubing.
    • Optional: Pro-Max Multi-paste (a nutritional booster. Good to give whenever administering an antibiotic to older animals also)—you can substitute a different brand, if you wish. It’s just what I’ve used.

For slightly older kids:

    • Collars: You will want them to learn to lead ASAP. You can color code them to their dams, too, which is handy if several look alike.
    • CDT vaccine (AKA “Three-way,” contains Clostridium perfringens types C & D, plus Tetanus toxoid): For protection against enterotoxemia and tetanus. Kids will need an initial 2 ml. dose with a booster 3 weeks later, and an annual booster thereafter.
    • Elastrator with rubber bands for castrating buck kids
    • Disbudding iron: Be sure you get an electric one that is sufficiently powerful to get hot enough and stay hot. Don’t go cheap here. It will only result in having to deal with scurs (small deformed horns) or worse, having to go back and dehorn later.
    • Tattooing kit with numbers, letters, and paste: You may not need these if your goats are unregistered.
    • Kid box: Very handy if you have to tattoo or disbud by yourself. Can be bought on-line, or you can build your own if you’re able. Here’s a link to instructions on building one yourself:
    • Di-Methox coccidiosis treatment—or your choice of brand. This is what I’ve used.

For mature milking does:

    • Collars: Indispensable for handling goats! It’s good to have a lead or two also.
    • Milking/grooming stand: You can build your own or buy one on-line, though these are pricey. It can also double as a grooming stand if you can pull it away from the wall. Here’s a link to instructions for building one:
    • Hoof trimmer
    • Electric clippers: Necessary for clipping udders, around wounds, and body clipping
    • Large dose syringe (50 cc.) or drenching syringe for giving liquid medicines and de-wormer
    • CDT vaccine for annual booster shots
    • De-wormer: Consult with your veterinarian on which to use when.

Milking equipment:

    • 5-qt. tinned or stainless steel bucket to milk into. Bucket and equipment must be made of non-porous, non-reactive materials (i.e. no aluminum or plastic) that can be sterilized.
    • Tinned or stainless steel milk strainer
    • Disposable paper milk filters
    • 8-qt. or larger tinned or stainless steel bucket to strain milk into after milking. Should have a cover
    • Strip cup
    • Udder wash or teat wipes to clean udder and teats before milking
    • 1% iodine teat dip, Nolvasan, or Fight-Bac for treating teat ends after milking
    • Disposable paper towels
    • Glass containers for storing your clean, strained milk: ½-gallon canning jars work well and are relatively inexpensive.
    • California Mastitis Test Kit (CMT), in case you suspect mastitis

General Equipment/Supplies:

    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Cotton balls
    • Disposable Nitrile gloves
    • Rectal thermometer for animals: These have a ring on the end so you can tie them onto tails to help keep them in place. Digital thermometers are available also.
    • Measuring tape for obtaining weights: You don’t need a special tape for this. Weight tables for goats are available on-line or in numerous books on goats. Here’s a link to one on-line:
    • Udder balm
    • Tamed iodine or Blu-Kote spray (antiseptic)
    • Ointment for cuts & scrapes
    • Mineral oil (for grass bloat)
    • Milk of magnesia (anti-constipation)
    • Kaopectate (anti-diarrhea)
    • Propylene glycol (for ketosis)
    • Dairy safe UltraBoss liquid for external parasites (lice): Can also be used as fly & mosquito repellent.
    • Several disposable sterile 3 cc. & 12 cc. syringes. You can buy them inexpensively in boxes of 100. Don’t worry, you will use them.
    • Sterile 1-inch 20 gauge needles—it’s good to have a few 18 gauge needles on hand for giving antibiotics, too. These can also be purchased in boxes of 100.
    • Homemade Electrolyte Recipe: Here’s mine (sorry, but I don’t remember where I got it!). There’s a slightly different one in Goats for Dummies on p. 197:
      • 2 tsp. table salt
      • 1 tsp. baking soda
      • 8 Tbsp. honey, white corn syrup, or crystalline dextrose (do not use white sugar)
      • 1 gallon warm water
      • Add the salt, soda, and honey or corn syrup to the warm water. Administer using a dose or drenching syringe. Give an adult goat 1 pint or a smaller goat or kid ½-1 cup every 6 hours until diarrhea stops. Always wait an hour before feeding milk to a kid who’s gotten a dose of electrolytes—and don’t mix the two together!

Why I No Longer Sell Milk

I’ve been struggling and unhappy recently. I’ve been aggravated and stressed out, too. Why? Because of trying to sell milk from my goats!

I have some special problems here. For one thing, I live in a remote location far from an urban center, so the population base is very limited. Also, I have dairy goats—not cows—and I want to sell raw milk, not pasteurized. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know why, but basically it’s because I like goats and they’re easy to handle. Their milk is better for humans than cow’s milk, and raw milk is far healthier than pasteurized. I’m not going to quote the studies. They are easy enough to Google, if you’re interested in reading them.

Selling raw milk in the United States is a difficult proposition, in fact you can’t sell it at all in some states. I’m fortunate that the State of Oregon does allow the sale of raw milk under certain conditions. If you run a commercial dairy, then you’re covered by those regulations, but if you aren’t then you are forced to stay small: For goats, you can have no more than nine does in milk (and that’s EVER in milk, by the way); for cows, you can have no more than two milking cows; you cannot deliver your milk—people must drive to your farm to pick it up; and you cannot advertise (a lawsuit successfully challenged this statute a couple of years ago, so the State no longer prosecutes you for advertising). All that is pretty limiting, so obviously the push is for everyone to have Grade A dairies under State supervision. That’s pretty expensive and complicated to do! I can’t afford to do that, without getting a loan and buying much more property and several hundred head of goats, and frankly, I don’t want to run a commercial dairy. I have a friend who does, and it is not for me.

I hadn’t gone looking for milk customers. When Sam & I bought our goats, our idea was to have a few milkers for our own milk and to raise extra kids for meat. We could sell the extra milkers and doe kids as potential milkers, too. We did our homework, and the bloodlines we have are also successful in the show ring and do well on DHIA Test and Linear Appraisal, so selling goats has never been a problem. It’s the extra milk we produce that’s been the problem. When we retired, our primary aim was to engage in activities we enjoyed and to reduce problems and stress, so dealing with this extra milk was becoming a problem.

Normally, I don’t have any extra milk until all my kids are weaned. There is usually enough left over after feeding them for our house use, so it works out well. After weaning, though, there’s a ton of it. The past two years I’ve made cheese, and I probably have enough cheese squirrelled away to make it through the Apocalypse. Fortunately, I like making cheese and we like eating it, but there is a limit. We also are not allowed to sell any dairy products, other than milk, in Oregon, unless we jump through more legal hoops.

So when I got a couple of calls from local folks wanting to buy milk, I thought, “Terrific!” I had some sort of romantic idea that they would all become my friends, too. Ha! To make a long story short, it didn’t end up that way, and yesterday I had enough and decided they were all fired.

One would think, since I have a unique product that is supremely healthy for people that it would be appreciated. One would think, too, that since they had contacted me, not the other way around, that I might decide not to serve them if they made me very unhappy. At any rate, I am done with having a refrigerator full of milk because people can’t be bothered to show up to get it when they are supposed to, because in this day of having a phone in one’s pocket 24/7/365 it is too inconvenient to call and say you can’t come by, and because I’m tired of handing out milk jars right and left that I have paid for and never having them returned. One might think that they would realize that I’m doing them a service—and I DON’T HAVE TO?

My nephew is making a few calls for me, and I will be feeding my extra milk very soon to a couple of weaner pigs. There’s an added bonus in that they will also process garden debris and kitchen scraps. They will also never complain, and they will always be appreciative. When they are big enough, they will either be butchered for our own meat (yes, I make sausage and have a smoker), or they will go to the sale. Either way, it looks like a win-win for me, and I won’t have to be stressed-out any more.

New Owner’s Goat-Buying Guide

In the springtime, more than perhaps any other time of the year, many people start thinking about having some goats of their own. The reasons are many: (1) You have decided to be more self-sufficient, so along with a garden and some chickens, dairy goats would make a nice addition; (2) Your children are in 4-H and have decided on a goat project; (3) You love knitting or weaving, so you think you’d like to try raising some Angora goats for your own fiber; or (4) You have a back lot on your property that’s loaded with weeds that you need cleared. Whatever the reason, do a little homework in advance and save yourself (and the goats) a lot of grief!

Eating leftover hay in the sheep pen

Imnaha does eating leftover hay in the sheep pen

Before you do any research, seriously ask yourself what you want from your goat project and consider the amount of time and money you’re willing to give to it. As with any other animal, goats have definite needs in order to thrive, and that requires a commitment on your part. Before you buy the first one, you need to have housing and a secure pen for them, plus water, and adequate hay and bedding to get started. If you want dairy goats, you will need a milking stand and utensils for handling the milk, too. Even brush goats need shelter and a pen, so don’t think you can just bring your new little darlings home and turn them loose in the back yard or tie them to the clothesline. That will only end in disaster! They love to eat those decorative shrubs and plantings found in most back yards, and some of them (azaleas, rhodies, daffodils, and lilacs to name a few) are even toxic to goats! You will need to feed and water them twice a day, and if they are dairy goats, you will need to milk them too. They will also need their facilities cleaned up at least once a day. You can easily spend an hour or more morning and night with your goat project, so don’t underestimate it. Be realistic.

The type of goats you buy will depend on the uses you have in mind for them. There are dairy goats, fiber goats, meat goats, and dual-purpose goats that can admirably fulfill more than one function. Learn about the breeds that fill the bill for your intended use by getting a few books from the library, doing research online, or talking to some of the knowledgeable goat folks in your area. Find out what goats are available where you live and ask if you can come by for a visit. Make an appointment and be clear that you are new and are trying to learn before you buy. Most of us who raise goats don’t mind helping out new people, as long as you respect our time.

Please be aware that you cannot buy just one goat. You will need to bring home a minimum of two, because goats are herd animals and will drive you and your neighbors insane if one is left alone. Let’s face it, you don’t want to be herd queen, anyway. Any combination of two goats will work fine: two does, two kids, a doe and her kid, a doe and a wether (castrated male), even two wethers if you’re raising meat or want them as pets or brush goats. Bucks probably won’t be a consideration, as they can be noisy and stinky during breeding season. As with roosters with your flock of hens, many cities’ local statutes don’t allow them, either.

Okay, so you’ve made a commitment of time and money to your goat project. You’ve decided what breeds interest you, and you’re ready to buy and bring some home. How do you know which goats you should get? You want healthy animals without problems. Beware of cheap goats or “bargains,” because you will regret buying them later. That’s not to say that you must figure on getting the most expensive purebreds around, but as a new goat owner, you don’t want an animal with multiple problems breaking your heart (or your children’s) or the bank. A sick animal can quickly run up a hefty bill at the vet’s office, so be certain you only buy healthy goats. A healthy goat will be bright-eyed, lively, and have a glossy coat of hair. Its hooves should be neatly trimmed, and its gums will be nice and pink, so you know it is not loaded with internal parasites (worms), and it will not have scruffy places from biting at external parasites (lice). It will not have runny

Imnaha King's Silver Belle at one week fresh (10 months)

Imnaha King’s Silver Belle at one week fresh (10 months)

eyes or a runny nose. You want friendly, tame goats, too, not ones that are wild as deer and climb the fences when you look in their direction. If it is a milker, be sure its udder is healthy and free from any signs of mastitis. The doe should be experienced on the milking stand, and since you are new at it, easy to milk. If you have never milked, ask the owner if you can come by at milking time so you can learn what to do.

When you find yourself ready to consider buying, ask to see the animal’s health records. Especially ask if the animal has been tested to be free of CAE (Caprine Arthritis/Encephalitis Syndrome) and CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis). These two diseases will soon ruin your goat experience if you accidentally bring them home, and nowadays it is easy to test for them. Reputable goat breeders routinely test their goats and will gladly supply you with those records. If the goats have not been tested, but you really want to buy them, ask if you can pay to have your own veterinarian do it. It can be pricey, but it is well worth the peace of mind.

Imagine one of these guys in your goat pen!

Imagine one of these guys in your goat pen!

Also, don’t buy goats with horns. Be sure kids are disbudded (had the horn buds removed, usually with a hot iron suited to that purpose) before you take them home, and don’t even consider buying adult goats with horns, no matter how much you like them. I know, they look so exotic and cute, but horns are dangerous, and you really don’t want the risk or liability. Horned goats quickly learn to be bullies, and they won’t hesitate to threaten you with them, either. Horns continually get caught in fences, feeders, or gates, putting the goat itself at risk for a broken neck, and it only takes a turn of the head for a goat with horns to rip open a little child’s arm (or worse). Imagine a neighbor’s child coming over to pet the goats and having to go to the ER to be stitched up? Lawsuit! Medical bills!–charges at the ER start at $1500 and go up from there! Goats do not need their horns for defense, as long as YOU have adequately secured their housing and pens, so just don’t have them around.

But, you say, how will I ever remember all of this stuff while I’m out talking to people and looking at goats? You won’t! I have, however put together a handy check list you can copy, print out, and tuck into your pocket to take along with you (just highlight, copy and paste into a new Word document). Maybe your intended goats won’t have answers for every item, but that’s okay. It’s only a guideline. You have to make the final decision whether to buy or not. In doing so, I hope you have fun and make some friends along the way! Good luck and happy hunting!

New Goat Check List                                                   (attach photo if available)

Name of goat: _______________________________________________________________

Owner, address & phone#: _______________________________________________________________


Birth date (or age, if unknown) _________________Sex __________________


Is goat registered/recorded? Yes_____ No _____.

If yes, what association?____________________________________________

Registration #_________________ Tattoos: RE: _____; LE: _____

Disbudded, polled, or de-horned? _________________________

Is a copy of the pedigree available? (If registered or recorded) Yes _____ No _____

Is a copy of the health record available? Yes _____ No _____

Name of Veterinarian, phone #, and location of clinic: _______________________________________________________________

Date of last hoof trimming: ____________________________

Date of last annual booster (CDT) _______________________

Date of last de-worming _______________Drug used_____________________


                           Test Parents Negative? Last Result Date of Test
CAE (Caprine Arthritis/Encephalitis, AKA Small Ruminant Lentivirus—SRLV)      
CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis)      
G6S Disorder (DNA test)      

Has animal (if doe) ever been bred? Yes _____ No _____

If yes, when?__________________________________________________________

How many lactations? _____

Any problems? _________________________________________________________

If a buck, how many seasons has he been used for breeding? _____

Any problems? _________________________________________________________

Sex & number of live offspring: Does _____ Bucks _____

So You Want to Be a Writer?

Judging from the email I get from folks who visit this site, there are many of you who are aspiring writers. You want to write but aren’t sure how to get started and think maybe blogging may be the way to go. If so, this post is for you.

Becoming a published writer nowadays is easy. That does not guarantee anyone will read your work, however. Getting your own blog online is a simple matter, and it won’t even cost you lots of money. You can sign up for a domain name and a free or inexpensive blog-type Webpage through many different Web Hosts (I’ll plug Hostgator here, since I originally went with them, everything is simple and easy, inexpensive, and they are great to work with). Then you can choose a free template through WordPress or Weebly, for example, and you’re ready to start designing your page. It’s nearly all plug-and-play, so the design and content is entirely up to you. Honestly, that’s how I put together my Website, and it’s not difficult. If you are reasonably tech savvy, then you should have no trouble setting up your own Webpage. A site on is even easier to set up, and it’s free but with less design options.Quill pen and ink

There are loads of free videos available through YouTube on how to design and set up a Webpage. I watched several of them dozens of times and took notes before jumping in. The best one I found is by James B. Stafford (it’s no doubt a bit dated now), and here is the link to it:

How to Create a Website for free by James B Stafford

Now for the hard part: Writing. Writing is easy for me, because I’ve been doing it most of my life. For me, because I do so much of it, writing is like breathing. I enjoy doing it, and I probably wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I couldn’t. I’ve also earned a B.A. in English as well as certificates in Technical Writing and Professional and Technical Editing. I have published a book of poetry, and right now I’m working on a book about dairy goat management, in addition to my blogs here and on (“Not a Natural Blonde” at

Yes, I write A LOT. That’s what you have to do to be a writer—write stuff. Every. Single. Day. It should be something besides email and Facebook posts or memos at work. Those don’t count—unless they are really long, involved, and you spent a couple hours on them. You must actually write to be a writer. Don’t laugh. A number of years ago I had a friend who fancied himself as some sort of Hemingway clone. He was in love with the notion of being a writer, and whenever somebody asked him what he did, out came, “Oh, I’m a writer.” The trouble was, he’d gotten some encouragement from his professors for a few good short stories he’d written in high school and college—but he hadn’t done much after that. What had he written lately? He was working on a couple things. Anything published? No. Did he write every day? No. Was he really a writer? No! He could have been, he had the talent, but he wasn’t because HE DIDN’T DO IT.

How do you get started writing? The Nike motto says it best: “Just do it!” You’ve got an internal monologue running all the time, so start writing down what matters to you. Write about what you care about, whether it’s farm animals, your dog, cooking, gardening, or even politics. If you want to write, you are no doubt an intelligent person with something to say, so write it down.

Je Suis CharlieAnd please, don’t just rant. Spare us. Few other people will be interested in reading your rant, no matter how witty and entertaining you think it may be. If you honestly care about something, write about why it’s important to you, its good points, how it could be improved, etc. Be positive. Add something to the Blogosphere that is uplifting and helps other people realize why what you care about matters—to them.

While you are writing, be sure to fact-check your material and give credit to people you quote. Don’t plagiarize, and don’t steal other people’s photographs—get permission to use them. A good writer is an honest writer who deals with reality, not events that happened sometime long ago, far away in the Land of Fuzzy Thinking. The only exception to this is if you are writing a work of fiction. Look things up on Google or Bing if you don’t know where they came from—nowadays it is possible to do that without leaving your desk. Don’t fudge and don’t lie.

You can write the old-fashioned way with pencil and paper, or you can learn to compose at the computer. If you are reading this, composing on the computer is probably no big deal for you, and it vastly simplifies writing itself once you get the hang of it. There are so many helpful tools (and no, I am not talking about Spellcheck or Grammarcheck—in my opinion, those are so useless they are a waste of time). I’m talking about simple tools such as cut-and-paste or find-and-replace, for example. Those are huge improvements over writing longhand and among the reasons why I finally learned to compose at the computer. Besides, it saves you the trouble of transcribing your work onto the computer once you’ve finished, where it eventually needs to go anyway. My relatives won’t be able to sell first drafts of my work through Sotheby’s for millions after I’m long-dead, however, because there aren’t’ any. Boo-hoo. Become proficient in the use of Microsoft Office Word. You won’t regret it. You can even download an app to use it on your iPad.

Before you begin writing, compose a topic sentence. If you don’t have a clear idea why you are writing, a topic sentence will help crystallize your thoughts. Then write an outline. It can be as simple as this one:

I-Introduction (Topic Sentence and Introductory Paragraph)

II-Discussion (3-5 Points to consider that support/prove my argument)

A-First Point




B- Second Point




C-Third Point




III-Conclusion (Summary)

Once you have your basic outline, fill in all the points you will cover in writing your article or post. You may decide to re-arrange them or even leave some out before you’re done. The writing part is nearly done for you then, because you have already assembled everything you need to write about.

The next step is to have someone whose opinions you trust critique your work, hopefully several people. If you are lucky, they can proofread it at the same time. Running your work past somebody else can not only help get rid of spelling and grammatical errors but can also help you find any unsupported gaps in your argument. Whoever you choose to critique your work can tell you if you proved your point, or if you need to do more work. That’s what professional editors do. They not only proofread, but they also help you learn to develop your ideas in a more organized, clearly written, effective manner. Professionals are paid for what they do, but you probably have a few friends who wouldn’t mind reading your work and helping you out until you gain more confidence.Lady writer

Every writer has his/her own routine. Some people need to “center themselves,” or they may only be able to write using paper and pen or at a certain desk or time of day, etc. Hopefully, none of that will limit you. I usually write about whatever has been concerning my mind for the past few days, on the news or about something seasonally appropriate. Occasionally I do an outline, especially if my topic is lengthy, but mostly I just sit down at my computer and write. It’s already organized in my head, because my subconscious has been working on it while I’ve been going about my business. When I’m done, I re-read it a few times, edit it myself, and sometimes I will leave it and come back later to finish. I ask my husband Sam (who is also a trained editor) to read things before I publish them, and based on his feedback, I may add material or do a re-write. Lastly, I save the article on my computer and then publish it on my Webpage, along with whatever photos I might use to help illustrate my points.

The nice thing about blogging is that you can write about whatever concerns you and publish it yourself. The downside is that you may not ever have a large readership, though it always takes time to become established, no matter what you do. Don’t get discouraged, and keep at it. If you want to publish magazine articles or a book, that involves an entirely different, more lengthy process. It is much more difficult, time-consuming, and costly, but blogging may eventually take you down that road. If it does, persevere, keep on writing—and good luck to you!

As always, I wish you the very best.


Happy Holidays!

Nativity scene

Nativity scene

And to all of you purists out there, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year, etc. If I left anyone out, I’m truly sorry. Those are the holidays on my horizon.

I’ve been struggling somewhat with Christmas this year, now that we live so far from any of our family or friends—and even from our

Advent wreath

Advent wreath

church. Christmas means so many different things to each of us, so it can be difficult to pin down. For many of us, it’s a religious holiday and part of Advent (in simple terms, the “coming” Nativity of the Christ child, as well as anticipation of the Second Coming of the Messiah), so it really is a seasonal event, not just one or two days. It’s not over until Epiphany, the twelfth day after Christmas, which celebrates the day that Jesus was revealed to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi (commonly referred to as the Three Wise Men). Remember the “partridge in a pear tree?” Remember Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night? Yes, those refer to the twelve days of Christmas. If you participate in a more orthodox church, you will be familiar with Advent wreaths and candles, Advent calendars, Advent devotionals, etc., and you will be totally immersed in it. Protestant churches and other religions and traditions, such as the Jewish Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, have their own circles of ritual and celebration specific to them as well.

Jewish menorrah

Jewish menorah



There is more to the Holidays than church or religion, however, especially nowadays when so much of the season is secular and more inclusive of other traditions. For most of us, the Holidays is a time to re-connect with friends and family—to express our love for them, and to remember and help others who are not as fortunate. We get caught up in all that we think is expected of us: decorating the house, sending Christmas cards, buying gifts, baking seasonal treats, and planning for special parties and celebrations. Everywhere we turn, we are besieged by commercialism, and no wonder, since so many retailers and charities depend on the Christmas holiday season in order to break even for the year, let alone show a profit. It all seems a bit desperate, because it is.

Santa Claus

Santa Claus

I try to not get caught up in political correctness this time of year. I haven’t yet found another person who was offended when I wished them a Merry Christmas. If they were, they never told me about it. Nobody has ever wished me a Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa, but I wouldn’t be upset if they did. Why? I take it to mean that person is wishing me well and a happy holiday season. No slight intended, so ruffled feathers are superfluous. Maybe other folks are more hung up about this than I am, but they need to get over it. Really.

2015 Starbucks' seasonal cups

2015 Starbucks’ seasonal cups

Then there was the plain red Starbucks seasonal cup. I still have difficulty understanding why so many were offended by it. It’s red, green, and white—all the traditional colors of Christmas. Does it really have to have snowflakes, holly, trees or “Merry Christmas” on it to be a seasonal cup? Do some people just roam around looking for things they think are offensive? Get a life, people! The cup was most likely plain red to save money. Seems like a sound business decision to me.

The Holidays can be overwhelming. Or it can be under-whelming, which is where I am right now. In either case, it is easy to get burnt out. Maybe watching my favorite Christmas movies on TV will help get me in the spirit of things? Baking Holiday treats is out, unless I give them as presents, because they will primarily be eaten–by me. The easiest solution is to stop and consider what is really important, and do that, so I will concentrate on sending out Christmas greetings, a little decorating with a tree, and preparing a special holiday meal. My sister Laurie and I will share a phone call and catch up on family news. Then it will be over, and I can get down to planning for the coming year: What I will plant in my garden, which of the goats will go on the sales list, and what shows I hope to attend. You know, the important stuff!

My wish is that each and every one of you will have a blessed Holiday season, full of wonder and delight, good health, and every good thing, especially LOVE. God bless you.

And while you’re at it, have a Merry Christmas & a very Happy New Year!

Stylistic Xmas trees

Making Cheese

Some Parmesan and Farmhouse Cheddar cheeses I made in 2015

Some Feta, Parmesan, and Farmhouse Cheddar cheeses I made in 2015

I’m about to wind up my second year of making cheese from the milk my goats produce,and I have to admit I feel pretty good about it. I look at the wall of cheeses I’ve made this year, and it’s very satisfying. Things went much more smoothly too, since I had the right equipment AND a place to age my cheeses (AKA a “cheese cave”) that worked. Last year was tough, because 1) I was a newbie, so EVERYTHING was on the learning curve; 2) I was trying to “make-do” while gradually buying all the stuff I needed (kind of hard to just jump in when on a fixed income); and 3) I did not have a good place to store or age my cheeses. I would make a new cheese recipe and try to age it, but the only place I had for storage was too warm. The cheeses would weep oil, then the wax would flake off, and then the bugs would move in. NOT GOOD! Finally I gave up and just put them all in the freezer after cleaning them up. It was almost enough to make me quit, but I’m a pretty stubborn customer (and by this time I’d spent a fair amount of money on books and equipment), so I kept at it.


My “cheese cave:” It’s an old bookshelf with the shelves doubled and lined with unfinished pine boards.

I tried all sorts of cheese recipes to see which ones worked best for me. The fresh cheeses, such as Chevré, Ricotta, and Mozzarella are really easy, and I make them a day or so before I want to use them. They store in the refrigerator, so no problems there. Hard cheeses were a challenge though, and while I can make yogurt from goat’s milk, I finally decided it wasn’t worth the trouble when I can so easily buy great yogurt at the store. Yogurt has to be cooked in order to change the milk proteins so it will set up, and by then it is basically pasteurized—it also scorches on the bottom of your pot, no matter how careful you are, so unless you are absolutely set on making it yourself, be forewarned.

The best hard cheeses I made were Monterrey Jack (I tried pepper jack, but I always ended up with bits of jalapeño that stuck in my cheesecloth), Parmesan, and Farmhouse Cheddar. They are relatively easy to make, but they must be aged for at least two months (in the case of Parmesan, 10 months aging is recommended), so an adequate cheese cave is mandatory. I finally got Sam to put together some shelves in my combination feed and tack room, because that’s the only place I have that is insulated and maintains a constant temperature. An air filter takes care of any dust. The main thing is the temperature, which I keep at 55-60⁰ F. Considering the outside temperature regularly tops 100⁰ F. here in the summertime, and -20⁰ F. is not unheard of in the winter, I settled for that.

Monterrey Jack I made last year with our goat's milk

Monterrey Jack I made last year with our goat’s milk

I also began dipping my cheeses in cheese wax, rather than brushing it on. It’s a better way, because the wax is hotter (225⁰F.) and kills any mold spores (at least theoretically) that is on the surface of the cheese. It can be kind of tricky dipping the cheeses (they are slippery!), so BE VERY CAREFUL. You MUST also keep an eye on the hot wax. It can very easily catch on fire, so it cannot be left unattended EVER. I keep my cheese wax in an aluminum pot with a bail handle that sits inside a stock pot containing water on the stove. Low heat is about right to keep the wax at the right temperature for dipping, and you can check it with an instant-read thermometer. Two coats of wax is generally sufficient and takes care of any holes left from the first dip. You may need to trim cheeses that develop spots of mold and re-dip them from time to time, but most of them shouldn’t need it.

This coming year I will continue learning, though hopefully I won’t be inundated with milk again! All the kids are bottle-fed, so they will consume the vast majority of milk until they are weaned (we wean at five months, since we have oodles and gobs of milk on hand). Then I plan to sell off a few milking does and once again reduce the herd to what we will keep through next winter. I aim to try a few new cheese recipes next year, make a bunch of ones I’m comfortable with, and who knows, maybe even sell a few cheeses along the way. If you can, don’t hesitate to try it yourself, because cheesemaking is fun. Make your own Mozzarella to top a homemade pizza. You will become a convert!

Kidding Season: Set Your Does Up for Success

Many folks are busy coping with the fall breeding season right now, which is either just over or still going full tilt. That means in five more months we’ll be spending our nights at the barn delivering that next kid crop and feeding babies! How well we do depends on how well we’ve prepared for it.

Lady Victory in the maternity pen with her 2015 twins. Jane is preparing to nurse.

Lady Victory and her 2015 twins. Jane is preparing to nurse.

Before Breeding season starts: Probably the best thing we can do is be sure all of our animals are in top physical condition going in. Check their body condition scores to be sure none are too thin or too fat (ADGA has an excellent video showing how to do this). While sheep breeders know they can increase the number of lambs from their ewes by flushing them (feeding a grain supplement, so the ewes’ bodies think they can support more babies, thereby producing more ova for fertilization), that hasn’t yet proved to be true for goats. It’s up to you, but I must say that we do this. Besides, it won’t hurt as long as your animals aren’t already too fat.

Make sure you are ready for those kids: Start preparing your maternity and kid pens and kidding kits. Be sure to order any vaccines you need well in advance, because sometimes they go on backorder just when you need them (so does everyone else). Make any large purchases you’ve been putting off, such as tattooing supplies or disbudding irons. You’ve been intending to make that kid box? Now would be a good time.

It’s also a good time to decide whether you need to isolate the kids from their mothers or you can let them nurse. While convenience may be of some consideration, it’s not your only concern. Test each doe for CAE and CL, because the primary route of infection for those diseases is through the mother’s colostrum and milk. Any does that may test positive cannot nurse their kids, so they will need to be removed from their mothers immediately and bottle-fed with heat-treated colostrum and pasteurized milk or only milk from does testing negative for CAE/CL. That means you will need to have a separate kid pen and equipment for feeding them—bottles and nipples or a multiple kid-feeding system, such as a lamb & goat milk bar (I am not making any brand name recommendations–I have never used any of them, preferring the pop bottle approach myself). It is recommended that any positive does should be separated from your negative does as well. Believe me, I know it’s inconvenient, but it’s well worth doing whatever it takes to stop those two diseases in their tracks.

Two months before due dates: Dry off does so their bodies have a chance to rest and prepare for their next lactations. Do a CMT (California Mastitis Test) on each doe to check for mastitis, and if needed, treat with a product specifically made for dry does. Better to catch it now, than have it incubating while she’s dry. If you suspect mastitis, always consult with your veterinarian as to the best course to follow.

One month before due dates: Give annual booster of CDT (AKA Three-Way or Clostridium perfringens Type C & D with Tetanus toxoid; usually sold in 10-, 20-, or 50-dose vials); do a fecal egg count reduction test on your does (or have your vet do one) to see who needs to be de-wormed and what to use. Be sure you have some Keto-test strips and a bottle of propylene glycol (or another good concentrated source of sugar, such as Karo syrup) in the event a doe goes down with pregnancy toxemia (ketosis). You may never have it happen, but a bottle on the shelf is cheap insurance. Make sure you have everything you need in your kidding kits.

Kidding Kit:

  1. Isopropyl alcohol
  2. Bag of sterile cotton balls
  3. Sterile surgical scissors or disposable scalpels (for cutting umbilical cords)
  4. Plastic OB gloves
  5. OB lubricant, such as KY Jelly or petroleum jelly
  6. Rubber OB leg snare
  7. Tincture of iodine or gentle iodine spray
  8. Syringe of probiotic for newborns (there are several good brands)
  9. Roll of paper towels
  10. Towels (1-2 bath towels and several hand towels seems to work well; I like to lay each kid on a bath towel and pick off the placental mucous first, then rub the kid to dry)
  11. Animal crayon, marker stick, or plastic kid collars you can write on (if using a crayon or marker, you can use a different color for each doe and her kids)
  12. Notebook & pencil (for recording weights, sex, colors, etc. You won’t remember any of this later.)
  13. 5-gallon bucket with lid (for holding everything)
  14. Optional: Umbilical cord clips (I have never had the occasion to use them myself)

Two weeks before due dates: Dust off those clippers and give each doe a pre-kidding trim. This consists of clipping the hair on the doe’s back end, tail, and udder to make clean-up easier when the kids are born. You have to clip the udder anyway, right? Hopefully you have a grooming stand and your does are trained to get on it. Ours has a short ramp, so they can walk right onto it. Does can kid as much as two weeks in advance of their due dates (there’s some evidence they have limited control over this), so it pays to be ready. Be sure your maternity and kid pens are set up and bedded with plenty of clean, bright straw or grass hay, too (no sawdust or shavings right now). Then you will just need to put hay in her feeder and fill the water bucket with clean fresh water when you put the doe in the pen. Have your kidding kit ready to grab and the veterinarian’s phone number set up on speed dial, and you should be ready for anything!

Breeding Goals and Programs


SG Royal Highlands Blueberry about one week before kidding in 2015

Next year’s kid crop and milk production, especially this time of year, are on many people’s minds, but I wonder how many folks actually have goals (outside of producing more milk) and a plan in place to achieve them?

Many herds are on DHIA test now and participate in Linear Appraisal, but lots of herds still aren’t and don’t. My question is, “If you aren’t, how do you really know what your animals are doing, especially compared to all the rest?” Your does Flopsy and Mopsy each had high days over 10 lb. recorded on your barn log, and Mopsy went Grand Champion and Best in Show at one of the shows you went to. That’s pretty good right? The answer is, “Yes, that’s not bad—but you don’t have an accurate basis for comparison.” Peak numbers won’t tell how a doe milks during her lactation. Does she peak early and fall off or have long stable lactations? There’s a big difference in total production. We all know Grand Championships are awarded based on the animals in attendance, so what is winning at one show may not even place somewhere else. Without objective numbers, you just don’t know if what you’re doing is working. DHIA and Linear Appraisal will give you those tools.

This summer I spent some time perusing various breeders’ Web pages, and I have to say I was mostly disappointed. Few breeders, based on the animals currently in their herds and their proposed breedings, seem to have comprehensive goals or plans. Being on DHIA test and participating in Linear Appraisal gives you some numbers to work with, but it’s only a start. You still have to decide what to do with them. Breeding high-producing does to sons of high-producing does will eventually improve your milk production, but it’s not all that simple. Mopsy’s great granddaughter may be from a line of top producers, but her milk production will suffer if her udder is flopping around her ankles at every step or her feet are so crooked she can’t get around. There’s a lot more to it.

Linear appraisal scores can help. If your does need improvement in the rear udder or better feet and legs, you will want to breed to bucks with strong scores in those areas. If possible, it would be a good idea to research pedigrees to see how their other ancestors and siblings scored. That means you need to understand what all those other numbers, besides the 90/EEEE, represent. You also need to understand heritability—and I confess I’m still in the learning mode there. For example, I was looking for a buckling to use on my doe kids this fall and was quite excited about one from compatible bloodlines. His mama scored 2-04 88/VVVE. Pretty good right? It seemed so—until I looked at the individual scores, and there were several +’s in the area of feet and legs. That was too bad, because it meant I couldn’t use him. Now let me qualify why not. The +’s might not have bothered me if the doe had been older (say 5 or more), but she was a 2-year-old. Since feet and legs are one of the first places does break down with production, I was not willing to go any further. Feet and legs are not an area for compromise in my book. My opinion is that very few buck kids should be sold every year, compared to the number that are, and any doe getting +’s for scores, unless she’s aged or an outstanding doe in some regard (a Top !0 producer, SG or Elite Doe, for example), isn’t a suitable candidate to produce a buck for breeding. She doesn’t have to be a 90 /EEEE, but she should have good solid Linear Appraisal scores and a respectable milk record, hopefully DHIA. People can disagree with me—that’s their right. Every person is entitled to his/her own opinion.

One thing I also noticed is that lots of breeders tend to onesie breed their does. I understand. You have that expensive nitrogen tank out back filled with the best semen from all the old greats, and you want to use it. No problem, if you have one or two does that you have particular goals for–say you want to get a buck to breed up, or you want to bring in a bloodline for future use. Loads of folks jump on the bandwagon every so many years with one particular buck that’s producing show winners, too. We saw it with Frosty Marvin, and we’re seeing it with Playboy now. Please, don’t misunderstand me—I am NOT denigrating those bucks or saying don’t use A.I., but you don’t have a breeding program and will never have a distinctive herd if you breed all your does this way. People buying kids from you won’t know what to reasonably expect if you’ve used ten different bucks from all over, because your kids will all be different. How did Wingwood or Lakeshore get to be the powerhouses they are? They each had a plan and linebred, continually bringing back and breeding for the animals in their herd that were great. They followed their plans over many years’ time, culled or sold animals that didn’t match their goals, and when you buy a kid from them you know what you’re getting, besides a famous herd name.

Rear view of Duncan, seven months

Rear view of our junior herd sire, *B Grande Ronde WHS Duncan, at seven months

This coming year Imnaha Purebred Nubians will be participating in DHIA test and Linear Appraisal, so we will have scores on all our mature animals (we don’t have kids appraised). We have had a plan in place for the bucks we want to use in our breeding program for the past two years and are already looking ahead another two to three years. We aren’t set up to do A.I., and in our location it isn’t really feasible, so we will still need to buy bucklings that haven’t been born yet. Using kids rather than their proven mature sires is something of a crap shoot, but people don’t usually want to part with their mature bucks. Why would they? There’s a huge investment in proving a buck’s worth! We will reward their efforts by buying sons to use in our herd, and hopefully help prove it was worth it. If not, we’ll re-group and start again, but that’s part of the gamble. With luck, five years down the road we will see our breeding program has paid off and our goals were met. People will know what to expect when they buy an Imnaha kid. Then we can set new goals and raise the bar.

Autumn Notes

Well, it’s not technically autumn yet, though it certainly feels like it. According to the weatherman, we had a couple cold fronts pass through this past week, so we went from the 70’s and 80’s during the day and 50s at night to the 50’s during the day and upper 30’s at night. Yikes! It was seriously cold out there, and I had to turn on my space heater. I felt sorry for the goats and the horses, since they don’t have winter coats yet. They do all have good shelter though, so I expect the goats nestled down in the bedding and cuddled up. The horses seem to be impervious—and they HATE blankets, so unless there’s a blizzard, I usually don’t bother anymore. They have a good run-in shed, but most times you’ll find them outside still grazing regardless of the weather.

Nap time!

Nap time!

Hopefully all the goats are settled now, judging from the peace and quiet of late. Kingfisher still tries to drum up some interest with his favorite does, but they’ve all been telling him to get lost. A couple of my does are giving less milk every day, so I’ll be drying them off before long. I look forward to my “milk vacation” every year, and I already have milk in the freezer for when that happens. Sam is working on a new goat shed too, and I hope it’s completed before the fall rains hit, so the goats will be comfortable this winter. It’s only a few more months before our first new babies of the coming season are due to arrive! I’ve been trying to think what I’ll name them, and which does I might sell so I can keep a few new youngsters. It would be nice to keep them all, but goats are labor-intensive and expensive to feed, so some I would otherwise prefer to keep will have to go. Marian and Kressie are due around the first part of December and Lady just before New Year’s. After that it’s kind of iffy.

Last week I read all the educational materials on the DHIA West site and took the online exam to be a milk tester. I passed with a 94% score! We plan to put our herd of goats on official DHIA test this coming year, so I have arranged for a neighbor to be our tester. It’s been a long time since I’ve done it, though, and she has no background in dairy, so I signed up so I could help if she had questions. The paperwork seems intimidating, but I know it’s pretty straight forward once you’ve done it a time or two.

Yesterday I finally took the plunge and waxed a bunch of cheeses I made over the summer. In the past, I’ve brushed the wax on, but that’s tedious and messy, so I ordered a five lb. block of wax this time so I could dip the cheeses instead. First problem: The block was huge and would not fit in any of my pans. I also couldn’t cut it up, so Sam took it outside and broke it up with the axe. Great! Now I could melt it, but second problem: The wax had dirt all over it, since Sam broke it up on the concrete sidewalk. I scraped off as much dirt as I could with my vegetable peeler, and when I finally got it melted, what was left settled to the bottom of the pan. My original thought was to melt the wax in a small Crock Pot I bought specifically for that purpose, but that was going to take forever, so I finally opted to use an old aluminum pail I found placed in water inside my Dutch oven as a double boiler. That worked rather well, but the next time I need to order wax, I’m buying several one lb. blocks instead.

Fall is the season when you can admire the harvest from your garden in all the jars of food you’ve canned and placed in your pantry. I’m usually right there too, but between dealing with the goats and sheep and Sam going back to work, we didn’t have time to put in a garden this year. I must say it’s about the first year ever that I haven’t had at least some tomato plants. I still have a few herb plants (the ones that haven’t died due to the winter cold or ravages of animals), but it’s not the same. Maybe I’ll take the plunge and try making sauerkraut this year—I’ve wanted to do that for some time, and I always enjoy trying new things. This year though, I can at least stand back and admire all my cheeses.

Dairy Goats Are Different

Our buck Kingfisher's full-sister, Farm @ WH Swan--a doe at the Tidelands Grade A dairy near Tillamook, Oregon

Our buck Kingfisher’s full-sister, Farm @ WH Swan–a doe at the Tidelands Grade A Dairy near Tillamook, Oregon (photo courtesy of Tidelands Dairy)

There is one thing about dairy goats that is unique in the world of raising livestock. You not only need to be good at raising them, you also need to be good at selling them and doing something with all the milk they produce. While meat goat producers do finally have a good market in the United States and can take them to the sale yard, just like all the folks who raise beef cattle, sheep, and hogs, dairy goat producers don’t have that option—unless we want to sell them as meat. Most of us don’t have the desire, time, or money to run a Grade A dairy operation, either. What do we do?

If you have more than one or two dairy goats (or cows), you’ve no doubt found yourself completely inundated by milk once the kids (or calves) are all weaned. We are lucky, here in the State of Oregon, because State law allows us to sell our milk from the farm, as long as we meet certain guidelines. People in other parts of the country aren’t as fortunate. Selling milk from the farm is banned in a number of states, in fact one state even wanted to make it illegal for people to drink their own farm-produced milk! Thankfully, that failed to pass, but in many places selling anything other than Agribiz Grade A pasteurized cow’s milk is a struggle. I sell what I can. Next year I plan to advertise milk for sale too, since the State recently lifted its ban on advertising raw milk for sale.[i]

Monterrey Jack I made last year with our goat's milk

Monterrey Jack I made last year with our goat’s milk

So far I’ve made cheese with most of my extra milk. That’s been an adventure and kind of fun, but one does tire of making cheese. Every. Single. Day–especially when the freezer is full of it. I’ve learned to make Chevre, Ricotta, Feta, Mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, Parmesan, and most recently Farm-house Cheddar. It’s delicious, and we eat loads of it ourselves, but I haven’t found many people wanting to buy it from me. It’s easier to buy milk and cheese at the supermarket, along with the rest of the groceries, rather than make a special trip to my house.

A sample of goat's milk soap

A sample of goat’s milk soap

My next project is learning to make goat’s milk soap. That I can sell at the Farmer’s Market in town. I haven’t tackled it so far, partly because I spent so much money on buying equipment and supplies for cheesemaking, and soap making requires a similar investment. Also, unless I go ahead and market it, I have only so much need for soap myself. In addition, selling stuff at the Farmer’s Market would require a trip to town (a 60-80 mile round trip, depending on where I set up) and being away from home at least one day a week. Soap makes a great gift, though, and would appeal to tourists, as well as locals. I can make several different kinds, plus lotion and other things to go with it (hand-knit wash cloths, for instance). Hmm. Maybe.

What about marketing the extra goats? As someone once remarked about rabbits, “They can’t add, and they can’t subtract, but they sure can multiply!” Goats share that talent. Since most does have twins, you can plan on the size of your herd doubling every year. Roughly half of the new kids will be bucks, so you can wether (neuter) them and sell them or butcher them for your own meat. Cabrito (milk-raised kid goat) has become a popular menu item in recent years, so you may even be able to sell the kids yourself directly. You will keep some of the doe kids as replacements for does that need to move on for one reason or another, but you will likely still end up with extra doe kids. So far, my best bet for selling them has been Craigslist. You won’t get purebred show goat prices there, but you will be able to reach a wider market and sell the goats to good homes for a decent price.

Dairy goats do seem to be in a niche all their own. We still show them, too, unlike the owners of other farm livestock. I remember going to the county fairs when I was a little kid, and even as a teenager. My favorite exhibits (aside from art and hand crafts) were the livestock, and I loved seeing all the beautiful dairy cattle (the Jerseys and Brown Swiss were my favorites), sheep (fell in love with Cheviots!), and hogs (I love the red Durocs)—even the rabbits (the Giants were pretty impressive) and chickens (I adore the Wyandottes, Rhode Islands, and Barred Rocks). The rabbits and chickens are still there, but the only farm livestock now shown at our local county fairs, other than dairy goats and sheep, belongs to 4-H and FFA kids. That’s a real shame, in my opinion, and one more way that so many “normal” people have lost touch with where their food comes from. For many, it’s probably the only chance they’ll ever get to see a dairy cow or a hog up close.

A mini-Nubian daughter of our doe The J-B Maid Marian

B-52’s Maiden Voyage: A mini-Nubian daughter of our doe The J-B Maid Marian (photo courtesy of B-52 Farms, Pasco, Washington)

Well, we goat folk are working hard to have our dairy goats recognized in their own right as “real” farm livestock. Participation in DHIA (Dairy Herd Improvement Association) and Linear Appraisal are more common all the time. As I mentioned above, there is now a market for meat goats at the sale yard, and there are more Grade A goat creameries than ever before. People are beginning to realize that goat’s milk is great food and not just for infants or those who have allergies.

Unlike most farm livestock, goats have the advantage that you can keep a couple in your back yard (unlike a cow) along with your flock of chickens and rabbits and produce all the protein your family needs. They can be housed right next to your back yard garden! Many towns and cities are altering their statutes to allow this, and right there to meet the need are the Pygmy, Nigerian Dwarf, and Mini breeds, if full-sized goats are too much. Dairy goats aren’t just for poor or allergic folks anymore. They are for people who care where their food comes from.

[i] The State of Oregon didn’t actually repeal its law against advertising raw milk for sale. Due to a lawsuit (which it lost), the State decided it will no longer prosecute anyone for advertising raw milk for sale.