Our path to goats started with a “No”. My loving husband, Matthew, almost never tells me ‘no’, so when I had put in my request for a milking cow, I wasn’t expecting to have it be declined. Matt understood that it wasn’t a very good idea to go straight from city girl to a milk cow. He was right (yes, I said that on record).
To be plainly honest, I had never considered a goat for milk. At first, I cringed at the thought of a tall glass of…goat milk. Matt, however, was less apprehensive. He had spent time in Afghanistan while serving in the military and therefore, had a lot of experience with goat milk and goat meat. Goat is a big part of the culture there. They are easy to maintain because they browse the land, and they provide milk and meat. My loving husband figured that I would have better luck getting started with a goat. In truth, a goat is a far more manageable size than a cow. So regardless of my begging, Matt said I could have a goat, but no cow.
A trip to the Library gave me an idea where to start. I read up on what goats eat, what kinds of shelter to provide, and all about fencing. Then I set about finding a goat. We ended up buying two little Oberhasli kids, named Jack and Jill, from a local dairy. We made sure to get a pair suitable for breeding, and we brought them home. I was in love immediately. I spent my mornings with a cup of coffee taking the kids on a walk. The little goats bounced through the brush as they browsed. It made me happy to watch them grow. What started as a compromise, a stepping stone to prove my farm worth before I was worthy of my milk cow, quickly became my destination. I lost interest in the bovine dream and became a different kind of farmer, a goat herder.
Our two little obers grew and our 11 year old daughter showed Jill in the County and in the State Fair. We were hooked. By the fall of that year, we added another two goats. For my birthday, Matt bought me a beautiful LaMancha doe in milk. We bought her from a 4Her that was graduating out of the program and had some extended travel in her near future. Enter Susie. Now…no matter how many goats we get, Susie will always be most special to me. She was my proving grounds. She was the ‘make it or break it’ of my homesteading goals. The morning after we got her settled at home, we had to learn to milk her. Thank goodness for WikiHow and YouTube. It was an adventure. The kids and I gathered around her and cheered when that first stream of milk hit the bucket. I’ll admit that even now I am amazed at the peace that overcomes me in milking.
The following Spring doubled our herd. Susie kidded four kids, and Jill freshened with one. We went from 4 goats to 9 goats, just like that. The babies sold when they were weaned, and we enjoyed the bounty of milk from our 2 does. In the fall rush of State Fair that year, our daughter Nora showed Susie. Nora’s goat Jill was unable to show that year, so reluctantly, Nora took Susie. I was excited to see how Susie measured up against the other goats. She looked beautiful. Nora was over the moon when Susie was awarded Grand Champion, and she held that big, shiny ribbon high. I think that is the moment that Matt caught the bug, I mean, really caught it. Ever since, we have been educating ourselves on herd improvement, and we have already come a long way.
And that is how it all began…