A GOOD milch goat should give milk for about nine months in the year, the quantity averaging I to three pints per day over that period. If it is not mated it should keep that up for a couple of years. The milk is free of tuberculosis germs, is more easily digested than cow’s milk, and any that can be spared may be made into butter or cheese.
Food consists very largely of vegetable waste, weeds, grass and such roots as discarded or surplus carrots, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes. If a bit of wayside grazing is possible, feeding becomes easier still. Some hay is needed, and oats or other concentrated food.
A shed or outbuilding of quite small dimensions will accommodate a couple of goats, though outdoor exercise is essential. This needs to be provided in a yard or other enclosure, unless the animal can be tethered by day in fine weather on a piece of waste ground or common or in a field.
If those simple conditions can be complied with, goat keeping for milk production becomes a practical and profitable proposition.
Buying a Goat.
The numerous ‘fancy points’ on which exhibitors and other champions insist can be left to those enthusiasts to debate. The ordinary purchaser of a goat for milking should be satisfied with nothing less than a lively animal with sparkling eyes and sweet breath, indicative of health.
It certainly need not be a pedigree animal (these are expensive) but it should come of a really good milking strain; and whether it is of pure breed or cross-breed – Tog-genburg, Anglo-Nubian or any other kind – it must itself be a good milker. An intending purchaser would be well advised to get in touch with the British Goat Society.
To make reasonably certain that a goat for sale is all that it is proclaimed to be, the prospective purchaser should watch it being milked. This will be a check on two supremely important points: the quantity of milk given, and the goat’s behaviour during milking. Some goats stand quite still whilst the milk is being drawn. Others are reluctant and obstreperous; an animal of this nature is a curse to all concerned.
A further very important advantage derived from watching the milking is that the beginner receives a practical lesson in this art.
Housing a Goat.
For shelter a single goat is amply provided for in a well-lighted, well-ventilated, weather-proof shed or outhouse about 7 ft. by 5 ft. and 6 ft. to 7 ft. high at the top of the roof slope. This is also large enough for two goats.
It must be absolutely dry, with a sloping floor preferably of concrete. If the floor is brick or wood it will need to be swilled down frequently to avoid smells. Whatever the flooring it should be covered with dry litter – straw, bracken or dry leaves – to provide a clean bed and also to absorb moisture.
The alternative to litter is a raised sleeping bench made of slats about an inch apart. This bench must be kept absolutely clean, and droppings should be removed from the building at each feeding time – and heaped under some sort of rough cover for later digging-in where vegetables, fruits or flowers are grown, or they can be soaked in water and used as liquid manure for all plants during the actively growing season.
A hay rack should be secured to one wall, a bucket of water will need to be provided, and another bucket, per goat, for feeding roots, oats or other concentrated food.
Unless several goats are housed together separate stalls are not necessary. If they have to be provided, the stalls need not be more than about 26 in. wide, the partitions being about 3 ft. in length. It is not necessary to make the partitions the full length of a goat, which is about 4 ft. Whilst in the house each goat should be tied up in its own stall.
An Outside Run.
A goat needs all the exercise it can get in fine weather. This can be given by tethering outdoors, as explained later, or by giving the goat the run of a yard, or providing an enclosure attached to the house.
Such an enclosure is shown in the accompanying illustration. The house is a shed converted to accommodate two goats. It is 7 ft. high at the front, 5 ft. high at the back, with a glazed window hinged at the bottom and opening inwards, and a double door whose upper half opens inwards and right back. The shed is 7 ft. from back to front.
This enclosure is 20 ft. long and the width of the shed. It consists of upright posts, firm in the ground, and horizontal bars to which tightly compressed bundles of cut and dried furze (gorsc) are secured, vertically, by tightly strained galvanized wire.
These walls, which no goat can jump, or eat its way through (goats will eat most things, but they draw the line at dried furze faggots), are 5 ft. high. A wooden gate is provided at the far end of one side.
The two goats are allowed out in this during daylight hours whenever the weather is favourable, and are shut in the house at night.
When it is necessary to tie the animals up indoors, they are secured to a screw-bolt attached to the wall as illustrated by the light but strong metal chain attached to the goat’s collar.
There are various ways of limiting the area of a goat’s activities outdoors. It is a naturally destructive animal where trees and hedges are concerned, and it has to be prevented from attacking these.
One method is to attach the free end (fitted with a snap-hook and swivel) of the animal’s collar chain to a length of wire rope or strong galvanized wire stretched an inch or so above ground level between two ring-topped metal ‘pins’ driven about 18 in. into the ground.
The collar chain runs freely on the wire, which can be 20 ft. or more long. This allows the goat to wander that full length and 4 ft. (or whatever the length of its collar chain is) on either side of the wire. This serves as well in a field as when the goat is tethered on a fairly wide strip of rough grass between road and hedge.
Unless the tethered animal can be brought in at once in the event of rain, there should be a rough but serviceable shelter within its reach. This will also provide shade as required. It should be easily portable. It can be contrived of sacking over a light wooden framework pegged down so that wind cannot overturn it, or of sheets of galvanized iron.
There should also be a pail of fresh water within reach, with three short wooden stakes around it so that it cannot be kicked over.
The site of this run should be moved each day so that fresh herbage is available, if possible.
Another method of tethering is to attach the collar chain to a single iron pin, driven firmly into the ground, the top of the pin being so designed that the goat can roam around in a circle. The chain can be up to about 12 ft. long; not longer, or the animal may become tangled up. The pin should be so placed that nothing that the goat might injure is within reach.
A goat must not be tethered on wet ground, or ground which it has recently trampled over.
The Goat’s Rations.
If the goat can be allowed some rough wayside grazing – it prefers that type of herbage to pasture grass – it will do most of its foraging for itself, during the spring and summer. When outdoor feeding is not possible a good armful of grass should be given each day whenever it can be obtained. In addition, it requires other greenstuff in the largest possible variety: cabbage leaves, ‘bolted’ lettuces and general ‘waste’ from the vegetable ground, bean and pea tops being greatly appreciated.
Undersized or broken or surplus roots such as beet, parsnip, carrot, swede, turnip and Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes and potato-peelings all enter into the bill of fare. They must be cleaned of soil first, or they may be refused. Hedge clippings, fruit tree and bush prunings and woody stuff in general are enjoyed; bark as well as leaves will be eaten. Weeds form a valuable stop-gap, but they must be fresh and clean, like all other food.
Items which a goat must not be allowed to eat include hemlock, foxglove, laurel, privet (especially the berries), rhododendron, yew, and laburnum seed pods.
Acorns can be gathered and stored – after being washed and dried – for winter use. A daily ration of hay is necessary, and a winter store of this should be aimed at; wayside or railway embankment grass cut and dried in summer and stacked will ensure part at least of the winter supply. This will need to bulk large in the winter diet, because of lack of fresh grass and clover at that season.
As a rough guide it can be taken that a goat milking well will require about 9 lb. of roots or greenstuff (or the two combined), 2 lb. of hay and 1 lb. of oats per day; or instead of the latter a concentrated food, to the same amount, such as a mixture of linseed cake, bran, oats, in equal parts by weight.
But appetites vary, and quantities should be increased or decreased accordingly. Food should be given three times a day, at regular hours – hay and oats, or, in place of the latter, the mixture mentioned in the previous paragraph, and greenstuff and roots in the morning; greenstuff and roots for the midday meal; the morning feed repeated in the evening.
Such roots as mangold, swede and turnip should, if possible, be stored for use at die year-end when other stuff is scarce. They can be halved, or chopped up.
A bucket of fresh water should be offered at every meal, and removed when the goat has finished with it. Salt must not be overlooked. A small quantity may be sprinkled on the food occasionally, or a lump of rock salt should be hung up for licking.
Roots, oats, concentrated food and small weeds are most conveniently given in a bucket, which gives no trouble in cleaning. Larger weeds and greenstuff can be hung up within reach. Hay can be given in a wooden rack attached to the wall.
Food of any sort spilled on the floor and soiled must not be offered again; if it is not soiled, and is still fresh, it can figure in the next feed.
Milking a Goat.
The alternative to kneeling down on the ground to milk a goat is to raise the animal on a platform or stool about 4 ft. long and 3 ft. wide. This enables the job to be done in comfort whilst the milker is sitting on a stool by the goat’s side.
If the animal is given a feed whilst milking is in progress it is more likely to stand still and contented. A small hay rack or other form of feeding vessel can be fastened at one end of the milking platform.
The operation of milking should be watched by the beginner a time or two, as previously advised. A demonstration is essential, so that the job can be undertaken without hesitation or fumbling.
Main points are to milk always at the same time, morning and evening, with clean hands, rapidly, into a perfectly clean pail, and after the udder has been cleaned by wiping with a damp and clean cloth.
Milking completed, the liquid should straightway be strained through clean butter-cloth into a shallow pan (or pans) and stored in a pantry or other cool place.
All utensils used for milking should be swilled out in cold clean water immediately they are finished with, then washed thoroughly in warm water containing a little soda, then placed for about ten minutes in boiling water, after which they should be turned upside down on a clean board to drain.
Butter and Cheese.
Butter made from goat’s milk is not to every one’s liking; moreover, the operation demands more care than perhaps it is worth. The same does not apply to goat’s cheese, which can be made as follows.
The new milk, after straining, is heated in a saucepan until it is about blood heat – 90 degrees F. Rennet is then added, according to instructions on the bottle; this can be bought at a chemist’s. The milk is then stirred thoroughly with a wooden or silver spoon, then poured into a china bowl and allowed to stand for twelve hours.
It is then poured into a muslin bag, which is hung up to drip above a receptacle for a further twelve hours. The liquid which drips from the muslin bag is whey, and it can be used in scone and cake making, or fed to pigs, or mixed with the meal for chickens.
At the end of the twelve hours the contents of the muslin bag are emptied out on to a few straws, to drain, and the top sprinkled with ordinary salt. The following day the cheese is turned over and what was the underside is sprinkled with salt. This process is repeated lor three days, after which it is ready for use, or it can be kept until required.
Breeding, Rearing a Kid.
After a couple of years’ milking it is advisable to mate the goat, or it may go dry and remain dry. The fee charged for mating with a top-line billy from a sound milking family varies, but really good mating is worth whatever is charged – if it is intended to rear one or more of the kids for eventual milking.
If the goat is to continue to supply milk for household use, with the shortest possible delay after the kids are born, the latter may be brought up by hand so that the mother’s milk is not all needed for that purpose. Or they may be killed when three to four weeks old, for die table, or sold to a butcher.
A kid is killed by having a pointed knife thrust into its neck close up behind the jawbone. It should be kept without food for the twenty-four hours previous.
If the goat is to rear the kids they should be left with her for about six weeks. The normal period during which a goat can be expected to continue to yield milk after kidding varies between about nine months and a couple of years, after which she becomes dry. It is advisable, therefore, to rear a female kid to take her place eventually.
The Breeding Season. This begins in September and lasts until February or March, the female goat being ready for mating at intervals of about twenty-one days. About twenty-one weeks elapse before the kids are born; there may be three or more of these, or only one. The earliest age at which a goat should be mated is twelve months.
When the time to kid arrives, the female should not be subjected to any fussing. All she wants is to be left alone, with plenty of dry bracken, straw, or other litter in her shed.
Weaning a Kid.
The nanny will feed the kid (or kids) left to her, without any bother to -the owner; apart from a possibility that she may produce more milk than is required for that purpose, in which case that which remains in the udder should be drawn off daily.
Weaning may begin at six weeks, but if the kids can be allowed to remain with her for double that period they will be all the stronger when the time for separation comes. They should be prepared for weaning over a period of several days – quartered apart from the nanny during daylight hours and run in an enclosure where plenty of young grass and weeds are growing. They should also be given hay and crushed oats, and they will enjoy tender tree twigs. Plenty of clean water should be available for drinking. At nights, when reunion is allowed, they will relish the natural milk diet; the nanny first being pardy milked, for they will probably not need it all.
It should be noted that the longer kids are left with the nanny the more the final parting is felt by-all; that feeling being expressed very lustily by young and old alike.
Kids that are to be raised by hand should not be taken away from the nanny until the third or fourth day. They can then be separated and put on the bottle. Each kid will require rather less than a pint of the nanny’s own milk each day for the first week; it should be given as four meals a day, with an ordinary feeding bottle, and it should be of the same temperature as when drawn.
After the first week, when three meals a day will be sufficient, it can be mixed with cow’s milk (fresh), the latter being increased in quantity and the goat’s milk decreased until at the end of about fourteen days they are having cow’s milk alone. At the end of three weeks skimmed milk can be introduced, this to form about one-third of the total quantity at first, then increasing to one half, with the addition of some calf meal.
Quantity needed by each kid per day after the first week is about two pints, this being increased gradually to about 3 pints per day for the fourth week.
The foods previously mentioned as suitable for weaning kids can then be given, milk gradually being reduced in quantity until, at about three months old, they are weaned of it completely.
The food should be given four times a day, at regular hours, until the kids are six months old and fit to be placed on grown-up diet. Plenty of exercise is as essential to them as good feeding.
The Goat Doctor.
Alarming and sometimes imaginary diseases can easily be deduced by the inexperienced from symptoms which really indicate nothing more than a slight and temporary indisposition which will right itself. But as nothing should be left to chance the vet should be consulted in all cases of doubt. Troubles most likely to be met with and involving no complicated treatment are dealt with here.
A sudden change in diet, not enough fresh green food or too much green food of one kind, or neglect to provide sufficient drinking water, may result in constipation. Half an ounce of Epsom-salt, or an ounce of common salt, given in a warm mash, should put things right.
Diarrhoea. Not sufficient variety in the food, too much green food or too many oats, stale food, unclean drinking water, may bring on an attack of diarrhoea. The error in management should be put right. A young goat should be given.l- ounces Epsom-salt in a warm bran mash or in milk; an older animal -]- ounces prepared chalk, in the same manner.
This may result from neglected diarrhoea, which it resembles in a violent form, with traces of blood in thin, slimy droppings. The vet should be called upon for medicine.
When a goat does not get sufficient exercise on hard ground the hoofs sometimes need to be trimmed back to their proper limits, with a sharp-bladed knife. The horn of the hoofs, if trimming is neglected, may become so long that the end turns up.
Inflammation of the Udder.
Restlessness of a nanny when the kids are suckling, or disinclination or positive refusal on her part to allow them to take milk, may point to inflammation of the udder. The kids should be taken away and bottle reared, perhaps returned to her when the trouble has been righted. Milk should be drawn away frequently and very gently and the udder washed with warm water in which salt has been dissolved. If there is no improvement after two or three days, or the udder becomes discoloured, the vet should be called in.
A goat should be groomed frequently and regularly with a stiff brush, and combed, so that all loose hairs, dust and dirt are removed. When that is done, trouble from lice need not be expected. If they are present the animal should be washed with warm water and carbolic soap, and when dry again an insect powder should be worked or blown (with small bellows) down to the base of the hair. Clippings, combings and brushings should be collected and burned, along with all the litter from the sleeping place. The latter should be scrubbed out (a disinfectant in the hot soapy water) and then limewashed.
Behaviour of a goat as described under ‘Inflammation of the Udder’ may be due to sore teats, the udder otherwise being in perfect condition. The kids should be taken away and the milk drawn frequently and gently, and the teats smeared with vaseline twice a day until the condition is again normal.
For the owner’s sake as well as the goat’s, the utmost gentleness and care should be exercised in the foregoing doctoring operations and in other attentions.