I had zero experience with dairy goats until I spent two weeks volunteering at the World Hunger Relief Farm, near Waco, Texas. I never would have imagined that that two-week stint would change my life as much as it has.
I arrived at the farm for my two-week stay hoping to gain some hands-on experience in sustainable agriculture while working on my Bachelor’s of Science in Interdisciplinary Agriculture. I looked forward to learning more about the “normal” parts of sustainable/organic gardening… but instead I became fascinated by the Grade “A” Raw Dairy that the World Hunger Relief Farm housed.
I had never tried raw milk at all, and definitely not raw goat milk. Off the bat, I was NOT a huge fan of the strong taste of the milk. But the health benefits were really intriguing, not to mention the countless products that could be crafted from the milk. Goat milk, goat soap, goat lotion, goat cheese… need I go on? And let’s not forget dulce de leche — a delicious caramel made from goat milk and sugar.
Fast forward three years, and I am an Agricultural Science teacher, and a homeowner, complete with eight whole acres to use for sustainable farming. While the garden was put in, and laying hens purchased (chickens are the homesteading gateway drug), I couldn’t forget my fascination with the dairy goats I had met! So I began researching…
There are quite a few different breeds of dairy goat, and, just like dogs, I discovered they are super different. They can range from giant to small, from ear-less to ears a foot long! I was immediately drawn to the Nigerian Dwarf Goat breed.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats are small in size, with a breed restriction of less than 23 inches. These little-hooved darlings are far less intimidating to handle, and much cheaper to feed, than the standard size breeds, and could easily adapt to back yard living. A mature doe (female) will weigh around 70 pounds, while a doe of a standard breed could tip the scales at over 200 pounds!
While the Nigerians are cute, with their multi-colored coats and blue-eyed genetics, the selling point for me was the milk. All my research told me that it would be totally different from the musky milk I had tasted before, and is remarkably similar to a sweeter, thicker, whole cows milk.
In early 2014 my first Nigerian Dwarf Goats joined our farm. I did my research and purchased one doe and one wether (castrated male) from a registered, well-tested herd. I really wanted to get to know my girl before she matured enough to be bred — after all, we would be getting pretty up close and personal with each other of the next year. Goats are gregarious, so a companion was a must. Totes (the wether) and Cake (the doe) were quickly assimilated to our little farm!
The neatest part about goat ownership so far (aside from the milk — I get a quart of milk a day from Cake, and her milk production will only improve as she matures!) was getting to take part in bringing the cutest baby goats into the world. Cake gave birth to her first set of beautiful twins on New Years Eve, 2014, and I got to take part and assist in it all. As a first time mama, she was both proud and confused of her kids, and it was surreal to get to help her through it all. Since then we have added four new goats to our herd — one of which was Cake’s doeling that we have decided to keep.
These goats are the biggest joy, and milking in the mornings and evenings is the perfect quiet time to start and end my day. They’re also very social animals, and love attention from their humans. They get along well with the other animals on our homestead, and are endlessly entertaining to watch — all while loving to eat the poison ivy that grows along our fence lines! Not to mention the fresh milk, cheese, and kefir my girls provide.
If you are considering becoming more sustainable through providing food for your family, I more than recommend any breed of dairy goats, but especially the very precious Nigerians.