I’ve said it a couple of times on the podcast, but I love hobbies. I love learning and trying new things and my hobbies add a lot to my life. But out of my many hobbies, my favorite is raising dairy goats.
I’m almost 30 years old and have had at least one goat for 23 out of those 30 years. My mom grew up loving every minute of raising goats for 4-H and FFA projects, and when I was old enough to join 4-H (a development/service organization for children) my parents decided that raising goats would be a fun, safe project for their animal-loving daughter and something that the whole family could be part of. So at age 7, my parents got me my first dairy goat, a Toggenburg doe kid (see reference picture below).
Needless to say, the goat project “took off” and just like my mom, I loved every minute of raising goats and growing the herd: doing chores, kidding time (aka baby goat season), milking, feeding kids, cleaning pens (okay, you caught me, probably not cleaning pens). I even showed my goats in county fairs and ADGA sanctioned shows in northern Illinois and at the Illinois State Fair for many years. I even try to judge contests now.
Flash forward to 2021: My mom and I both have small herds of goats. Toggenburgs, and now Alpines in the ranks. We raise and sell kids, and milk our mature does. My mom and I both raised bottle calves on goat milk this year, and my husband and I drink and cook with the milk from our does. I make lotion with the milk, too, and I am hoping to start making soaps and some more cheeses, as well.
It’s hard work. There are early mornings, late nights, spilled milk on clean clothes, pasteurizing milk, LOTS of dishes, chasing “trouble makers” and getting them back in their pens, and getting goat poop on your shoes. You have to keep track of vaccinations, hoof trimming, breeding dates, lineage, nutrition, hay and feed costs, and vet expenses. It’s always a challenge, but so much fun.
I love the quiet mornings in the barn; milking goats and listening to them munching on their hay. It’s a peaceful moment to start my day that I would never trade. I love watching the kids jump and play, and seeing how smart they are, even if it means the occasional escapee. My goats are such a source of fun and joy. Even on bad days, I look forward to being with them; giving them scratches, walking with them, or watching them play “king of the mountain.” I also love how the goats have kept my family close and kept everyone involved. My dad, sister, and husband know the names of all of the goats and love to help my mom and I with them. Cleaning pens, tattooing ears, shaving goats, and building pens have become family activities and moments that I’ll cherish forever.
Raising animals isn’t always glamorous, though. There is anger, disgust, heartache, loss. You struggle to train goats, to keep them inside their pastures and pens, to keep them healthy, and to say goodbye. But for me, the good has always outweighed the bad. I learn something new every day, laugh often, and absolutely love raising my little herd of dairy goats.
Whatever floats your goat,
For my goat novices, this is for you:
-A male goat is referred to as a buck (adult) or buckling (juvenile), while females are referred to as doe (adult) or doeling (juvenile). Castrated males are called wethers.
-Kidding is the word used when a goat gives birth. Goat babies are called kids.
-A Toggenburg is a breed of dairy goat that originated in Switzerland. They are a chocolate brown/mousey gray color with white trim on their ears, legs, and face. They are primarily known for being a smaller breed with high milk production.
-An Alpine is a breed of dairy goat that originated in France. They come in many colors and are known for their hardiness in cold weather and their excellent milk production.
-Goats are notorious escape artists and despite what you’ve seen on television, they are extremely picky eaters and will not eat anything….not even a tin can.