The Pleasures of Owning a Dairy Goat

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When my husband and I began dreaming about building our homestead, we compiled a bucket-list of all that we wanted to include and for what reasons. At the top of that list was raising goats. For as long as I can remember I had always wanted a goat, but like a potato chip, you can’t have just one. We also quickly learned there are more flavors (or breeds) than one could ever imagine. The hubby wanted goats for meat. I, on the other hand, never in a million years figured I would raise goats for eating.

My fantasy of goat ownership involved skipping out to the barn at sunrise with a steel pail in my hand, giving all my goats great big hugs, and singing lullabies to them as they stood happily on the stand while I filled my pail with oodles of fresh, warm, tasty milk. Once I had adequately loved on my critters, I would go inside and make some cheese as soon as I finished my breakfast… but my day would not yet be over. I would then start preparing to make exotic soap in the afternoon and finally end my day with my children sitting around the table with a tall glass of goat milk and a warm plate of freshly made cookies while they play board games and sing Kumbaya (Don’t judge … remember, this is a fantasy).

However, we quickly found out there is more to it all than we thought. Initially, we bought a few meat goats, followed with a couple of cashmere goats, and finally, after much anticipation and nagging, I brought home my very first milk goat. I was a beginner, and she knew it. She kicked and hollered, leaving me battered, bruised, and highly frustrated. To top it all off, I only walked away with eight ounces of milk! That was only if she didn’t stick her hoof in it. The trouble we had with her and the lack of milk we received seemingly turned my children into milk deprived monsters. These same monsters were then denied the privilege of homemade chocolate chip cookies because all they did was terrorize each other. My dream had turned into a nightmare.

After pulling my hair out for a week, I was put in contact with a lady who raised, milked, and showed Nubian goats. We arrived at her farm and instantly fell in love with Belle. We refer to her as our Amazon beauty. She stands much taller than any of the goats we had at home already and she has such a gentle, social disposition. We were allowed to milk her at the farm, talk in depth with the lady who sold her to us, and to look over all her papers. The goat jumped happily up on her stand and stood without fuss while my amateur self went to town on milking her. Words cannot express how happy I felt not to get kicked in the armpit. We brought our Belle home the same day.

My original dream is not quite a reality yet. We get about 1/2 a gallon of milk a day from Belle, enough to keep our children happy. We have been able to throw some in the freezer, make homemade mozzarella, and will soon work on making soap. There is no skipping out to the barn with a steel pail, mainly because we don’t own one and opted for glass quart jars instead. However, I have realized there are a few simple pleasures I did not factor into my initial dreams. I like to sit close to my Belle, resting my head on her side, humming whatever tune is stuck in my head or simply chatting to her. Sometimes, she chats back. Milking her is highly relaxing and the warmth from her body keeps me comfortable on cold mornings and evenings. The short moments of relaxation I have experienced during milking allow me to quiet my mind and reflect on all the blessings we have right under our noses. These are the small pleasures I didn’t count on, but are the ones that I now look forward to the most.