Our goat herd consists of Alpines and Alpine-Nubian crosses. We like the Alpines for their general hardiness, outgoing nature, and willingness to go off in the world and browse. It has taken many generations to get a goat herd with a social dynamic of being eager to leave the barnyard and go out and forage. The goats feel comfortable and safe in paddocks far from the homestead with our Great Pyrenees guard dog. This enables us to provide a huge variety of high quality fresh feed for the goats during the growing season which results in very special milk.
Goats have a highly selective diet and their desires change as the season progresses. In the spring, when the fields are growing rapidly with high quality grasses and clovers, the does do great on our mixed pasture. By mid summer the quality of the pasture falls and we use that for only part of the diet, adding in leaves and browse from the forest, or annual forage crops such as kale or turnips we have planted. The variety in the diet is great for the milk and for the goats. Since our goats are certified organic we cannot rely on many medicines and chemical dewormers. Access to a wide variety of forage allows for goats to treat themselves to some extent..
During the winter months the goats rely on stored feed including hay, organic grains, and alfalfa. They will go out and enjoy the sunshine and chew on the buds of trees or hemlock branches but for the most part are relaxing in one of our solar barns that provide ample light and ventilation.
We milk seasonally for the most part, having kids born the first week of March. We also milk a portion of our herd through the winter and do not breed them. This is called “milking through” and is a good way to conserve the goats (and our) resources. A pregnant doe puts so much energy into producing multiple kids that pregnancy can be quite hard on her. Goats also produce many more offspring than are needed to replace stock on the farm. Milking 2 years in a row is actually easier on the goat that going through another pregnancy, so it gives a doe time to rest and gain a little extra weight. This is good for us because it gives us a small supply of milk throughout the winter and our resources are going toward milk rather than kids we don’t need.