The other day was some kind of "eyes open" day. I sat on the couch, across from the window that Moira had just passed the goat milk through. We use our family room window as a way to pass things that either need to go in or out of the house. Otherwise you need to unlock the dog gate, and open the back door, and open a baby gate before you can do what you needed doing. And since I have no intention of pulling a wagon or cooler through all that to do the goat milking, we use our family room window. Unconventional, yes.
So as I sat there and a big thought came to me. Not sure why now, but it did. Moira and I have been sharing the milking duty. Jeremiah and I also feed the goats each evening. With our females in milk, they need a lot of feed. And here was where my thoughts lay:
We have two goats that are great producers. They give us each more than a quart of milk, per milking. Currently we are only milking once a day, since the babies are too young to sell just yet. They each get fed 4 to 5 cups of food twice a day. This is to be expected. However we also have another full sized goat who's milk can not be drunk, but still needs this same amount of food. And then the reality of the dwarf goats and their feed to milk ratio. The awesome thing about dwarf goat milk is that it is higher in fat. The bad thing about their milk is that they are getting (need) about 3 cups of food twice a day, but they only produce 2 cups of milk each! So they are eating a bit more than half of what our full sized goats are eating, but only giving us 1/3 the amount of milk. This is not a good return on our investment. Not to mention they are our escape artists. We are constantly trying to fortify the fencing to keep them in. So far they are winning. With our new fruit trees, that cost a large chunk of money, being planted out front, it may be only a matter of time before they find them. And, yes, they will strip the bark off of them, killing the trees.
So I realized some hard decisions were going to have to be made. Surprisingly the girls were totally on board with it all! I was expecting a small revolt at least :-) This is the plan as it stands for now:
We will be selling/re-homing the dwarf females, the dwarf male, and our yucky tasting milker...Pippi. Pippi is the sweetest goat! But her milk is totally undrinkable! And feed costs money, quite a bit of money! We don't have the land available to let them 'free range'. We plan on keeping two of the current female babies, and purchasing an alpine male from a friend of ours. Buying a new male is significantly cheaper than buying a female. But we need two males for two reasons. One, they will keep each other company, as goats are herd animals and can get stressed when alone. You can not house males and females together for multiple reasons. So our male needed a companion. If we just got a new male and sold both of our current ones, he would still need someone in there with him. So it made sense to keep our proven breeder, who's given us mostly girls, and have his companion breed with the two female babies we are keeping. This keeps our upfront costs down.
We really only need to have one more female, for a total of three. However, our great producers, Lilly and Honey are now 5 years old. Goats really only produce for about 10 years. This gives us only 5 years left, possibly. So we are keeping two, just in case, giving us four females total. This will give us a possibility of up to 3 gallons a milk a day, at least for a couple of years. I am assuming we will see Lilly and Honey's production decline in a couple of years. This extra milk will be made into cheese, or frozen. Though currently I am making all of our milk into yogurt of kefir and it is gone lickety split! We are getting a full gallon a day of milk and it is gone in the blink of an eye.
This will give us a total of 6 goats, as opposed to the 7 we have now (I'm not counting the babies). That may not seem like a big difference, but it will end up being more cost effective in the long run. I mean maybe we only keep one baby now, and take another baby next year, or the year after that. But this will give us more milk for our money. It will be sad to see these goats go, but every time I've been buying the feed, or seeing a new bale of hay (they go through two huge round bales a month!) rolled in, as I mix up their feed, and scoop it out into their dishes, AND see how much milk we are getting in return....well, all I can say is, money doesn't seem to grow on trees over here :-)