I am about ready to get back in the saddle again. I fell off last week, was it just last week? It seems like an eternity ago now that Penny went down.
If you read the history of Spellcast Farm, you will see that the farm started with one dairy goat. I purchased her the day I was laid off from my high paying job as a commercial real estate paralegal. It was not planned that way. In fact, I almost did not go to pick her up because I was worried about money, but I am glad I did. Some inner voice told me that I should get a dairy goat because I wanted to milk. I do not know if it was the milking or the goat milk itself, but my hands which were previously in pain, healed.
Two years later, I purchased a dairy cow: a broken down cow from a local dairy that I kept for about two years before she fell and had to be put down. She came to me with a dislocated hip from a fall at the dairy. She had a very good home with us for those two years. I purchased three more cows in varying degrees of health from the same dairy. We raised a heifer calf to almost a year old. We lost another cow while at Herter Road due to a fall: Cocoa. She slipped and fell in a ditch and we could not get her up. Cows go down in dairies and in beef herds all of the time. We simply did not have the equipment or the support necessary to potentially get them up. Even if you manually get them up, there’s no guaranty they will stay up. I expect you’ve heard the term “downed cow.”
I miss my cows, I miss Penny and Peaches in particular. I do not miss the noise of the milking machine and my reliance upon it. I do not miss the worry that I felt about the cows all of the time. I do not know why I was so worried about them, but a dairy cow is a finely tuned instrument that requires a lot to keep it going. In milk, my cows ate, just while being milked, about 60 pounds of feed a day. This does not count hay of which we went through a lot. Plus you cannot feed just any type of feed or hay to a dairy animal.
If you’ve been reading this journal, you will know that I had been considering purchasing dairy goat(s). Both Wally and I decided that it was not a good idea to bring in goats while we had cows and I know that was the right decision at that time.
I am a firm believer in fate. Last Sunday, some French Alpine dairy goats were put up for sale on Craigslist. The names of the goats were mentioned in the advertisements and I was able to look up their pedigrees on the American Dairy Goat Association web site and discovered they were from lines that we had before. I contacted the woman and arranged to go to look at the goats that day. We came home with three does in milk with six babies (three does and three bucks) and arranged to purchase a fourth doe with a single doe kid which we picked up this past Saturday. Yesterday, we drove to another location and purchased a buckling to be used as a future herd sire. We are back in the dairy goat business.
I have mixed feelings about that. Goats: they are not cows. They do not produce the amazing, creamy milk that my Jersey cows did. But they eat a whole lot less, if one goes down with illness, we can pick it up. They can be milked by hand so there is no reliance on an electric milking machine. If I get kicked or run over by a goat, it is unlikely to severely injure me. There is a whole lot less money involved in purchasing a dairy goat.
While some goats can be “milked through” meaning milked for twelve months straight, most automatically dry off in the fall, cycle (come in heat) in the fall, breed and then kid in the late winter, usually having two kids. If they kid in January or February and are fed well, a doe kid can be bred that fall to kid the next year so there is only a year to wait before a doe kid starts to deliver milk. Cows breed all year long, their gestation period is nine months, they usually only have one calf, that calf should not be bred until she is at least fifteen months old, then adding in a nine month gestation period, that’s over two years before you see milk out of a heifer.
While I do not care for adult male goats (bucks) when they are in rut (during breeding season), a dairy goat buck is unlikely to kill you like a Jersey bull can.
Goats do not deliver that rich creamy milk that I had become so accustomed to from my Jerseys, but their milk is good, it is healthy and you can make some really nice cheese from it. At our age and time in life, Wally and I are much better off with goats.
So here we are.
Until later …