People often ask us if we drink our milk raw, and the answer is yes! I do not believe large scale dairy operations (and even “organic” dairy operations) can possibly compete with milk from your own animals, produced in your own back yard! The following has been written to expound on how we care for our animals… we’re still learning and still have a long way to go, but we’re committed to caring for them in the best way possible, and I hope others might be able to glean a little bit of info from the things we’ve learned (and the mistakes we’ve made along the way!)
How are the Goats Cared For?
Our goats are fed a combination of naturally growing pasture, free-choice high-quality alfalfa and clover hay, organic sprouted barley and free-choice kelp and natural minerals. Our lactating goats also receive 100% organic, non GMO grain during milking, natural yeast cultures and black oil sunflower seeds. Anyone who purchases a goat from us will receive a starter ration of any hay or barley and minerals we are currently feeding, to help make the transition and anyone who purchases a lactating goat will also receive a weeks supply of the supplements we give our lactating animals. All of our animals are rotated to fresh pasture daily and we highly recommend this method over pasture grazing, or even rotational grazing for its many advantages over conventional grazing. Our animals live happily in a mixed herd consisting of goats and sheep (followed by the “clean up crew” – the chickens) – a type of “multi species grazing” which studies have shown to result in healthier animals with increased resistance to worms and disease. This enables us to raise healthy animals that are given NO vaccinations or routine antibiotics,* and we are working toward developing animals who do not need medicinal wormers (we use a combination of herbs and diatomeceous earth whenever possible and medicinal wormers only when necessary.)
(*Our number one priority is the health of our animals, and in some cases antibiotics may be necessary to ensure the health or comfort of one of our animals. We don’t claim to be an organic farm, although we do strive to manage our herd organically whenever possible.)
How are the Kids Cared For?
Care of kids is a controversial subject, and many people have chosen not to drink milk because of the calving/kidding practices on most dairy farms. Like all mammals, cows and goats must give birth in order to produce milk. In CAFO operations, these calves and kids, considered the “byproduct” of the dairy industry, are taken from their mother within the first few hours of birth and (in the case of calves) raised alone in small cages for veal. Even in most organic and small-farm dairy operations, calves and kids are separated from their mothers within a few days after birth, often to ensure that the mother produces the highest amount of milk. Here at our farm, we find it easier and less stressful to keep babies with their mothers unless medically inappropriate, and milking does not start until the kids are at least 2-3 weeks old. After this, the kids are separated only at night and milking is done on a once a day basis until the babies are old enough to be weaned and are getting the majority of their needs through hay and grass. We try to stagger our kidding time so that we always have plenty of fresh milk, but sometimes we have a little less in the winter, which is a sacrifice we’ll gladly make to ensure the health of our kids!
How Does the Milk Taste?
One of the reasons we chose Nigerian Dwarf Goats for our own personal milk production is that the milk from Nigerians tastes better than the milk from any other breed. The reason for this has to do with the milk’s butterfat content. Butterfat is what gives milk a sweet taste and Nigerian goat milk is higher in butterfat than milk from any other goat breed (2-5% as opposed to 6-10%.) Everyone who has ever tried our milk has remarked that it tastes exactly like cows milk (and some say it tastes better!) Goats milk is purported to have many advantages over cows milk, and can be consumed even by those who are lactose intolerant.
Another large factor in the taste of milk is the type of grass or hay the animals are eating. Unlike animals living in confinement feeding operations, where feedlot managers can keep the taste of the milk uniform by feeding the same thing day in and day out (including waste products from the manufacture of human and animal food), our goats are given access to many different types of grasses and legumes. This means that the taste of the milk produced on our farm will often vary from week to week, as the goats are moved to new pasture, and from season to season. Sometimes it will be sweeter, saltier, creamier, or (if they hit a patch of onion grass!) a bit off-tasting. We expect and anticipate this as an integral part of consuming fresh, healthy milk.
Is your farm organic?
We are not a certified organic farm, but healthy animals are of the utmost importance to us and we do everything we can to keep our animals and their products free from all chemicals, medications and GMO’s. Our animals eat grass from chemical-free pastures, we feed organic, non GMO barley and grain from Windy Acres Farm in Tennessee and we supplement with minerals from natural sources such as herbs and sea kelp. As previously mentioned, we treat our animals with herbal remedies whenever possible and have a long-term plan to breed for parasite resistance. We chose to get into farming after feeling personally convicted against the practices of the industrial food system (including the “organic” food system!), and it is our desire to go “beyond organic” in the treatment and care for our animals.
Can I Visit the Farm?
YES! We encourage everyone to visit the goats (and sheep and chickens!), especially if you are considering purchasing one of our animals. Milking classes are also available. For reasons of safety, we ask that anyone who wants to come and visit make an appointment with us first, and we’ll be happy to schedule a day to show you around!
What are the Benefits?
Below are a few links that explore the benefits of fresh, raw goats milk!
We are located near Bowling Green, KY and would be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding raw milk, caring for goats (or sheep or chickens!) and milking. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 27o-779-o445 or email Rina [at] RinaMarie [dot] com and we’ll do what we can to help!