Is Goat Milk Yummy?
We were initially quite
skeptical about being able to enjoy the goat milk for other than cheese and
soap. Any one who buys a jug of expensive goats milk at the grocery store
knows how "goaty" and strong flavored that stuff can be, in fact,
goats won't even drink it! (No joke.) The milk of goats fed good quality
feed, not housed with a buck, and served fresh (up to 5 days old even) is very
delicious, sweet, and rich.
Cream, Butter and Ice Cream
Nigerian's milk is higher in butterfat than
any other dairy goat breed, averaging around 6% (Nationally, our average
is usually higher) but often much higher.
(Nubians come the closest with a 2002 ADGA average of 4.8%). For that reason,
a good amount of cream
will separate on its own, allowing you to make butter or use skimmed milk.
The separation process takes longer than for cows milk and there isn't as much.
But at least you don't have to buy a separator unless you really want to.
The milk is quite rich on its own, making those of us who have to have half and
half for our coffee quite satisfied! If used for making homemade ice cream
(without adding any additional cream) the end result is fantastic!
Goaty Flavor in Cheese
Now, for those of you who LIKE the goaty
flavor of soft goats milk cheese (chevre) from the market, you will have to let
your milk (or the cheese) age a bit! If you make the cheese with the truly fresh milk,
don't get that "goat" taste. Some of us like that in the cheese, some don't.
But at least you have it under your control. Goats milk contains
several acids that develop this "goaty" flavor as they age. So all truly
aged goats milk cheeses (the hard cheeses and aged feta, for example) will
acquire this flavor to some degree. But most appreciate it in a cheese, if not in a
Milking the Nigerian
Volume Sacrificed: We wanted to note here that we have made
herd management choices that have negatively affected the volume of milk our
does produce. BUT these choices have given our milk, and in the end our cheese,
greater character and health benefits. The high activity level, large
percentage of browse in the diet and lower grain and alfalfa consumption are all
factors that affect volume of milk. )
We are on
our fourth year of DHIA milk testing. We milk twice a day, once
every 12 hours. We feed organic
livestock pellets and wet brewers grain (WBG). (see herd
management page) along with kelp, a loose goat minerals, black oil sunflower
seeds, locally grown alfalfa and grass hay and a daily browse walk in good weather.
We have also planted forage trees.
MIlk Testing (DHIA) Glossary:
= Days in MIlk, ME = Mature Equivelant,
a projected production amount based on current age and stage of lactation but
indicating a future peak production.
Sample DHIA Record
get asked "How much milk will they give?". This is a difficult question,
especially since most folks are thinking in terms of gallons and we think in
pounds. Our top doe milked 950 pounds last year. That is about
120 gallons. At some points she milked 1/2 gallon a day, but for the
most part it was about 1 1/2 quarts a day. First fresheners, of any breed,
will not milk nearly as much as they will in their 2nd and following years.
Some does will peak early and some will plateau and can be milked for over a
year with a production around 3 pounds a day. Very nice if you get one
like that, no need to rebreed! If you are looking for a milking doe, we
highly recommend you look for milking stars (those *D's and *S's), official
milking records are the most likely way to find good milking stock. Also
remember, this is a relatively new breed which continues to improve in its milk
production capabilities. Also, be sure to look for animals that were
milked for the full 305 days during their first lactation. Most dairymen
agree that this helps set the mammary tissue for better lactations for the rest
of the does life.
We from a
lot of people who are frustrated about the low production of their
Nigerians. Sometimes I think the expectations are too high. A tiny doe who
is giving 2 -4 cups a day is not bad if she is young and small (this is
about 1-2 pounds). Their production will most likely rise with litter size and
age (up to a point). But they need time and the chance. If you dry
them up early, most feel that this shortens their future lactations, so don't
give up! Remember also that most does will peak high at about 45-60 days
from freshening. After that production will decline (usually) and plateau.
Typical Increased Production: Ha-Cha's two First Lactation records
||4 + cups
We have a
doe right now (2007) that has been milking for 15 months and is still giving 1
quart per day. I think this is great! Steady, level production and a
"will to milk" most certainly make up for a high volume, short lactation.
So really study the numbers if they are available to you, as well as the numbers
for the doe's female ancestors and siblings.
Factors Affecting Milk Production
1st lactations as yearling = lower production than 1st lactation as 2 year
old. Peak year usually 3rd or 4th lactation
of kids in litter: The more kids, usually the more milk.
size: Even one inch height difference for a Nigerian will likely cause a
difference in milk production- never expect as much from a very small doe.
Lactation Length: Many dairy goat breeders believe that if a first freshener
is not milked for a full 10 months, that her future lactations will be
Service Sire of First Fresheners:
Some research has shown that the buck a doe is bred to actually influences the
amount of mammary tissue that develops since it it the fetus (with that bucks
genes) that sends signals to the mammary tissue to form.
Nigerian Productivity Scoring
For more information on comparing
production to other factors.
A note on
teat and udder size. Some of the does freshen their first time with rather small
teats. If you milk for at least 3-4 months the teats will increase in
size quite a bit. Over an entire lactation of 10 months, they improve
tremendously. It doesn't matter whether you hand milk or use a machine.
They will get better! Here are a couple of photos illustrating this
change. Also note the changes (not for the better) in the foreudder. You
need to give first freshener's udders time to change before you judge them.
In reality, you need well into the 2nd lactation to really know the quality in
shape and texture. Likewise, the mammary system will change greatly over
time. If there is no other glaring flaw in your doe, give her a few
freshenings to prove herself. Some changes are for the good, other times,
usually with udders that start out too large on first fresheners, the udder will
just get too large. Always there are suprises!
More about Nigerian Milk
I have known for a long time the obvious quality of
the ND milk in regards to its butterfat and protein content, but that alone does
not explain the extremely high yield of cheese in comparison to standard breed
goat milk. So we took advantage of some DNA testing and had our
foundation does and herdsires DNA tested for the alpha S1 casein genetics.
They all came back showing that they have the high ability to pass on the
production of this casein - which is the highest yielding protein for cheese
production. It is also the protein that people who are truly allergic to
cows milk are allergic too! So it is not necessarily a good thing if
you are looking for a goat to milk for fluid milk due to an allergy to cows
milk. Be sure to find out first if you might be sensitive to the ND milk.
You might not be, due to its other unique properties. But this does
explain our almost obscenely high cheese yield. When I make a hard cheese
from 100 pounds of milk I get about 17 pounds of cheese. After aging, it
will shrink to 14 pounds. Normal cow's milk yield is 10 pounds per 100
pounds of milk. 10% vs our 17%. Even if you compensate for the
aging, that still means that you need a lot less milk to make the same amount of
cheese. I am so convinced that these little goats are the miracle
cheese milk goat!
Build a Nigerian Sized PVC
Milk Stand for Show or Home
Platform 35"x16", Headgate (from platform) 28", Height to
platform 17" (Note the picture shows a stand with 20" height. It was a bit
too high for some of the older does, so I changed the leg height to a bit
2-4 Hours, depending upon
Material: 20 ft. 1.5" PVC,
3' 1" PVC, 17- PVC 1.5" T's, 2-PVC 1.5" 90degree corners,
6-1.5" caps, 2-3" Clevis pins, 2-3" pins, plywood, PVC "blue" glue, 5/8-1" deck
|1. Base: Cut 4 side
pieces at 14" each
|2. Base: Cut 3 cross
braces at 13" each
|3. Base: Cut 12 leg
pieces at 4" each
|4. Assemble sides
using 3 T's for each, assemble legs using one T each, insert legs into
sides, insert cross braces into one side and then connect all 3 cross
braces to other side. (See photo below)
|5. Check all joints
for alignment. Check platform for square by measuring diagonal from
each corner, measurements should be equal. (See photo below)
|6. Mark each joint
for correct alignment when gluing. (See photo below)
|7. Glue platform
supports then legs for each side. Glue cross braces to one side and
then glue all three cross brace connections to the other side.
Hopefully it will be straight and level! (Remember, the glue will
set almost immediately, so you must work quickly and accurately!)
Plywood to 34x16 (double check size on your platform!) Place on
platform supports and anchor with deck screws at each T connection.
(See photo below)
|9. Headgate: Cut 2
pieces at 10" each (for lower part of headgate)
|10. Headgate: Cut 3
pieces at 15.5" (for verticals upper part of headgate)
|11. Headgate: Cut 1
piece at 7 1/4 " and 1 piece at 2" (for horizontal top support)
|12. Headgate: Cut 1
piece at 3" and 2 pieces at 2" (for horizontal/ feed pan
|13. Using 3- T's
and 2 -90's dry assemble headgate as shown below. (See photo below)
|14. Mark all joints
for correct alignment when gluing.
|15. Glue horizontal
sections first, then glue bottom verticals to feed pan horizontal,
then glue 3 long verticals to feed pan horizantal, then glue top
horizontal to verticals.
|16. Insert headgate
into base and drill holes through base and headgate verticals for
clevis pins (this makes the headgate removable for travel), or glue
for permanent attachment. (See photo below)
|17. Cut 1" PVC to
desired length for locking bar. Insert into T in feed pan support and
drill hole for pin attachment. Drill two holes in top support for open
and closed latching with pin. Note our "fancy" use of cable ties
to hold locking bar close to headgate!)
|18. Hang feedpan
from front (again here we used zip ties!)
|19. You're done!
||Check for square
|Glue platform and
||Add plywood to
||Dry assemble, mark,
and glue headgate
||Front of headgate
||Back of headgate
Milking vs. Machine Milking
milking is peaceful, quick, and has an faster clean-up time. It is also
less expensive. Machine milking is cleaner and potentially faster (as you
can milk more than one doe at a time). For us as a dairy, it is a must.
We can also more easily teach helpers to do the milking using the machine.
Below are some pointers based on our experience using both methods.
We brush the doe off a bit,
pre-milk out a couple of squrits, wash her udder with
a sanitizing wipe (made using Fias Co Farm's homemade recipe) or an another teat
wash such as iodine based, then milk. Keeping the doe clipped with a "dairy
clip" is a good idea also. A dairy clip consists of a close clip to
the back half of the belly, udder, inner thighs, and tail. This keeps both
long hairs from falling in the pail, as well as not giving dirt a place to
Each doe's teats are different and take
adapting to. Some have small ones, others almost too large, but we find
once you get used to each doe, you think they are all easily milked.
After milking out, use a balm if needed, then
a teat dip, unless she is going back in with kids. We cover our
milking pails with a modified plastic lid just to keep debris out while
finishing up. Then we get the milk into the house for straining and
refrigeration as soon as possible. The more rapidly milk is chilled, the
better the flavor. We usually put the jars in the freezer for a short
time, 30 min to an hour, (often forgetting for longer), then pour into a bigger
jug for use. If you do freeze it, just save it up for cheese making or
drinking later. We also set the milk pail in a bucket of ice water to chill
it even more rapidly.
The milking pail and strainer should be
rinsed with cool water first, then washed in hot soapy water (we use a dairy
detergent), then once a week an acid cleaner should be used.
We use a
Coburn Porta-Milker with an electric motor. It is capable of milking up to
4 does at a time (based on it's horsepower). We were lucky and found it
"used" (although it was still in the box and had never been opened, but sat for
a few years). We had a not-so-pleasant experience with another popular
company, and it's milking machine. But that doesn't mean that you will!
Ask around to see what people are using. Some of them are incredibly noisy
and awkward. Definitely don't go for the cheapest, that would be my
advice. Used machines are great and can be rebuilt. They are pretty
Nigerian a sheep inflation (the part that goes on the teat) works very well.
Some companies are marketing these as Nigerian inflations, but they are also
sold for sheep. Some dairies use the inflations designed for big does, but
they can be very awkward to get into place under the little ladies.
a set-up with the pulsator (the mechanical device that turns the suction on and
off to create a pulse that mimics the sucking of a kid) on the lid of the bucket
rather than at the machine. The problem we had with the kind that has it
mounted at the machine was getting milk sucked up into the vacuum tank.
That creates a real mess!
the ITP "claws". (The claw is the part
that sits just below the inflation -the part that you put on the teat.) The ITP claws are very well made and have
their own manual and semi-automatic valve. They allow each inflation to milk independently.
So if you have a doe that empties more on one side, you can remove the other
inflation from the teat and let the fuller side milk out.
the vacuum pump in the "milk house" (the room that all the milking equipment
gets washed in) and have a vacuum hose that runs out to the parlor. This
keeps the noise down a bit in the parlor.
two does at a time on a four doe stand. The first and third doe get
cleaned and hooked up first, then while they are milking, the 2nd and 4th are
prepped. By the time all four are done milking, they are also done with
their grain. It takes us 30 minutes to milk 20 does this way. Clean up is
almost as long!
two at a time using a "T" adaptor to run the two sets of milking lines into the
same bucket. You can buy lids that have two holes, but they don't fit our
older style smaller bucket.
lucky and found a smaller stainless pail, an old Surge bucket, that only holds 3
gallons. We use a very large stainless "sanitary" strainer with a triple
filter system. We like this large strainer (about 140.00 if I remember
correctly) because the milk of Nigerians can be so thick that the small strainer
or mid-sized took a very long time to filter it, especially in the winter.
We use a
"bucket washer" (it is really a line washer but since they are for bucket milker
systems, they got stuck with the name bucket washer) to wash the milking lines.
Using the bucket washer has some distinct advantages, but a disadvantage with
cost for the initial set-up. Whether you use a bucket washer or not, the
clean-up is still the same as far as process.
100 degree water is your goal as this will help rinse out milk without cooking
on the fats.
Really hot water with an alkaline dairy soap (we use a non-foaming type,
otherwise it bubbles up into your vacuum lines too easily). While the wash
cycle is running, turn the manual valves on your claws on and off to help clean
the claws better.
Really hot water.
sanitizer: With hot water. OR use an acid rinse periodically,
followed by a hot water rinse.
pre-sanitize the milk lines, but we do the pail and the strainer.
Pasteurized or Raw?
Pasteurizing is a choice some make. We
don't pasteurize. Maybe we are too lazy or maybe we know that beneficial
enzymes are destroyed along with the bad, which may not be present. Cheese
makers and cheese connoisseurs swear on unpasteurized milk as do health food advocates.
(Please visit Real Milk for more
information on the known benefits of raw milk. Also see
The American Cheese Society for more
information.) If you choose to pasteurize, there are two methods. You can find
information about them in most dairy goat books as well as on line.
Not many things are as thrilling as watching the
liquid milk change before your eyes into curd and then yummy cheese. And it is
not as difficult as one might expect. We highly recommend buying the book
by Ricki Carroll. I would get the book first and choose your recipe, then
order supplies. New England Cheese Supply
has everything you will need- including the book.
are ready to take the next step in your cheesemaking, I recommend Margaret P.
Morris's book "The Cheesemaker's Manual". This book will introduce
you to pH and acidity as well as some of the other more technical things you
will need to know to become a better cheesemaker. The next book in your
course of studies after Margaret's is "American Farmstead Cheese" by Paul
Kindstedt and the Vermont Cheese Council. This book is the best guide out
there for really understanding the process.
that, workshops, university short courses, and apprenticeships are your best
routes for growth.
Classes at Pholia Farm join us for a day of cheesemaking and
cheese eating! See the link for details and schedule.
We think every one should have a family milk
goat. (Big surprise!) They are a ton of fun and give so much. The Nigerian is so easy to
keep (easier to have more of them in a small space than with the big girls), their milk is
and they are cute! You don't have to rebreed your milk goat every year.
Many can keep milking, at a bit lower production level, for extended periods of
time. AI services are becoming increasingly popular, so no buck is needed
when it is time to rebreed her. Goat keeping is allowed in some city
limits, where miniature goats are classified as pets, so even the frustrated
suburban homeowner can feel a bit closer to the earth and enjoy quality goat
products not possible to buy in a store.