When we decided to get dairy goats last year, we dove in and were pretty quickly overwhelmed by all of the things we didn’t know. I hit the books, consulted with experienced goat breeders, and generally spent every minute I could learning about my goats before I did something foolish and potentially harmful.
Despite all of my researching, there are still some lessons that can only come with time and experience. There is always something new to learn.
Over the course of our first year, here are the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from having our goats
Milk production is measured in weight, not volume.
If you talk to an experienced dairy producer and refer to your milk production in cups not pounds, you will be laughed at. Trust me.
Goats are fantastic liars.
Goats hide illness and injury as long as they can to prevent being bullied by other goats. Because of this it’s really hard to know when a goat is getting sick or how bad an injury really is. It’s essential to know your goat’s normal behaviors and routines so you can detect when anything is even slightly “off”.
Goats understand human speech.
I know this sounds a little nutty, but I swear it’s true. We’ve had some serious heart-to-hearts with our goats about bad milking manners, medications, administration, and more, and it’s made a difference. Words like “dinner”? They have that down in days. They know their names and when they’re in trouble.
Cleanliness is key.
Maintaining clean goat housing, clean milk collection practices, and a sanitary milking area makes all the difference. This prevents a slew of illnesses and parasites and makes your milk taste amazing. There is nothing more painful than having to dump out your milk because you have to treat a sick goat with a wormer or antibiotic.
Goats have intense, complex, emotional relationships.
Within the herd, goats have friends and foes, and their relationships often evolve with time. Some goats are so attached to each other, you can’t even separate them for a few minutes without them becoming severely distressed. They get jealous. They get angry. They love. They are constantly testing their social structure and herd hierarchy.
You will never be prepared enough.
No matter how much you read, no matter how many medications and supplies you stock, no matter how ready you think you are, when the time comes, you’ll fall short. Inevitably the one medication you need in an emergency will be the only one not in your cabinet. A situation will arise, and suddenly everything you’ve ever read or think you know will fly out of your head or be totally useless. All you can do is take a deep breath and do your best.