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The Beginning of a Food Forest

This past weekend Fallen Oaks Farm took its first real step toward becoming a nursery. I purchased fruit trees and bushes from Bob Well’s Nursery and planted them into my woody beds (see list below). These plants will be the basis for my food forest and nursery stock. In addition to these plants, I will be adding comfrey, bee balm, lemon balm, and many other herbs to act as ground cover between the bushes and trees. I spaced the trees about eight feet apart so I will have to manage them intensively, but since I plan to use these trees and scion wood for even more trees the heavy pruning will keep the trees small and produce hardwood cuttings. Each tree is accompanist by two blackberry bushes, strawberry plants, and a comfrey plant. All of the areas left over will be covered with various perennial herbs and annual crops so that there will be no bare soil exposed.

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My little helper.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have these plants in the ground. I feel like I am finally really working toward the goal I have had for the past few years.

The full list of everything I planted:

  • Gala Apple Tree
  • Phoenix Tears/Wolfe Berry Plant
  • Pawpaw Tree
  • Lang Jujube Tree
  • Li Jujube Tree
  • Miracle Fruit
  • Navaho Thornless Blackberry
  • Pink Lady Apple Tree
  • Honey Crisp Apple Tree
  • Chandler Strawberry
  • Orient Pear Tree
  • Warren Pear Tree
  • Brightwell Blueberry Bush
  • Premier Blueberry Bush
  • Loring Peach Tree
  • Redskin Peach Tree
  • Flame Prince Peach Tree
  • Bruce Plum Tree
  • Morris Plum Tree
  • Redgold Nectarine Tree
  • Alma Fig Tree
  • Black Mission Fig Tree
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Chicken Trailer – The WinnebEGGo

Do you love puns? Me too. This one is courtesy of my wife.

In another post, I talked about establishing pasture with chickens. In order to do so, the chickens have to be moved from place to place around your property. I tried free ranging for a grand total 2, and as I result I lost 4 chickens to various hazards including dogs, hawks, and other mysteries of the universe. Needless to say, free ranges doesn’t work on my property so I needed a way to fence them in while still moving the chickens around. Moving a pen around isn’t too hard, but that means they needed a house that could move around too. I built a good sized chicken tractor, and that was great for a few chickens, but with the flock of 40 that we have now, the tractor wasn’t enough anymore. In addition to this, the chicken tractor I built was just too hard to handle on our hilly property, and my wife could never move it on her own.

So, we went looking for a sizable, mobile coop. That search ended with a small camping trailer. It’s about 6 x 9 ft and was an absolute mess inside. The cabinets were falling apart and moldy, the walls were covered in a thin wood veneer that was rotting off, and the studs that held the camper shell in place were almost completely gone. After some demo, and some rebuilding, the trailer structure was restored, and some plywood underlayment was used to cover up the studs.

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My wife enjoyed the demolition portion of this job.

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5 mm underlayment was used to cover the studs.

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A small dog door was used to frame in the chicken door.

I used some 2x4s to create a set of perches that can swing up and down to make cleaning the coop a little easier, and we used some large Rubbermaid with holes cut in the front for nesting boxes. Currently we use 8 nesting boxes and that seems to be plenty for the girls. This trailer is too large to move by hand, but I can hook it up to my truck whenever it is time to move. The trailer is then surrounded by 400 ft. of electro-net fencing to keep the birds where they need to be. This way we can rotate the birds around the lot to give them constant exposure to pasture.

Here is a quick video to get an idea of how we use this trailer.

Thanks for reading!

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My Hugelkultur Garden

If you didn’t see the first post on permaculture, check it out here for a brief introduction to what permaculture is.

Today I’d like to talk about a type of garden bed I have been trying out for the this, and last, season. To put it simply, I dug a small ditch, filled it with wood, and covered it with compost and top soil. This is a way scaled down version of something called Hugelkultur (Hoo-gul-culture). Hugelkultur is a method made famous by Austrian Sepp Holzer. Traditional Hugelkultur consists of large 2 meter tall mounds with one face at a 70 degree angle. All of the plantings go into this sloped face. The major benefit of this method is the reduced need to irrigate in the first year.  If your plants make it into year 2, irrigation is likely eliminated completely. As the wood core begins to breakdown, a fungal web extends throughout the mound and the water retention of the mound increases. These fungal webs also share nutrients between all of the plants in the system when it connects to their roots. The wood also acts as a wick that moves water from the bottom of the mound, to the top of the mound.

As great as this sounds, it is still a giant 6 ft. tall pile of dirt. These methods were developed in the Austrian mountains so it is unlikely these methods are for everyone. Lucky for us, a fellow named Jack Spirko came along and developed a scaled down version of this method. He generally refers to this style of garden bed simply as wood core, or woody, beds. As opposed to true Hugelkultur, woody beds are much shorter at around 1-2 ft. tall, and perhaps 4 ft. wide at the most. Also, woody beds are typically constructed through digging a small trench, filling it with varying sizes of logs, branches, etc. and burying that wood with compost, and the soil that was dug out of the trench. The depth of the trench can vary, and truly can be as deep as you want. Personally, I went about one foot deep using a Terramite I rented one day. I chose one foot simply because I have rocky soil, and I didn’t have huge amounts of wood to bury at the time.

I also live on a sloped property that benefits from slowing down water as much as possible. So to assist in this, and to harvest as much water as possible from rainfall, I dug my ditch on contour. So, I dug the ditch, filled it with oak logs that were cut up into various lengths, covered it in compost making sure to fill the voids between the logs, and then piled the dirt from the ditch back on top of the whole thing. In my first year, I planted several perennials (raspberries, elderberries, black berries, goji berries, and four trees), and filled in the rest of the spaces with peppers, basil, and tomatoes. After I planted everything, I covered it all with straw as a mulch, and I watered everything for a month using a soaker hose for 2 hours every other day to sort of “prime” the system. Everything performed fantastically except the goji berry. After the first month, I didn’t need to water for the rest of the year. The goji berry is the only thing I lost due to a failure to thrive. It’s likely that it didn’t get enough light since this particular bed was in a shaded area. I lost a pear tree to a dog, and a couple apple trees to goats (my fence around the area is much better now).

This year, I built my second bed and I have planted it entirely with annuals. Once again everything is doing great, but I changed a couple things. For starters, I haven’t watered this bed apart from the day I seeded, and the day I planted the small annual plants. Also, rather than pure straw, I seeded one half of the bed with clover, and I used pure straw on the other half just to see what might happen. In some places the clover is doing what I expected and is growing up thick through the straw, but in other places the clover hasn’t started growing yet. This could be due to lack of water when the seed was thrown down, but clover is also one of those things that may take a year or two to germinate and grow, so time will tell. I think next year when I start the garden over in the spring, I will use only clover seed to try and eliminate the need for straw bales. Straw is great, but it grows grass, can blow away, and makes overseeding less effective unless you pull all the straw back and put it back down. Clover will provide a living mulch with the added benefit of being perennial and fixing nitrogen in the soil.

I will also be turning these garden beds into a primarily perennial system with annual to fill the voids. These beds can be used for some annual production, but they are really meant to be for perennial production in the end. This fall, I will be adding more trees to both beds to start out as a basic nursery stock. Once these trees are established, I can use the cuttings as scion wood and graft them on to rootstock to make new trees for my large scale food forest.

 

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Establishing Pasture with Chickens

Chickens are an incredible addition to any homestead. They are relatively easy to care for, which makes them a great choice for beginners to animal husbandry, and they can give us so much in the form of eggs and meat. A typical way of keeping chickens is in a coop with one or two runs that are fenced in. While this is an acceptable means of keeping chickens, provided that the chickens are kept in a clean coop with plenty to eat in their run, the chickens are not doing as much work for you as they might be. The same is true for free range chickens. They are free to do as they like, but without some guidance, the chickens will choose their favorite areas and potentially over graze their favorite plants. This eventually leads to a pasture that is devoid of the chickens preferred vegetation.

What we can do instead, is use our chickens to improve the fertility and increase the diversity of our pastures, and through good management, we can actually use our chickens to establish a pasture that will help to feed them. The basic idea is that moving animals quickly through a  small pasture in a controlled manner will create a disturbance in the soil. This occurs naturally through the chickens scratching the soil, eating vegetation, and trampling their droppings and other vegetation into the soil. I have a small tractor that I keep 8 chickens in. The tractor is about 8 ft. x 8 ft. so the chickens have a good amount of space. I keep them in one spot for a day or two and then I move them to the next spot, and I let the area that I just moved them from rest for about a month. Moving them this way increases the fertility of the land that they are moved on, and creates an opportunity for me to broadcast seeds of my choosing into the disturbed area. The alternative to tractoring is a paddock shift method. This method breaks a pasture into smaller sections called paddocks. The chickens are rotated through the paddocks and seeds are cast behind the chickens. The time spent in each paddock will be determined by the size of your flock, the size of the paddock, and the current quality of your pasture. but by the time the chickens are put back into the paddock that they started in, all of the vegetation should be regrown.

As I move the birds from one place to the next, every area is given about a month to rest, which is plenty of time for the seeds to take root and produce vegetation. My plan is to spread the seeds of plants that the chickens will eat. This helps give the birds more of the nutrients they need, and it cuts down on my feed bills. It is also of note that seeds germinate up to 60% better when the seeds are covered with something like hay or straw.

Below is a list of some of the plants that can be used for a chicken pasture:

Perennials

  • Trefoil
  • Red Clover
  • Strawberry Clover
  • Ladino Clover
  • Dutch White Clover
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Chicory

All of these perennials can be found here.

Annuals

  • Black Oil Sunflower
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Mustard
  • Kale
  • Buckwheat
  • Alfalfa
  • Rape
  • Lettuces
  • Dock (Sorrel)
  • Cowpea
  • Sorghum
  • Dandelion
  • Annual Ryegrass

Many of these options can be found here. I am sure there are more options that I have forgotten, but there are many varieties for you to experiment with and see which plants your birds prefer. Not all seeds will sprout at the same time, with large mixes there can be many different conditions needed for germination. You may be discouraged when your red clover does not sprout in the fall, but you may be surprised next year when you suddenly find it popping up all over the place. As the pasture becomes more fertile and more diverse, eventually you will need to contribute less seed until hopefully even the annual crops reseed themselves to the point that they are essentially perennials.

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Permaculture – What is it?

Today I would like to introduce the idea of permaculture. A few people may have heard of it, but generally people look at me like is a just sprouted a horn from my forehead when I mention it to them. At it’s core, permaculture is a design science that can be applied to anything from gardens to manufacturing, but it is usually applied to designing plant systems that provide food to people. The idea of a more permanent means of agriculture was developed by a gentlemen named Bill Mollison, and his teachings have been slowing gaining ground thanks to work of people like Geoff Lawton, Paul Wheaton, Sepp Holzer, Jack Spirko, Allan Savory, and many others.

The Three Principles of Permaculture

  1. Care of the earth.

This is straightforward enough. If it is permaculture, it cannot destroy and pollute the soil. If you are implementing a true permaculture system, every thing you do with improve soil life and fertility. This doesn’t mean there is no room for fertilizers, but there are other options aside from the fossil-fuel-based chemicals that modern agriculture employs.

2. Care of people.

In permaculture, everything we do should be a benefit to ourselves, our families, and our communities. There cannot be a permaculture system that relies on negatively effecting people.

3. Return of surplus.

Some people have tried to turn this ethic into, “Redistribution of surplus”, but that is not the intention. Surplus should be returned to the system that produced to increase fertility and productivity in the future.

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is a vast design science that I could not hope to do justice to in a single post. For a great introduction to some of the most common principle of permaculture, check out Jack Spirko’s video series on YouTube.

For some incredible examples of what permaculture can do when implemented, take a look at Geoff Lawton’s website where he has incredible videos of what he and others have done with permaculture.

 

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Goat Milk Ricotta Cheese

Today I set out to make some ricotta cheese from goat milk. It is not a easy as making chevre, but you get your cheese faster since it only takes about 4-5 hours from the time you start boiling water to sterilize your pots to the time the cheese is done draining (if you choose to drain it at all).

Getting Started

Whatever cheese you are making, it always begins the same way. You need to boil all of the utensils and cookware you plan to use during the course of making cheese.

Today all I needed was:

  • 8 qt. stock pot with lid
  • Thermometer
  • 1/2 C measuring cup
  • 1 tsp. measuring spoon
  • Skimmer – picture a big spoon with holes in it (a ladle can also work)
  • Rubber spatula
  • A strainer or colander with small holes – a mesh strainer might even be best, but I don’t have one to try
  • 2 tsp. citric acid
  • 2 tsp. sea salt – You can use kosher as well, but never used iodized salt or your cheese turns green
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream (heavy pasteurized works fine)
  • 1 gallon goat milk

So to begin, I put my utensils in the pot and covered them will water and waiting until it boiled. I pour off the hot water and use the skimmer to fish out the hot utensils and set them aside on a clean towel.

Making the Cheese

Measure out your 1 gallon of milk and pour it into the pot along with your acid, 1 tsp of salt, and the cream and gently mix it together. Cheese makers commonly recommend using a gentle up and down motion to mix milk rather than the typical swirling around the pan. Now that the easy part is over, it is time to SLOWLY heat the milk to 184 degrees F.

And I MEAN SLOWLY.

If you have a double boiler that can hold a gallon of milk, that would be ideal. I don’t have one so I had to scrape the bottom of the pan regularly with the spatula to try to stop the milk from scorching, but I still got a little scorching. It took about an hour and a half (maybe 2 hours) to slowly get the milk to 184 degrees. After that, remove the pot from the heat, set the lid on and wait for 15 minutes while the curds really set up. After 15 minutes, fish the curds out with a strainer, ladle, or spoon and place them in the strainer or colander.

Don’t use a cheese cloth!

I made this mistake and it does two things:

  1. The curds are not setup completely and you will lose cheese as it is sucked into the cloth.
  2. The curds will settle to the bottom of the cloth and stop the whey from draining.

Instead, gently place the curds into the strainer and gently fold the remaining 1 tsp. of salt into the cheese. After that you can enjoy it immediately or you can drain it for up to an hour depending on how much moisture you like in your ricotta.

So all in all this is a pretty simple cheese, but it requires your attention for up to 2 hours if you are slow and paranoid like me. If you have any tips or tricks to speed this process up without ruining a weeks worth or milk, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. Also, consider emailing me (jeff@fallenoaksfarm.com) with topics you’d like to see. Until next time, take care!

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Website Updates

I am currently overhauling the website to make it a little more attractive and functional. My hope is to get it finished up this week and resume posting on Monday.

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Using Goat Milk

Now that you have an idea of the dairy goat breeds (if you missed the article on goat breeds, look here) it is important to think about how you might go about using goat milk. I set out to have a small herd so that I can produce my own cheeses, but there are many other uses such as making soap, yogurt, butter, and more. I won’t be able to cover all of them, because I honestly do not have knowledge of every possibility. If you know of something you can do with goat milk that I do not mention, please share it in the comments!

Tips for handling goat milk

Before I begin with using the goat milk, I think it would be helpful to quickly mention a couple best practices for handling the milk.

  1. Always chill your milk as quickly as possible after you are finished milking. The faster you can chill the milk, the less likely it will be to develop any off or “goaty” taste. I have a small Tupperware container that I keep in my refrigerator full of water. I strain my milk into clean mason jars, set them in the cold water, and put the container into the fridge. The water bath will chill the milk more quickly than simply setting them in the fridge. Some will say that the milk needs to chill before a lid is placed on the jar or the condensation formed by warm milk may affect the taste. Personally, I do not think I have trouble with this, but if you are cooling down a half gallon jar, I could see how that might be prudent since it will take longer to cool.
  2. Always be sure to use clean jars, utensils, pots, pans, etc. when they will be used with your milk. Bacteria can easily colonize in milk if given the opportunity. Before making cheese, for example, it is often recommended that all utensils and pans that are to be used in the process be boiled before coming into contact with the milk. Making cheeses encourages the growth of bacteria so it is imperative that we are only encouraging the bacteria we add.

Making cheese with goat milk

Making cheese is the very reason that got me started on the path to owning and milking goats. There are many, many resources all over the internet that can help you get started. My wife found an excellent place to start in Standard Stone Farms. They are a source for supplies and have put some of these supplies in handy kits to help beginners like me get started. They are also local to Tennessee, and if you live in the area you can attend workshops in person. You can check them out here. I am using one of their kits right now, and it was a great place to get started. Making your first batch of chevre (basic goat cheese) is incredibly simple, and from there you will be quickly moving on to Feta, Ricotta, Mozzarella, and many more.

In most cases you will need about a gallon of goat milk to get started. I milk Feta every morning and I get about 4 cups of milk. Some people can easily double that depending on their goat, but since this is the first time Feta has had a kid, she does not produce as much milk as she will next time. I also milk by hand (I’m slow, but getting better) so she gets impatient with me when she runs out of food on the stand, and she has a kid to nurse so I do not get every drop from her. When I make a batch of chevre using a gallon of milk, I get about 2 cups of cheese (complete guess, I haven’t thought to get an exact measurement). I will be sure to get an exact amount next time I make a batch. In the case of chevre, all you have to do it warm the milk up to 80 degrees, add the bacteria culture, add the rennet, let the curds form for 12 hours (In colder temperatures in can take longer, up to 24). After that, all that is left to do is drain the whey and let the cheese hand in a cheese cloth until it has drained the desired amount, and add your salt. From there you can freeze the cheese to keep it longer, or mix in herbs (or just about anything) and enjoy it right away!

Making butter with goat milk

I am slowly working up the courage to attempt what appears to be the arduous task of butter creation. The trick is getting enough cream from the goat milk to make into butter. There are essentially two ways to get the cream out:

  1. A cream separator – these can be turned by hand or can turn with an electric motor.
  2. Skimming the old fashioned way.

The aid of a separator would certainly speed things up, but they can by costly (Here is an example on Amazon.com) at around $180 for an electric version. The advantage with a separator is that you do not need to wait days for the cream to raise to the top of the milk, and for folks like me that do not get a gallon of milk each day, it is easier than saving up all of my milk for the time it takes to collect enough cream. As for skimming, here is a good article from Mother Earth News that details the process of making butter without the use of a skimmer. Once you have the cream, the process of making butter is the same, so I will not go into great detail. I’d love to hear from any of you that have made butter with goat milk, and which way you go about getting your cream.

Making soap with goat milk

Aside from cheese, I would hazard a guess that soap making is the second most common use for goat milk. Every farmer’s market, craft fair, or flea market is sure to have a booth or two with a nice lady selling soap that she’s made with goat milk. The basic recipe for soap with goat milk is exactly the same for making soap with water, except you use milk instead. For a quick overview of the process, wikihow.com has a nice series of illustrations. For some thoughts of the benefits of “goat soap” check out goatmilkstuff.com. For some recipes and an idea of how you might get started, take a look at soap-making-resource.com. I have not made any soap yet, but if you have I would like to hear what your favorite recipes are, and how and where you get your materials. As soon as I get started with my soap, I will be sure to share the experiences with everyone.

Making yogurt with goat milk

Another item I haven’t made yet, but in my research I happened upon this article from sunstonefarmandlearn.com that I think provides an excellent introduction to making your own yogurt from your goat milk. I will be trying this out soon, and I will be sure to share my results. Let us know if you have made your own yogurt, and what lessons you might share!

Making ice cream with goat milk

If you have never tried real homemade ice cream, you are truly missing out. Making ice cream with goat milk can be even more tedious than making butter if you want to use pure cream from goat milk. There are several ways that people go about making ice cream from goat milk. Some use raw goat milk, evaporated goat milk, or pasteurized store-bought goat milk and then add cream from a cow. What I wanted was a way to make ice cream with as little need for cow dairy as possible, and preferably none at all, and I finally found a great article from ouroneacrefarm.com. There are many other ways to make goat milk ice cream if you don’t mind using cream from the cow, or separating gallons of milk to get enough cream to make a decent amount of ice cream. If you know of other ways to make ice cream, please share in the comments.

So, I know that this does not cover all of the ways that goat milk can be used, but I hope that it provides enough ideas to get you thinking about how you might use it. I am still learning about all of these ideas myself, and I will be sharing more as I get to experiment in the future. I encourage anyone with ideas, thoughts, or experiences on how you have made anything with goat milk to please share it in the comments. Until next time, take care!

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Dairy Goats – Uses and Breeds

Disclaimer

I do not know anything about raising goats for meat, so I will stick strictly to the dairy breeds that I am familiar with. I have done some research on raising pygmy and/or dwarf goats, but I have no first hand experience with them. In the end a goat is essentially a goat, but I just wanted to be clear about that up front.

Introduction

Today I would like to talk about what I feel are some benefits of dairy goats to help you decide if you think they might be right for your homestead. If you live in an urban area, it is likely going to be difficult to house goats, but it may still be possible depending on your yard size and the local ordinances. Remember that a goat doesn’t feel like a goat unless she has at least two other goats with her.

Dairy goats are an excellent addition for my homestead, but they do require work every day to keep them healthy and happy. You will need to milk them every day unless you still have a nursing kid to keep the udder from remaining full for too long. Not only is it uncomfortable for the doe, but she could develop mastitis (wiki link), which is a potentially life-threatening condition. If you do not leave a doe’s kid to nurse throughout the day, you could be milking twice a day so it is a real commitment. In return, you will be rewarded with milk that can be used to produce butter, cheese, soap, ice cream or any other dairy product that cow’s milk can produce. Goats are also excellent for improving soil fertility while they browse, and they can help keep fence lines clear, clean up fallen leaves, or help keep weeds like poison ivy from spreading.

Aside from being useful for so many items, goat’s milk is often said to be safer for people who are lactose-intolerant. Goat milk is also a healthy substitute for puppies, kittens, and other nursing animals that might be in need of milk for one reason or another. Here is a link to an article in Natural News discussing some of the potential benefits of goat’s milk. This is only one source so I encourage you to do additional research on the subject to decide for yourself if consuming raw milk is right for you and your family. I cannot recommend that you go and drink raw goat’s milk! I can only tell you what I do and that I drink raw milk, and so long as you take care to ensure your goats are clean and healthy I would not hesitate to do so every time. Do your research and decide for yourself.

Goat Breeds

Here in East Tennessee our weather is such that there are almost no limits on the types of goats we can have. Our summers are not especially hot, and our winters are not especially cold. So long as the goats are properly sheltered and watered, they will be just fine. So without further ado, let’s get into dairy breeds. These are the most common in the United States, but I am sure there are more you could find though it may be difficult to get them.

LaMancha

This breed originated in Oregon and it most easily recognized by its very small ears. These goats can come in all colors and are know to have a sweet disposition. Two of my goats are half LaMancha, and I can attest to their sweet nature. There milk production is considered high, and the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 3.9% fat, and 3.1% protein.

LaMancha Wiki Page

Nubian

Now from tiny ears to huge ones! The Nubian originated in the Middle East and parts of northern Africa making it a good breed for hot climates. Nubians are most easily recognized by their large, floppy ears., and these goats can also be any color. They are also some of the largest breeds with females weighing in around 130 pounds. There milk production is less than other diary goats, but their milk is typically the highest in fat and protein making them a favorite amongst cheese makers. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 4.6% fat, and 3.7% protein.

Nubian Wiki Page

Alpine

The Alpine breed originated in the French Alps. These goats can be nearly any color with exception of solid white or light brown with white markings. Typically alpines will have a significant amount of black or light brown coloring though there is no breed standard for patterning. Alpines are also a large breed weighing around 130 pounds. Where the Nubian has the highest fat content, the Alpine produces the highest quantity of milk making them a good choice from a pure production stand point. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 3.3% fat, and 2.8% protein.

Alpine Wiki Page

Toggenburg

The “Togg” is the oldest of the registered breeds and originates in Switzerland. These goats have strict coloring requirements. They range in color from light fawn to dark chocolate and have white ears and white on their lower legs. This breed is the second smallest of the breeds I’m listing, but they can still reach 120 pounds. These goats are sometimes described as being “spirited”, but also curious, inquisitive, and friendly. They have an average milk production. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 3.0% fat, and 2.7% protein.

Toggenburg Wiki Page

Saanen

The Saanen breed also originated in Switzerland and is the largest of the diary breeds at 135 pounds. Saanens are usually preferred to be pure white, but they can be a cream color as well. These goats are very sweet and affectionate. They have a high milk production. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 3.2% fat, and 2.8% protein.

Sable

The Sable is the newest of the goat breeds only being recognized in 2005. It is descended from the Saanen and is the same save for the coloring. Sables can be brown, black, or grey with white colorings.

Saanen Wiki Page

Oberhasli

Oberhasli originated in the United States and is know for a very specific coloring of a bay color known as Chamoise, with a black dorsal stripe, udder, belly, and black below the knees, and the does are sometimes completely black. They have a moderately-high milk production. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 3.5% fat, and 2.9% protein.

Oberhasli Wiki Page

Nigerian Dwarf

The Nigerian Dwarf is not what I think of a standard dairy goat, but it is still important to note. As it’s name implies, it is a dwarf goat originating in Africa. They can come in many colors and patterns and stand no taller than 22.5 inches. Though they are small, these goats have exceptionally high fat content in their milk. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 6.1% fat, and 4.4% protein.

Nigerian Dwarf Wiki Page

These are very brief overviews, but there are many resources on the web for more information if any of these breeds are of particular interest. In the end, I have decided to go with Nubians. My herd started out a little odd, but I am currently milking my LaMancha/Nubian (Feta) cross and she’s been great. We bred her to an Alpine so her kid (Olivet) is a real mutt, but she’s going to be a great goat. We also have a little Nubian kid (Brie) that we purchased a few weeks ago. You may be able to figure out my naming pattern by now.

Feta. This photo was taken in May of 2014.

Feta. This photo was taken in May of 2014.

This is Oli at about one week of age.

This is Oli at about one week of age.

Brie at two months old. Our latest addition to the goat herd.

Brie at two months old. Our latest addition to the goat herd.

That’s all I have for now. I will try to keep posts from getting this long in the future. Let me know in the comments what your favorites are and what you do with your milk. If you’d like more information on where I found my goats, or where to start looking, I would be happy to help. Use the Contact form to send me an email and I will respond as quickly as I can. Until next time, take care!

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Dairy Goats – My Experiences

About three years ago, after eating some fried-green tomatoes covered in goat cheese I declared that I absolutely love goat cheese! A perfectly reasonable thing to say in my opinion, as goat cheese is amazing, but I then went on to say that I would one day own my own goats and milk them and make my own cheese! This is not the first outburst of this kind to fly forth from my mouth. As my wife will tell you I am always quick to say, “I could do that!”, and more often than not I either forget about it or never actually try.

Well thankfully, this particular crazy idea stuck with me, and I am very glad it did. When we first moved out to Fallen Oaks we had no dairy goats and no where to put them, but I knew that we would put them somewhere. So after the fences were built for our pigs, I figured why not just put them in there? Pigs and goats get along right? The next step was to find me some goats. My wife has a friend who helps out a livestock auction south of Loudon, TN, and she arranged for us to get two goats, a nanny and her kid of three or four days. This was my first mistake.  In my eagerness to get some goats and start with the milking, I failed to meet the goats or even consider the breed of the goat before purchasing them and bringing them on.

I wound up with two kiko/boer crosses (meat goats). All in all they were fine goats for what they were, but the nanny wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. It became immediately apparent that this goat had never been handled, and I knew that there was no way I would ever be milking her.

So lesson #1: Always meet your goats before you buy them so you know what you are getting.

After several days of observation, it also became clear that the nanny was sort of aimless, and would just follow the dogs around the pasture. After some reading online I realized my second mistake. Goats need friends! To really feel like a goat herd, there needs to be at least 3-4 goats in a group. In my haste to get a goat and get the milk and make the cheese to prove the naysayers wrong, I had completely overlooked some of the most basic needs of the animals. In my searching for more information on goats, I spent some time learning about all the different breeds and their uses. I quickly learned that if I wanted to make cheese, meat goats were not the way to go. What makes good cheese is the butter fat contained in their milk, and the diary breeds have been selectively bred to produce high quality milk in large amounts. My meat goats were bred for entirely different purposes and would never be optimal for what I wanted.

Lesson #2: Research, research, research! With the internet today, there was no excuse for my lack of understanding of what the goats needed. Also, in my ignorance, I assumed that goat breeds were much that same. I could not have been further from the truth. Every breed has it’s own advantages, disadvantages, and compromises. Even if your eventual decision is to go with a particular breed because you love their big, floppy ears, it is okay because you did your research and made an informed decision.

So after realizing I needed more goats, I quickly located a wonderful lady named Dawn who lives about an hour south of here. She sold us a brother and sister that are Nubian/La Mancha crosses. They fit in great, and they would become the basis for my new herd.

On Monday I will go over my decision-making process for the breed I finally settled on (sort of) and how we started making our herd with the birth of our first kid! Until next time, take care!

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