Our ladies give milk first and foremost to nourish their offspring. Watching the does fuss over, nurse and cuddle their kids is one of our greatest joys. Happy and content mother goats are healthy goats- very important for an organic farm.
We would not want it any other way! Lucky for us the does produce quite a bit of milk and after a couple of weeks there is more than enough for kids and chèvre! The kids nurse for about 2 month. While still nursing they develop their rumen- the four chambered stomach that will sustain them as adults on a diet of all manner of vegetation. Even day old kids are already "practicing" by munching on bits of hay. At about two weeks of age we move the kids into the "kindergarten" a separate stall with lots of toys (little tykes slide, teeter totter etc) while the Mothers take a break.
They can check on their kiddos over the fence rail but most seem pretty happy for some uninterrupted time at the hay feeder....
Many of our goats have more than one kid- if there are triplet or quadruplets we have to intervene since goats only have two teats and one would likely fall behind and ultimately starve. We make sure that each doe has the opportunity to raise a kid, often a dueling that later becomes part of the herd. Goats have strong lifelong relations ships with their adult daughters. One just has to walk around the barn at night and see the little family groups resting together, mother, grandmother, daughter all cuddled up.
Since the little boys do not have much of a future on the milk line we find pet homes for them. Bottle kids grow up to be great companion animals.
This arraignment works well for the goats and it works well for us.
In the wild a goats would have just enough milk to raise her kids- in a best case scenario. The survival rate of mountain goats to one year of age is about 50%. Then there would be fall and winter with no shelter and little food but lots of hungry predators and they would just scrape by until spring. In that sense our goats are pretty lucky- a nice warm barn and plenty of hay to eat through the winter. We see goat dairy as a very happy and mutually beneficial arrangement! Our opposable thumbs and ability to operate machinery (hay bales!!!) assures that the goats have plenty to eat so that they can produce milk for many month.
We as humans are terrible at photosynthesis - the process that all plants have mastered to turn CO2 into C (carbon) and O2. Until we evolve to that we will always have to eat other creatures, plants or animal. Our forefathers have figured out that by taking good care of a dairy animal we can get food (dairy) while the animal can thrive! In a sense we are piggy backing onto the goats fabulous ability to eat all matter of vegetation and by providing them with food and shelter they provide us with cheese.
We know that dairy animals have often been subjected to terrible living conditions and great emotional distress by having their babies removed time after time.
We also know that the goat dairy industry can be particularly harsh- many male kids are killed at birth and composted as a waste product. We are adamantly opposed to those practices. We invite all our customers to come visit the farm, hold a baby, meet a happy Mom and know that good dairy is possible. It is a lot of work and it is more expensive to raise animals right but we believe that it is so worth it!