I have been seriously evaluating my herd of goats this past week or so. This is a really good thing to do on occasion. We started out unsure if we really even wanted goats. Our first goats were sweet pygmy’s, pretty near given to us pregnant by a wonderful woman looking to help another if she was able. The girls were great, and provided us with milk that first year, but we found we needed longer lactation’s and so we began looking at the nigerian dwarfs.
In our part of North Carolina you generally have 2 choices for getting nigerian dwarf goats. You can go all out and spend $600-$800 for a kid you have to raise or buy a pet. It took us a while, but we found a breeder selling some of her adults bred and due to kid soon. She had real milk does, not just pet quality, and sold us our sweet Cinnamon, then Hallie and Katmandu. These are all wonderful backyard milk goats, but there is only so much we can do to improve on them. And here is where I have been evaluating.
Our goal is two-fold here at our farm. First, we really need lots of milk for our family. Due to our small space it is crucial we have heavy producers. We brought an alpine doe home in a trial to see if we should move to a different breed, but have found it is not for us, thus our little goats really have to be top-notch. A doe that produces well but doesn’t necessarily have the best udder seemed okay until we learned enough to realize that poor udder attachment leads to shorter productive life in our does. Cinnamon, a wonderful producer with a bad attachment, has been a great milk producer but her udder is becoming a problem as it begins to sag more. We have bought, and are buying, bucks to hopefully correct the udder problems in her offspring, but we can only take it so far.
Our second goal is to produce better offspring than what we have and to help put goats out there that will fit the needs of others who need a couple of backyard milk goats, not just pets being milked. We see a lot of poor udders being milked, thus producing more poor-quality goats. They make great pets, but there is a glut in our area of these and not enough great genetics at reasonable prices.
Now, to our evaluation. My heart really wants to keep all these sweet babies and first goats, yet on half an acre I can’t. I know far more right now than I did even 6 months ago, and would really like to move my herd to a new level, infusing it with genetic potential to bring even better goats to our area. I really want to see even pets being high-quality. Inevitably, even pets sometimes get bred. I really want to see better animals as the norm rather than the exception.
To this end I have been spending a lot of time researching lines and trying to see how much I can afford. The fact is, I only have so much cash, and I still need milk for my family. Change is very slow, and I have already invested heavily in even the goats I have. I cannot get prices like some in other parts of the country command, so I have to be very careful not to run myself too far into the hole. I have found some lines and farms that seem to consistently produce goats with good udders and milk production, so I find myself considering selling many in my small herd just to cover the cost of one or two does out of those lines. I fear making a mistake, still not knowing enough to trust that I will make the best decisions, but I sure will do my best! So, here is to the future and the hope that I will make good decisions, and that one day it will be easier for the small-time homesteader to have good goats.