Our closed herd of goats consists of 40 Alpine and Toggenburg goats. The does kid in late spring and are milked through November. This system allows the does to kid when the grasses and brush are at the peak of nutrition. The kids are raised by their mothers and are immediately out on pasture. We separate the kids and does by a wire panel at night so the does’ udders are full for milking in the morning but the kids can still see, smell and touch their moms. After milking, the kids are put back with their moms who nurse them and teach them how to graze throughout the day. While allowing the doe to raise her kid diminishes the volume of milk we get from each goat, we feel it is healthiest for the animals. In the fall, the does go into heat, are bred and wean their kids. During the winter months the does are dried off (we stop milking) so they can divert their energy to pregnancy instead of milk production. This cycle of growth and rest is good for the land, the goats, and us.
Our herd rotates every few days to new pastures on brushy hills and in fertile bottoms. Moving the goats frequently promotes both pasture and animal health. With this system the risk of ingesting parasites and bacteria is diminished and makes it possible for us to avoid the routine use of wormers and antibiotics. We are proud that our animals do not depend on the frequent use of medications to stay healthy. Aside from decreasing disease risks by rotating our animals, it also improves the quality of forage available to them. Since most of their nutritional needs are met through grazing, we are able to minimize our use of grain. In fact, we feed only a fraction of the amount of grain compared to most commercial dairy producers. As our pastures continue to improve, we hope to eliminate the use of grain entirely. Rotational grazing also prevents the goats from overgrazing or leaving behind only undesirable plants. What they do leave behind, though, is manure which helps enrich our pasture soils and encourages lush plant growth. Goats are notorious for their ability to climb, jump and crawl to escape all sorts of fencing, so maintaining all the fencing for this type of rotational system is quite involved. Given the numerous benefits to the animals and land, though, we feel it is worth the extra effort.
It’s one thing for us to say we manage our farm with special attention to our animals and land, but it’s another thing to have an independent organization determine the same. After a thorough application and audit we have been verified as an Animal Welfare Approved dairy farm. Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) is an independent non-profit organization that recognizes farms for maintaining the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. We are proud to say we are the only dairy farm (cow, goat or sheep) in Ohio with this designation.