First, this is quite a commitment. The thought of milking an large animal twice a day has just about sealed their fate around here. We're not big vacationing people, but we would like to do some more camping in the future. And when we do take a big trip, it's usually back to Texas to see family and we're gone for 2-3 weeks at a time. Do you know how difficult it is to find someone who wants to take care of a small homestead for that long of a time? And I hate to even ask! Adding a dairy animal might keep us tied to the house more than we'd like.
Second, the housing requirements for a larger animal has been a bit daunting. We want to build one time, not twice, unlike our chicken coop where we built and then realized that it was way too small! Then there is the issue of fencing. Goats require a taller fence and one that they can't mangle or climb over. Cha-ching!
Third, despite how much we've learned, we're far from being confident when it comes to hoof care, issues of an upset rumen, and the like. But I suspect we'll never feel 100% ready until we dive in. It's not like we haven't learned ANYTHING the last two years!
Anyway, I've hesitated to move forward until recently when I reconsidered Kinder goats. A couple of my homesteading friends mentioned they wished they had not "upgraded" to larger breeds and were discussing the benefits of Kinders when I received an email from Rich Anderson of Anderson Family Farms on some unrelated business. The Andersons raise Kinders and have a family based business as an off-shoot of their goat milk products. (You should really visit their site to see the beautiful products!).
• smaller in size, they require more modest housing, although it should be just as "goat proof" as for a larger breed
• their food intake is also more modest, making the feed cost less
• they are considered dual purpose in that they are used for milk or meat
• they can be bred year-round
• they typically have multiple births
• their milk is high in butterfat, ranging from 5.5% - 7%
• they aren't as difficult to milk as a pygmy
• they're hardy and seem to live long, tolerating heat or cold fairly well
Obviously, these smaller goats are not going to produce as much milk, however, it's probably plenty for most families. Realistically, you might expect to get about 2 quarts per day from a milker. (The amount will vary depending on age, etc.) Given the fact that goats need companions, it would be best to have at least two or three does which should allow you to have more than enough milk for drinking and for making dairy products.
Here are some links with additional information that you might find helpful...
Kinder Goats Breeders Association
Backwoods Home Magazine "Kinder Goats"
Hobby Farms "Kinder Breed Profile"
So... now I think we might be ready to move forward into the realm of goats. In fact, we went and visited a friend with some Kinders to see them up close and personal and I have to confess, we were charmed by their wonderful personality and size! Both my daughters readily agreed that the Kinder breed was their favorite. Even my husband thought they were cute and more to his liking.
Given the fact that these are smaller animals and their needs not so grand (although just as important) has given us the confidence to consider moving forward. And we'll be deciding in the next few days. If anyone has additional input as to the pros and cons of Kinders, or goats for that matter, I'd love to hear from you today! Don't be shy!