Monday, June 22, 2015

Our first two full-sized goats join the herd

For months now, Rosemary and I have been talking about increasing our milk production and beginning to offer milk and milk products for sale. There are a myriad of logistical hurdles to establishing a dairy, even on a small scale. But today we made a big investment toward making it a reality with the purchase of our first two full-sized goats--a year-old Alpine doe and a four-month-old Saanen doeling--both from Spinning Spider Creamery, north of Asheville.

Spinning Spider was recommended to us by the owner of Nigerian Meadows, near Wilson, who had also purchased Saanen does from the creamery. Saanens, which are fairly rare to find in this region, are a hardy full-sized goat breed that produces an immense quantity of milk--close to two gallons per day at their peak. Our idea, in short, is to establish a herd with a few full-sized goats, and then to cross-breed them with our Nigerian bucks. Mini-Saanens, we're told, can produce nearly as much as full-sized Saanens while eating less.

So, what we were in search of today was a Saanen doeling, or doelings, to establish our herd, and we traveled all the way across the state because of Spinning Spider's stellar reputation for show-quality Saanen milk goats both on the regional and national levels.

Rosemary suggested bringing along our (human) kids as we searched for these (goat) kids. We left at about six-thirty, after the morning chores, and it wasn't too long before Cyprian inquired whether we were almost to the mountains. "No mountains," Cletus insisted indignantly. And he was right; we weren't even to Raleigh yet. Eventually we did get to the mountains, though, passing through Asheville and heading north to Mars Hill. Winding country roads led us to the creamery, which boasts scores and scores of Saanen and Alpine goats--about seventy currently in milk--and award-winning cheeses that are shipped internationally.

We ended up leaving Spinning Spider with only one Saanen doeling, not two. But we were also "sold" on an year-old Alpine female whose sight is limited. Like the Saanen doeling, this Alpine has top-of-the-line genetics, and since there is no blindness known in the bloodline, every indication is that the partial blindness is not hereditary. This means that for a significant reduction in price, we got a doe who will be ready to breed as soon as this fall, and who will most likely kid offspring with stellar pedigrees.

Clement, in any case, has adopted the Alpine, whose registered name is "Sweet Dreams":

Clement and Sweet Dreams just chillin'.

Five hours later, our carload of smelly kids (both kinds were pretty smelly, actually) finally arrived back at Kleinshire. To prepare for the new goats' integration into the herd, we switched Tarcy's and the goats' stalls, giving the goats the larger of the two and the entire back pasture to themselves. With Sweet Dream's partial blindness, we wouldn't want to risk her being injured by Tarcy while she gets used to things.

Here is Sweet Dreams, who will be old enough to be bred this fall.

Here are the Saanen doeling and Sweet Dreams checking out the back pasture.

The little Nigerians weren't exactly pleased by the over-sized newcomers. Caroline attempted to assert her "herd queen" status initially against the Saanen doeling:

Caroline takes on the Saanen doeling, who is already her size.

Pretty quickly, however, the Saanen took to hiding behind her far larger friend. Despite being hard of sight, Sweet Dreams has proven to be anything but sweet thus far. For now, the battle is to avoid being on the bottom of the totem poll, with Sweet Dreams taking on Edel:

No sweet dreams for Edel and Sweet Dreams, who will have nothing but headaches tonight.

For now, I'll end with a picture of the Saanen, who has yet to be named. She still has a lot of growing to do, but she looks like she has great potential. We're looking forward to seeing how things turn out. And more on the dairy plans in a future post!

The Saanen's profile.

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