The Dairy Goat Handbook: For Backyard, Homestead, And Small Farm, by Ann Starbard
What accounts for the appeal of goats? As is the case in many aspects of existence, there is a wide disconnect between the importance of goats worldwide, where they apparently account for up to 80% of all meat consumed in the world, and their relative rarity in the United States, where aside from Texas hardly any state has any sizable amount of goats produced for either milk or meat. As someone whose family was for generations dairy farmers in rural Western Pennsylvania, it is easily comprehensible to me why someone would want to milk goats. I’m not saying that it is something I would want to do myself, but more something that I think is worthwhile to know about and something that should be appreciated. If I am not likely to drink a lot of goat milk, goat cheese is often fantastic and those who help make food I enjoy are definitely people I am interested in celebrating. And goats too, are well worth celebrating, and this book does a sound job in writing about how to take care of them and appreciate them and to consider which goats would be best suited depending on one’s circumstances and goals.
This book is a little less than 200 pages and it is divided into twelve chapters. The book begins with an introduction. After this the author discusses how one gets started (1) on goats and chooses among breeds (2) that one would wish to own. After that the author discusses feedings goats (3) and then on matters of herd management (4) and business (5) so that one can spend one’s money in a somewhat intelligent way while one is raising animals that are likely not to make very much money. After that the author discusses breeding (6) and birthing (7) and kid care (8), all of which are likely to be important as one wishes to grow one’s herd or to sell animals to others. After that the author discusses health care (9) and then moves on to a discussion of milk and milking (10), and dairy products (11) that one can gain through dairy farming with goats. Finally, after a chapter on the world of dairy goats (12), the book ends with three appendices that deal with kits (i), resources (ii), and record sheets (iii) before a glossary, index, and some information about the author.
The author has done solid work in this book of providing a guide for dairy goats that provides a reader with enough information to think soundly about the sort of operation that one would like to have. Not everyone is going to want to raise goats with the same level of careerist ambitions, but the author quite sensibly examines enough aspects of raising goats that those who do intend on taking the task seriously will be able to do so with some wise counsel. The author also notes, intriguingly, that many goat breeds do not like the rain and will even hide from the rain, which probably accounts for the reason why goats are not grown as often in a place like Oregon as one would otherwise expect from an animal that is as quirky as the goat is. Indeed, in reading between the lines in this book it is very clear the sorts of ways that someone would make money from goats, namely in selling them to others, as well as in saving money in kind for using the otherwise expensive milk for milk and cheese for oneself and one’s friends. For most people raising goats, like other animals, is likely to be an unprofitable experience.