When Dave started Elodie Farms in 2001, he raised Boer goats for meat. In 2003, when he began to build the dairy he purchased most of his goats from Marion Pierce who owned and operated Meriwhether Dairy.
Today we raise both meat and dairy goats on the
21 acres of the farm and 5 acres next door. Most of the year, the
goats are kept separate but at the end of the milking season until
all the goats have kidded, we keep them at the farm where we can
see them every day.
Our meat goats are mostly full-blooded Boers
with a couple of Boer/Dairy mixes used for breeding stock. Ava (pictured
to the left in the slideshow) is the old lady of the group who typically
has 3 to 4 kids each year. Unlike the dairy goats, the Boers keep
their kids with them until they are sold. Because the kids are not
hand raised they are not quite as used to being around people as
the dairy goats.
Unlike some dairies who raise and milk only one
breed of dairy goat, our dairy uses a mix of breeds, predominantly,
LaManchas and Alpines, with a few each of Saanens, Oberhasli, Toggenburgs,
and a big, beautiful Nubian named “Wheezy”.
The different breeds
LaManchas were brought to California by Spanish
missionaries. The name apparently comes from the 1904 World’s Fair. When some goats were shipped from Spain, all that could be read from the crate inscription was "LaMancha, Cordoba, Spain." The
name stuck and so LaMancha became the accepted breed name. You can
easily recognize a LaMancha from any other goat because they appear
to have no ears! To read more about the history of this breed check
out this website: http://lamanchas.com/lm-history.htm.
Alpine goats do in fact come from the Alps, imported
to this country from France via Cuba in the 1920s. They come in a
variety of colors and each of the variations of their color patterns
has a French name. Probably the most easily recognizable at Elodie
Farms is the Chamoisee. A brown or bay color with a black face, dorsal
stripe and black legs and feet.
An average mature dairy goat female
weighs 150 pounds and produces a gallon of milk per day. Top producers
can average two gallons. Each breed has its own standard for size,
coloring, and composition of its milk regarding milk solids and butterfat
content. For more detail about the different breeds, go to: http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/goats.
Our kidding & milking seasons
Like everything on a farm, when we can start to
milk and when we need to stop is seasonal. The does go into ‘heat’ in late August/early September; if they don’t
get pregnant then, they will go into a second heat a few weeks later.
Once most of the goats are pregnant we begin to see a decrease in
milk production. By early to mid December, we call it a year and
give everyone a couple months of maternity leave.
The last week of January and the first week of
February begin the kidding season. With 55 or more pregnant goats,
every day starts with a good long look at the herd. We walk the entire
property two or three times a day to be sure that no one has snuck
off to have their kids in the woods. If it is not particularly cold,
we leave enough stall doors and barn doors open to let the mamas
sleep where they want. When the temp goes way down we make sure everyone
is tucked in for the night. Sometimes the way a goat acts when she
is ready to kid is the tip off that she needs to be put in a stall
by herself. Other times we happen to notice between walks that someone
has just dropped her kids in the pasture or hidden behind a clump
of trees. Some lucky visitors get to see an occasional birth and
we even let them name the babies!
The dairy goat mamas keep their
babies for about 5 to 10 days. That allows the kids to get the first
milk, the colostrum and a couple days of good ol’ mama’s milk before
we start to hand feed them. Because our kids are hand raised, they
tend to act much like puppies, they come when called, follow Anne
and Dave around, and jump up on their hind legs begging for attention.
Once we have enough “freshened” does to start milking, we scrub down the kitchen and the milk room, get out the kids feeding buckets and we’re
off! That starts our milking season which runs from about mid February