When we first moved to the homestead, our goal was to feed the family without becoming slaves to the livestock. With that goal in mind, we installed an auto door on the chicken coop so the poultry can take care of themselves with less input from us, sheep because they can graze a good portion of the year, and meat breed goats because they too don’t require much daily input.
That all changed when our neighbor talked us into the dairy cows. With the addition of the cows, followed by the dairy goats, suddenly we were where we never planned to be: tied to regular milking. However, the partnership with the neighbors works beautifully as we only have to milk every other day and can still travel and have some flexibility. We also elected to milk our cows and goats only in the mornings, rather than twice a day. It means a little less milk (though we still get plenty) but a lot more freedom.
However we still owned the meat goats. Compared to lambs, who can grow to eating size in 5-6 months on only their mama’s milk and then grass, goat kids grow a lot slower. And we’ve realized that though we like goats, we have plenty of lamb meat, so don’t really need the goat meat. Keeping both dairy and meat goats means either maintaining two bucks (and a means of keeping them separate from the does in order to control breeding), breeding a dairy buck to meat goats (resulting in even leaner kids) or breeding a meat buck to dairy does (resulting in kids who won’t produce high volumes of milk).
We considered the option of AI (Artificial Insemination), thinking we could give up a buck altogether and simply breed the does via semen ordered through the mail. But, it turns out goats are one of the more challenging species to AI due to a short heat cycle that makes it difficult to time it just right.
So – we made the decision this week to give up the meat goats and focus on dairy. The meat buck and doe have been sold and the two remaining kids will fill our freezer before winter, leaving us with only the two dairy does to maintain for the time being. A dairy buck is in our future but for this winter it will be nice not to have to deal with him.