Friday, December 19, 2008

How many goats does a homesteader need?

Every time I think about our children leaving home, I assume I need to sell the vast majority of my goat herd. After all, I've said many times over the past six years, I only wanted a couple of goats for cheese, and it was my daughters who dragged us into showing and increased our herd to as many as 30 or more goats. So, I've been assuming that I would just have six does, and freshen two every four months, so that we could have a year-round supply of milk.

But that "couple of goats for cheese" plan was made by a woman who was a clueless city slicker six years ago. I didn't even know I could make anything other than chevre with goat milk. Today, we buy very little dairy. We make all of our own mozzarella, chevre, buttermilk, and yogurt. We haven't bought milk in three or four years. We also make ice cream, and after succeeding with parmesan, we'll be making that again. I have made gouda a couple of times, although it wasn't the greatest. I really should try again. And when I tried to make cheddar, it was completely consumed by mold during aging, but I should try that one again too. I think I'm going to need more than six does.

How much cheese do we use in one year?
  • 50 batches of mozzarella (one per week for homemade pizza, eggplant parmesan, and lasagna) = 50 gallons of milk
  • 10 batches of ricotta (for lasagna and manicotti) = 10 gallons
  • 6 batches of parmesan (for Italian foods) = 12 gallons
  • 10 batches of chevre (for snacking with crackers, making cheesecake, quiche, & cheese blintzes for breakfast) = 10 gallons
  • cheddar?
  • gouda?
What about cream soups?
A pot of cream soup takes a quart of milk, so having cream of broccoli, asparagus, or mushroom soup once a week adds up to 13 gallons of milk a year.

What about other cooking and baking and our morning coffee?
Add another 26 gallons a year (1/2 gallon a week).

And what about goat milk soap?
That takes 26 ounces per batch, which is six batches per gallon, so . . .

Have I ever told you that I really don't like math? Perhaps I should go about this differently. From spring to autumn, we've been milking about 10 goats, and that number falls as we head into winter, but we're always milking at least one or two goats. Remember, we have Nigerian dwarves, so they don't produce as much as the big goats, although their high butterfat is perfect for the home dairy. There are currently five adults living here, and we're consuming all these dairy products, plus the butter and cheddar that we buy at the store. If there are only two or three adults here, we might need to cut in half the number that we're milking. But if we want to start making our own butter and cheddar, maybe not!

So, after six months of worrying about having too many goats, I've just realized that we might have exactly what we need.


SkippyMom said...

I don't know what that is in the pic' - but I would eat the whole thing! :D It looks so yummy - what is it?

Deborah said...

That's a quiche made with all homegrown ingredients: spinach, chevre, milk, eggs. Okay, I bought the flour.

And my husband just read the post and informs me that I am way off on my chevre estimate. He's right. We probably make about 18 batches a year.

Gizmo said...

It looks wonderful, and I'm ready to push SkippyMom out of the way....
Have you looked into grinding your own flour?? I bet you could get locally grown wheat. :)
Your estimates are amazing - I don't like math either, so I never added it up for us....

Gizmo said...

I forgot to add - thanks for your post about Parmesan. After your post, my husband is really looking forward to giving it a try! We make several of the soft cheeses (mozz., ricotta, cottage, etc), about as often as you do, and wanted to move toward the hard cheeses as well.
Maybe I should apply for an internship now?!?

Deborah said...

We bought a grain grinder, but apparently it's not the best. It grinds pretty coarse. There are farmers around here who grow wheat, so having our own flour is a possibility.

Good luck with the hard cheese! We'll be doing more this summer ourselves.

MaskedMan said...

How many goats are enough to become a nuisance? You want one less than that number. ;-)

Next time you're in the store, price cheese by the pound, and milk by the gallon - I think you'll find that owning goats suddenly has become a lot less of a nuisance than before... That's the kind of math that matters!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I like Masked Man's thinking! For me, animals are a blessing rather than a nuisance; I do better with them than I do people. I will probably be a crazy "farm animal" lady when I get old (since I'm not really fond of cats in the house....).

Deborah said...

MM -- LOL on the "one less than a nuisance!" As I was thinking about my goats today, I was thinking that I should only keep the ones that I really love, rather than the ones I "think" I "should" be keeping for whatever random reason.

Michelle -- I've always been an animal lover, so I can't see myself living without animals. The cold weather (ice/snow) is my biggest concern though. I have been telling my husband about those great old New England farms where they connect all their buildings, so you never have to go outside to go from the house to the barn. Since he doesn't want to leave here, we might have to work on a compromise like that.


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