Monday, July 23, 2012

Meet the Goats

Hello! I am a baby goat
OK, this post is going to reveal how little I know about farming/how disconnected I am from my food - even AFTER shopping regularly at the farmers market for years and spending six weeks working on an organic farm. I mentioned in my last post that Shaun and I are now WWOOFing on a farm outside of Spokane that has goats. I have seen some blog posts from sustainability minded people and urban homesteaders who have dairy goats. The idea greatly appealed to me, goat cheese is delicious after all. The potential to learn about goats was one of the reasons Shaun and I chose this farm.

This is where I reveal how little I knew about milk producing animals. So, um, getting milk from goats requires them to have baby goats. There are ten female goats at Pine Meadows Farm (and one adult male goat). These ten goats had babies, and that's why they are able to give us milk! I think if I had really thought about it I would have been able to figure this out, but that's kind of the point, I hadn't really thought about it. I don't know that I have ever really thought about where milk comes from.
Entrance to beautiful Pine Meadow Farm

That's the big, obvious thing that I have learned thus far. There have been a couple of others as well. We separate the baby goats from their mommas every evening so that all of the momma goats are able to be milked in the morning. The babies spend the day with their moms and are able to nurse. There are a couple of goats who for various reasons don't nurse and they get milked in the evening as well.

It was both harder and easier to milk a goat than I expected. Goats I have interacted with in the past (mainly in petting zoos) have been very obstinate. These goats knew their names and jumped up on the milking stanchion as soon as it was their turn. Actually squeezing the teet to get milk to come out was challenging for me. It's kind of like squeezing liquid out of a balloon. For some reason it took a lot of thought to get my hand to move in that particular way.

Goats hanging out in the pasture
In the evening the milk is for the chickens, so sanitation isn't so important. We drink the milk in the morning, often raw, so sanitation is VERY important. The goat's utters are sanitized with a mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide. The first squirt of milk, where most of the bacteria is, is thrown away. And the containers that we milk into are carefully cleaned.

Goat being milked in a stanchion
When I got to Pine Meadow I was a little unsure about drinking raw milk. I guess I am still a little unsure about it. I know there are a lot of people out there (The Weston Price Foundation seems to be the most vocal) who believe that raw milk is the healthiest, safest thing out there, and I understand where they are coming from. There are also a lot of people (the CDC for example) who consider it dangerous. I was talking with Chris, the primary farmer, about it, he pointed out that pasteurized milk has no bacteria. The complete lack of bacteria means that once some type of bacteria is introduced it has a super awesome environment to colonize. With raw milk there is bacteria, but (hopefully) it's the good bacteria. Since the milk is already full of bacteria there is no room for the bad bacteria to get in. Or that's the theory at least. I think I am opening up to the idea of raw milk. Thus far I have mainly used it in in cooked dishes like oatmeal and sauces. Others on the farm have been drinking multiple glasses a day, some have been drinking it for years. Everyone appears the picture of health.

Does anyone out there drink raw milk? Have an opinion about it?

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