Raising Dairy Goats On Our Homestead

Our goatsI spent the first 37 years of my life living in a “normal” suburban neighborhood. We had a yard, a play set, and a raised bed gardens. I was the crunchy one among my friends because we got farm fresh eggs from a local farmer and sometimes bought a ¼ of a cow all at once. I liked to cook from scratch and used cloth diapers on my kids.

My husband always said he wanted goats. I looked at him like he was crazy. When I asked why he wanted them, he said, “I wanna look out the window and say, ‘Hey Good Goats!’.” Well, I didn’t think that made any sense at all….not to mention we lived inside our small city limits, so having goats wasn’t even an option. I couldn’t even follow Joel Salatin’s advice (from his book Folks, This Ain’t Normal) to have 3 chickens in my yard!

Fast forward a bit (still suburbanites) when we started having kids and my son was experiencing a pretty severe dairy allergy. We cut all dairy (all….not just lactose) out of our diet for over two years to deal with it and heal. After all, I was nursing so I couldn’t have it, and if gooey grilled cheese was off the menu for me, it certainly was for everyone else too! While I was grateful that being dairy free taught me there was more calcium in green leafy veggies than in dairy, and how humus on my sandwich was actually really good, there were some food items that made their way into our home that were far more processed and “fake” than I wanted in our lives. Take “butter” for example. It can either be two ingredients — or about 20. Guess which one we were having at this time.

In some research, I had read that often times, people with dairy allergies can actually process raw dairy. That piqued my interest because in this pasteurized, anti-bacterial nation, we were taught from a young age that anything raw was basically deadly. But that hadn’t always been the case. Having a few chickens and a family dairy cow used to be a regular part of family life. Back in the “my great grandfather had bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy every morning and lived to be 95” days, there wasn’t anything BUT raw milk. So what changed?

Goats in barn

I learned quickly that the answer is….a lot. Raw milk, I learned, has many digestive enzymes that are killed in the pasteurization process, as well as all the beneficial gut bacteria that is also killed. That and homogenization (the chemical process by which cream stays mixed in with the milk. Naturally it would rise to the top) was a process that upset people’s systems. I also learned that, and pardon me getting super technical on you for a minute, most dairy cows in the US are A/1 genetic line, and what humans can more easily digest milk from an A/2 genetic line. Holsteins (think big white and black dairy cows) are great producers, but are often A/1 genetic line. Smaller, heritage breed cows, what one would have found as a family milk cow all those years ago, as well as goats, are often come from A/2 genetic lines.

It’s funny how life comes full circle. Flash forward to now, my little homestead in full swing. We’re putting into practice what we’ve learned over time, and now my husband finally has his “good goats”….and pigs, and chickens, and beautiful Great Pyrenees. This morning, I was down in my barn, milking my Oberhasli goat, Cocoa. My dairy allergy son had a glass of fresh, raw goat’s milk with his breakfast, and is all the healthier for it. We’re healing the damage we did to our guts when we just didn’t know, and our skin and hair are all the better for it as well. We know where our food comes from and know the love and care that goes into getting it from the barn to the table. Thanks for breakfast, Cocoa!

Goat Selfie

Goats like selfies too.

Editor’s Note: The presented information is how Sarah and her family personally handle their consumption of raw goat’s milk. We are not medical or health professionals and the information in this article should not be taken as advice. Seek the advice of your doctor before making any decisions about raw milk consumption.