Saturday, March 14, 2009

So why not sell some goats!??!!!

As the feed bills piled up, and as I got to know my fellow goat people, I realized that a big part of the goat game was selling goats.

That is different from having goats for milk only, but it is a real necessity if you don't want to end up with 10,000 goats. They have to be 'freshened' every year, and that always entailed babies.

Sure, it was possible to sell the doelings as well as the bucklings for meat, but it was also the difference of about $75 in the income from them if they were sold as lovely little milkers-to-be. 

But with everyone having an abundance of kids in the spring, how would I be able to get them to choose mine?

This question had already been answered many times over: have the best doelings.

And since there was nothing much but pure cuteness to see in a baby, that meant going by the breeding. Like mother - like daughter. Or like sister - like sister. If the mother produced a lot of milk, or if she had characteristics associated with producing a lot of milk, her kids would have an advantage in the marketplace. And likewise if the father had produced a lot of great kids who went on to be good dairy animals, his other daughters would have a leg up. So to speak. 

And how would anyone know these things? Through milk testing and shows.

So that's what we faced that busy busy Spring of 1977: goat testing and showing.

Goat testing consists of a once-a-month visit from someone in your test group, made up a other people in the area who signed up for cooperative testing. She came one evening and the next morning, and watched you milk, weighed the milk, and took a sample of it for fat content. Then you did the same for someone else, on a rotation basis within your group.

The sample was then sent to a Department of Agriculture lab for analysis.

A good dairy animal consistently produced a large volume of milk with a high fat content. So good results on the tests meant a good reputation when it came to selling kids. Like mother - like daughter.

I jumped right in to testing. Our group consisted of about 7 or 8 family farms around the southwestern part of the outskirts of suburban Boston. The closest farm was about 7 miles away, the farthest more like 15 or 18. We'd drive down in the evening, be there while they milked all their goats, drive home, and drive down again the next morning and watch again. In the winding, twisting roads of rural Massachusetts, the drive could take 45 minutes each way for the longer distances.

I always took one or more children with me in the evening, but couldn't in the morning because of school. 

Some people milked at 6 pm, which was still light, but then at 6 am it was not that great. Still, it was fun to visit with the goat people. Others milked later, maybe 8 pm, which meant getting home close to 10 after driving on VERY dark rural roads!

Then a day or so later someone would come watch me milk and measure and sample.

We were the only family with young children on the milk-testing circuit, and I soon could see why: it ate up a lot of family time. And often we would still have our chores to do when we got home.

Testing is a good thing. It keeps us all honest with regard to the overall output of our operations: if the milk was not flowing in abundance, something needed to be changed. Or if the butterfat were low, same thing. And when someone came shopping for a goat, it looked impressive that we were on test.

On the other hand, if the test results were not good, testing wasn't going to sell any goats except to inexperienced shoppers.

So testing was potentially useful, once we got a track record - if the results were good. We thought our goats were great! But we didn't really know...