Lots of milk to spare!
Goatkeepers can often have too much milk. Richard Pemble offers some suggestions about how to use it
During my time writing for Country Smallholding, I have covered many topics related to the management, husbandry and healthcare of goats. What I haven’t really covered is what to do when it has all gone well and you have too much milk and too many goats. This is a common problem in my experience as goats can really get under your skin and become part of the family or part of your way of life. However, goats need feeding, and this costs money, and we all have other bills to pay, no matter how self-sufficient we become on a smallholding. In this article, I’ll consider a few ideas of how surplus milk can be used up and potentially produce a few pounds to help cover a few costs associated with smallholding.
Milk and milk products
The obvious thing to do with surplus milk is to turn it into dairy produce such as yoghurt, cheese, cream or ice cream. That is a perfectly acceptable way to deal with milk for your own consumption, but to turn milk into produce to sell involves compliance with a range of food hygiene and labelling regulations. The other challenge is keeping up a supply of produce all year round to maintain customer loyalty. The idea of having dairy goats on a smallholding is to provide one’s own food and not toessentially start running a small dairy business, but this is something that, given time and experience, the smallholder may like to consider. If this is a consideration, then it would be recommended that you contact your local Environmental Health Office at an early stage to discuss current legislation and requirements for small scale producers. These are subject to change, so it is far better to contact the experts and plan following their advice. Facilities for producing dairy produce need to be of a high standard and separate from domestic facilities. The one advantage of goats’ milk is that it can be frozen and therefore, if you did consider small scale dairy production, then milk could be frozen in the summer months and then defrosted and processed in the winter months when the production of a goat tends to reduce.
Goats’ milk can also be used to make a range of other products that are not so perishable. Examples of these include goats’ milk soap, fudge and cosmetics such as moisturisers and lotions. Various recipes and formulations can be found in books and on websites for these products if these are chosen as a diversification from the main work of the smallholding.
Produce such as this could potentially be sold at the farm (smallholding) gate, to family and friends, at farmers markets, village fetes, local shops or local shows. If you choose any of these methods, you will need to make sure that any produce complies with appropriate manufacturing, food hygiene and labelling regulations. Soap and cosmetics don’t have the same perishability issues that dairy produce has, therefore any that is left over at the end of a day at a market, show or fete can be packed away and brought out again for the next event.
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Goats’ milk is a very universal milk and many types of livestock can be reared using it. From the smallholders perspective, it can be used to rear orphan lambs, rear calves and fatten pigs. These can all be sold on for further rearing following weaning or reared to slaughter weight on the smallholding and the meat sold locally to cover costs. One consideration to be taken into account if rearing stock for meat is what to do with a sudden influx of produce! The smallholder will need to make sure they have sufficient freezer space to store the meat or have customers lined up to take the meat on the day it is picked up from the slaughter house.
Pigs can be reared on goats’ milk following weaning from the sow. They make an excellent and productive addition to the produce of the smallholding. Many pig farmers will be happy to sell a few weaners to a smallholding for a sensible price.
In my experience, they have good appetites and relish goats milk as a substantial part of their diet. Their regular feed can be soaked in surplus milk and fed as a mash or it can be fed as a liquid as a separate feed. This is perhaps the least labour intensive way of using up surplus milk, as the milk can be fed in a trough or bucket and there is only a limited amount of washing up and sterilising of equipment to do after the pigs have been fed. There have been many good articles in this magazine on keeping pigs, and those who are considering rearing pigs on surplus goats milk would be advised to read some of these. Suffice to say that suitable safe and secure accommodation is required with access to shelter and clean water.
Orphan lambs can be successfully reared on surplus milk. The same underlying principles to rearing kids can be applied to lambs. They can be bottle fed or fed on a multi-feeder in a small group.
Sheep farmers can be keen to sell young orphan lambs at lambing time as they are time consuming to rear by hand when they are busy lambing the main flock. Those smallholders with a little land may find a few orphan lambs a productive way of using up surplus milk if they are already rearing a few goat kids. The lambs and kids may live together whilst young, as long as appropriate health care protocols are adhered to in terms of vaccination and worm control. The lambs will require finishing on grass or hay and possibly some supplementation with concentrate feed depending on the time of year and the amount and quality of grazing land available. A word of warning with rearing lambs for the meat, however – bottle rearing enables the smallholder to get very close and potentially attached to the lambs. Always remember that, if you are rearing them for the freezer, then they will need to go to slaughter at some point.
Calves rear well on goats’ milk too. They can be bucket or bottle reared and can continue to have their diet supplemented with milk for many months.
They will, of course, need hay and grazing, taking well over a year to get to a weight suitable for slaughter. Dexter cattle make excellent beef animals for the smallholding in my experience. They arevery hardy and produce marbled beef from a convenient-sized carcase. They are a traditional breed of cattle that adapt well to rearing in extensive situations.
The other animal that can, of course, be reared for meat are the kids of the milking goats themselves. Goat meat is gaining in popularity following coverage on several TV programmes and it is a market worth considering if you are kidding goats.
The use of a Boer male on a dairy female can produce a suitable kid for rearing. Purebred dairy kids can be reared for meat, but do not produce the volume of meat that a Boer cross or a purebred Boer would produce. They can be reared on milk, either on their dams or bottle reared, but will take further finishing using grazing and concentrate feed to get a carcase of a suitable size for butchering into joints and other cuts. Younger animals can be slaughtered for meat, but the meat is probably best used for mince and diced cuts suitable for stews and casseroles. Mince can be used in curries, burgers and other dishes like shepherds or cottage pie.
There are many uses for goats’ milk on the smallholding, but there is a limit to the amount of cheese, yoghurt, custard and rice pudding that can be eaten by one household. If there is a surplus of milk being produced at particular times of the year, there are many ways of using it up to help the productivity of the smallholding.
As goats’ milk is such a universal milk, it can be used to help rear young and orphaned animals of many species. Wildlife hospitals are sometimes grateful for frozen goats’ colostrum for feeding hedgehogs, for example. I have also supplied milk in the past for rearing orphan tiger cubs, deer and guinea pigs, although the guinea pig did not use up any great surplus!
Some dog breeders are very aware of the benefits of using goats’ milk in puppy rearing. They will use it to supplement the puppies’ diet from a few weeks old. When I have supplied milk for puppies, the breeders have been happy to take the milk frozen every few weeks in plastic bottles. I used to get friends to keep the plastic bottles that cows’ milk comes in from supermarkets and wash and sterilize these before filling and freezing the milk. Hygiene is clearly very important in the production of milk that will be used for rearing puppies, but, as the milk is not for human consumption, there does not need to be the same licensing, labelling and equipment considerations.
Poultry thrive on a diet supplemented by goats’ milk. Try leaving a small bowl of milk out for free-ranging chickens and see how they get used to the daily routine of the bowl being filled with fresh milk. A goatkeeping friend of mine used to mix layers mash with surplus milk and distribute this to his various pens of laying hens each day. The hens always looked in top condition on this diet and, on days when there was not enough milk to make up the mash, they made their dissatisfaction known in quite a noisy manner! The eggs from chickens who have their diet supplemented with goats’ milk have a lovely rich flavour.