Goat Week Day 4: How to Get the Milk
Mammals only make milk after giving birth, so to get milk, you first have to make some babies. That means male goats must be involved. Goat gestation is about 150 days, or roughly 5 months. We like to plan for April and May births, because the outdoor temperature has moderated enough by then that we don’t have to constantly worry about the baby goats getting cold. Toward that end, we will start breeding in November.
Much of what you may have heard about male goats being disgusting and smelly creatures is true. Late summer and fall is the time of rut, and the males have a powerful scent that the female goats find irresistible and the humans find repugnant. The males urinate on their heads, front legs, and bellies, which adds to the miasma of smell from their scent glands. The odor is sharp, musky, lingering, and very potent. If you get buck stink on your clothes, you are going to stink for a good long while.
We do not allow our bucks (males) to run with our does (females). Instead, we house the bucks in a separate pasture from the does far enough away that they cannot see or smell each other, because at the same time that bucks are going into rut, the does are going into heat. The pheromones are flying, and both genders will do whatever it takes to get to the opposite when they feel the urge to breed. It takes a lot of effort and care to make sure that does not happen until we plan for it.
We usually bring the goats back to the barn in September, because by then the weather has cooled so much that there is no vegetation left to eat in the pastures. We use an electric fence to form the does’ pen, but the bucks have a maximum security setup. The bucks secure set up uses horse panels lined with cattle panels. This ensures that they cannot escape and go visit the does. The electric fence is no deterrent; they will go right through it to get to a doe in heat. Sometimes the does will even escape their pen and go visit the bucks. They can’t get into the buck pen, though, so all they can do is moon at the boys from outside the fence.
When the first of November rolls around, I finalize the breeding plans and start watching the does for signs of heat. Does have a heat cycle about every 21 days, and they are only receptive to a buck during that time. A typical cycle lasts around 48-72 hours.
When I see the signs of heat, I take that doe to the buck pen, where she has a date with the appropriate buck outside the pen, then she returns to the doe barn. We do the same thing 12 hours later. This way, I know the exact breeding date and can calculate the expected due date and be prepared. I plan for every doe to be bred by the end of December, making the end of May the latest we will have kids being born. What usually happens is that one or two does do not get bred in that window, and I have a straggler or two kidding in June.
Since breeding goats is where the whole process begins, I will share my first soap recipe today. That’s where it all began for me.
Some of my favorite additives, depending on the fragrance I choose, are colloidal oatmeal, coffee grounds, or honey. My husband’s favorite combination is colloidal oats and honey, so that’s what I’ll be making today in his honor. I’ll use our fabulous Oatmeal, Milk & Honey Fragrance Oil. It is a mild, luscious scent that perfectly complements a soap with colloidal oats and honey.
Gather the following supplies and equipment, and join me in making some soap.
I’ll be using the soap mold my son bought me for Christmas. It holds a 24-ounce batch of soap.
Denise’s Goat Milk Soap
7.92 ounces Coconut Oil
36% Coconut Oil
Before you get started, get prepared to soap safely. Long sleeves, gloves, eye protection, and close-toed shoes are a must. If you have never made cold process soap before, we’re glad you’re here! Please check out this blog post, which is the first in a series on beginning soapmaking.
Weigh all the oils into a microwave-safe container; set aside.
Measure colloidal oatmeal and honey into separate small containers. Keep the honey container sitting in a larger container of hot water, so the honey stays very liquid. Set aside both containers.
Weigh the fragrance oil into a small glass container; set aside.
Weigh the lye.
Weigh the milk. I’m using cubes of frozen goat milk.
Slowly add the lye to the frozen milk, stirring to get the chemical reaction started that will melt the milk. Do this in a well-ventilated area. It will give off toxic fumes that you do not want to inhale. Once the lye is completely dissolved, check the temperature of it, and then set it aside to cool.
Pop the oils into the microwave to melt, using 30-second increments. Once they are completely liquid, add the colloidal oats. Check the temperature, then set aside to cool.
Here is your break to clean up your workspace, set out the mold you will use, visit the restroom. Once the oils and the lye mixture are within 10 degrees of each other and have cooled to about 110-130 degrees F, you’re ready to make soap.
Carefully pour the lye mixture into the oils, taking care not to splash. Stir with your soap spoon, then pulse the stick blender several times to emulsify the soap batter. Remove the stick blender and hand-stir the honey and the fragrance oil into the batter.
After pouring into the mold, I covered the mold and gave it some insulation, as the house is cold today.
I’ll leave the soap in the mold for 12 hours and check to see if it’s hardened enough to be unmolded. The next morning, the soap came out of the mold perfectly. Yay!