Wednesday, May 10, 2006

So what's with the goats?

In case you didn't see the photos below, we got our goats!

We've got one Nubians doe and two doelings (Nubians a dairy goat breed), and in a couple weeks, we're getting a 3/4 Boer, 1/4 Nubian buck (Boer is a meat goat breed), so we can raise Nubian-Boer crosses. There is a huge demand for goat meat in the U.S. and particularly in nearby Columbus. There are a number of ethnic communities that eat goat meat. Actually, almost every part of the world outside of the US and Western Europe use goats for meat, and more people in the world drink goat's milk than cow's milk.

We won't be selling any milk, because it's illegal to sell unpasturized milk in Ohio, even for goats, and pasteurization isn't really practical for us. In fact, in Ohio, it's even illegal to give away unpasteurized milk. One way that people have tried to get around this is to buy "shares" of a dairy cow, so that a number of people are part-owners and can legally use the raw milk. The state has started cracking down on these types of arrangements too. There is strong evidence that, with proper sanitation and hygiene in the milking process, pasteurization is unnecessary, and only serves to reduce the nutritional content of the milk. One other interesting side note - goat's milk is not supposed to affect lactose intolerant people.

We could make and sell cheeses and other dairy products, but they are a bit labor intensive. We'll probably use some milk ourselves, assuming we like it. Milk from Nubians is supposed to be indistinguishable from the milk you'd normally buy at the store. [NOTE: We just tried some fresh milk. Very good. It's a bit creamier in texture than the 2% we normally drink, but the flavor is just pure milk.] They don't produce nearly the quantity of milk that dairy cows do, which is a good thing, because we don't need four gallons a day.

But the main reason we're going down this path (look away Suzer!) is for the meat market. There are several ethnic communities in Columbus that are importing chevon (goat meat) all the way from New Zealand and Australia because they can't get it here. Columbus has a pretty large Somali community (about 20,000 strong), and chevon is their meat of choice.

Ohio State did a study to gauge the demand for goat meat in Columbus. They surveyed several Somali markets, but focused on the largest one. The owner of the market estimated demand at 10 goats per week. But after surveying his customers, he found that demand, just at his market, was for 80-100 goats per week. And that doesn't take into account the Greek, Mexican, Asian, or Middle Eastern communities in the area. The OSU study estimated that demand in Columbus would be steadily increasing for the next 25-50 years.

Goats are also easy to raise, they don't need much in the way of shelter, and they're not the least bit picky about the quailty of the forage. They're small enough to manage without too much trouble, and the breeds we're looking at are pretty easy to deal with. They'll keep the pasture in good shape, and bring in a little income too. The Nubians have a lot of personality to go along with those big, floppy beagle ears. I'm pretty sure Boers think they are cows, and just stand around grazing.

The reason for the dairy/meat cross is that the Boers have been bred for a milder taste, but local demand is for a little stornger flavored chevon. Outside of the shows and fairs, which of course want purebreds, it's very common in this area to cross Nubian does with Boer bucks.

Given the fact that the average food item travels something like 1500 miles before it gets to your plate (much more in Canada and Australia), it also makes me feel good to be producing a very sustainable, very healthy, very local food product. I'm curious to try some myself.

So anyway, yes, in case you are wondering, we are slightly crazy. But it should be fun.


At 5/11/2006 8:18 AM, Blogger madcapmum said...

Interesting about the "cow shares". I didn't realize anyone was doing that, but I'd thought of it myself, trying to find a way to get unpasteurized milk to try my hand at cheesemaking.

At 5/11/2006 8:59 AM, Blogger Suzer said...

Okay - if you're going to eat it, you should eat it all...that's my philosophy. But not to make you feel bad, have you thought about what you will tell Amelia and Edson when you ship the goats out for slaughter. And even if you don't tell them, they will figure it out eventually. I ask this because my best friend growing up got a large pig (for meat) that they bred and which eventually became a pet. they named her Petunia. When the day came that she returned to the house wrapped in butchers paper, no one would eat her. The younger siblings, 3 and 4 1/2 at the time started calling their dad a killer and cried about Petunia for ever it seemed. Erin's dad was really mad, but I think it was more at himself because he didn't think about possble alternative ending to he money saving meat solution. Not to be dramatic, but this could be one of those life altering experiences for your kids. Please think about what you'll tell them, and try not to name the goats!! Please don't think I'm trying to be preachy!! I'm glad you are taking a much more organic approach to meat. Growth hormones and inhumane housing conditions are one of the reasons I am a veg. I'm glad to see the the goats have plenty of room to run.

At 5/11/2006 10:18 AM, Blogger e4 said...

Yes, we've considered that issue. Our intention is to be very open and honest about what we are doing. No euphemisms, no white lies, no surprises. This is where meat comes from. As inquisitive and observant as my son is, he's already seeing that spiders eat bugs, birds eat spiders, foxes eat birds, etc.

If they grow up to be vegetarians, I'll be 100% supportive. I fully understand why vegetarians choose that path, and I think it's a great choice. But I firmly believe that if my kids eat meat, they should understand what is is and where it comes from. We'd like them to know that meat doesn't magically appear encased in styrofoam and plastic wrap, and that milk and eggs don't emerge from a factory (though I guess a case could be made that they often do...)

One approach I've seen is to only name the animals that will be kept. The goats we just purchased will likely be in our pasture for many years to come.

As far as eating it all, our target customers do literally that, or very nearly so.

At 5/11/2006 2:42 PM, Blogger Mia said...

Oh they are so darling. We are very upfront with the kids about where meat comes from. We are "virtual vegetarians" and though we eat ALMOST no meat, we occasionally do. About a year ago we took Sprout and Bird to a nearby organic farm where we purchased a frozen chicken. We were honest about what the chicken was. Our little Sprouters with his 4 year old logic simply couldn't mesh our "respect all life" lessons with eating the meat. He told me: "Mommy, we do NOT eat animals." Since then, that has pretty much been the truth! I think kids can handle the truth though, that's for sure.

I love goatsmilk chesses. There is a great stand at the Farmer's Market that sells organic artisan goat cheeses. Sooo good. Good luck with this new venture!

At 5/11/2006 10:22 PM, Blogger roybe said...

sounds like a great life, you are definately not crazy. Its interesting about the meat I think the tastes are changing and the demand for different meat is increasing. Over here people are enjoying kangaroo and crocodile meat now. Regarding milk, you probably think this is absurd, but the people who sell unpastuerised milk here, market it as "cleopatra's bath milk" and it's entirely legal.

At 5/12/2006 1:31 PM, Blogger madcapmum said...

if you're going to eat it, you should eat it all..

Just in the interest of being cheeky, should we apply this to plants, too?

We're omnivores, and we spend lots of times visiting farms and my kids know exactly where the meat is coming from and seem to be unscathed. We made an impromptu "fieldtrip" to the back of the butcher's a few months ago to see the meat being hung, cut, and wrapped. We're still eating meat. I figure that since we're a part of a food-chain that's red in tooth and claw from start to finish, I'm not going to try to exempt myself from my biological niche. I don't have a problem with it if people decide to go vegetarian, but I can't really see it as being a more "moral" choice.

But that's just us.

At 5/12/2006 7:34 PM, Anonymous Lori said...

Madcapmum, I tend to feel the same way. The way I see it, meat-eating is pretty near universal among human cultures and has been for as long as there have been humans. I think it's vital to *respect* life, and to avoid cruelty, abuse and neglect.

Just thought I'd weigh in with everyone else. ;)

At 5/12/2006 8:24 PM, Blogger e4 said...

I think there's certainly a case to be made that a vegetarian diet is much less resource intensive, from an agricultural standpoint. And with the current state of large scale meat production and processing, I will never criticize anybody who doesn't want to participate in that nasty business. Inhumane conditions, antibiotics, growth hormones, price manipulation, horrible animal waste management, and on and on. (Sorry, still reading Fast Food Nation.)

But as for what's morally right, we're drifting into a highly personal area in the realm of politics and religion. On this point, I think we each have to make our own decision.

At 5/14/2006 2:17 PM, Blogger the Contrary Goddess said...

e4, you are wrong if it isn't industrial agriculture. Our milk is free, our meat is free -- those animals are utilizing ground that can only be pasture or woodlot, are providing manure and food, and aren't using UP anything at all.

And I can't stand self-righteous vegetarians. We kill our own and always have. We hatch eggs. They know what sex is (with goats, it is hard to miss). We grow our own too. I've never yet met a single vegetarian who has grown his own for any length of time without killing to get it done. Scott Nearing used the most inhumane traps (leg snares) to protect his garden from what he wouldn't eat. Now, I've learned a lot from old Scott, among it to be an omnivore out loud.

& grinning

At 5/16/2006 12:03 PM, Blogger e4 said...

Self righteous? Pot, kettle. Kettle, pot.

(I couldn't resist.)

But seriously, let's not drift into stereotyping and generalizing. I've never met an Iranian who wasn't drunk. There's no logical conclusion to jump to.

If the meat supply was all grown on marginal land, and/or in our own back yards, you might be right. That's not the world most people here are living in though.

I think we're all making the choices we each think are right. Or we're trying to. A million differences got us to where we are, and we can't all jump into your shoes.

Some paths we follow are better than others, but be careful about believing your path is the best. A closed mind is a dying mind...

At 5/16/2006 12:40 PM, Blogger the Contrary Goddess said...

knowing A good life is better than not knowing a good life. There isn't a THE good life, but there are lots of not good ones.

Also, a sense of humor is handy.


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