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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am about to take the plunge into the world of raw dairy! We are going to visit a small farm that sells raw goat milk. Unfortunately I am very ignorant of how the dairy animals should be fed, housed, tested, what they should look like, etc, so visiting the farm won't do me much good until I know what to look for. Please help! What should the goats be eating? Where should they be kept? Are there any tests that should be common practice for goat dairy farmers that I should ask about? How many should be kept in how large of a space? Any signs of disease or other problems I should watch out for? I am really excited about making the switch to raw milk, but I just need a little help.
 

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I am new to this so I don't know how much help I can bet, but last week, I too went to a goat farm to check it out so I could buy some raw goat milk. I was very very pleased with the farm and decided to go for it. My son has been on the raw goat's milk for a week now and is really doing well.

In Pennsylvania, the state gives out raw milk licenses. It made me feel a little bit safer to know that where I got the milk from was approved by the state. I think what I was looking for was pasteurized quality without the heat treatment. . .so some place that was extremely clean in all stages of the milk handling and maintenace of the animals.

The place I visited has its milk tested twice a month by a state-approved lab, its water supply tested every 6 months, and a dairy farm inspector does unscheduled inspections four times a year. The herd of goats is tested for diseases also.

The goats I saw were free to roam on quite a few acres. Their hay was pesticide and herbicide free. They didn't use hormone treatments on them. They eat mixed grasses, clover, and are fed some sort of specific ratio of grains.

Their milking system kept the milk inside a closed system to keep away the dirt/dust/contaminants. . .and then is brought into some sort of clean room where it is filtered and then chilled.

Again, I am a complete novice. . .but this is what I saw at the farm I chose to purchase from.
 

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The goats should have access to high-quality hay. If you are close enough to see the hay, just smell it. Good hay smells good. There might be a mineral block but the owners might mix mineral in with the feed (this is what we do).

Fresh water, of course, and plenty of it.

Many goat farmers keep their goats out in a pasture but it wouldn't necessarily be a problem, IMO, if they don't. What a goat eats greatly affects the flavor of the milk so they might not want their milking does out eating wild onions, lol. Look for some form of shelter--a lean-to or barn so the goats can get in out of the weather.

I've seen goats kept in fairly 'crowded' conditions in a barn yet they seemed perfectly happy. More than actual square-foot-per-goat I'd look at how content the goats seem. They are herd animals so, barring obviously overcrowded conditions, it wouldn't be a big deal to me if they were in a relatively small area. Just make sure their area looks clean.

I would ask about their worming schedule. Some people worm regularly, others use fecal tests to see if they need to worm before doing it. As with anything, wormers have been overused and a lot of them are now worthless because the worms have built up a resistance. Generally the more crowded an area is the more likely there is to be an issue with worms. Which people do (as needed or regularly) varies with geographic location and their specific philosophy so neither would strike me as right or wrong. I'd just want to know which wormer they used and about milk withholding time. If you can check out the goat's eyelid or gums. An old wives' tale is that a goat with worms has a white inner-eye area and gums. A healthy goats will be pink. Also if they have chickens keep an eye on the chicken's behavior as they will eat worms out of the manure (this isn't sure-fire, though, as chickens will also eat undigested corn and other 'yummies').

In addition, I would ask if their herd is tested regularly for CAE and coccidiosis. I would also ask if they do a regular somatic count to test bacteria levels in the milk. If it's a very small operation they might not do this but it's SOP.

But just trust your eyes. A healthy goat has a shiny coat, bright eyes, and it should be friendly as goats are generally inquisitive, friendly creatures.
The people should be more than happy to show you their operation and answer any questions. You might ask about how they go about milking. Do they milk by hand or machine? Ask to see the milking area (and some people just milk in the pasture or barn--again just make sure things look tidy and aren't all gross). How do they strain the milk (most will use some kind of stainless steel strainer or, in a pinch, a coffee filter)? How quickly is the milk chilled once it's milked? How long does it take for the milk to go from the goat's udder to your refrigerator?

good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks! I found out last night that my great-grandfather sold goat milk long ago to bring in a little money, so I was asking my grandmother questions last night on the phone. Her main advice was to look at the woman's (and man's if possible) hands and her kitchen, and see how "clean" of people they are.
She said that her father wasn't that "clean," didn't keep the does clipped, didn't wash the teats before milking, and no one in her family ever got sick from drinking the milk. She even told me a story about one time how her mother was busy in town and her father was left to milk and strain and sell the milk to a regular customer. When her mother got home, she asked her father what he had used to strain the milk with, since she didn't see a use straining tea towel anywhere. Her father said he just used a clean pair of his own underwear.
:

So, that kind of eased my mind a bit! If people didn't get sick or die from things like that back then, I should be fine.
 

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I am currently speaking with several goat farms to find milk.
So far I have found 4 goat farms that are convenient for me.
One of them has yet to do any worm or other parasite testing. So they are off the list.

2 other farms have reasonable prices and I think they are just starting off. Although one has been doing it for several years. I am going to visit them next week.

Then there is one that sounds like what I am really looking for and they are very thorough and do everything organically and holistically. But their price is really expensive! Like twice the price as the others. So rather then $10 a gallon or so, it's like $20 a gallon! Is this normal or just really nuts? Is it worth it to pay the higher price?
 
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