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Bigger is Bigger

"Behold the Empire of Tiny Goats!" I announce as I bring visitors in to the goat zone. 4 small paddocks take turns housing the does while the others become gardens. It's a good system, one that did not work for a cow and would be a snug fit for larger goats.

But I have Nigerian Dwarf goats, each only weigh about 70 pounds, and a runty LaMancha. Three small goats is plenty. Yes, the cow people laugh at me for my late-lactation one-pint milkings. "You have Nigerian Dwarfs? They're the perfect size..." says a fellow goatkeeper, "to put on a spit and roast at a barbecue." Well, Nigerians are originally a meat goat in a perfect serving-size package, so I can't argue that. But if I am getting all the milk I need (extremely creamy milk, I might add) then is there actually a problem with having small goats? My milking stands don't take up much room, and pint-size milkings also mean pint-sized appetites. We can feed our goats from what grows here. A cow could not get much grazing on land that keeps goats happily fed, and the two gallons a day that my goats produce at their peak is plenty to keep us in cheese and yogurt. Milk-for-milk's sake is not the only variable I need to pay attention to. This isn't an excuse for breeding random scrubby goats, but to be thoughtful about which animals truly fit a particular landscape and situation.

Helena Norberg-Hodge, in her excellent book Ancient Futures, points out how the Ladahkis she lived with would get a measly 3 liters of milk from their cows. Modern western agronomists were horrified. Why not have a purebred Jersey that would give 30 liters? Because the Jersey can't survive on the meager feed at the high elevations the way that the Ladahki cows and yaks do. Better to have 3 liters of milk for free, provided by the local solar energy, than have to move to town and get a job to earn money to buy feed for the cow, and then find a market for the extra milk.

Plus, let's be real--I adore my goats as individuals. Would I suggest that you trade your small dog for a larger one? Insist that your small child should really be traded in for one who could be more productive? I got goats so that I could learn devotion and love. It's working.