Deborah Niemann is a dairy goat breeder, homesteader, and author. She's the author of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More and Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to Become More Self-Reliant. She's had as many as 21 milkers but is trying to cut back since her daughters left home and is now down to "only" 16 with a varying number of kids each year.
Her love of goats actually started with her first bite of goat cheese when she was in college. When she and her family moved to the country in 2002 to start growing their own food, she knew they had to have a couple of goats so she could make goat cheese. She and her husband have made 18 different cheeses through the years, as well as ice cream, yogurt, and buttermilk.
As ruminants, goats can live without grain, but they absolutely must have forage. Deborah first tried Standlee hay and hay pellets many years ago when she unable to find hay locally. Today, she feeds the pellets plain and mixed into the goats daily grain rations.
As people become more interested in knowing where their food comes from, the popularity of goats is growing for milk and meat. While city slickers (like Deborah) might be a little nervous about bringing home a thousand-pound milk cow, goats are much easier for newbies to learn to handle. With the right information and support, anyone can learn to raise goats. She says the most important thing is to listen to your goats. If they're happy and healthy, you're doing something right. If they're not producing well and you're calling the vet regularly, then something in your management needs to change. When eating a good diet and living in a natural environment, goats are very hardy animals.