XVIII. LIVESTOCK - GOATS, ETC.
Goats never occupied an important place among the domesticated animals of the British Islands, and, with the exception of Ireland, their numbers have been constantly diminishing. By the statistical returns it appears that in 1871 there were 232,892 goats in Ireland, which in 1872 had increased to 242,310. The value of goats milk, as a source of household economy, is much greater than is usually supposed. This is so well shown by Cuthbert W. Johnston, Esq., in an article in the Farmers Magazine, which we shall quote from it at some length.
"The comfort derived by the inmates of a cottage from a regular supply of new milk need hardly be dwelt upon. Every cottagers wife over her tea, every poor parent of a family of children fed almost entirely on a vegetable diet, will agree with me that it is above all things desirable to be able to have new milk as a variation to their daily food of bread and garden vegetables. The inhabitant of towns and of suburban districts, we all know, is at the mercy of the milk dealer; the milk he procures is rarely of the best quality, and under the most favourable circumstances he receives it with suspicion, and his family consume it with sundry misgivings as to its wholesomeness.
"Having personally experienced these difficulties, and having about three years since commenced the attempt to supply my family with goats milk, and as our experience is cheering, I desire in this paper to advocate the claims of the milch goat to the attention of the cottager, and the other dwellers in the suburban and rural districts.
"Few persons are perhaps aware of the gentleness and playfulness of the female goat --- how very cleanly are its habits, how readily it accommodates itself to any situation in which it is placed. Confined in an outhouse, turned on to a common or into a yard, tethered on a grass plat, it seems equally content. I have found it readily accommodate itself to the tethering system, fastened by a leathern collar, rope, and iron swivel, secured by a staple to a heavy log of wood. The log is the best (and this with a smooth even surface at the bottom), because it can be readily moved about from one part of the grass plat to another. The goat, too, uses the log as a resting-place in damp weather. The goat should be furnished with a dry sleeping-place, and this, in case of its inhabiting open yards, can be readily furnished; anything that will serve for a dry dog-kennel will be comfortable enough for a goat.
"The milk of the goat is only distinguishable from that of the cow by its superior richness, approaching, in fact, the thin cream of cows milk in quality. The cream of goats milk, it is true, separates from the milk with great tardiness, and never so completely as in the case of cows milk. This, however, is of little consequence, since the superior richness of goats milk render the use of its cream almost needless. The comparative analysis of milk of the cow and goat will show my readers how much richer the latter is than that of the former; 100 parts of each, according to M. Regnault, gave on an average ---
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So that, while the milk of the cow yields 12·6 per cent. Of solid matter, that of the goat produces 17 per cent., goats milk yielding rather more butter, rather less sugar of milk, but considerably more caseine (cheese) than that of the cow.
"It must not be supposed that the taste of the milk of the goat differs in any degree from that of the cow; it is, if anything, sweeter, but it is quite devoid of any taste which might very reasonably be supposed to be derivable from the high-flavoured shrubs and herbs upon which the animal delights to browse.
"The amount of the milk yielded by the goat varies from two quarts to one quart per day; it is greatest soon after kidding time, and this gradually decreases to about a pint per day, a quantity which will continue for twelve months. This is not a large supply, it is true, but still it is one which is available for many very useful purposes; and be it remembered that when mixed with more than its own bulk of lukewarm water, it is then in every respect superior to the milk supplied by the London dairymen.
"In regard to the best variety of goat to be kept, I would recommend the smooth-haired kind, which are quite devoid of beards or long hair. In this opinion I am confirmed by an experienced correspondent, Mr. W. H. Place of Hound House, near Guildford, who remarked, in a recent obliging communication --- I found that the short-haired goats with very little beards were the best milkers, but from these I seldom had more than four pints a-day at the best (I should say three pints were the average), and this quantity decreases as the time for kidding approaches (the goat carries her young 21 to 22 weeks). They should not be fed too well near the time of kidding, or you will lose the kids. In winter I gave them hay, together with mangel-wurzel, globe and Swedish turnips, carrots, and sometimes a few oats, and these kept up their milk as well as anything, but of course it was most abundant when they could get fresh grass. The milk I always found excellent, but I never had a sufficient quantity to induce me to attempt making butter except once, as an experiment: my cook then made a little, which was easily done in a little box-churn; the butter proved very good. I found the flesh of the kids very tender and delicate.
"I can add little to Mr. Places information as to their food; mine have generally fed out of the same rack as a Shetland pony, with whom they are on excellent terms. The pony throughout the summer is soiled with cut grass, and I notice that the goats pick out the sorrel, sow thistle, and all those weeds which the pony rejects.
"In the garden (if they are, by any chances, allowed to browse), I notice that they select the rose-trees, common laurels, arbutus, laurestinas, and the laburnum. Of culinary vegetables they prefer cabbages and lettuces; they also bite pieces out of the tubers of the potato. They carefully pick up the leaves, whether green or autumnal, of timber trees; of these they prefer those of the oak and elm, and delight in acorns and oak-apples. We are accustomed to collect and store the acorns for them against winter; spreading the acorns thinly on a dry floor, to avoid the mouldiness which follows the sweating of acorns laid in a heap. As I have before remarked, none of these astringent substances affect the taste of their milk; and I may here observe that, with ordinary gentleness, there is no more difficulty, if so much, in milking a goat than a cow.
"The he-goat engenders at a year old. The she-goat can produce when seven months old. She generally yeans two kids. The manure of the goat is perhaps the most powerful of all our domestic animals.
"Such are the chief facts which I have deemed likely to be useful in inducing the extended keeping of the milch goat. It is an animal that, I feel well assured, may be kept with equal advantage by the cottager and the dwellers in larger houses. It is useless to compare it with the cow, or to suppose that the goat can supplant it in situations where the cow can be readily kept; but in the absence of pastures, and in places where there is too little food for cows, I feel well convinced that, with ordinary care and attention, and a moderate firmness in overcoming the prejudice of those unaccustomed to the goat (and unless these are found in the owner, live stock never are profitable), the value and the comfort of a milch goat are much greater than is commonly known.
"The waste produce of a garden is exceedingly useful in the keep of a goat. By them almost every refuse weed, all the cuttings and clearings which are wheeled into the rubbish-yard, are carefully picked over and consumed. To them the trimmings of laurels and other evergreens, pea-haulm, and cabbage stalks, &c., are all grateful variations of their food. In winter a little sainfoin, hay, or a few oats, keeps them in excellent condition. In summer, the mowings of a small grass-plot, watered with either common or sewage water, will, with the aid of the refuse garden produce, keep a goat from the end of April until October."
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