July 24, 2020

Book Review: Backyard Dairy Goats

Backyard Dairy Goats: A Natural Approach to
Keeping Goats in Any Yard by Kate Downham.

This book won me over in the introduction.
  1. The author loves goats (her favorite animal)!
  2. She mentions Pat Coleby's Natural Goat Care (one of my go-tos).
  3. She makes her cheeses with natural cultures (me too)!
Since I'm tracking in the same direction with my goatkeeping and dairying, I knew I would not only enjoy reading this book, but would glean useful tidbits from author Kate's experience and research.

What sets this book apart from most other books about keeping goats, is a keyword in the title, "Backyard." While most other books about goats assume acreage, Kate keeps her goats in her backyard. That makes this book unique, and I would say important in times such as these, when many folks are looking for ways to expand personal food security. More people have backyards than acres, and this book is perfect for them.

The book is divided into five sections: Understanding Goats, The Needs of Backyard Goats, Getting Your Goats, Day to Day Goat Keeping, and Cheesemaking and Recipes.

Understanding Goats begins with A goat's place in the backyard ecosystem and provides excellent reasons why keeping your own goats is good for you, the environment, and your property. This section covers goat behavior, herd dynamics, handling goats, introducing goats to the milking stand, introducing new goats to the herd, dealing with escaped goats, and how to herd goats. "Goat health and observation" covers common health issues with goats and how to prevent them.

The Needs of Backyard Goats covers shelter, different kinds of fencing, bedding, and feeding goats, including things you can do and grow yourself. All important water and minerals are covered in detail. You'll also find tips for acquiring a milking stand. This section concludes with everything a prospective goatherd needs to understand before committing to the responsibility of caring for goats.

Getting Your Goats contains information you need to know beforehand. Discusses what to check on before bringing goats to your backyard, and how to deal with potential objections from neighbors! Discusses horned goats versus no horns, dairy goat breeds, and how much milk you can expect. Tells you how to spot a good quality goat and where to look for dairy goats. The author gives you a list of questions to ask as you consider potential purchases, (something I wish I'd had when I got my first goats). Transporting goats is also discussed.

Day to Day Goat Keeping helps you sleuth your way through health observations and questions goatkeepers face, as well as basic natural "cure all remedies." You'll learn how to give an injection, how to check eye membrane color for internal parasites, and what you need to know about breeding, pregnancy, and kidding. The remainder of the section gives excellent details on milking and milk handling.

Cheesemaking and Recipes starts with information about ingredients and equipment. Quick and simple cheese recipes follow, and then you'll find a thorough discussion of how to make cultured and renneted cheeses. All the cultures discussed are natural alternatives to commercial powdered cheese starters. All the cheese recipes in this book use natural cultures. My own favorite cheeses are included, along with a good variety of cheeses I haven't tried. Yet! The recipe section finishes up with recipes for using your cheese. I'm especially looking forward to trying her Chévre pastry crust and cheesecake.

The information in this book to the point, yet personal, and well organized. It brings hope to people who might want their own homegrown source of milk, but thought they needed an actual farm to do so.  You don't!

168 pages in paperback for $10.89 (that's currently ⅓ off the list price) or free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Check it out here.


daisy g said...

Leigh, what's considered a natural culture? Is cow rennet used in making goat dairy products?

The price seems a steal for anyone interested in learning more about dairy goats!

Leigh said...

Daisy, that's an excellent question. To make basic cheese, only 4 ingredients are needed: milk, a culture (aka starter), a coagulant, and salt. The culture (or starter) is friendly bacteria that begin to convert the milk sugars (lactose) to lactic acid. This is what gives the cheese its distinctive flavor. The coagulant is usually animal rennet (made from calf or kid stomach) or it can be made from plants.

Nowadays, most cheeses are made with purchased cultures, typically mesophilic or thermophilic starters. These are often made from genetically modified ingredients and tend to be fussy to work with. Plus, the cheesemaker has to continually buy them. Natural cultures are typically yogurt, kefir, cultured buttermilk, or whey; foods that will give the cheese flavor, but are more readily available and easier to work with. I use kefir, because I always have it and we like the cheese it makes. Kate's cheese recipes use a variety of natural cultures.

Goatldi said...

I know with the subject matter you were expecting me ? Lol

Interesting that while this type of book has been written by many authors over the years I have had goats there is almost always something old that is new.

I will be getting this one because I of that and my second but most favorite cheese and other dairy products book is “Goats Produce Too. “ It is a different ride when using non commercial ingredients . And buttermilk (homemade) is my favorite . Basically because I have never ventured into another except for commercial products. I feel there is something extra about creating a product with other elements one has created that makes it even more sustainable.

Thanks for the review and is it strictly available only for Kindle or is there a printed copy one can get?

Cockeyed Jo said...

I'll have to look that one up. Goats are still in the plan.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, I agree with you on all points. One of the tidbits I picked up from this book is offering small amounts of mallow herb on a regular basis for prevention of coccidiosis. That's the kind of information I look for!

The book is available in Kindle, paperback, or hardback.

Jo, this would be an excellent read while you're in the goat research phase. My first book was actually for commercial producers, although I didn't understand the difference at the time. That's why I appreciate books like this one. Also why I always manage to pick up some tips and good ideas.

Goatldi said...

That is a great nugget to have. My poor roo has scaly leg mites. Took me forever to nail down a herbal suggestion that didn’t require kicking everyone out of the coop and stripping it down and the doing it again a few weeks later. Maybe she will write one on poultry.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Darn it Leigh - The Ravishing Mrs. TB will be very displeased with this constant influx of recommended books...

Nancy In Boise said...

looks interesting and I was wondering what does the author consider a backyard? 1/3 or 1/4 acre or ????

Boud said...

Alas, no such options anywhere in this region. Zoning bans backyard animals of all kinds. I used to have an acre of yard, but couldn't have any animals on it. So that's the very first research to do. It comes as a surprise to people who want say, a couple of chickens, thinking it's only a matter of providing enough habitat for them.

But if your zoning permits, great idea. Home milk and cheese sounds a treat, worth the work.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, your poor roo! Yes, it can take a lot of research to find good alternative solutions. Kate did mention to me that she is planning another book, but I have no idea what it will be about!

TB, I suppose it will depend on how interested she might be in the possibility of goats! (One can never have too many good books!)

Nancy, of various pen sizes, the author has worked successfully with 13x20 feet and 20x20 feet. That's minimum recommendations of course, but it gives you an idea.

Have you heard of the Urban Homestead Project? The Dervais family homesteads on 1/10 acre in Pasadena, CA, where they produce close to 90% of their own food. Their livestock includes dwarf dairy goats. It's an interesting website to explore and learn from.

Boud, yes, zoning laws and homeowners association rules can make the idea next to impossible and must be thoroughly researched. Backyard Dairy Goats discusses that, also how to talk to disapproving neighbors and landlords.

wyomingheart said...

Great book review, Leigh! We have been considering what critters we want to steward on our farm, and goats are on the list. We saw a herd of goats used to clear embankments and roadway sides in Wyoming. They just have a moving fence that is pretty big, but it keeps the goats safe and secure. The state uses goats, instead of spraying herbicides. Win! However, one must remember that Wyoming is very dry, nearly zero humidity....and there are only three seasons in Wyoming...July, August, and Winter! Lol. Just kidding. I can say this because I was raised on a ranch there. Anyway, great post, and we will be looking into this great book. !

Boud said...

You can still read the book though, even if it's in the realm of fantasy. I can learn about goats without having to own, or cohabit (!) with, them.

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, goats are great for brush control, plus that's free food for them! Good fencing is a must, whether permanent or movable. Even so, there are more positive reasons to keep goats than negatives.

Boad, it is possible to sometimes change laws and ordinances. I researched that when I was writing Prepper's Livestock Handbook. I've got 5 links listed under resources in the book, but this one is a good introduction to the subject - https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/chicken-laws-and-ordinances-and-how-to-change-them.65675/. It can take some work with no guarantee of success, but it can be done.

Rain said...

Great review Leigh! If I ever manage to get some goats, they will definitely be "backyard" goats as I have no pastures, just woods and a backyard. Thanks so much for this suggestion, I'm going to check the book out.

Leigh said...

Rain, this would be a great book for you. I don't know if you have any fencing around your property, but goats love wooded areas for eating better than pasture!

Rain said...

That's great news Leigh because we basically have woods. Right now there is no fencing...and we are in coyote country so I'd really have to plan things out well to make sure the goats would be safe here. I think it may take a few more years before I add chickens and goats to the homestead. We have to clear some spots in the backyard and level things out to build solid/secure coops and pens.

Leigh said...

Rain, coyotes are always worrisome. We have them pass through at certain times of the year. When they do, I close the goats up at night.

Step by step you'll get there! Good research and planning are always worth it. Hopefully, you've got your worst challenges behind you now. Your homestead adventure certainly has started off with a few of those.