I've been wondering lately what exactly goes into sheep and goats dairy production... I've been buying organic goat and sheep dairy products, but I'm unsure if the animals are simply fed organic grain, or if they are more likely to be pastured, grass fed. It never appears to be clearly stated on the labels.
As with other livestock - it's important to know the farmer, visit the operation and ask questions.
When my daughter was raising goats for 4-h, they were most definitely grained in order to put on the mass and compete in the market classes. It's pretty much the same with the sheep, pigs and cattle.
Dairy goats and cattle are often given a bucket of grain at the stanchion while they're being milked.
It'd probably be far more likely if the product were from another country, but in the U.S. everything is corn-fed until proven innocent. Just look at the farmed salmon...nothing intuitive about that.
I fed my Nubian goat alfalfa and she got tree branches and bushes ( goats love to eat and will choose bushes and tree branches first, the arent naturally grazers of grass ) and in winter we gave her the highest quality grass hay we could buy along with alfalfa and branches we had cut in the early fall that we hung upside down along our fence to give occasionally throughout winter months. She was fed grain while we milked her, but only about 2 to 3 cups twice a day ( morning and evening milking times). Most goat people dont feed grain except during the milking season, it puts too much weight onto the goat. Alfalfa, branches and hay should be available all the time. One of the most surprising things about goats is that they eat all the time, either chewing cud, or visibly consuming.
Because I fed, milked and looked after her, gave her no medicines or ant ibiotics etc. and also did all the cheese making, yogurt making etc. I did not pasturize her milk.I have never met a goat owner who can stand to drink pasturized milk.
I have not been able to drink milk or eat cheeses like I did when we had the goat. I did not gain weight even though my fat intake was possibly 200% more compared to what it had been.
My suggestion is that every one should keep a milking goat in their back yard.
Goat farmer here. Mine are raised on pasture, with supplemental hay and grain rations. A dairy animal has extremely high energy needs. It has been bred to be capable of producing more milk than is needed by its young. If one doesn't feed to meet those needs, production is rather low.
I don't know every goat farmer in the US but one can reasonably say that all goat dairy in the US is fed some amount of a grain ration.
I won't touch upon intensive goat/sheep husbandry cause it would be superfluous considering that we all know it have no advantages over small farming.
As for the farmers, most of them (nearly everyone in my region) "don't understand" that goats are ruminants (although they are browsers, not grazers). The fact that they eat shoots, twigs, some fruits & vegetables doesn't make grains a suitable fodder. Many goat owners repeat today's conventional wisdom that dairy goats need grains to fulfil their extremely high energy needs, you see (you need not look far for the examples - just read the answers above). Of course, they'll have "extremely high energy needs" if you overmilk them! More milk = less nutrition from it (+ undesirable health effects for both milk consumers and goats if they are grain-fed). So the real reason for feeding goats with grains or formula feed is not need, but GREED. Unfortunately, many upright farmers as well as those who keep goats for their own needs bought that high-energy-needs-that-can't-be-fulfiled-with-just-grass-and-twigs BS.
Another reason for adding grains in goats' ration in the course of milking period by greedy and/or ignorant owners is that most buyers (as well as goat keepers themselves) got accustomed to the taste of milk from grain-fed animals. For the sake of justice it should be admitted that there are plants that make goats' milk taste unacceptable for some folks and even somewhat toxic for human consuption. But if one wants to gain easy profit, it's much easier to keep goats in the shed most of the time and/or strictly confine the grazing territory leaving them a small enclosure with nothing more than a few varieties of grass (which they'll exterminate pretty fast - that means goats get a good chance of having hay as a stapple food (along with grain forage) (since it's more convinient for lazy shitheads than supply goats with at least some cutted grass - even in summer)) (needless to say, it leads to lack of nutrients and - guess what? - this provided a "scientific basis" for grain-feeding because those ignoramuses claim that grains are vital for supplying milk goats with enough minerals, protein, etc.) instead of investigating what species from multitude of plants growing nearby his/her farm are affect milk's flavor (and possible toxicity) and in which way. Most likely, it'd turn out that there are no such plants nearby but why take the risk? + no free range means spending less time on goats (while a small enclosure already gives a good reason to label meet and dairy as "grass-fed" & "free-range").
If I missed smth (and I realize that I skipped a lot of details), it is not due to the lack of arguments, but due to the fact that my English is very far from being perfect, as you could see, so writing posts takes a lot of time.
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