Category Archives: Goats

We made! Front page!

I was interviewed yesterday by about the issue of legalizing raw milk!


t a recent campaign stop in Iowa, Rep. Ron Paul garnered applause for a remark about legalization.

No, not marijuana: This time the Texas congressman was talking about legalizing the sale of raw milk.

Amid talk of overregulation and the government’s alleged meddling in personal affairs, Paul promised change. “I’m all for raw milk,” the GOP presidential candidate said. “I think you should make your own choice on whether you drink raw milk or not.”

Unlike the supermarket varieties, raw milk does not undergo the process called pasteurization in which milk is heated enough to kill bacteria in it. For that reason, raw milk is more susceptible to the growth of certain bacteria that can lead to food-borne illness. Twenty states prohibit the sale of raw milk outright, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

New Hampshire is one of the 30 states that does allow the sale of raw milk. It requires dairy products sold in supermarkets be pasteurized, but farms, pasteurization plants and stores can sell raw milk directly to consumers.

Carol Lake, a dairy farmer from Peterborough, N.H., said knowing the farmer and where milk comes from are key to drinking it.

Lake said regulating the production of raw milk doesn’t have to mean making it illegal.

“Absolutely, I think it needs to be a safe food just like any other food we produce,” Lake said. “But, yes, it should, of course, be [legal]. We are allowed to eat raw hamburger, for heaven’s sake.”

On Dancing Dog Farm – named for Lake’s late English Shepherd –  three dairy goats produce milk that Lake serves to her family and sells to friends and neighbors.

Lake said milk that is destined to be pasteurized often contains items such as hair and dirt that are banned from raw milk.

She said those contaminants eventually get “cooked out …but do you still want to drink it?”

But infectious disease expert William Hueston said that is not always the case. “You can pasteurize manure, but who wants to drink it?” Hueston, who teaches food safety at the University of Minnesota, said, calling Lake’s remark “a little bit of a red herring.”

“Can it happen? Sure. It can happen with any cow if you don’t clean the udder adequately,” Hueston said. “But that’s not a common occurrence with the commercial dairymen that produce the milk you buy at the store.”

The fight to legalize raw milk epitomizes a theme at the heart of Paul’s campaign: get government out of Americans’ decisions, even those that could put them in harm’s way.

Dan Holmes of Sunnyfield Farm in Peterborough saw Paul’s speech Tuesday and said, on this issue, he’s 100 percent in agreement with Paul. “There are no dangers in raw milk that aren’t the same sort of dangers that you might get from any milk,” Holmes said.

Holmes argued that the quality and safety of raw milk are determined by the health of the cow and how the milk is handled.

But Jeff Bender, director of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota, said the contaminants come from the cow’s udders, which, being so close to the ground, are exposed to sources of bacteria, soiling all milk from the get-go.

“It’s not a sterile product, so that’s why pasteurization has been a simple, easy solution,” Bender said. He called it “one of the pinnacles of public health success.”

Experts did not dispute that pasteurization affects the milk’s taste.

The taste of raw milk is not the same as pasteurized milk “but it’s hard to put your finger on just what’s happening to make the flavor different,” Holmes said. “Usually, what’s happening is you’re getting a higher butter fat content.”

That is because after pasteurization, milk destined for supermarkets is homogenized, meaning that the fat is separated out and only a percentage of it is put back in.

Over in Iowa, where another crop of candidates are campaigning these days, a storm over raw milk has been percolating since February 2010. That was when the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund filed a suit against the FDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Iowa District Court over restrictions prohibiting cross-border sales of raw milk.

The  Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund argues that such regulations are unconstitutional.

While no one from the FDA was available to comment on the issue of raw milk, the agency’s website provides clarification on its position.

“As a science-based, public health regulatory agency, FDA strongly supports the application of effective measures, such as pasteurization, to protect the safety of the food supply and maintain public confidence in such important, healthy staples of the diet as milk,” the site reads.

Both Bender and Hueston agreed that the raw milk feud is a battle over freedom of choice, not health benefits.

“The pasteurization from a public health point of view is a common-sense, safe approach to assure that milk doesn’t transmit disease so we can safely feed it to our kids or our grandparents or whoever it is,” Hueston said.

One of the main concerns raised by both health experts was for parents who give raw milk to their children, possibly exposing them to disease-causing bacteria that can be spread to other children. There is also concern for elderly consumers who, like children, are more susceptible to infection.

“At the end of the day, in public health, what we say on a regular basis is that if there are diseases that we can control with a simple and safe method, then we have a societal responsibility to do so,” Hueston said, “especially when they involve young children who don’t have a choice, can’t make a choice whether or not to drink it.”

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Filed under Cows, Dairy, Goats, living food, Raw Milk

Why We Believe Goats Should Have Horns

Irish Goat

Image via Wikipedia

So. I’m officially going on the record for this. We believe goats should have horns. OK, I said it, and it’s published. Now, please don’t send me hate mail about how your daughter’s friend got her eye poked out by some goat with sharp pointy horns. I know there are times when goat horns are not such a great thing. And I know the horror stories about goats disemboweling each other, or getting stuck in fences, or permanently scarring a prize winning udder. But, I’m pretty sure Mother Nature, or God, or whomever or whatever designed goats, knew what they were doing. And, most goats (except those that are naturally polled) have horns. Yes, horns get in the way. Yes, they can cause some damage. But did you know that in most countries, disbudding is considered akin to surgically removing a leg, or ears, or an udder? And  well it should be, in my book. That said, goat owners have to take their individual circumstances into consideration. Maybe, if I had a lot of little kids around, I might think differently. But I would probably just do what I did when my kids were little and there were sharp pointy goat horns around: put tennis balls, or some sort of rubber, squishy thing, on the end of the horns.Worked great. Goats didn’t care. No eyes got poked out.  If I had a bajillion goats in a small space, maybe I would disbud. If I was going to show my goats, I’d have to – it’s THE LAW. Hmmm. Im not showing. In my particular case, I’m willing to make management changes in order to let my goats be goats. What are your thoughts?

Here’s a thought provoking article I found on the International Dairy Goat Registry’s website about why goats should be allowed to have horns, and how the practice of disbudding probably started in this country. Fascinating reading.  Enjoy!

Why Horns

By Robert L. Johnson

The IDGR has from the beginning advocated the retention of horns on animals born with them (that is, not polled} in all breeds, including dairy goats. This advocacy continues to surprise many breeders who have been exposed to the prevailing attitude, especially in dairy goats, that have persisted since the founding of the first dairy goat registry in America in 1904. So dominant has this attitude of ‘no horns’ been that breeders automatically assume that disbudding of kids is an essential, mandatory task, as basic to goatkeeping as regular hoof-trimming, vaccination, and the provision of feed and housing; and today, horned dairy goats are disqualified from participa-tion in goat shows sanctioned by the ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association.)

We do not know at the present time who started the idea that dairy goats should be hornless, or exactly when this happened. Certainly, horned dairy goats are the norm in all of the other countries of the ‘civilized’ world, and feeders, hay mangers and milking stands are designed for the accommodation of horns. We strongly suspect, however, that advocacy of hornless goats was initiated and perpetuated by persons who had keen interests in goat shows, combined with a wish to present animals that looked as different as possible from the common or ‘brush’ goats so despised by many people–including even dairy goat breeders! By removing horns, grooming, and close clipping of the natural hair coat, an artificially slick-looking animal was obtained that in appearance was unlike the hairy, horned, brush goat of popular fiction. Virtually every magazine article and book that subsequently appeared on goat husbandry included routine instructions for clipping and disbudding, without any real analysis of the situation. Various ‘reasons’ were prof- fered—it was claimed that horned goats in close confinement would injure each other, and par-ticularly the udders of lactating does; that they were more destructive to fences; that they tended to get caught in certain types of fencing; that they were injurious to people, etc. It is true that there is that occasional, if rare, circumstance where these claims were valid; the ‘exception proved the truth of the rule.’ But they are certainly not the norm. The bottom line was, and is, the fact that in some show enthusiasts’ eyes, the horned goat simply did not look as attractive, and hence horns had to go; proving once again that the influence of the show ring has, in the words of several persons of unquestionable wisdom and global experience, ‘destroyed (or serious-ly damaged) every breed of animal it has touched.’

Goats and sheep are not the only animals that possess horns. Fact: hundreds of types and breeds of animals carry horns, in many of which the size and mass of horns (or horn-like appendages such as antlers) is so great that it is unlikely that millions of years of evolution would have given rise to them if there were not very good reasons for their presence. Considering just their variety in shapes alone indicates that they are more important than we fully understand as yet. We do know a few of the rationales for horns, important both to the animals themselves as well as to their utility to their owners and the rest of Man. Some of these reasons for horns on goats are:

(1) Horns are ‘social’ organs; goats use them to re-establish the herd ‘pecking order’ which they do on a near-continual basis. Removing the horns does not remove the genetic impetus to butt another goat, the goats’ normal social interaction, but does remove the protective effect of the horns, which are designed not only to give, but to receive blows, and protect the skull. (The outer visible layer of the horn is composed of protein, but it covers a hard bone core that fuses with the skull somewhere in the first year or two of life.}

(2) Horns are thermoregulatory organs, regulating the temperature of the blood supply to the brain.

(3) Horn size, shape, conformation, spacing, and direction of growth are important, under genetic control, and subject to selection. In IDGR shows, horn conformation counts for points in the over-all scorecard; and a hornless animal is as difficult to properly assess as a dairy doe with her udder amputated, or an Angora shorn of its fleece down to the skin.

(4} Horns serve as indicators of protein metabolism and general feed-conversion efficiency; the more massive the structure and the more and deeper the corrugations, the better the goat may assimilate and utilize its feed. They also indicate past experiences with serious illness.

(5) Horns indicate the age of an animal; the ‘annual rings’ are usually easy to see.

(6) Horns are convenient handles, enabling the herdsperson to control the goat’s head when giving medications, dewormers, etc. and to lead a recalcitrant goat by; this is much less traumatic to the goat than the use of its ears for the purpose of control.

(7) There is in dairy goat breeds a definite and established link between the incidence of hornlessness and hermaphroditism; and this link is believed to also exist in miniature breeds.

(8) Horns have some utility as weapons; not in such degree as to protect the goat from all dog or other predator attacks, but small dogs and other animals can be definitely discouraged by an aggressive horned goat; at the least, horns may ‘buy enough time’ for the goat to fend off an attacker until help can arrive.

(9} Horns are useful ‘tools’ to goats; they serve not only as ‘back-scratchers’ but also as working appendages to assist goats with small daily tasks. (Breeders may not consider this a ‘plus factor’ since goats are very adept at using their horns to open gates and feed bins, create and enlarge holes in fences, batter down boards in confined areas, etc.)

(10) Horns are lovely; they are beautiful, intricate, interesting structures, just as seashells are. Before you are too quick to say that this is a matter of opinion, remember that there are tens of thousands of hunters, just for one example, who may profess to despise the miniature, dairy and common brush goats, but that expend much money and energy hunting wild deer, sheep and goats primarily for their antlers and horns!

And last but not least, (11) horns have for countless centuries been used for the creation of many utilitarian articles and art objects, from the heads of canes, walking sticks, staffs, and shepherds’ crooks, to elaborate snuff and tobacco humidors, smoking pipes, buttons, drinking vessels, dippers, combs, and a myriad other useful and decorative items. Many of these articles are now made of plastic. Plastic, which comes from petroleum, is not a ‘renewable’ resource; but goats can always grow more horns, given the chance.

With the domestication of goats we have learned that horns can cause some problems for us. Parents often fear that small children may be poked in the eyes by a horned Pygmy or Dwarf goat, suddenly raising its head while a child stands over it to pet it. Horns do make the design of feeders, hay mangers and milking stands a bit more difficult; keyhole feeders are obviously of no use with horned goats, and horned goats can be more destructive to fences and other structures. Hence there are individuals who prefer their goats to be hornless. This, best accomplished by disbudding of kids, is a choice each goat owner must make on his or her own, having, hopefully, carefully considered the list of rationales for horns given above. In a nutshell, the decision boils down to the fact that all the reasons for having hornless goats are based on our own convenience rather than the good of the goats themselves. The person who truly cares about goats will cherish and admire his animals with lovely, well-conformed horns, and take the few necessary measures to make their housing and feeding easier.


Filed under Dairy, Farming Practices, Goats

July farming classes!

Grow Your Own! 

Backyard Organic Gardening Classes at 

Dancing Dog Farm, the week of July 7 – 14, 2011

To register, email: or call 603.289-2426

The Backyard Organic Chicken Flock –  Meat & Eggs on the Table       

July 7, 9am – 11am; fee: $20
Simple ways to add home raised organic eggs and poultry to your backyard – everything from choosing the right breed, to raising chicks, to feeding and managing layers and meat birds.

Backyard Barnyard – Easy Ways to Integrate Small Livestock into Your Backyard Farm                  July 8, 9 am – 11am; fee: $20                                                                                                                                                        Learn how to increase the biodiversity of your backyard by adding small livestock – chickens, bees, even dairy or meat goats are easy to raise and add to your food freedom! 

The Homestead Dairy – Raising Goats is Easier than you Think!

7/14; 9am – 11am; fee: $20
This class is a great introduction to raising backyard organic goats for milk, cheese, or meat. Covers breeds, diseases, feeding, care and housing, milking and processing. Hands on with our dairy goats.

Composting, Vermiculture (worms!) & Compost Tea                             

  7/16, 9am – 12pm; 9am – 12 pm; fee: $35
Using your own home-made organic compost is the single best thing you can do to increase your garden’s fertility, ward off pests, and keep diseases at a minimum. Come to Dancing Dog Farm and learn how to properly build a worm bin, compost tea brewer and a thermal compost pile.

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Filed under Farming Classes, Goats, homestead, Raw Milk, Sustainable living

We are an official WWOOF host farm!

A picture of compost soil

Image via Wikipedia

I’m very excited to announce that we have finally become a host farm for WWOOF! What’s WWOOF you say? WWOOF is  “world wide opportunities on organic farms

here’s our profile! 

One-half day of volunteer help is traded for food and accommodation, with no money exchanged.  The WWOOF-USA Host Farm Directory lists more than one-thousand organic farms (not necessarily USDA certified organic) and gardens across the country.  The Host Farm profile contains information about the location, general responsibilities,  and lifestyle of the host.  Any farm, community, or garden project in the US that is willing to host and accommodate volunteers can participate in our program.  We encourage all types of volunteers and hosts who can cooperate to strengthen sustainable agriculture worldwide to be a part of WWOOF-USA.  The program is open to anyone 18 years of age or older, regardless of experience.

WWOOF farms offer a variety of educational opportunities, including growing vegetables, keeping bees, building straw bale houses, working with animals, making wine, and much more. With over a thousand farms in all 50 states, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, there is something for everyone.

Here’s the WWOOF link

Some of the things that  we do here (or are planning on ) at Dancing Dog Farm that would include WWOOFers are:

Small goat dairy

Cheese/yogurt/’kefir making (small scale)

Treatment-free apiary (small scale)

Pastured Poultry  brroding, pasture management, slaughter, rules and regs, marketing

Laying hens

Compost – bokashi, thermal,bokashi,O2, compost tea

Soil food web/microbiolgy (with microscope work)

organic fruit

organic vegetables


hugel kulture

solar applications

hoophouse construction

Food preservation

electric fencing

Farming classes

Strawbale shed

bread oven

small grains

farm dog training

marketing – social media, website, hard copy collateral

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Filed under apples, Cheese, Chickens, Cows, farmers market, Farming Classes, Goat milk, Goats, homestead, pastured poultry, Raw Milk, Sustainable living, treatment free bees

Busy Days, an update

The goatie gangWell, spring sprung for us here at the farm the end of March, with 6 bouncing baby goats born, and a lovely heifer calf. We’ve hit the ground (as did they) running, with the cold season crops now in the ground, and even a compost tea spraying completed. 25 Speckled Sussex (for pastured poultry for the family) arrived a few weeks back, along with my daughters egg layers (spangled hambergs – what a name!) and our hens are laying dutifully in their egg mobile out in the field, with their spankin new plastic netting that Winnie (the pony) promptly got himself tangled in during one of his midnight raids on the henhouse – cus he’s starving, dontcha know. Winnie now has his own section of the field, far away from the hens! Actually Winnie is the goat king – he hangs with them, and they kinda hang with him, they especially like to chew on his mane. Sigh.

We are milking the girls once a day now, in the am. We let the babies stay with their moms during the day, and separate them at night. I decided to let them keep their horns as well, seeing as I’m fairly certain horns have a reason, and that goats just don’t look like goats with out them. They look, well, mutilated in my eyes. As we are a small operation, I don’t foresee any trouble with that decision. Horns actually serve several important function – they dissipate heat (not that we have much of that here these days) and they protect the animal from predators. We do have a healthy coyote population here.  We had 5 doelings and one buckling – who will end up either as a pack goat and a companion for our someday buck, or on the table, depending on his disposition.

The milk has been fabulous, very light, with less fat in it this time of year so it filters quickly and easily. Makes a light and lemony chevre. But crummy for butter. That’s for later in the year.

There’s more to update, but Peter is putting the scythe together and I am eager to try it, then we are off to the sheep and wool festival to be tempted by lambs :)

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Filed under Goat milk, Goats, Raw Milk

Monadnock Winter Farmers Market

monadnock farmers market

monadnock winter farmers market

Peter and I had a great *first time* experience at the Monadnock Winter Farmers Market, at Noone Falls in Peterborough, NH, last Sunday. Thank you to all the good folks who bought our honey! We’ll have lots more next Sunday, and although we aren’t yet legally allowed to physically sell our milk at the market, we will have information about both the fresh cow and goat’s milk that you can buy at the farm, as well as information about our new “dairy share” program.

See you at the market!



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Filed under Cheese, Chickens, Cows, farmers market, Farming Classes, Goats, living food, Raw Milk, treatment free bees

Snowy Days are Good For…

Finalizing the details for our farmstead soft cheesemaking workshop! More details coming soon!
french milk maid

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Filed under Cheese, Cows, Farming Classes, Goats, Raw Milk

Pregnant goatie mama walk

Walking the goats

Walking the goats

Yesterday we took the mama goats out for a walk, they don’t venture forth much into the field now that it’s covered in EEK snow. I spose I understand, they are Nubian goats, from Africa, for goodnes sake. I wouldn’t want to walk around on snow any more than I had to either. Heck, I don’t, and I’m from New England.

Anyways, they each joyfully discovered the Christmas decorations on the barn doors.. yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm  Vitamin C! They were just hemlock and pine branches, and are actually yummy treats for them. After their little snack fest, we went down the road for a bit. But not too far, cus their over protective pony friend was freaking out. Uma just watched, and mooed gentley every now and then. Ah the excitement of winter on a small farm!



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Filed under Goats, Uncategorized