The number of goat herds is growing in Iowa. The latest data from the U.S.D.A. shows there’s been a 61 percent increase nationally in dairy goat herds — and Iowa ranks behind Wisconsin and Texas as the state with the fastest growing dairy goat industry.
James McDaniel farms near Mitchellville and is raising 40 goats.
“They’re one of the favorite animals on the farm. I mean, they’re so personable. They all have names. They know their names,” he says. “They know what treats they like.”
McDaniel says goats are like big puppy dogs, so you’ve got to keep them occupied so they don’t amuse themselves.
“They’re a browser animal, so you’ll seem them trying to chew on stuff they’re not supposed to,” McDaniel says. “But basically, it’s just having good fences and keeping hay in front of them, so they’re getting curious.”
Just like a herd of dairy cows, McDaniel’s goat herd is milked — mechanically — twice a day. He says most of the goat milk from commercial dairies in Iowa either goes to Wisconsin or to central Iowa artisans who are making cheese.
“Goat cheese seems to be really, really hot right now,” McDaniel says.
It’s against state law to sell raw milk from a small farm like McDaniels’ operation for human consumption.
“We find other uses for it,” McDaniels says. “We actually raise hogs and bottle (beef) calves with ours.”
And soap-makers often use goat milk because its high cream content makes a moisturizing soap.
While cow’s milk is the number one type of milk consumed by Americans, the global milk of choice comes from a goat. McDaniel says goat milk is easier to digest because of its protein content. McDaniel is the immediate past president of the Iowa Dairy Goat Association. He says in addition to growing demand for goat milk, goat meat in a growth market. Goat herds also are being rented out to clear weeds. And, of course, there’s the new “goat yoga” fad featuring dwarf or pygmy goats.