Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dos Manos Alpines, a trip down memory lane

I've had dairy goats since 1979. A couple years ago, my mom found a letter I'd written to my Grandma about my first goats. I learned to milk goats from Finley Nelson in Fort Collins, Colorado. Finley also taught me to drive ponies, enjoy reading aloud to friends and to like Zane Grey westerns. Finley had a fine herd of heavy milking Saanen and Alpine does. He taught me to always buy the best male animal for your flock that you can afford. That's the best way to improve any livestock, from cattle to dairy goats. After all, your male is half your genetics. When Finley dispersed his herd, and I bought a few. I loved the beautiful black and white Sundgau does.

 I met Susan Moore about that same time when I was working on a ranch in Waverly, Colorado. Her La Luna Dairy Goats became the foundation of my Alpine herd. La Luna Innocencia was my favorite doe for many years. We had her until she was 12 and then she went to a friend's herd in Penrose, Colorado. She was hoping to get one more set of kids out of her.

The bucks that shared my life at that point were Fir Ridge RR Vesta's Andre; Tenmile Rommell Knut; Redwood Hills Nobleman; and Reparte', aka Party-goat. Andre became the most agressive buck I've every had. Nobleman was a true gentleman. I eventually culled all of Party-goat's descendants from the flock. They were all fence jumpers. That seems to be a highly heritable trait.

I had my flock on DHIR test. I just recently discovered the American Dairy Goat Association's registration database online and I spent a fun few minutes researching my old herd name, Dos Manos.  Dos Manos, two hands make the work go easier, milking smoother and working on the homestead lighter. Some of my Dos Manos girls milked as well as I remembered. Others, I did not remember at all. The Dos Manos goats from the 1980's are mine. Someone has picked up the name, so all the ones in the 2000's are not.

I was lucky to be a member of a very active Northern Colorado Dairy Goat club and to have Dr Joan Bowen as my veterinarian, small ruminant mentor and friend. I loved showing my Alpines. I have pictures of my son (now almost 30-years-old) in diapers in the show pen with the kids - the four-legged kids. Another family picture that I am fond of shows my two children, bundled up in blue parkas on hay bales, surrounded by goats. Goats were a big part of their life, we have many family goat stories.

Then we moved to southern Colorado for work. As my kids grew older and we got more involved in homeschooling, the show side of my goat world slipped away. I still kept milk goats, but I stopped registering them and showing them. My focus moved to raising children. The goats provided us with good milk to drink, make cheese, raise bottle baby calves and lambs and make soap with.

I kept goats. They became a mixture of breeds with different colors, different ear styles and different personalities. I kept the ones that had good tasting milk, were easy to milk and that didn't create trouble. When Shawn and I joined households, we scrambled our names and came up with Laffing Horse for our farm name. The first dairy goat we bought together was Victoria, a lovely Lamancha doe. We decided Lamancha's were our breed. We went to Northern Colorado to get South Fork King Arthur, a beautiful black Lamancha buck kid. But, my focus was still elsewhere. While I loved, milked and kept my goats, I didn't feel the call of the purebred registry, or of the show ring.

Our Lamanchas continue to be lovely goats. My two current girls, Henna and Harley have cute little Lamancha gopher ears, though they are 1/4 Saanen. I love the Manchi's disposition, milk quality and ease of care, but, we've found that is challenging to sell good milk goats that don't have ears. We've started called the price difference between goats with ears and those without the "ear tax." I've started looking back at other breeds. I'm tired of what the "ear tax" costs.

After selling the herd down last year due to the drought, I thought I might just be able to keep a few milkers for the family, but I'm finding that two milkers is too few for my comfort. So, tomorrow, we are headed to Pine Bluff Arkansas to look at some really top quality Alpine dairy goats. I feel like I've come full circle, back to my goat start. I'll let you know what we find.

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