This the fourth in my series of monthly projects that I hope will get you excited about In the Kitchen With Laura. I’m running late, but here is the entry for April.
One of the things Almanzo is known for in later life and the subject of the photos sold by the Laura Ingalls Wilder/Rose Wilder Lane Home giftshop in Mansfield, Missouri, was Almanzo’s herd of goats. After checking with my favorite goat experts and the Iowa Dairy Goat Association, I feel very confident saying that they are Swiss ancestry dairy goats. There was agreement that there were at least a couple of Saanen Goats. There was disagreement over whether the rest were Alpines or just crossbreeds.
In Almanzo’s later years, as they sold off land and settled into semi-retirement Almanzo wasn’t quite ready to completely give up farming and so he turned to dairy goats. Goats and sheep are smaller and easier to handle than large animals such as cattle and horses. Both animals have a wonderful ability to be a natural lawnmower and helped Almanzo keep the grass and brush under control (always an issue on acreages, too big to treat like a lawn, too small to efficiently make hay on). Sheep are more likely to stay close to home and goats are natural escape artists who like to get out.
Almanzo’s goats weren’t any old goats though, they were dairy goats. Domesticated goat breeds are divided into two camps, those bred for more milk and those bred for more meat. Dairy goats like those Almanzo raised are bred for producing large amounts of high-quality milk. “A really good milk goat can produce a gallon or more of milk per day for about 10 months.” That means you have to milk your goats at least once a day, often twice a day, every goat for roughly 10 months of a given year. (Even animals bred for milk production are on a lactate cycle where they give off more milk when they are nursing, or should be nursing their offspring, and then eventually slacken off milk production when it’s time to wean them or when food stocks suffer during winter months.)