Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, Fourth Edition, by Jerry Belanger and Sara Bredesen is a handbook for small farmers and homesteaders interested in raising goats for milk.
Belanger is a long-time goat raiser and former editor of Countryside & Small Stock Journal. Bredesen is a goat raiser and licensed cheesemaker. I bought the book (list price $20) after several years of raising goats and enjoying their milk, when I wanted to shift my goat dairy toward greater self-sufficiency.
Storey’s Guide includes the standard information that you’d expect from any introductory book on dairy goats: an introduction to different breeds, essentials of feed, fencing, health care and housing, and basic instructions on breeding, kidding, kid-rearing and milking. It also offers suggestions for record-keeping, a quick starter guide to making goat dairy products (the 1975 edition includes cheese, yogurt and butter; the 2010 edition adds kefir, koumiss and cultured buttermilk) and information on slaughtering and butchering goats.
Belanger and Bredesen ground their practical recommendations in comprehensive background information. They discuss both sides of the controversy over the health benefits and risks of raw milk, pointing out important facts on both sides and allowing readers to judge for themselves.
Instead of simply advising goat raisers to buy a premixed concentrate ration and feed it along with good hay, they discuss the nutritional needs of goats and offer guidelines for evaluating purchased feeds as well as blending or growing your own.
In their pasture section, rather than simply listing edible and toxic plants, they explain which plants are always deadly, which are generally healthy and safe, and which can be healthy or unhealthy depending on the amount fed, the time of year or the growing conditions.
This balanced and in-depth approach made it easier for me to apply their suggestions to my own situation. I found the information in Storey’s Guide consistent with information in other helpful sources and with my own experience.
This is not a cute, heartwarming book full of adjectives, anecdotes and charming photos. The tone is matter-of-fact, clear and densely packed with information. Many sidebars offer supplemental information in an easy-to-read format. There are helpful black-and-white illustrations of edible and problematic plants, fetal positions that may require rearrangement at kidding time, and step-by step visual guides to milking, hoof trimming, giving injections and more.
I’m glad to have more in-depth books covering some aspects of goat-dairying. Storey’s Guide’s cheesemaking section was short and didn’t offer the kind of background explanations and troubleshooting suggestions that I found so helpful in their sections on feeding and health care; I have gotten more useful information from Mary Jane Toth’s Goats Produce Too, Vol. II: Cheesemaking and More, an Internet cheesemakers’ forum and my local Cooperative Extension. The health care section discusses diagnosis, prevention and conventional remedies usefully but doesn’t contain much information about plant-based medicine and other alternative treatments; I’ve learned more about those from Juliette de Bairaclai Levy’s Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable and from various sources on the Internet.
Overall I found this book helpful and would recommend it to other small-scale farmers interested in practical and sustainable goat-raising. Beginners should find it a useful introduction, and those who have been raising goats for some time may be surprised by how much new information they discover.