We are often asked this question, and to us the answer is black & white, but for you skeptics out there, we found this wonderful post that seems to answer this question with more 'details'....
This is a Blog post that we have decided to share with everyone. The author is Daniel Babcock of 'Sweetdeseret' La Mancha Dairy Goats, and he has this to say about Mini La Manchas:
"The ability to convert browse into milk is one of the reasons I decided to get into Miniature LaManchas. My mentor almost exclusively grazes her MM’s feeding a little alfalfa/grass hay and a handful of grain on the milk stand. She has been working the last 10 years to perfect her line of MM’s focusing on 75% LaMancha and 25% Nigerian strain. Her goats are very hardy, they convert browse and their grass graze into milk, her goats have great will to milk, the hybridization brings about a low somatic cell count, and the milk tastes the best.
Taste was important for me and I visited many farms to determine the best tasting milk. Everyone seems to prefer one goats milk to another, however many are biased because they started with one breed and have grown accustomed to this type of milk therefore any other than the milk they started with tastes ‘different’. I approached it never having tasted goat milk having no biases as an uninformed consumer would, I sampled different goat milk and did some blind tasting with family and friends, the consensus was Mini-Mancha milk tasted the best!
Back to allowing goats to browse. My mentor believes the hybrid vigor overcomes some of the challenges associated with the inbreeding of any highly domesticated animal and making the MM’s more efficient at converting browse to milk.
Ken might provide some good information on this relative to the challenges being faced in the Dairy Cow industry with the overly inbred Holsteins. Many of the problems are being fixed by out-breeding a Holstein with a hereford.
As the economy continues to struggle, I believe the cost factor will become more and more important and that more people will begin to look at the hardiness and the efficiency at which the MM’s are able to convert what some may consider ‘scrounge’ into good milk! Using the 75% LaMancha strain of the MM insures more of the dairy characteristics of the full sized goats, the great personality of the LaManchas, the ease of hand milking resultant from teat size, higher capacity from less feed,the higher butter fat and protein levels that come from the Nigerian Dwarfs, and once again great tasting milk.
I plan to follow my mentor, Karen’s lead in creating a strain that ‘scrounges’ well, even though I have only 3 acres, the browse I can produce will significantly support (during my growing season here in what Sondra called the frozen tundra of the north) my small herd. Of course I will supplement with high quality alfalfa, free choice minerals (right now onyx) and some grain on the stand, but I hope to be successful in allowing my goats to browse for a significant portion of their diet."
To view the original article please visit their blog at: http://www.sweetdeseret.com/wblog/?p=11
Our experience (so far)...
We started taking a serious interest in our goats, breeding/promoting miniature La Manchas (abbreviated MM), sometime around 2011. Between then, and the time this blog was being typed, we had had several near 'mishaps'. But the resilient mini manchas carried through with flying colors.
When we moved out of the desert and came up to Show Low in 2013, our goats found most of their food grazing/browsing. And even though our native buffalo grass is brown 3/4 of the year, the goats were able to maintain their weight and still give us between 1/2-1 gallon a day. The only supplementing we provided was minerals, and either a flake of high quality #1 alfalfa hay (or pelleted feed) 3 times a week.
As the herd grew large enough to support itself through the sale of babies/young milkers, then we started to switch over to a diet that primarily consisted of bailed/pelleted feed, and pasture only 3x week. This change was made because whatever goes into the goats mouth, the flavor comes through the milk. On our rugged pasture, the goats would eat weeds, trees, bushes, you name it that sometimes had an offensive flavor. Try a branch of juniper sometime, and you WILL know what I mean!
If I personally wasn't so opposed to drinking bitter juniper tainted milk, the goats would have remained on their pasture/forage diet, though I would have upped the supplementation of the better feed especially during pregnancy/lactations. However, now that they are on a high quality diet-- their milk is not only better tasting, more creamy, and wonderful.. but they are thriving. Just like anything else, they can survive on dry grass pasture with enough acreage, but when given the opportunity to have better browse, the milk quality/health of the animals is of course going to be better also.
Miniature La Manchas are by far the most hardy breed we have ever worked with, and we will continue to breed/promote these wonderful animals as long as God allows! We highly, HIGHLY recommend them for beginners, or even low-budget families who may not always be able to afford the highest quality feeds.
However >>DISCLAIMER<< like all animals they should NEVER be expected to thrive off of moldy cow/'goat' hay, straw, or other extremely poor feed options. If they are to choose between 'cow' hay and brown pasture--put them on the brown pasture! If they are starting to loose weight (where you can see defined hips, back bones, and rib bones) they are NOT getting enough feed. Rough coats are also a sign of poor nutrition. Goats are hardy, and thrifty, but they shouldn't look like the fourth horseman!
Despite our poor pasture, and feeding regimen. When our goats needed better feed, or more feed. We supplied it. Which is why we will NEVER advertise our goats as 'weed eaters.' Even free range cattle need supplementation and get 'fattened' back up on feed lots before slaughter. Why? Because under free range in AZs rugged terrain, the cattle (and goats) are living off the bare minimum nutrition requirements. And have literally NO body fat to help them build muscle, provide milk for young, or calories to give birth/breed. So they need time to 'recover' all the nutrition they lost.
In some regions of the country, the grass is tall and green year round. Not here, but there are places like that. If you live in a place where grass is green and tall most of the year, your goats will thrive off of pasture. But desert, high-mountains, or other places where moisture/precipitation is not as abundant BE PREPARED to supplement your animals. They NEED their fat reserves to keep their bodies from eating their muscle tissues, or from going into toxic shock during pregnancy.
If you are not able/willing to take your animals out to graze to supplement their feed because you don't have the finances to feed your goats. Either reduce your herd numbers to make them more affordable to feed, or consider not getting a goat. It is so sad seeing people dumping their half-starved animals on craigslist and acting like 'its normal' to offer a skeleton for sale. Skinny goats are not normal folks.
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