Since I have a child who nearly died before we found goat milk, I have to have a year-round supply ... so I began looking for a second doe. I'd almost lost hope of finding anything worth having in my price range when a neighbor told me about a registered French Alpine, of champion stock, that was going cheap because her blemishes made her unshowable. She had just freshened for the second time and had given birth to triplets. Best of all, she cost only $35.00. I jumped at the bargain.
The papers were all in order andâsince the doe looked beautifulâI bought her. The owners told me that she'd been attacked by dogs the previous year and that her bag was no longer perfect: Fluid leaked from tiny holes on the udder's sides during milking, but not when the animal was at rest. The bag was well-shaped otherwise, though, and I felt that I'd managed a "steal".
The next morning, however, it was obvious that my new goat was not well. Her udder was hot and red-swollen but without much milk. I was frantic ... we had spent every spare dime to buy the Alpine so there was no reserve with which to pay a vet. The sale was final, and I was stuck.
I had to call my only milk customer and tell her I had no supply available ... and her family turned out to have the answer to my trouble. They knew nothing about livestock butâbeing interested in everything to do with health and nutritionâthey brought by a book called Vermont Folk Medicine. The author, Dr. D.C. Jarvis, had set up practice in a remote part of the Green Mountain State where he discovered that the old-time residents had a very profound, natural system for maintaining health, seldom needed his services and lived to a serene old age. They were more than willing to share what they knew, and Dr. Jarvis learned that the main addition to his neighbors' plain, unprocessed food was raw apple cider vinegar. The same substance was also used as a veterinary preventive and remedy.
My customers had brought a quart of the vinegar with them and the taste and smell were so delicious and appetizing that decided to try Dr. Jarvis' methods on my sick goat. The treatment was simple: two tablespoons of vinegar to one pound of dairy grain twice a day ... every day. The idea is to maintain the chemical balance in the body for prevention of illness as well as for the cure of specific infection.
It worked! By the fifth day our patient was eating normally, the milk was nearly clear and the rough coat and dull eyes were gone for good. We started using our new doe's output on the seventh day and were pleased with the rich, sweet flavor ... her milk has never tasted "goaty".
Darlene (the Alpine) loved the vinegar and didn't want the grain without it. The other goats started getting the same doseâyou bet!âand total production rose even though the Nubian was due to dry up. In fact, I had to take her off grain and vinegar to stop her lactation.
Then I made a big mistake. After nine months of terrific milk production and an easy mating (Darlene had always been very hard to breed before, since she stayed in heat only six to eight hours), I dried the Alpine up as I had the other nanny. Because she was a little too fat I decided to cut the grain out of her diet ... and in so doing I got careless about the vinegar.
The doe was in blooming good health and looked ready to have quadruplets. She freshened easily with two delightful and devilish buck kidsâvery large and activeâand I was thrilled.
At that point the result of my mistake became clear. Within 24 hours Darlene had raving mastitis, and the kids had to be removed for fear they'd get sick from her milk. I restarted the vinegar at once, along with every herb and plant I could offer her. She took comfrey with relish, and little else ... except the vinegar grain, which she ate with frantic speed. I mixed more of the acid in warm water with molasses, and my poor doe drank it in sobbing gulps.
That treatment stopped the mastitis cold, without vets or antibiotics. Darlene was well in three days, the kids were returned to her and the milk was perfectly normal.
My goat will never again pass a day without her dose of vinegar ... and neither will I. Darlene also gets fresh tomatoes, comfrey, cornstalks, leaves and a hundred other fresh, natural foods from the garden. When she bloats a little from a new bale of hay, I give her an armful of mint sprigs. It works. I just put all the feed where she can get it and let her choose.