Our family first delved into dairy after moving to Oklahoma in 2005. We came from a much more hectic paced life, and we had ambitions of slowing things down in order to enjoy our God, our marriage and our family. Dairy goats came into the conversation even before we arrived. They came into our lives soon afterwards, and, they did change our lives. At the very least we had to be at home and milk, morning and evening.
Dairy changed our lives.
Of course the demands of dairy changed our schedules and the animals themselves brought a lot of joys and sometimes some sadness. Just “doing dairy” taught us a lot. One really important principle of domestication, which is accentuated in dairy is that for maximum production, the husbandman encourages the most dependence on the part of the animal. In other words, for the best milk production, we encourage our animals to depend upon us. We do more for them, in order to reap more from them.
For greater productivity, we do more for our animals.
Of course we feed them, but we also attend to each birth, catch and clean the kids and raise them ourselves, milking the does and bottle feeding the milk back to the kids. This way the goats affections are fixed on us, and they look forward to every bit of time they can get with us. They love to be milked. The kids depend on us for their bottles. This all makes for a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
Along the way we’ve learned many lessons from dairy.
Here are just a few:
- Dairy teaches us constancy. While our does are in milk, milking is not optional. No matter how we feel, no matter what comes up, no matter the weather, we must milk these animals, and that, within a schedule. Milking times may vary by a few hours, but the emphasis on that statement needs to be on few. Our does depend on us and neglect would harm them greatly.
- Dairy teaches us the importance of relationship with our animals. Without trust and affection, milk goats (and I suspect milk cows) don’t produce very well. Dairy isn’t a cold, unfeeling industry. The dairyman must be committed to his (or her) animals and their welfare, and dedicated to meeting their needs. I’ve personally known four dairymen with commercial operations running cows. Every one I’ve been able to get somewhat close to, has manifested great dedication to their animals. Dairy involves more than dollars and cents.
- Dairy teaches the value of hard work and perseverance. It’s real work. It’s constant work. Yet it’s quite rewarding.
- Dairy teaches us the true value of the product. You’ve heard the saying, “There’s no point crying over spilled milk?” Well, if you work hard to produce it, you know that the temptation to cry over spilled milk is real. One time, when we were practically covered up in milk, my neighbor, who has Jersey cows, gave me a gallon of his milk to try. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to try it. It made me chuckle, as I headed home, cradling that gallon of milk, which would have to be squeezed into our fridge, as it was already full of … milk!
Some lessons from the Bible:
“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”
Animal husbandry is neither good nor bad in itself. When it’s bad, it’s because the heart of man is bad. If you want a kinder, gentler production of food, deal with peoples’ hearts. Like it says in Proverbs, if wicked, even attempts at doing right won’t end well.
The 23rd Psalm
A psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Notice that God Himself uses animal husbandry (done right) as picture of His wonderful care for His own. This involves provision, protection, security and relationship. He wants us to be totally dependent on Him.