May 16, 2022 at 7:03 p.m.

Choosing quality over quantity

Carey keeps Saanen herd small
Joseph Carey milks 24 goats at his family’s Briarwood Farm in Stratford, Wisconsin. Carey is continuing his grandmother’s tradition of breeding and showing registered dairy goats. PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN
Joseph Carey milks 24 goats at his family’s Briarwood Farm in Stratford, Wisconsin. Carey is continuing his grandmother’s tradition of breeding and showing registered dairy goats. PHOTO BY DANIELLE NAUMAN

By Danielle Nauman- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

    STRATFORD, Wis. – Dairy goats have been a part of the Carey family for much longer than 25-year-old Joseph Carey has been. Carey grew up watching his grandmother tend her herd of dairy goats and developed a shared love early in life.
    “They have always been a part of my life,” Carey said. “I have never known a day that a goat hasn’t been part of.”
    The milking herd at Carey’s Briarwood Farm consists of 24 goats, mostly Saanen, which Carey said are typically white. A couple of Alpines and Toggenburgs have joined the herd recently, belonging to Carey’s girlfriend and her daughter. Including youngstock, Carey’s herd totals about 50 head.
    “I have always liked the Saanens,” Carey said. “They are typically the highest producing and are the most common dairy goat in the U.S. They are kind of like the Holsteins of goats.”
    Carey said his grandmother, Dorothy Carey, had a fondness for the Nubian breed, which are the goats with long, floppy ears. Nubians are known more for their good components while not producing quite as much milk. She began transitioning her herd from the Nubians to the Saanens around 1995, and today, nearly all of Carey’s herd traces back to his grandmother’s herd.
    “I have a couple of bloodlines that I really like to stick with,” Carey said. “They just seem to always be the best goats each year.”
    One of his favorite bloodlines traces back to his oldest doe named Destination.
    “Destination won the milking competition at the Wisconsin State Fair,” Carey said. “I have four does in the herd out of her.”
    Another herd favorite is a young first-freshening 2-year-old named Bit O’Honey.
    “I am excited to see how she develops and how she does at the shows this year,” Carey said.
    All of Carey’s goats are registered, and he enjoys carrying on his grandmother’s tradition of showing goats. He works to keep his herd smaller to focus on breeding and developing show-quality animals. Carey participates in four or five shows each year, including two American Dairy Goat Association shows held in Wisconsin during the month of May. Carey also competes in both the Wisconsin and Minnesota state fairs. Occasionally, he attends the national show which is held in varying locales throughout the country. This year’s national show is in Pennsylvania, and Carey is unsure if he will make the trip or not due to increased fuel prices.
    Carey has been successful in the show ring, winning the premier breeder banner of the Saanen show at last year’s Wisconsin State Fair.
     The exposure Carey gets from showing his goats has allowed him to develop a market for selling a number of goats as breeding stock, and he has developed a good market particularly for bucks.
    While Carey’s dairy operation is in its early stage, he is not producing enough milk to merit being picked up by a processor. He pasteurizes and feeds the milk back to the kids. Each year, Carey said he raises about 15 kids as replacements and breeding stock. Carey weans the kids around 3 months of age. After the completion of the show season, he dries the milking herd off so that no one is milking over the winter months.
    The does at kid seasonally, with the first kids arriving in mid-February and the last ones by early May. Carey said dairy goats rut seasonally, making it more common for kids to be born in the spring. Normally each goat will have two kids, although Carey seen as many as four kids in a litter.
    Although Carey uses bucks to breed the does naturally, he does not let the bucks run with the herd. Instead, Carey separates the bucks and, following a carefully planned mating decision for each doe, puts the animals together when the doe is in heat.
    In order to keep improving his herd and to limit inbreeding, Carey buys bucks from other breeders around the country. Currently, Carey is using bucks that come from breeders in Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and Minnesota.
    “I really try and breed for show-type goats,” Carey said.
    Breeding for polled genetics is not common when it comes to breeding dairy goats. Carey said breeding two polled animals together has an 8% chance of creating sterile offspring.
    “The buck I have from Indiana is polled, but it is not something I am pursuing right now,” Carey said. “I can’t take the risk of having sterile offspring. And, you have to give up some type to use polled genetics.”
    Artificial insemination for goats is difficult, Carey said, and that is why most breeders use natural breeding for their goats. Carey has taken a course to learn how to inseminate goats and has had one successful attempt using older Saanen semen that was collected in 1998.
    “They are so small, that is what makes it hard,” Carey said. “You obviously can’t put your hand inside the goat to feel what you are doing like you can to breed a cow.”
    Carey utilizes blood testing to confirm pregnancy in each goat.
    Carey works in partnership with his father, Tim, to raise the feed for the small goat herd on the family’s farm. Carey is able to keep his inputs lower, only having to purchase mineral and a protein supplement for the goats.
    “I try to keep my costs and the size down as much as possible, so that I can just continue to do what I love doing,” Carey said. “Maybe someday in the future I will be able to expand and sell goat milk.”


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