Goats for every generation

Considines keep a family tradition going strong

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PORTAGE, Wis. — Tom Considine grew up with goats and so have all 10 of his children. Keeping the dairy in the family has been important to every Considine generation.

“We need to keep this going as I have children who want to continue milking goats here as the third generation,” Considine said. “That’s our goal.”

The Considines milk about 120 goats and farm 150 acres near Portage. Considine and his wife, Joy, along with their four youngest children, Asher, Isaiah, Christina and Cohen, handle day-to-day operations of the farm. In addition, Considine teaches at Portage High School. The family shares a passion for goats, with everyone pitching in each day to keep the farm running.

“I couldn’t do this without help from my family,” Considine said. “Goats bring peace and enjoyment to life. I love all aspects of this animal. If for no other reason, it is to drink their milk. I’ve come to appreciate my dad’s sentiments for goat milk.”

The farm has been home to Considine since age 6. His father moved the family north after managing a farm near North Prairie where he milked 460 goats. The family enjoys sweeping views of the countryside from their farm’s hillside location.

“We’re really blessed,” Considine said.

Initially, the Considine family shipped milk for both the fluid and cheese markets before shifting to cheese in 1985. In 1994, Tom and Joy began taking over management of the farm. In 2006, they inherited the farm when Considine’s father passed away.

“Some things are very much the same as how my dad did it, and some things are different,” Considine said.

The family milks twice a day in a 20-stall parlor with three Surge buckets purchased by Considine’s dad in 1958.

“I’m probably the only goat dairy that uses things like this, but they work well,” Considine said. “It takes elbow grease and back power to do it, but I have the labor, and it’s so much safer. We never felt comfortable using the cleaners and strong acids around our children that are required for a pipeline.”

Considine said one drawback of the bucket is that it does not get all the milk out as well as a claw would, so the kids go behind with a strip bucket to get the remaining milk.

“A positive is that you don’t leave the bucket on too long and damage the mammary of the doe,” Considine said. “We believe prevention is the best medicine.”

The family peaks at 140 goats milking, but when they drop to 80-90 milking in winter, they milk by hand.

“The kids prefer it,” Considine said. “Isaiah said the cleaning time is faster. But when goats come in full milk, I refuse to let them milk by hand.”

Considine likes to have three people in the parlor washing, stripping, changing buckets and feeding. The Considines practice out-of-season breeding to ensure year-round milking.

“We don’t use drugs to bring does into heat; we use lights,” Considine said. “Goats are photosensitive. They come in heat 10 weeks after the longest day of the year, June 21. Therefore, during January and February, we leave the lights on for 20 hours per day for 60 days. Then in the middle of May, goats come into heat.”

The Considines do breeding by buck and hand-mate 90% of their does. Buck kids stay with their moms while doe kids are separated at birth. Kids are housed in two areas, one of which is a chicken coop that Considine converted into a barn. About 60 goats are housed in this location with 12 per pen. Previously, there was no designated place for kids.

“This really made a difference with the health of our youngstock,” Considine said. “We have to clean this barn by hand. But if my son takes over, I would build another building for kids, something bigger that could be mechanically cleaned. He would like to milk 300 goats.”

Kids are fed milk replacer until about 10 weeks. Milking and dry does are housed on a bedded pack and fed from a manger system in the farm’s old dairy barn that originally housed cows. Considine grows hay, corn and oats for the ration and buys supplements like protein and soybeans. He also feeds dry hay, and occasionally, he feeds baleage.

“In good years, I have crops to sell,” Considine said. “In bad years like last year, it just gets us by.”

In a herd of Saanens, Sables, French Alpines, Lamanchas, Nubians, recorded grades and Toggenburgs, goats average 6 pounds of milk per day with 4.6% butterfat and 3.6% protein.

 “I have goats giving 10 pounds of milk and some at 4 pounds,” Considine said. “I don’t have problems with animals being burned out on rich feed or getting diarrhea. Management is so much easier.”

The Considines ship their milk to Kolb-Lena where it is made into cheese. They buy back a portion of the cheese to sell at the Dane County farmers market. They also plan to start selling goat meat this year.

“Goat meat is excellent,” Considine said. “It’s high in everything you want, like protein and iron, and low in everything you don’t want, like saturated fat. All of these things that make meat so special, goat meat has.”

The Considines also show goats and are active in the American Dairy Goat Association.

“Our goats are registered, and it’s important to maintain the registry for the benefit of the animal,” Considine said.

Considine is a judge for the ADGA and travels the country judging shows. He is also chairman of the committee that trains judges and served as a director. Considine said the ADGA national convention is being held in Lake Geneva in October.

“This is a pretty big deal,” he said. “It’s only the fifth time it’s been held in Wisconsin.”

Considine and his wife are fully invested in goats, as are members of the next generation.

“Asher wants to take over milking,” Considine said. “I don’t know what that will look like yet. I’m 57 and have some good years left in me to deal with goats. The kids say, ‘This farm is going to be ours. It’s not going to leave the Considine family.’ And, that makes me happy.”

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