Mr. Hook says : ' Goats are probably more subject to rheumatism than most other animals, and I have known them to be so acutely affected when heavy in kid that they were unable to rise, and almost unable to walk when on their legs.'I quote this sentence because it strikes me that goat-keepers may find that this tendency to rheumatism is caused by too high feeding, especially with oats, peas, and beans. Horses in the confinement of the stable often suffer in the same way, and are unable to stand the damp when turned out into the fields, not because that gives them the rheumatism any more than bad weather gives it to us. They have it in them from wrong feeding: the damp merely develops it.
In consequence of this book I bought one goat, a hornless black and white crossbred, so that I and my gardener might gain a little personal experience - I always dispute that 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing,' a little to my mind being better than none - and find out how much trouble and benefit there is in keeping goats on a very small scale.
My first experiment after the birth of the two kids the next spring - a boy and a girl - was to give to the children about the place a goat's-milk tea. They all, with one exception, said they liked it very much. The exception was the youngest, almost a baby, who was probably not hungry. After this the goat's milk was divided between the children of the gardener and coachman, and such honoured guests who were fond of milk and yet totally disbelieved that goat's milk was without taste or smell. Without a single exception every one of these pronounced it excellent, and some preferred it to cow's milk as a constant drink. This may be due to the fact that, as Mr. Hook says, the fat globules in goat's milk are so much more minute than in cow's milk that it is lighter on the palate and easier of digestion. Servants - who in my experience are the most conservative-minded of all classes - have now found out the good qualities of goat's milk so markedly that they are glad not to allow it to go out of the house.
I can see the cautious reader - probably a male - saying, 'I wonder why she didn't take it herself ?' It was because I did not wish to mix goat's with cow's milk in the separator, and I always drink separated milk; for though not a large milk consumer, I prefer it without its cream, taking that portion of the milk by preference in the form of butter. Those who drink coffee or tea will find that goat's milk gives both these a much better colour in the cup than even the best cow's milk.
My little kids I did not want to keep. I tried to sell them both in the neighbourhood, but no one would give me anything for them, dead or alive, so I had the Billy killed and served for a Saturday to Monday party which I knew had no interest in the simpler foods. Having seen them immensely enjoy it, I called to their notice the menu, on which was plainly written 'roast kid,' whereupon a young man at my side told me the following anecdote.
He had lately dined at a very expensive restaurant where the menu contained for the roast, agncau-de-lait. He, having a frugal mind, and thinking of his own lambs in the country which sold for very little, asked to interview the chef after the feast. He said, ' Well, sir, I have no objection to telling you that agneau-de-lait is not to be procured in England, or at any rate is enormously expensive. This dish of which you have been eating is only a kid.'
I could not bear to kill the useful Nannie, so I gave her away to the man who had had charge of her mother. He used her as a pet for his children to drag a tiny cart, and is now so delighted with the milk our goat gives that he is going to keep his own for the same purpose. This year the same mother only had one kid, a very pretty little female, which I am rearing and keeping. The one kid instead of the usual two may be due to the mother having been principally fed on grass. She does not give nearly as much milk as the better-bred goats, but this may be partly because she is not so highly fed. She is pastured in a fresh spot every day and is given leaves, &c. In winter I find chopped mangold is a favourite food.
Several cases have come to my knowledge of poor people refusing to keep a goat even when it had been given them, because they say it is so troublesome and destructive a creature. My interpretation of this would be that it is no good giving a goat to poor people, unless you give with it a strong collar, chain, and tethering pin, for unless this is done it is always breaking loose and doing damage. These things are expensive for poor people to buy - the collar and chain costing 7s. 6d. - they try to manage with bits of rope, or any other makeshift, and the result is unsatisfactory.
Mr. Hook says in his book which supplements the larger work on goats by Mr. Pegler, that this prejudice against goats is largely due to the fact that English cottage people get their small experience of goats from buying them out of the Irish herds which are brought over now and then. ' Unfortunately, it is from such inferior animals that an estimate of the whole species is generally formed, the over-sanguine goat-owner becoming disappointed by the wild nature, mischievous habits and scanty produce of the animal that he has purchased on the assurance that it will give two quarts of milk a day, and live anywhere and anyhow.'
I was walking one evening on a Surrey common, and saw a little boy just taking a goat into a cottage. My interest being very keen, I began asking him why he kept it. He said, 'For milk.' My next question was, 'What do you do with the kids?' He answered with a grin, 'Our goat don't 'ave no kids : she ain't 'ad none fur seven years.' This surprising answer so floored me that I meekly said, ']I suppose she doesn't give much milk ?' He said, 'No, not much.' I afteiwards heard that the little cottage contained a family of fifteen children and mother and father.