MARTINSVILLE — Just over one year ago, the Jason and Jennifer Towles family began raising goats for healthy raw milk when Jennifer received a surprise Valentine’s gift from her husband. The money purchased the domesticated animals known for their milk and meat.
“I have wanted goats since first tasting fresh goat milk at Jason’s sister’s home after watching her milk their goat,” explained Jennifer Towles, 33, who discovered she was having negative reactions to pasteurized cow’s milk before the birth of their first child, Turner, who is now age 8. The couple has five children, Turner, 8; Evie, 7; Warren, 5; Gloria, 3; and youngest Clara, 1.
She explained purchasing goat’s milk from the grocery store was quite expensive for the family of seven. She noted a quart of goat’s milk from the store or other local sources cost approximately $4.50 per quart.
“Owning my own milk goats allows me to provide milk for our family at a low cost. Also, I can ensure the health of the goats and safe handling of the milk,” explained the busy mother who milks once per day.
After being presented with the Valentine’s gift from her husband, she immediately began researching specific breeds of goats to find the best suitable match to meet the family’s milking needs. Towels settled on the Nigerian Dwarf breed. This small dairy goat breed produces approximately one half gallon of milk daily.
The family initially purchased Lady and a companion goat in February 2016. They added Mary to their small herd in April 2016 then later sold the companion goat to a llama farm. The Towles purchased a seven-month-old doe, Rosie, earlier this week.
“Rosie is from strong milk lines,” said Jennifer Towles.
Lady was in milk when she first joined the family at their home in rural Clark County, Towles said. Lady, who is one-eighth lamancha breed, was already milk-stand trained.
“Lady was somewhat of our first goat to see if this goat milking idea would really work for us,” she explained. Her husband designed and built a milking stand for Jennifer Towles’ petite frame. He has also erected and built a goat shelter, a pen and large grazing area along with other specific items needed to raise healthy goats.
The goats are not only for milking but have also become family pet members.
“They are funny and enjoyable,” she observed. “Quickly the goats stole my heart and the hearts of the kids.” A busy stay-at-home mother, she homeschools the Towles children adding, “Goat antics are so funny and enjoyable.”
The five Towles children enjoy assisting with the feeding and milking of their goats, taking responsibility for some of their care. In addition the youngsters help with the watering and hauling straw for bedding.
“They love to help. Often, I find the goats have been spoiled by the kids with a bit too many sunflower seeds,” she said, laughing she has also discovered the goat house “filled with a super plush bedding of straw and blankets.”
The oldest child, Turner, already can milk while siblings Evie and Warren are currently working hard to learn how to manipulate their hands to release milk properly from the goats.
Jennifer and Jason Towles both agree the family has learned a lot since they initially considered investing in milking goats.
“We have learned so much about the feeding, health needs, care and kidding process of goats,” she said. “But more than that, this has been an unexpected spiritual lesson. She smiled at the sight of her children playing with the goats and getting muddy from ground saturated with recent rains as they hugged Rosie.
“Just as having children and a family helps a person relate to God the father in a more personal way. Being a goat herd is eye opening to the care, sacrifice and tough love of the greatest shepherd, God,” she said.
In the future, Jennifer Towles hopes to help breed quality family milking goats and provide support and services to families who wish to learn to raise goats.
“Ideally, I would love to make having a backyard milk goat a more practical solution for other local families,” she concluded.