Dairy goat production at Dreamers Haven HEA

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For certain individuals goat milk may have added benefits, which include better digestibility, allergy mitigation, and damaged cell repair. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Avonique “Nika” and Jason Tipsword are the owners of “Dreamers Haven HEA,” a diversified homesteading operation focusing on dairy goat production. They are on a mission to educate Clayton County residents about dairy goats and consuming goat milk. 

“I grew up drinking raw milk from my family’s cow dairy,” Nika told The Press. “When the family decided to get out of the dairy industry, we all missed the fresh milk.” 

Although Nika moved away from the area to pursue her education and career, she eventually relocated to rural Clayton County with her husband, Jason, and purchased an acreage with the intent to set up a small-scale homestead, focusing on diversified production of food consumption needs.

“The land we purchased was too small to pasture even one cow for dairy purposes, so I set about hunting down the best alternative for fresh dairy in a small space; goats turned out to be the answer!” she exclaimed. Goats love weeds and will eat poison ivy, poison oak, wild raspberries, multiflora rose, horseweed/ragweed, young Canadian thistle, cockleburs, and a favorite – young stinging nettle. “As long as fencing is appropriate, goats are a perfect choice to manicure a pasture for you with little effort,” she added. 

Although most people assume goat milk is not palatable, Nika assures it is similar in taste. “There is a cultural predication and assumption that because milk comes from a different animal, it must not taste the same, she noted. “My grandparents were lifelong dairy producers, and my uncle and father grew up on bulk tank milk, just as I did; the difference, if any, is slight at best, and the family drinks goat milk without issue.”

Nika pointed out there are five classifications of caprine husbandry: meat, milk, fiber, working goats (drafting, packing, cart-pulling, etc.), and companion goats. The Tipswords raise dairy goats and one crossbred fiber goat, which donates its very soft coat (called mohair) every year to their makeshift goat “NICU.” Any leftovers go to their chickens, which are happy to have the soft fluff in their nests.

 Nigerian Dwarf

The Tipswords raise Nigerian Dwarf goats. Contrary to their name, the breed does not suffer from dwarfism, but is a true miniature breed. Looking back Nika wishes she had done more research before diving in headfirst. “Iowa is not goat-country. Growing up on a farm with various livestock, working on a large-scale commercial cow dairy during college summers, and with some of my closest friends being dairy producers in their own right, I thought it would be an easy jump to goats. I was very wrong,” she admitted. 

Nika is grateful for the guidance she has received. “I’ve been blessed to have been guided by Dr. Connell at the Guttenberg Veterinary Clinic, along with a slew of ‘Fairy Goat-Parents’ who have decades of experience as herdsmen and -women. “I’ve been very lucky to have had such teachers and mentors,” she said with gratitude. 

Nika is looking forward to experimenting with soap and lotion making in the future, but for now, due to heavy regulations on consumable dairy products in Iowa, the small herd is for their personal consumption only. In Iowa, raw milk sales, herd shares (similar to a CSA, but for dairy products such as milk and cheese), and homemade consumable dairy product sales are prohibited. The slow-food and local-grown food movements are gaining ground, but Nika highly encourages people to talk to their legislators about permitting Iowa to have small-volume on-farm raw milk sales. “Iowa has some of the stricter laws in the nation about what foods we can consume, and the cottage food industry (such as farmers markets, craft shows, etc.) are limited with what they can offer for sale to the public,” she pointed out. “For example, Maine recently passed a state law permitting people to determine what foods were best for their own health and consumption, be it foraged, hunted, produced on farms, or grown at home. This type of legislation is a huge step toward taking the red tape away from what we can consume, and moving towards healing our bodies from the inside out with nourishment which hasn’t had commercial dyes, chemicals, and/or long-term preservatives injected into it.” 

Nika’s extended family assists with the homesteading operation, managing the goats, poultry, and gardens which make up the operation. Additionally, Nika and her sister teach beginning to intermediate riding lessons and do a small amount of horse training. Her sister has also become interested in working goats, and has her first working goats starting training this fall.

“Goats love affection! I always say they are as independent as cats, but as loyal as dogs,” she said with a smile. 

Cow vs. goat

Cow milk and goat milk are similar products, and are both excellent sources of nutrition. For certain individuals goat milk may have added benefits, which include better digestibility, allergy mitigation, and damaged cell repair. 

Nika admits she is not a scientist, but reports family members who are lactose-sensitive and switched to goat milk for drinking, baking and consuming in the form of cheese, did not experience the discomfort typically associated with lactose sensitivity.  

Additional facts can be found on the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) website https://adga.org/milking-dairy-goats/.  

In the future...

The Tipswords would like to grow their herd and eventually begin generating meat products. “If you like venison or beef you very well may like goat meat, which is sometimes called chevon,” she commented. “It is a lean meat, but has the richness of beef with just enough marbling for frying.”

Nika is passionate about supporting local producers and supporting the dairy industry no matter what you consume. She stressed, “Eating healthy food grown and carefully watched over by people who you know gives you the peace of mind knowing that these animals were cared for from day one, and wherever their lives may lead, they lived them comfortably, healthy, and free of pain and stress.”

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