Milking magic

Rebecca TurnerCountryman
Anilow stud’s Anne and Phil Snow with some of their British Alpine goats.
Camera IconAnilow stud’s Anne and Phil Snow with some of their British Alpine goats. Credit: Bill Hatto

hen Anne Snow was told by her holistic doctor she may have an allergy to standard cow’s milk and to start drinking A2 milk, buying a milking doe may have been an extreme measure.

The decision to venture down the path of self-sufficiency marked the starting point of a wonderful journey into breeding British Alpine goats.

Mrs Snow and her husband Phil moved to the seaside area of Nilgen, north-east of Lancelin, in 2002.

They bought their first British Alpine doe with two kids at foot in September 2005.

“In the 1980s, when we lived in Serpentine, a friend bred British Alpine goats. I was too busy with horses at the time but had always fancied the breed,” Mrs Snow said.

The Snows’ goat numbers have since grown and they now run one of only a handful of British Alpine studs in WA under the name Anilow Dairy Goats.

Their first British Alpine goats were bought from Syd Richardson in the Swan Valley, with the addition of two milking does from Glendowen stud in New South Wales in 2011.

Mrs Snow said there were only a few British Alpine bloodlines currently in WA, because of quarantine restrictions on bringing goats into the State from other areas of Australia.

In order to add more diversity into their breeding program, the Snows use Saanen bucks to cross with their British Alpine does, with all resulting offspring still able to be registered.

The couple’s breeding focus is to produce milking goats suitable for hobby farms, with good udders and able to produce a good amount of milk from one daily milking.

“We want to find good forever homes for our goats and for them to be useful members of their new families,” Mrs Snow said.

Mr Snow currently milks five does a day, with the milk used to make a variety of dairy products for the couple’s personal use.

They choose to milk their does only once a day, which Mrs Snow said was, on average, 60 per cent of a milking doe’s capacity.

After kidding, a British Alpine doe will produce, on average, three litres of milk a day from one milking.

“One of our does, Glendowen Missy Kissy Face, is currently producing five litres a day from one milking,” Mrs Snow said.

Three of the couple’s does are still producing milk from their 2015 kidding, with it not unheard of for British Alpine does to continue lactating for up to four years from a single pregnancy.

The Snows now use a Flo-Tek mobile milking machine, which was purchased from Victorian dairy supply company Daviesway.

Mr Snow said they had hand milked their does for the first five years of operation, after which they bought an imported portable milking machine. However, he said they had found parts for this machine hard to source and so had opted for the Australian-made Flo-Tek.

On average, it takes Mr Snow half an hour to milk five does, while feeding and watering their goats takes several hours morning and night. All goats are given free access to oaten and lucerne hay and are also fed a mixture of oats, chaff, barley and lupins, both while milking and for the younger does while being taught to tie up.

Mrs Snow said it was important to keep dairy goats well fed with a quality ration to ensure correct growth of youngsters as well as good milk production.

Providing goats with vitamins and minerals was also an important part of the stud’s feeding routine.

Prior to owning goats, Mrs Snow was involved in showing and breeding Australian Stockhorses and Paint Horses.

“In the early 1990s, I travelled with Phil to Dubbo in New South Wales for the Paint Horse Nationals three times with my horse Frosty Robin,” she said.

Both Mr and Mrs Snow are self-taught when it comes to milking and raising dairy goats, with Mrs Snow having a background in tax preparation, previously working for H&R Block, and Mr Snow previously a boilermaker for Alcoa.

Mrs Snow has polyneuritis, which has similar symptoms to multiple sclerosis. She said her muscle and nerve wasting symptoms began in 1972 and she has been in a wheelchair since 2002.

Mr Snow has been Mrs Snow’s carer throughout her illness, and not only helps with her every day life but previously helped with her horses.

He is now enjoying a change in direction breeding and milking goats, saying he much preferred goats to horses.

“I find goats are like a cross between horses and dogs when it comes to personality. They are incredibly intelligent and curious,” Mrs Snow said. “You can call each goat by their name and each one will call back to you. They also have very good memories.”

The couple’s passion for their goats is obvious, with the beautiful black, sleek does all of excellent health and demonstrating the traits of the British Alpine breed.

While their breeding aims are focused on producing good house goats, they do show their British Alpines. They were recently awarded reserve champion all breeds at the 2016 Kalamunda Kid and Goatling Show. Their show team also placed first in all British Alpine classes at this show.

“We don’t attend the Perth Royal Show but try to get to a few close shows each year, such as the Osborne Park, Kalamunda and Harvey Agricultural Shows,” Mrs Snow said.

The couple would like to encourage more hobby block owners to have goats. Mrs Snow said they were ideal animals for people wanting to be self-sufficient, making beautiful dairy products and being much more efficient at converting feed to milk than a dairy cow.

“People interested in having a milking goat should talk with reputable breeders and find one that is willing to support them getting into owning and milking their own dairy goat,” she said.

“Dairy goats need to be well fed and looked after. If you want a lawnmower, buy a sheep.”

Mrs Snow said of all the Swiss dairy breeds of goats, the British Alpine had the highest butter fat content in its milk. While a Saanen may produce more milk in volume, a British Alpine will produce enough milk for an average-size family.

For prospective owners, Mrs Snow advised that all goats were much happier with company and required shelter from both hot and cold weather.

“Dark-coloured goats are also not so prone to skin cancer, which is one of the reasons we think the British Alpine is the most suited breed of dairy goat for Australian conditions,” she said.

Prospective goat owners also need to have a Property Identification Code to comply with stock movement regulations in WA.

Kidding on the Snows’ property started in September, with several kids now being bottle fed.

While not all kids are bottle fed, the process helps in preparing female goats for a lifetime of service as a milking animal and male kids very people orientated.

Anilow has young stock for sale, with the stud usually selling milking goats and young stock in the latter months of the year.

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