For the Love of Goats
If you’ve ever seen the goats without ears, that’s what we’re talking about today! LaManchas are best known for having tiny little gopher ears, which most people either love or hate. If you raise LaManchas you know the most common question you hear is, “What happened to their ears?”
But LaManchas have a lot going for them beyond their cute looks. Today we are talking to Tania Love of Love Acres Dairy Goats, who has a small but impressive herd of LaManchas that have earned spots on the American Dairy Goat Association’s Top Ten list for production.
Tania also has some great advice for anyone getting started with dairy goats, regardless of whether they choose LaManchas or another breed.
Want to see a comparison of all of the goat breeds side by side in a spreadsheet, from milk production averages to appearance?
You can visit Love Acres Dairy Goats online at …
Listen right here…
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For more information on other goat breeds:
- Angora Goats
- Cashmere Goats
- Experimental Goats
- Fainting Goats (aka Myotonic Goats)
- Kinder Goats
- Oberhasli Goats
- Nigerian Dwarf Goats
- Nubian Goats and Cheesemaking
- Sable Goats
- San Clemente Island Goats
- Toggenburg Goats
- Choosing a Goat Breed for Your Farm
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.
Deborah Niemann 0:16
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. This is going to be a lot of fun for me, because today we are going to be talking about LaMancha dairy goats, which I actually raised for about seven or eight years. And joining us today is Tania Love, from Love Acres Dairy Goats, where she has been raising LaManchas since 2012. Welcome to the show, Tania!
Tania Love 0:42
Hi there, thanks for having me.
Deborah Niemann 0:44
This is gonna be so much fun to talk about LaManchas. I absolutely adore them.
Deborah Niemann 0:48
Before we go any farther, if you don’t know what a LaMancha is, I am going to tell you: They’re the ones that most people look at them and say, “What happened to its ears? Did they freeze off? Do you cut them off? Why don’t they have ears?” And then people either love it or they hate it. And I, personally, think they are just the cutest things in the world. Like, I just think it makes them look much more human. But, there are some people who are just, they’re like, “Oh, no. No. They’re just too freaky to me.”
Deborah Niemann 1:17
So, since you happen to raise them, I’m assuming you fall into the “love” camp.
Tania Love 1:24
Yes, definitely have a deep rooted love for the breed, for sure. Just on a personal experience, and just their general amicability, their intelligence, their productivity, their resilience. It’s all, you know—and of course, their sense of humor. Because I firmly believe that they have a sense of humor, which is kind of dangerous when combined with their intelligence. So.
Deborah Niemann 1:44
Oh my gosh, yes. We, like I said, I only raised LaManchas for about eight years or so. But we had a LaMancha doe who would put her mouth on the doorknob of the milking parlor and turn her head. Like, she watched us. She knew, like, “I can get in there where the good grain is, and all I have to do is turn this knob.” And so, if her mouth was not wet, she would have been in there every day.
Tania Love 2:12
Yeah. I have one—I have to actually have a wooden bar across the door because I have that problem. In fact, she’s learned how to do this pretty recently. Not, thankfully, not into the milk room, but into the barn and into the front yard where the off-limits plants are growing, such as the roses and things like that. So, she can—has—led the entire herd out in the past, so we have to have a bar on the door so she can’t do that, and I have to move pretty fast if I forget to put that on there in the morning. So yeah, they’re definitely smart. Gates, doors—you know, I half-think that they might be down in the pasture right now doing quantum mechanics or something. I’m not really sure. Maybe I should give them my taxes to do next year.
Deborah Niemann 2:51
Yeah, I know. And they, just, they can find trouble—
Tania Love 2:54
Deborah Niemann 2:54
—where no trouble really existed. It’s funny when I had them, if they were in the pasture right next to the barn, I had to keep the Dutch door closed; I had to keep the windows closed. And one day, we had an intern here, and I forgot about that. And we rotationally graze. And so, we let them into that pasture, and one of them, she ran, jumped through the window into the barn, jumped over the stall door into the aisle, ran around, ran to the main door, jumped out the Dutch door… And, the intern is just, like, watching her with her mouth, like, wide open. Like, “Uh, what is happening?”
Tania Love 3:39
Yeah. Yeah, you gotta be pretty fast. You gotta be pretty observant and aware of what’s going on around you with these critters.
Deborah Niemann 3:45
So I admit, when I got my first LaManchas, it was totally because of the ears, because I just thought they were so cute. But I’m assuming maybe you weren’t quite that shallow. Maybe there was another reason that you decided to get LaManchas. So, do you remember why you got them in the first place?
Tania Love 4:02
Well, I had started off—way back—I started off with Nigerian Dwarf goats, and they’re a dairy breed also, you know, but I quickly discovered that it’s a lot of work to raise goats no matter how big they are. And so, I might as well get more milk, you know, for the amount of work I was putting into it. So, I transitioned over into the LaManchas. I saw some at the state fair one year—the California State Fair—and they intrigued me. And so, I was able to get ahold of a really good recorded grade, which is not a purebred LaMancha. So, she had about 9% Toggenburg in her, several generations back. She looked exactly… You know, she looked like a LaMancha. You couldn’t tell she was a Toggenburg at all by looking at her, but. So, she was my foundation—one of my foundation—does, and started with her and built from there. So yeah, it was really the origin of LaManchas for me was really about functionality and productivity.
Deborah Niemann 4:56
So, roughly, if somebody gets a little LaMancha, how much milk can they expect on average?
Tania Love 5:02
Well, the answer to that question is the answer to every goat-related question: It depends. Totally depends on the goat. It depends on her genetics. It depends on her management. You know, you can get a goat from the best herd in the nation, and if you aren’t managing her correctly, she’s not gonna live up to her potential.
Tania Love 5:24
So, my goats average… Let’s see. So, I’m on milk test; I’m on, they call it DHI, which stands for “dairy herd improvement,” which is a milk test monthly—roughly monthly. It’s about every six weeks or so—where somebody comes to my barn and observes me milking, weighs the milk, and we send it to the lab to sample it for components, such as protein and butterfat. And based on that, I kind of have a sense as to what my does are producing. And our last milk test was a few weeks ago, and none of them milked under 4 pounds. So, a gallon weighs 8 pounds. And that was just the morning test. So, each one of my does is producing, you know, roughly anywhere from 6 to 8 pounds and more a day. So.
Tania Love 6:08
I have several those that are gallon a day, so. They’re very functional, especially at dairies. A lot of dairies have LaManchas, because they’re very productive. And I’ve even milked through a couple of does. The standard timeframe for milking them and doing all of these weights and measures on them is 305 days. But I’ve actually continued milking a couple of does and just kept them milking, so they don’t dry up, they just enjoy milking, and it’s easy to keep them, and I don’t have to kid them again. They just keep milking.
Deborah Niemann 6:38
And then, what is your butterfat average?
Tania Love 6:41
Butterfat average, I want to say, is somewhere between 3 to 4%. It can get really a lot higher. Especially towards the end of their lactation, their butterfat increases. And I see numbers up into the 5, I think I even had a 6% once. They don’t maintain that, but it’s anywhere from, you know, 3—3 is about average. Three to 4 is about average, I would say.
Deborah Niemann 7:04
Okay. And then, let’s talk about those ears a little more. One of the first thing—and a lot of times people will say, “Can they hear?” So, just, that’s an easy answer. Yes, they can hear. They can hear.
Tania Love 7:16
Yeah. I like to say, “Yeah, they can hear you, and they can ignore you just fine.”
Deborah Niemann 7:21
Yeah. Their ears are just very tiny. But, there are two kinds of ears. There are elf ears. And there are gopher ears. So, can you talk about the difference between those ears?
Tania Love 7:33
Yeah. I don’t have any does with elf ears. But my understanding is that there’s a guideline if you want to show them. They can only be… I think it’s an inch long, or… I don’t know. There’s a measurement that’s only allowed to be—and if they’re longer than that, then they’re disqualified as a LaMancha. They can’t be a LaMancha. So, they’re a little bit longer. And I believe—you know, I’m not exactly 100% whether this is resulting from being crossbred, you know, down the line somewhere way back in their pedigree, if that’s why their ears are a little bit longer, or if that’s just a natural variation on the ear. I’m not really sure about that, but I don’t have any that have the longer ears, the elf ears. Mine all have gopher ears. And, if you’ve ever seen a gopher, it’s exactly what their ears look like. The ears of a gopher. So they’re little, tiny, really short. And we don’t cut them. We don’t crop them. I’ve been to the state fair and county fairs before, where that’s the main question. That is the number one question. Where are their ears?
Deborah Niemann 8:30
Yeah. So, if you want these goats, just get used… You need to have your answer ready.
Tania Love 8:36
Yeah. I think it’s neat. I mean, I think it accentuates their head and their face and their long, beautiful necks a little bit more. I mean, they kind of look, sort of… I don’t know, at times, Brontosaurus-like, with that big, long, very sleek, smoothly blended, I really think it accentuates the sculpting of their head a little bit better than if they had the long pendulous ears, like Nubians, or the erect ears, like an Alpine or a Saanen. But yeah, I mean, I just take it for granted because it’s what I see every day, all day. So, I forget that it’s unique for most people.
Deborah Niemann 9:10
Right, yeah. And I believe the bucks are not allowed to be registered if they have the elf ears. Right?
Tania Love 9:19
I think that’s correct. Yeah, I think that’s correct. Like I said, I don’t know too much about the ins and outs of the elf ear. But they do look pretty cute with them.
Deborah Niemann 9:27
Yeah. I think the golfer ears are definitely preferred, which is, since you show, I’m sure you’re focusing on getting them as close to the breed standard as possible.
Tania Love 9:37
Deborah Niemann 9:39
Before we got started, you were mentioning that you have a lot of competition. You’re in California. A lot of really excellent LaMancha breeders there, and so you have a lot of competition at the shows and everything. Can you talk a little bit about showing?
Deborah Niemann 9:53
I’m always impressed when somebody is on milk test and shows. I don’t know if I just had especially emotional goats, but going to a show would just, like, knock their milk supply for three or four days. They would be so stressed out by a new place and stuff. So, can you talk a little bit about showing and also being on DHI?
Tania Love 10:15
Yeah. Ever since I started about 10 years ago, I have been on the performance programs, is what they’re referred to through AGDA, the American Dairy Goat Association; the DHI, which is the milk test; and then linear appraisal, I’ve also participated in that every year that it’s been available. And linear appraisal, I really like doing that, because it’s a program that really highlights the functionality of the dairy goats. And the way I like to look at it—and the way it was taught to me—was at shows… When you go to a show, your goats are evaluated against whatever goats show up that day. You know, you’re judged against the competition that’s arrived for the day and the judges that are there. And, you know, of course, their dislikes and likes are kind of factored into that a little bit. I mean, we try not to do that, but of course, that kind of comes into play a little bit. Whereas the linear appraisal program, basically, your individual goat is evaluated against a biological ideal rather than an actual goat that’s standing there next to her. So, it gives you a lot of information on structural traits, and how that relates to their productivity and their longevity and their reproducibility, that kind of thing.
Tania Love 11:24
So, I have all of those things factor into my main goal, which is to improve the breed. I want to breed the best goat I can. And thankfully, like you said, before, I have… You know, I’m surrounded by some amazing herds. And I have access to their genetics, which is another amazing thing; these people are so generous with sharing their bucks and their knowledge and their ideas. So, I’ve pretty much hit the jackpot, just by nature of where I am. But yeah, I show. I like to go to shows. And it’s a lot of work to have that much fun, but it’s a lot of fun. You know, it’s kind of where you get to… All the behind-the-scenes stuff, you get to kind of present it to to your peers, you know, which really helps kind of fuel the fire to keep going a little bit.
Tania Love 12:12
So yeah, we did—I think I mentioned a little before we got started—but we got sidetracked with shows, of course, from the pandemic and 2020. There weren’t any shows to go to. Last year, we were scheduled to go to… I think it was about four or five shows we had scheduled to go to, but we got sidetracked on that, because we were evacuated for three weeks from our home because of a wildfire. So, we missed a lot of shows last year. So this year, hopefully, we’ve got a few on the books that are coming up here in the next couple of weeks. So, hopefully, nothing stands in our way to get into those, because otherwise it feels sort of like you’re working in a vacuum, you know? You’re doing all this work, and you’re breeding goats, and you’re raising them up, and you’re taking care of them and feeding them and milking them, day in and day out. So, it’s really nice to get some external validation every now and then. Plus, it’s just fun to go out and see beautiful animals. You know, doesn’t matter if it’s a LaMancha or an Alpine, whatever. They’re just… They’re all beautiful, to go watch the shows and see what everyone’s been up to.
Deborah Niemann 13:13
Yeah. That’s a really good point. I know, I think about that. When my daughters were home, they loved showing, and so we showed the goats. And now, I look at a lot of my goats, and I’m like, “Oh, you are so pretty. It’s a shame, like, nobody can see how pretty you are. You’re locked up here, you know, on my farm.” So, I totally know what you’re saying about, like, being able to, like, let the world see what you’re doing. Because you’re trying, like… I mean, even though we’re not showing, I’m still sitting there going, like, “You’re awesome. And I want to make you more awesome. So, I’m gonna breed her son, because she’s awesome…”
Deborah Niemann 13:44
And so, how many goats normally are you taking to shows?
Tania Love 13:49
When I go, it’s usually around, I don’t know… Six or eight is my kind of my core, you know. And sometimes depending on how far away the show is, and how big the show is—if the show is really small, they often need more animals to make the sanction to make it official. So, sometimes I’ll load up the trailer with a few more animals and bring them along, just to make sure it’s an official show. But typically, about six or eight. You know, one year I had… I think I had four milkers that I showed. And it was really nice, because I had one milker in each age group. And then, I had a handful of dry does, you know, the kids, and dry yearlings that I would show as well. And that helps me—sometimes helps me—decide who to keep and how to breed the animals, you know, kind of how they fare at some of these shows. That’s not my only decision maker. I certainly take everything into consideration—the milk testing, the linear appraisal, all of it—in how I, you know, decide who to keep and who to breed to who and that kind of thing.
Deborah Niemann 14:50
If someone is thinking about getting LaManchas, is there anything that they should know about them ahead of time that might influence their decision? Positively or negatively?
Tania Love 15:01
Well, you’ve got to make sure your gate latches work. Make sure that you have gate latches that require thumbs. And even then, you might need to rethink your gate latches. That’s kind of a, you know, tongue-in-cheek sort of way, but it is kind of true.
Tania Love 15:18
You know, I don’t know. You know, specifically with each goat, again, the answer to every question is: It depends. It depends on how many you get, where you’re at, what you’re doing, what your goals and objectives are with these animals… You know, if you’re just getting some LaManchas because you think they look awesome, and they make you laugh, and you don’t care about milk or show or whatever, you know, that’s going to dictate your decision making a little bit differently than if you wanted to show them or wanted to do some of the performance programs. That really, you know, really just matters what your own personal individual goals are.
Tania Love 15:54
But, you know, if you wanted to get started in the LaManchas, or dairy goats in general, you know, the best place to start is to get a couple of wethers. You know, they’re the castrated males. They don’t require much; they’re very low-maintenance. You basically have to trim their hooves and make sure they have food and water and shelter. Fencing is good. And, you know, those kinds of things will get you going in the dairy goat world to see if it’s even something you want to get into a little bit more, because goats are involved. They’re a commitment. You can’t just—especially if you’re milking—you can’t just, “Oh, I think I’ll go to Hawaii.” No, you can’t even… Like, I have to orchestrate quite a bit to get coverage for just going away for a show for a weekend; people to cover the does and the goats that are left at home. So, you know, that’s one thing to consider if you’re getting into goats at all.
Tania Love 16:40
But, you know, LaManchas? I’m totally biased. I say everyone should have LaManchas.
Deborah Niemann 16:44
Yeah, they’re definitely my favorite standard breed. There’s still this part of me that would love to get them again. And I’m like, “No, no, no, you do not need more goats. You already have too many.”
Tania Love 16:55
Yeah, it’s not hard to do. One breeding season you can double your herd.
Deborah Niemann 17:00
Tania Love 17:02
Deborah Niemann 17:04
That was a really great suggestion to, to start with a couple of wethers, because that will give you an idea of, you know, just what you even think of goats. And then, moving on to milkers, like you said, that’s a whole different ballgame. Because, if you want to go somewhere, and your goats are in milk, you can’t just ask any old friend to come over and feed them. You know, like, it has to be somebody that knows how to milk. So, that definitely puts a whole new wrinkle into everything. In fact, the person that used to do that for us moved away a year ago.
Tania Love 17:33
Yeah. It’s surprising to me that as many people in the area where I live, that have, you know, livestock, and they’re homesteaders, and do a lot of different things with a lot of different types of animals, that there isn’t really that many people out here that know how to milk that are available. You know, I mean, a lot of people are running their own deal. So, it’s hard for them to get away to help out. So, that’s one thing to consider when you’re getting into goats at all is, “Am I willing to make the commitment?” Because it is a huge time commitment. And, you know, not just time but resources. You know, your energy, your money, your emotions, you know, it’s all factored in there.
Tania Love 18:11
So, start small. And my advice would be to start small and keep it small. It’s so easy to get big. It’s so easy to just, “Oh, I’ll just keep a couple,” one year, and “Oh, I’ll just keep a couple more,” you know, and then you just… It’s exponential growth at its finest right there. And before you know it, you’d be wondering, “How did I get here? What happened?”
Tania Love 18:36
So, it can be a challenge, because they are so engaging as animals in general. These goats are so engaging. I mean, I guess, especially the LaManchas, they’re so personable. They’re so individual. You know, each individual goat has her own personality, and that’s where they get you. You know, I mean, it’s not just, “Oh, a pretty goat that can milk,” but, you know, they’re individuals, and they… I don’t know. I have a lot of heart goats out there in my barn. And I think that’s a great thing, you know, because that is one of the things that is rewarding about having them. You know, when you get to shows only during a couple of months during the summer, you know, to show off what you’ve been doing and everything is behind the scenes. You know, so if you don’t resonate with what you’re doing, and if you, you know, like you were saying, you know, you look at your animals and you think, “Wow, you’re awesome. You’re beautiful. I love you.” You know, I think that’s a great feature to have in any goat, is “I love you. You’re awesome. You’re beautiful. I love to look at you.”
Tania Love 19:33
In fact, that was one of the biggest pieces of advice I heard early on was breed for, you know, for your own goals and objectives, but ultimately breed for an animal that you like to look at, because you’re going to be looking at that animal all the time. So, I like to look at my goats. I love looking at them. And so, I think that’s a good thing, but I also like other people to see them, too. You know, it’s important, I think, for all of us that are doing this and do want to do the showing and the farmers programs, you know. And it’s a community; it’s a culture. You know, being at a goat show, it’s not just about showing your goats. It’s about seeing your, you know, your friends that you only see once a year at goat shows, or seeing what everyone’s doing, and that kind of thing. So, it’s very rewarding in that regard, too.
Deborah Niemann 19:33
Yeah. And I love what you said about starting small and try to stay small. And it’s cool that you said that you usually take six to eight goats to a show; I think that’s may be where showing looked so—and still to me, looks so—difficult, is because when my daughters were here, and they were showing, they wanted to take 15 goats or so to a show. That’s a lot of goats. I mean, you have to clip all of them and everything, and load them up, and take them there, and you’ve got all these pens at the show to deal with, and everything. And, I mean, it was a huge amount of work. And so, once they they left for college, it was kind of like, “Well, I’m not doing that by myself.”
Tania Love 20:53
Right? Yeah, it is hard to do by yourself. I mean, that’s when you get to make friends, because you can only show one goat at a time. And if you have more than one goat in the same class, you need help, you know? And sometimes, like, we have one show coming up in August, and they’re having a LaMancha specialty, which means, in addition to just showing the does individually in their age groups and their breeds, there are group classes. So, there’s called a “get of sire,” which is three does sired by the same buck. And they have a senior get of sire and a junior get of sire. So, the junior get of sire would be three does that are not in milk—so a dry yearling or younger—from the same sire. So, you have to have, you know, that’s three goats in the ring at the same time. So, you do have to have some help, especially when you’re doing group classes. You know, I’ve been to the national show twice. And it was the same situation, where they had the group classes for each breed, and you do need help. So, it’s a great way to make friends.
Deborah Niemann 21:53
Yeah, exactly. I remember that. And you do learn a lot. Because if no one’s ever been to a goat show before, it’s not like a dog show, where the dogs are just walking around and then judge is saying, you know, “You win.”
Tania Love 22:25
Deborah Niemann 22:05
At the goat shows, they actually tell you why they’re placing the goats the way that they’re placing them. So, you really do learn about goats and what looks good, or what’s better or preferred. Because the judges explain, you know, like, “I’m choosing this goat over this goat because of the fore udder or the rear udder,” or whatever.
Tania Love 22:26
Yeah. Yeah, it’s interesting to learn, hearing those reasons from the judges. And it’s neat to watch. I’ve watched the live stream of the national show a couple of times that I didn’t go, just because I knew people that were in it, and it was interesting and fun to watch. And so, listening to the reasons was a lot easier when you don’t have a goat in the ring. Because you’re paying attention to so many different things when you’re in the ring, it’s hard to remember; I never retain the information from one ring to another, from one show to another, about what the judges say about the animals. In the moment, I do. And I understand, you know, why I’m standing where I’m standing with my particular animal. But I wish I remembered more of that information about that.
Tania Love 23:05
But, you know, that’s why there’s other things, like linear appraisal. You know, there’s other programs that are in place to where you can, you know, get numbers and data and information on your individual animals. You know, that’s why I don’t just use a single-tiered approach to what I’m doing. I like to have all three things; a milk test, linear appraisal, and showing are my three areas where I find the most value in, you know, breeding decisions. You know, it seems to me that breeding is… There’s a lot of science that goes into it. But there’s also a lot of art. You know, sometimes it’s just a gut feeling. Or, you know, it’s just who’s available. What buck is standing in the pasture, you know.
Tania Love 23:05
And again, I’ve had a huge gratitude, the fact that I have access to so many great bucks in my general area. You know, I’ve even driven does several hours to breed to a couple of bucks over on the coast. There’s some really nice herds out there that I’ve been very fortunate that they’ve shared their bucks with me. So. But, you know, getting to that decision does require showing. It requires linear appraisal. It requires educating myself on all of the ins and outs of all these things. Because it’s… I mean, I’ll never know all that there is to know about these different ways to look at your animal. But yeah. So, those programs are very important—for what I’m doing anyway. And a lot of people that I know, too.
Deborah Niemann 24:28
Well, thank you so much for joining us today! I’m sure this has been really informative for a lot of people.
Tania Love 24:33
I hope so. Thanks for having me! It was neat to be on today.
Deborah Niemann 24:37
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!