This will begin a new series here on our website spotlighting different dairy breeds of goats and talking about the goods, bads, and our personal experiences with each.
The LaMancha Dairy Goat
If you have never seen an American LaMancha Goat then you've missed out on seeing a very unique looking breed of goat! Lamanchas lack one very specific piece of anatomy: ears! Well they don't really lack ears, but their ears are so tiny that they look earless. Most Lamanchas have little ear buds or "gopher ears," but some have what are called "elf ears," which in my experience comes mostly on offspring that have been bred with some other goat that actually does have some ears.
I first saw Lamancha goats on the PBS series Frontier House where the Brooks Family who started out without any money budget or milk cow found a way to get some dairy goats to add to their food producing livestock. Ever since that show I've always been enthralled with LaMancha goats and set out to buy some from the beginning of my homesteading days.
LaManchas are generally regarded as one of, if not the, friendliest breed of goats you can find. They are also the only breed of goat that was developed solely in the United States. Both of these things, as well as hearty milk production were all reasons I sought out LaManchas. I also just thought they were interesting to look at, even though a lot of folks think they look weird or creepy.
Our LaMancha Experiences
We have had mixed feelings on the LaManchas honestly. When we first got some I made the mistake of letting my desire for a somewhat obscure breed of livestock override my common sense and bought some animals that weren't in too good a shape. They taught us a lot about the perils of goat ownership that is for certain, and for that I'm eternally grateful to those two scraggly goats from central Alabama.
One of the best goats I've ever bought was a Lamancha in excellent condition that had been bottle fed and was as friendly as you could ever ask for. She met her end in about her 4th month of pregnancy at the muzzle of a fierce dog. Still one of the worst days of my farming experiences, and definitely a top 5 reason I now hate almost all dogs.
One of the two scraggly goats died from scours and/or worms pretty close to when we first got them. The other one, the one that was in the worst condition when we got them, actually perked up and sleeked out and got to looking pretty respectable. She got attacked by dogs around Christmas and met a slow demise from the lingering dog bite on her back legs. Another reason I hate dogs.
I'd originally wanted a full size breed of milk goat for dairy production and to add a few dwarf goats to the mix, but with our troubles with dogs and such we ended up with the opposite. Almost two years ago I guess, I traded one of our little half dwarf does and her buckling kid for a full breed, supposedly bred Lamancha doe. She wasn't in bad shape, but her hair wasn't very lustrous, and after we got her home her joints swelled up some leaving me in a perpetual worry that I'd brought home a diseased goat. I kept meaning to take her to the vet and get her checked for CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis) which is one of the bad diseases, but never got around to it. After 5 months went by and we didn't have that half lamancha half oberhasli baby goat we were told we should be having, I knew that I or the woman who traded her to me had been lied to.
Earless, as the goat became named, did get pregnant though once here. She and the big part lamancha offspring from the scraggly goat took up with each other and made babies. When those two little doelings came out I was extremely worried because CAE is transmitted through milk from mother to baby, and if she did have it, then they were sure to get it unless I separated them. So that is what I did. I caged them up and bottle fed them some colostrum and the next morning hauled all three of them to the vet to have them tested for CAE. It was supposed to take 5 days or so for the results to come back, and during that time I was bottle feeding the babies and milking the momma and giving her milk to the chickens. Two weeks went by and I still didn't have an answer. Finally I kept calling them and they gave me the results that were Negative. So I put momma and babies back together and she did a decent job of letting them nurse. I still gave them a bottle here and there, and they turned out to be some really friendly, mostly lamancha, does.
I am still milking Earless daily almost a year later, but starting to try drying her up so that she can retain some nutrients and build up her system a little before she gets bred again. She is a friendly, tame goat. Not too easily excited as far as goats go, and the same goes for her girls, who I'm looking forward to milking when the day comes.
People usually think Lamanchas are weird looking, and are usually freaked out when they see them for the first time. In my experience they are generally friendly, calm, sweet, and apt to "follow you around like a dog." They make good amounts of milk and seem to take to the milking stand pretty easily. Some negatives for us have been lack of hardiness and for some reason they have been the first goats any predators have gone after. I do recommend you get a couple of Lamanchas though, they make the sweetest pets and are fun to look at. They also have a lot of personality; ours would voluntarily take wagon rides around the yard with the kids and climb all over you. We give Lamanchas a thumbs up!