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Spider Goats In Cache Valley

clone babies

I almost could not believe there was such a thing as spider goats. The gals over at the University of Idaho extension office told me about them. Also they mentioned that they lived here in Cache Valley. And we could go and see them. This totally blew me away.

 

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What are spider goats? They are genetically modified goats. Scientists spliced into the normal goat DNA a gene for producing orb spider silk.  So now when these goats are milked the silk protein can be isolated and spun into silk.

 Science Nation Explains Spider Goats

According to the students who manage the spider goats, and do the milking, the average amount of silk gleaned from one liter of milk is three milliliters of silk. Apparently spider silk is some of the strongest natural fibers around. Which makes sense, do you remember the last time you got “stuck” in a web? The program includes some spider goats that are cloned and some that are bred naturally.

The results are that about half of the naturally bred goats end  up with the spider silk gene. While, of course, 100% of the cloned goats produce silk. There are a variety of goats used as surrogates to carry the cloned goats, though Saneens are the goat breed chosen for the spider goat project here in the valley, The project, when it was started in Canada used Spanish Goats. Apparently they are really good mothers.

Spider Goats, what are they and why do they exist?

I’m not sure how I feel about all of this splicing and cloning going on. From a scientific point of view I find it fascinating. You’ve got to ask yourself, who sits around thinking, “hmm why don’t we just make silk out of goat’s milk”, right?

Other Weird Ways Of Growing Silk

Even more strange perhaps is that the Biological Engineers (yes, they are really called that) have found a strain of e coli that they use to produce silk! They grow the bacteria then rupture it. They capture the tumor that is the silk!

I was talking with this young woman from 4H heading off to Utah State this year. Her plans include becoming a Biological Engineer.  She has been over to the silk labs quite often this summer. And gave me all sorts of really interesting information on the uses of this silk.

For starters the reason they want spider silk instead of silk worm silk is that it is about 500 times stronger.  Silk worms give off their silk by way of cocooning. It takes a whole lot of silk worms, mulberry leaves and people with cast iron stomachs to produce silk that way. Once when I was younger, and lived in Japan, we went on a field trip to a silk factory. The smell haunts me to this day.

Think

Paper plant?

Rotten cabbage?

Truly it is gross.

There are many uses for this silk being stronger than Kevlar it has military applications. Also because of the fine structure it makes great tools in the medical field. One of the ideas is to splice in good, natural antibiotic DNA into the silk production and use the silk for sutures.

spider goat baby

As a person who like the more natural things in life, the idea that we take food and make it something else and then take chemicals and call it food, kind of bothers me.

What do you think about all of this?

 

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4H Making Goats Milk Lotion With The Girls

What a great experience we had last night making goats milk lotion with the 4H gals here in town.  Such a fun group of young girls who love and adore goats and making stuff out of goats milk.

We haven’t had any goat stuff going on at the Franklin Country Fair in many  years (maybe never) because Cache Valley is primarily a Dairy Producing community.  I used to wonder about the production of milk and cheese then I moved here. Wow, there are dairies every where!

When I first got my goats, Marsha and Fadra, I didn’t know that much about goats or anyone who actually had goats.  I relied heavily on the internet to answer all of my questions, especially when it came time for the babies to be born. Man, I was a wreck. Not only had I not had that much experience with birth in general, well except for having my own five children, but I really didn’t know that much about goats!
I remember going out to the goat shed in the wee hours of the morning in March (a day or so before Easter that year), it was cool and damp out, but not incredible cold as it has been some years when goat birthing happened. Seeing the 3 babies, Faith, Grace and Billy; it was the most wonder gift I had ever experienced. Brings tears to my eyes just remembering that morning, it was magical.  Fadra actually had 4 babies that night, one of them was born dead. That was my first experience with goats and birthing.
Fadra went on to have problems often giving birth, I think because she usually had 3 or 4 babies at a time. Over the years I have learned to deal with her quirky birthing process. She died last year. It was a pretty sad day for me.
We are going to go see spider goats in a couple weeks! Apparently the University has injected some goats with spider DNA so that they can spin silk from the goat milk.  We will have more details once we investigate and will be sharing the whole experience with you! Until then enjoy your goat’s milk soap making experiences this summer while there is an abundance of goat’s milk to be had, everywhere, it seems to me.

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Goat Milk Soap

homemade goat milk soap recipe Hart Nana’s Goat’s Milk Soap is handcrafted just outside of Preston Idaho in the Cache Valley. Our all natural soap is made with fresh, raw…