Archive for Goats

One Thing To Know Before Getting Goats

If I could tell everyone one thing before getting any goats (minimum two due to them being herd animals), is the same as in so many other things–buyer beware.

Research what goats need to live healthy and happy and decide if you can provide those things. They should not just be stuck out in a field.

Unlike cattle, goats need their hooves trimmed regularly. They are designed for living on rockier areas that grind down their hooves; pastures just can’t keep up with their growth.

Goats need extra copper. I struggle so much around making sure they all get enough that I honestly can’t figure out where they would get enough copper from in their natural environment. The amount of copper in goat feed and goat minerals is enough to kill a sheep.

Goats are herd animals and need a buddy–preferably a goat buddy. They will cry, loudly, if kept alone. They will also get into trouble trying desperately to escape their solitude to find a friend.

But the number one thing to know before getting into goats–research the breeder you’re buying from! News flash! Breeders may not tell you the entire history of an animal or its parents. I forgot this most important rule when I first got goats.

I made the wise decision of buying does that had already given birth so at least one of us would know what to expect when the time came. Unfortunately, I listened to the wrong advise of a breeder regarding breeding horned goats to polled (naturally hornless goats). She said you can’t breed polled to polled because you would get hermaphrodites. She made it sound like you would get hermaphrodites with every breeding; in actuality, the number is closer to 7%.

Another breeder I bought from sold me an 8-year-old doe because I was looking for a polled doe. I did not know enough to ask about her breeding history–how often she had kidded, how easily she became pregnant, and how long ago she had last kidded. I’ve learned since that she likely has a cyst on her ovary because she has only become pregnant 1 time after 5 months of being with the buck (not the buck’s problem), lost that kid, and never became pregnant again. Her heat symptoms are obvious and regular so the vet said it was likely a cyst. It’s probably treatable, but she’s getting old so I’m kind of leaning toward not trying with her.

Okay, that’s more than one thing to know, but the bottom line is: do your research on your chosen breeders as well as your chosen pet/livestock.

P.S. If you’re interested in some free self-help resources, head over to the Self Help Giveaway 11 for a ton of free stuff!

#blogboost Day 5

Good Things Come In 4s

This past April, we were gifted by a series of baby goats all born within 10 days of each other. It’s especially nice because we will not be having more kids any time soon (moving this year and besides, birth is risky!) so these are our last babies for a while.

First came Marshmallow. A little boy who soon became a bigger boy. He’s from our “tan family,” born to Chelsea. Almost all of the goats in that family (out of Chelsea) are full of personality and fairly dominant. Chelsea has only had boys with us so far, though we know it’s not her fault! Her oldest, PB Fudge “Fudge”, would make a great herd sire if I were ever willing to let him go (he will get his own page after we move). Back to Marshmallow, born April 7, 2016!

Next came Sissa and Bubba, born to Gingie (Gingersnap) on National Siblings Day, April 10, 2016. Sissa was born first and Gingie immediately began cleaning her off. Bubba was born just a few minutes later and had trouble standing. Gingie sniffed him a few times and then turned her attention back to her obviously-much-stronger firstborn. I held Bubba in my coat to keep him warmer while we looked up information online.

In the above picture, Sissa is already standing by Gingie’s head and Bubba is laying down beside her.

Gingie would not take care of Bubba, no matter how many times we tried to put him to her, even after we eventually got him up and walking. So Bubba came inside to start his life; we couldn’t leave him out there when his own mother was butting him away, he would’ve been beaten up and possibly seriously injured or killed by the other goats. If Gingie had tolerated him enough to at least let him lay beside her and maybe stand up to another adult goat to protect, we would have left him out there, but he became our baby.

You can read more about Bubba’s saga here (post by my daughter, Kaida) and here. Long story short, he had white muscle disease, kidney failure, went blind, developed meningitis, and hydrocephalus. He spent two weeks at Virginia Tech being brought back from the brink by round-the-clock care. Thanks forever, Dr. Quynn! He was a candidate to be featured in Virginia Tech’s alumni newsletter, Vital Sign, but in the end was not chosen.

This is Sissa standing beside mom Gingie on the milking stand. We’ve only milked when Bubba was rejected because we had him on mama milk before he went to Virginia Tech. Sissa is not being held in anything, but was trying to stick her head through to see what mom was eating.

Our final baby born last spring was Miracle, born to Prancer on April 13, 2016. She is named Miracle because she was born to our smallest doe. We were sure that Prancer was going to need help with her, but Miracle was walking around with her when we brought Marshmallow back from having been to Virginia Tech to be disbudded (they block some of the nerves in the head and lightly sedate the babies for less pain).

For some weird reason, I couldn’t find any pictures of Miracle taken soon after her birth so here’s one of her and Bubba. Bubba is the smaller one on the right and Miracle the larger on the left. This is after Bubba came back from Virginia Tech and was in the process of learning that he’s a goat instead of a dog.

Get ready for a shock. Remember Sissa, Bubba’s sister? Here she is; check out the size difference!

For size comparisons, this photo was taken on June 15, 2016 and Sissa is normal-sized. Miracle is a little smaller than normal, and Bubba is tiny. Dr. Quynn thinks he might have some signs of dwarfism. Yes, they’re Nigerian Dwarf Goats, but he’s extra small.

Bubba and Marshmallow live together close to the house. They are separate from the big boys and from the main herd because they’re still boys, but I think Bubba will always be better off living separately from the main herd. When he lived out with them between the ages of 1.5 months to 6 months (he didn’t breed; his development was too far behind), he was still picked on by all of the older does and several of the older weathers. Either Marshmallow will stay with him as his permanent friend, or maybe Miracle will. Miracle was the only goat that ever really played with Bubba, probably since they’re so close in size. We’ll keep things as they are until we move, and then we’ll see how the group dynamics are.

P.S. Interesting note about Bubba, when he was living inside, he potty-trained himself to pee in a pan. When the Virginia Tech vets were having trouble collecting a urine sample, I told them to put a pan in his cage and it worked! No fuss, no muss urine sample! Bubba still thinks he’s a dog and will walk into the house with us when we come home from work. He follows us to get the dogs, then walks right out the front door with them when they go out before turning around and looking at us like we conned him!

What Do I Mean By Vegan Homestead?

Halloween_Rooster

When I bought our property in 2012, we were eating basically a “traditional foods” diet–Paleo but with a small amount of grains such as brown rice or oatmeal. I thought we would be able to try to grow most of our food on our 4 acres, fishing in the pond, eating eggs from our ducks and chickens, getting dairy from our own cow and goats, beef from our own cow, chicken and duck from our older birds, and pastured pig. Life was looking grand.

Until I actually got livestock.

We started off taking 2 free-lease ponies, added 2 miniature cattle (bull and heifer), Image5874 piglets (2 boys, 2 girls), 5 goats (1 boy, 4 girls), and many ducklings and chicks. We discovered that (a) not many people really need to own a bull, especially people with no cattle experience, (b) pigs really are smart and actually can be very nice, (c) everything else in the world wants to eat your birds, and (d) goats are really cute!

So we sold the cattle, which I had no business owning, and the pigs, which would come running to lay down for belly rubs whenever we yelled “piggy love!” We would have kept the pigs for pets if I’d been able to keep them separately and afford to feed them. However, something would have had to been done about the rooting. I know it’s what they’re designed to do, but I now have areas of our pasture where I can’t take the riding mower due to how deep the ruts are and I’m actually afraid that a horse would break a leg in that part of the field. Someday I hope to get it disced.

My daughter, Kaida, had already stopped eating chicken and duck after we got our own birds and she saw how cute they were. She became friends with some of them, being able to hold and pet several of our hens as well as our then-head-rooster, Halloween. Note: all of our original chickens and half of our ducks have been eaten by predators, mostly fox. We did get more chicks recently because they not only helped with bugs, but apparently helped keep the weeds in check. The backyard needs them, badly!

After selling the cows, we were still kind of okay eating beef, but had already stopped eating pork. We just lost interest in eating it; we would always picture our piggies laying down with their eyes closed for belly rubs every time we tried to eat bacon or ground pork. I had to sell the pigs, but I at least sold them to someone who would let them live on pasture without rings in their noses. The goats got to stay because they’re cheaper to feed.

By this time, I knew that I would not be able to butcher anything so I decided that if I couldn’t do it, I at least had to watch how the butchering was done and see if I could be a party to that. No, I could not. A fast shot between the eyes while still out in the field eating would be the ideal way to kill for food, but I decided that we were done with eating animal products since it wasn’t physically necessary. Luckily, Kaida was fine with that since she already didn’t really like eating meat.

Vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes would become our staples. fruits_&_veggies

There were also health benefits that encouraged me to pull back from eating animal products. There have been challenges too, but I will cover them in another post.

7 Things To Know About Nigerian Dwarf Goats

There are about 300 varieties of goats today, but I only have experience with one–the Nigerian Dwarf Goat (the coolest, in my opinion 😉 ). Here are seven things to know about NDGs:

1. Development

They weren’t actually developed in Nigeria. They (and the Pygmy Goat) were developed in the 1930s and 1940s in the US from West African stock that was brought to the US along with big cats from Africa as food sources for the cats. The dairy NDG and the meat Pygmy Goat were developed from the survivors.

2. Size

They’re very small! Bucks top out at about 75 lb and only 23.5″ for males and 22.5″ for females. My adult does are about 55 lbs.

3. Colorful

They come in a huge variety of colors! If you want a pretty “yard ornament,” look no further (unless you can afford a Gypsy Vanner horse. *sigh* A girl can dream…). Do your eyes a favor and look at the candy at the American Goat Society. It shows examples of a lot of color descriptions for NDGs.

Torte and Fortune (Cookie)

Torte and Fortune (Cookie)

4. Babies

They can have a surprising number of babies at one time! Two to three is most common, with up to six (6!) not being unheard of. Polled (naturally hornless) does seem to be prone to more commonly having multiples than horned does. Many does, either polled or horned, will have only one their first time kidding. And, yes, they are called litters! The most we’ve had here was four, delivered by Emma on Christmas 2014 (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen–Vixen died at 10 days old). Emma had delivered her previous litter of three (Gingersnap, Oreo, and Chocolate) on Easter 2014.

IMG_5810

Dasher, Prancer, Dancer, and Vixen

5. Milk and Butterfat

They have the highest butterfat of any goat breed. We have chosen to not milk for food use right now, but if we decided to, this breed would have the creamiest milk. Butterfat in this breed is frequently 4-6%. Also, good milkers can produce about 1/2 gallon a day!

6. Temperament

They make great pets! They are generally good-natured and docile. The kids love to play and even the adults will sometimes join in the fun. Who doesn’t love a good game of King of the Hill? Scotch (Butterscotch) screams at us to come give him pettin’s and wuv any time we’re outside. We don’t even have to have food, as long as we come over and pay attention to him. Warning though: they are like jealous children. Once you start petting one, all of the others will be wrapped around your legs looking for their wuv too. You can never have too much wuv!

WheresMyWuv

I’m here for my wuv!

7. Communication

Possibly owing to the fact that they have been domesticated the longest, after dogs, goats have a surprising ability to communicate with humans. This was born out in research recently conducted at Queen Mary University of London. They found that goats communicate with humans in much the same way as dogs do and that goats may be far more intelligent than most people give them credit for. Here is a news article at the Daily Mail for those who just want the summary and here is the actual report published by the scientists for those who’d like a little more meat. Enjoy!

Goat Milking For The Beginner

Kaida has written about Bubba, our rejected kid that’s being bottle-fed. If you haven’t, you can see pictures of him here.

I decided since we have to milk his mom anyway, we might as well milk the other two with kids (post about Miracle coming soon!). So we are milking: Gingie (Bubba and Sissa’s mom), Chelsea (Marshmallow’s mom), and Prancer (Miracle’s mom). I built our milking stand based on the design by Fias Co Farm.

image

It’s their first time being milked (Prancer is a first freshener and Gingie is a second). It’s also my first time milking.

I milk with my right hand as I couldn’t quite seem to get any milk with my left. I don’t know why; I can write with my left hand and throw a ball almost as far as with my right so I don’t know why this has been different. Maybe I just gave up too soon.

Chelsea is not amused by this whole business. We usually do half of her milking session with her back legs on the ground. I perch on the edge of the milking stand on her left side. She’ll tolerate me reaching under to milk her left side. She may try to edge left, but I guess I’m fast enough to catch her with my hand across her belly (like a one-arm hug) that she can’t step off. I must be too slow when my hand is closer to me milking her right side. She continually steps off the stand to her left. I think she’s figured out that if she steps off then the milking stops. After getting up to put her back on several times in a row, I figured that maybe she thought that if the milking stopped she was done? I have the goat hobbles, but I guess I haven’t figured out how to fit them. I know their supposed to go above the hock, but I can’t seem to get that ligament/tendon pushed on right. Anyway, it was just as easy to milk that side while she was standing. It’s not like she was eating anyway; she spends her time in the stand glaring at me as best she can.

When I’m done I then put her back end back up on the stand so that she ends her session in the right place, giver her lots of “Good girl, Chelsea!” and pets, some time to eat if she wants to (she usually doesn’t), and then she’s free. She still comes over for pettin’s afterward so I guess she doesn’t hate me too much. I’m currently getting about .5 cup of milk each milking. It’s not much, but it was about .25 cup when we started so I’m ok with it.

Next it’s Prancer’s turn. She gets up on the stand easily enough, but then needs help putting her head in the stanchion. Also, she’s so small that she can get her head back out when it’s just secured the usual way we use (I have not yet put on the gate hooks; we’ve been using an old dog collar that I found closed to the last hole) so Kaida has to stand their the whole time and push the boards together. Prancer’s second milking was yesterday and we got about .25 cup. She does pretty well with the milking and doesn’t really seem to mind anything except for putting her head in. I know she’ll be great.

Last is Gingie. I’ve been milking her since Bubba was born 1.5 weeks ago so she’s almost an old pro. She gets on the stand by herself and only needs a little encouragement/maneuvering to get her head in the stanchion. She sometimes try to wean me in the beginning, but not too much. We have an agreement. I pay the price in fruit scraps (orange peels, banana peels, and strawberry caps right now), and I get to keep “da milks.” It’s like “da Bulls” for those of you old enough to remember. She lets me know she’s out of treats by trying to wean me, I pay the appropriate bribe, and she lets me continue milking. I know it’s a corrupt system, but it works for us.

image

That’s Sissa, Bubba’s big sister, who has stuck her head through a gap in the stanchion. I don’t know why; she can’t reach any food  she just seems to be copying mama. Yesterday was the second time she did it.

When we started, Gingie was only letting me milk her right side. She now let’s me milk both, a little less happily and for a shorter time on the left still, and we’re getting about 1.5 cups from Gingie. Woo-hoo! Go, Gingie!

I hope to soon start milking twice a day. The problem is that I milk in the back of the run-in in the feed/hay storage area and the other goats say they would like to come back there too, so there are bribes all around at milking time. Also, the whole ordeal, from bribing the other goats for safe passage to finishing Gingie and getting her back out, takes about an hour. I honestly either don’t know how to pull another hour away from something or am not organized enough to do so. Oh, well. I’ll keep trying.

I hope to get ahead on milk so that we have enough for when Bubba is drinking a cup at a time.

I know it would have been best to start before we needed to start milking, but does anyone have advice out there for training does to the stand?