Breeding · Farm life · goats · Kidding · Nigerian Dwarf Goats · Stock for sale

Sad day

Yesterday our special needs little guy succumbed to his challenges. He has been tested and poked and prodded and evaluated beyond (probably) any goat anywhere. The best the vet could come up with was that, as with any mammal, this little guy was just born a bit special but he didn’t know why.

IMG_9091  <Here he is with his sibs.

 

He had been really slowing down over the last fews days, just starting to drift off from the flock and not caring (never a good sign) but still eating and affectionate and doing most of the things goats do. More and more often we would have to retrieve him from wherever he was. He also was not keeping up growth wise. His sister, who was less than half his weight at birth was more than double his weight and half again as tall as him as of yesterday.

So we wondered if the end was coming but hoped we would have him a bit longer. Yesterday he went downhill quickly and we had our answer.

Farewell Freyr. We miss you already.

Breeding · Farm life · goats · Nigerian Dwarf Goats · Wethers

An inflammatory post about horns and disbudding

Ok, I’m not being inflammatory deliberately. It just seems that every time this issue comes up anywhere, it gets heated. My plan is to talk about our horns this year why we did what we did, and (as always) how CUTE the babies are.

First of all, lots of people disbud and lots of goats live their lives with amputated horns and seem to do ok (we have no real way of knowing whether they miss them or not but the ones I have don’t appear to be suffering for it – except maybe in the back scratch department).

 

I also want to say that I understand some of the reasons people disbud. The most compelling reason for me is not my safety, it’s theirs. I have had a gorgeous Icelandic ram caught by his spectacular horns in the fence. Fortunately I’m a frequent checker on my animals and found him before he’d died.

 

Now, years later, most of our fences are smaller and there is far less likelihood that anyone would get a horn caught (dairy or fibre animal). The one place we haven’t yet redone is the boys run therefore, all of the not polled boys now are disbudded. The girls run should be all super small no climb so Gita is remaining horned.

 

She is a bit of an experiment but as I was looking at pictures of horned Nigerians, I realized that their horns look very much like my horned Icelandic ewes. And exactly like the horned Icelandic and Norwegian goats I covet. So, we left her intact.

 

My issue with disbudding is how quickly the horns start on some kids (but not always – more on that later). If the horns start in right away, then you’re having to make decisions about them before you really know what the animal will look like. Why does it matter? Simple -why disbud an animal you’re going to eat? I won’t sell a pet quality intact male and I won’t sell a pet quality doe in most cases. This requires me to decide on their horns way too early (in my opinion). Anyway, my other feeling was that I had some 4H people interested and I know they need disbudded dairy goats to show. So, I did disbud. And then I disbudded the one horned, wethered pet we’ll be keeping in case he ends up in the boy run with the more open fence.

 

I have to say that contrary to what people suggest, I had the vet do it. When it comes to animals and injury/pain and vets, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding out there. And it’s easy to believe them – especially when taking an animal to the vet comes with a bill. I admit that although I felt that I wasn’t in any way over charged, it is a tough thing to swallow. For me though, it’s just part of caring for my animals. Anyway as a result of the vet visits (yep, plural), I’d love to debunk a couple of those myths.

 

First of all, the fact that anyone (animal or person) who receives a huge burn to their head and a few minutes after is playing isn’t proof that it’s not causing them pain. We know that in moments of huge, life threatening pain (and I would say two 1000 degree burns would be included in that) the higher and mid level functioning of the brain literally shuts off leaving all of the energy for the lower level functioning. This is the primal part of the brain that keeps us alive when we are in danger. It’s the part of the brain that can watch a grizzly chomp on your arm, not feel any pain, and think “as long as he doesn’t get the artery, I should be ok.” It’s the same part of the brain that can, after a traumatic injury like a bear eating your arm or a fall resulting in a catastrophic pelvic fracture, have you walk out of the bush, seeming to be unharmed. It’s the same thing that happens when a deer who has been hit by a car and now has two visibly broken legs will start trying to get up and run on the stumps (yep, a gross visual but even worse in real life, I assure you). There is no time to think about the pain, the brain has shut down everything except ‘this is what I need to do right now to be safe’ primal response. It’s also why people will involuntarily urinate in an emergency – the brain is making sure all systems are 100% online for survival. It’s also the same part of the brain that allows a mum to lift a car off of a child or do other things that the body just wouldn’t do except that it has to.

It’s not until your brain gets the message “it’s ok, you’re safe” that the pain and immobility will start. I could get into a whole big discussion on the whys and hows (it’s the kind of thing I work with a work) but I think for most people, it wouldn’t be that interesting.

Suffice to say that simply seeing an animal get up and walk or play after such a burn isn’t evidence that the burn didn’t hurt.

Now I want to be clear. I don’t think people who DIY disbud are cruel. This is new information and lots of people who don’t work in my field don’t even know about it. Those who might don’t necessarily buy it. Also, people are swayed by myth two…..

 

Myth Two – the vet. I encountered two myths about the vet. The first is that the needle to sedate the goat is far more traumatic than the quick, at home disbudding. And the second is that the vet can’t possibly be competent at disbudding.

To address the first myth:

 

No death grip, just chillin'
No death grip, just chillin’

 

Well, I have no taken a bundle of goats to the vet for castration and/or disbudding and I have participated in both myself as a DIYer. I can say, without a doubt, that no, the goatlings didn’t have more stress at the vet than the DIY ones (see the above picture). The only really stressed one was the one who is a bit wild and didn’t want to be touched by yucky humans. He was going to be stressed whether or not he went to the vet or had the DIY treatment.

Not a lot of stress here
Not a lot of stress here

To address the second:

I have had goats disbudded by vets in the very distant past without any problems. And now, we’re a month in with no signs of scurs. And there is no question that they’re neutered (unlike when we banded and hoped we got everything but…). So, while it could happen that they’ll scur, so far so good. And, there are no shortage of DIY scurs in the world as well too.

 

There is kind of a third myth and that is that the goats don’t do well with the anesthetic. I learned that the generally used anethetic for goats isn’t a reversible one and so you have a long waiting period for the goats to come out of it. If you didn’t know that, you could be really worried that literally, hours later, the goat is still out.

All of mine did just fine – although they slept for a good long time.

IMG_9169

 

If you are going to disbud, please do consider your vet. Of course, whether it would be a good choice for you and your goats depends on a lot of factors, not the least of which is the quality of your relationship with your vet. With my vet, he’s pretty straight ahead and we have a great relationship. He told me he does few disbuddings, why he was doing things the way he was, and pretty much every step of the procedure (both for the disbudding and castration).

 

I also feel really strongly about pain relief. Not only were the babies knocked out but they were given a bolus of pain relief that would last 24hrs – long enough to get healing started.

 

Overall, I was entirely happy with the disbudding by the vet. Yep, it cost me something but it was so very worth it.

IMG_9078

Breeding · Farm life · goats · Kidding · Nigerian Dwarf Goats

There is magic in my world (birth story)

So, on Tuesday, I was home alone and as the sun was setting, the goats were all hanging out with me in the yard.

 

Athena

Athena checking out chicks last spring

was expected to kid first.

 

Keep in mind that Nigerians off go 143(ish) days. That’s even a bit faster than pygmies (who tend to 145 days). Knowing this, her earliest expected date was May 13. Well, because she is likely the world’s mot perfect goat (sorry to my other goats but really, she is), I started keeping a closer eye on her over the weekend. Why, if the 13th was her EDD? Well, I have had the privilege of being at many human births and we know that the E in EDD is the most important word to be mindful of. It means estimated or expected. Humans go early and rather than take a chance, I thought to keep a weather, but not interfering eye out.

 

Sure enough, by Monday she was getting more affectionate, even for her. First timers often do get more affectionate and want whomever they trust to support them.

 

So, while my goats come when I call, Athena was seeking me out, leaning against me, and generally acting like a puppy. In my experience, that’s more than a sign of just being in late pregnancy but, her back end didn’t look like much was going on so, I knew babies would still be a while. If she wasn’t with me, she was off on her own, staring. This can also be a sign that babies aren’t far away, however, in my experience, closer to term it’s also accompanied by quiet talking to the babies and that was something I hadn’t yet seen.

 

On Tues, as we sat outside watching the full moon rise, I noticed a bit of mucous on her pooch. While that is often a sign labour is around the corner, it can occur up to weeks before so again, something that tells me to keep an eye out for changes but no guarantee.

 

Just the same, because I’m that way, I sent the boys off to their own run (hence, Goats of Sorrow) and I set an alarm to go and check on her at 3 am.

 

Well, at three am she was a bit unsettled but more than happily eating when treats were offered but had more mucous with a bit of arching. Not so much that it was an obvious contraction but definitely something was going on. Curiouser, and curiouser.

 

Morning came and I checked on her again. I don’t (yet) have birthing stalls. My experience with Icelandics was that they did best pasture lambing and for some reason, in my brain that extrapolated to mean the goats would too. I do know these goats come from pasture lambing so… while it’s not the worst decision, it’s not one I would repeat.

 

Anyway, I put down fresh straw in all of the places she’d been reclining wanting to (hopefully) ensure she had a secure and tidy bed beneath her and, not seeing anymore real progress, headed off to work.

 

Of course I’m a worrier so I whipped home at lunch. Her water had broken and while she wasn’t super laboury, she was definitely in active labour. Honestly, I would have said early active labour because she didn’t seem to be working that hard.

 

I ran inside to make lunch to take back to work when I heard a serious goats scream. Now our house is crazy sound proof. When my mother in law slipped on the ice and broke her arm, none of us heard her even though she was about 10 feet away. I’m not sure how we did that but most of the time it’s a good thing. And clearly, that was a primal scream that came from Athena for me to hear it clearly inside the house.

 

So, I ran outside and there she was, walking around. Well, that didn’t add up at all. It sounded like a delivery sound but here she was, still massively tummied, no more discharge than before, and nibbling at hay alternately with pacing. Strange. Although I thought to go back in, I paused and decided to have a little look around.

 

Sure enough, nestled into a little bowl created by a stump, and next to the water bucket I had thankfully picked up and put on an overturned tub, was a teeny (and I do mean teeny) beautiful baby.

Baby girl

 

And yes, I was feeling really relieved that I remembered to put the water bucket it up the night before. Phew!

 

So, expecting a single (Athena is a first freshener), I was a little surprised to see Athena not interested in the baby. I cleaned off the nose and mouth and grabbed an old wool sweater to rub her off a bit. Now, a little bit of rubbing off is ok but I left goop on key places (like the top of her head and her bum/rump). And I didn’t touch her with my hands anywhere except when it was too fiddly to liberate her mouth using the wool sweater. I didn’t want to take a chance of mum thinking she smelled too much of me to be her baby. With a first freshener who has no track record, I am super fussy about it.

 

While I was watching, Athena finally started pawing. I brought straw to her and she settled back in. After pushing for a while (ten minutes? I don’t know, I was watching her and videoing), I saw a black nose and one hoof. Great, one hoof. I didn’t dive right in (and neither should you – we intervene far too often in birth in general) but repositioned myself to closely watch the delivery. Now I started timing. Another few pushes brought no more of the baby which was starting to concern me. I felt along the outside (if she was a human, it would have been her perineum I was feeling) to get a sense of how big baby’s head was. I could really feel her straining but not a lot of baby progress. I took my finger and ran it along the side with the hoof showing applying a fair amount of pressure.Still no progress. I took my right hand and using the backwards L made by my forefinger and thumb, I applied pressure to that side. That pressure can give her something to push against without risking her health.

 

One more push and out came a massive boy, along with a healthy squirt of birth products. One more contraction (which I thought would be the placenta) and a white boy came three quarters of the way out. She was exhausted so I did help gently manoeuvre the rest of him out, mindful not to put any pressure on the placenta or her. Another buckling. All three were adorable, completely different looking, and healthy. Yay! Not so yay for my work clothes (because I didn’t get changed before hurrying out to her) but whatever, they’re washable.

All three babies - goopy!

 

 

That’s the birth story. Stay tuned to read about their first 24 hours.

 

All three of them in the afternoon after a busy day of getting born.

 

 

 

 

Breeding · Farm life · goats · Lambs · Musings · Nigerian Dwarf Goats

Which breed should I get?

At first I was stumped by this question. Well, not the question so much as the amount of times I have been asked it in the last month. And then I finally realized that it totally makes sense. It’s spring, everyone has or will have kids and lambs for sale. People who have been dreaming of livestock all winter are keen to get started. But I couldn’t figure out why I was getting calls, emails, and messages so I asked the lady who tracked me down today.

“That’s easy,” she said. “You really helped my friend. She felt like you help her figure out what she wanted instead of just pushing your own agenda.”

Well, that’s kind of flattering. I asked if  a blog post would be helpful and she thought so though, being a friend of a friend, she would still be phoning me.

So… what kind should you get?

Well, my opinion on how to figure out what to get is pretty much the same whether you’re talking about goats, sheep, dogs, cats, cattle, whatever. Before I get started here is the required disclaimer: this is my opinion and my opinion only – ymmv!

So, let’s begin.

First of all look at how much work you’re willing to do and how much land you have. I have been reading all of these articles about self-sufficiency on a small piece of land which requires cramming every inch of a small space full (like having a full farm on a 1/2 acre or acre). Well, I suspect you can but…. there are tradeoffs. The articles I have been seeing don’t really do those justice. One of the biggest ones is the amount of work you have to put in to make up for the small size. What’s interesting is that now when those come to me via email, blogs, or friends, I have been emailing many of the authors. A fair few of them garden, or have a few chickens and are extrapolating the rest. Some are really doing it but by and large, they’re just telling you what they think might work. So, let’s imagine for a second, shall we?

Let’s pretend you have a 1/2 acre with a normal-for-this-age sized house and garden. You probably don’t want full sized anything. Of course some people will want a couple of cows, or a trio of full sized sheep and depending on your circumstances, you might be able to make it work. I have a friend who has a half acre yard and three Shetland sheep. She loves it and works for her but… she doesn’t really have anything else – a couple of chickens, no big house, no woodlot, a smallish garden. No real attempt at self-sufficiency. She just loves Shetlands and Shetland fibre so that’s what she has. When I asked her about self-sufficiency in her yard she thought it wouldn’t be impossible but you’d have to be working at it all of the time. Every hole in the garden would need to be filled which also means you’re always working to keep the soil enriched. She also lives in a bioregion that allows her to garden year round – cold crops in the winter to be sure but she can do it.

Image Her snow lasts days at the most – not months.

 

My recommendation though, is to calculate in a higher cost for hay, and be extra mindful about diseases as well as having quarantine plans. Everyone should have those but when you have four goats on 10+ acres it’s a lot easier to do a quick quarantine than four Merinos on 1/2 an acre.

Some of these? Image  or a couple of these  Image (is there any question?)

So we’re clear? Step one is looking at how much space you actually have and how much time you have to make that space work. But, I’m off the “what breed should I get” topic and onto “self-sufficiency on a small plot” topic. So, more on self-sufficiency in a small space later.

The other part of this is to look at the type of space you have. If you have a grassland you could have goats, but why not have sheep or cattle? If you live in a woodlot, you could have sheep but even the primitive ones that people will go on and on about eating so much browse will need a lot of supplementation with hay (ask me how I know). And that’s where the money comes in – if you have a lot of money, then maybe that’s no big deal but most of us don’t, so it is something to seriously consider. No shortage of well intentioned people have started out and then realized just how expensive this little hobby can end up.

If you choose to take an animal out of the environment they’re best suited to, don’t be surprised when it seems like you’re putting in more effort than you should need to. I knew an Icelandic shepherd who was furious and was publicly defaming the breed because he was losing so many every year to parasites and hoof rot (to which they’re supposed to be less susceptible than many other breeds). Did I mention he lived in a semi-tropical area? Ahem. The clue is in the name. Icelandic. Not well suited to a hot, humid, damp environment. Sure, you can do it, but why? Especially when there are other breeds of sheep much better suited to it.

The final thing about evaluating the area you’re in is predation. Do you live in a predator heavy area? You need to consider that too. We always, always have good fences and at least one working dog because we live in a very predator heavy area (ours is heavy even for the area because we back onto zillions of kilometers of forest). But, good fences aren’t easy in a rocky, mountainside, forest… so keep that in mind too.

As for how much you’re willing to do… time is a huge factor. And it’s not just your willingness, it’s also the people around you. Do you have a full time job and an employer who won’t care if all 30 of your ewes decided to have babies and you now have 9 bummer lambs? Can you leave work for lambing or kidding or do you have to be there, or worse, will you be out of town when babies are coming? If so, a breeding programme may not be the right thing for you. Do you have a partner or friend who will help out in a pinch or are you totally on your own? really evaluate this one. It’s the same thing that happens to parents. There is a lot of “oh sure, I could watch the baby” but when push comes to shove, you’re really in it yourself. You might have a friend who is in the same boat in which case a trade is a good idea. But be boring about it and write it out. Make it concrete and clear instead of “it will just work out”. If you have someone you can trade farm chores with that is worth it’s weight in gold manure. Don’t mess it up but being reluctant to be a bit formal. You can even be formal informally on a chat… just have it spelled out somewhere. Just make sure you do your part and speak up if you think the deal is uneven. If you’re resentful, it’s going to fall apart.

Another major consideration is whether you’re planning to start a family? I have met a few families who started the “back to the land” thing with a baby and by the time baby two came along they were done. It’s an easy thing to look at through romantic eyes while you’re in suburbia flipping through Mother Earth News. The reality is so much harder which is fine if you love it but not so much if you don’t. It will also take up a lot of your free time. In fact… It takes me eons to even update my farm related blog because well, you guessed it. Chores don’t wait. So, decide if trimming hooves, fixing fences, and building things (because it seems something always needs building) is really how you want to spend your free time.

The other thing about time is how much of it do you really have? Do you like to travel? Do you have farm sitting built in or…? If not, you need to consider other plans. Either find someone you can trade with, or hire, or decide to take a break from travelling. It’s tough to even go away overnight when you have animals and no one who is willing to come and do your chores.

Step Two – What do you want out of a breed?

I know there are people who think this is step one but seriously? I have prioritized what I want out of a breed before thinking about what I could realistically do, what my finances and land would support, and what was really realistic. You know what? It ended in heart break. I had that happen to another friend who was forced to sell her horses for the same reason. She had a small space and was diligent about getting them exercise but they had no grazing. When she lost her job and the price of hay went up, she had to sell. Some of her horses had been with her for most of her adult life. It was a terrible time for her and her horses.

Image.

 

So, please first think about the space and time factors AND then, within those constraints, So again – do you have a half acre and you want milk? You probably aren’t going to be getting a whole herd of dairy cows. Well, maybe you are but it wouldn’t be my recommendation. So… do you hate goat’s milk? I have known (and loved) many people who think they do because they’ve just had grocery store goats’ milk. Fresh from the goat – it’s (usually) a whole other story. Rather than buying a goat just to see if you like it when it’s fresh, you might want to try it at a friend’s house. Here it’s illegal to sell or give away milk outside of the regulations so, one must be careful about how they go about obtaining goats milk. What would be legal is to borrow/lease the goat and milk her yourself to see if that’s really what you want to spend your time doing. Or you could just swipe some milk when no one’s looking. Not that I’m advocating theft but you know…

Also – remember that animals tend to do one thing well, and the others not quite as well. When I had Icelandics I LOVED their fibre but I picked them because I thought they’d be well suited to a woodlot (they were better than white sheep, but nowhere near as suited as my goats), were supposed to be good for milk, meat, and fibre. Well… the wethers grew the best fibre ever. Loved it. The good milkers were great at mothering and had lots of milk but ok fibre. And they all took at least two years to be anywhere close to a butchering weight. Yep, you can feed them grain to bulk them up and you can work on getting their weight up for butchering in the first year (or accept that you’ll have smaller carcasses but delicious ones that you can sell for a premium) but you won’t get an Icelandic to weight what a Corrie does by the fall without a lot of extra effort.

So, what do you want? Milk? Meat? Grazing? Cuteness? Breeding stock?To be part of conserving an old breed? Conservation grazing? Will your land and your wallet support having them just for fun? There’s no point in getting into a really rare/high end animal and then not being able to afford the upkeep, or getting cast offs hoping to make them into something worth millions. Maybe it will work but most likely, not.

Also – decide if you are going to be a rescue person or not. I used to be. I’m not anymore. My time and money don’t allow for it. I did it – again, heartbreak. I’m watching a friend go through it right now as her rescue does are having kids prematurely and they’re dying right, left, and central. It’s not that it’s a bad idea (and one day when I have more time I will again) but for right now, I just can’t.

Image<< What does this flying squirrel have to do with the topic? Nothing, but when I was looking for pics I came across it and it was soooo cute, I couldn’t resist.

 

Alright so… is your goal self-sufficiency? Is your goal to make money? Is your goal to have your own milk? Fibre? Bacon?

Figure out those things and if you’re like me, your answer will be all of the above. So again, based on my experience, realize that if you’re just starting off, that might be too much to take on at once. So, start breaking it down. What’s most important to you? What’s next most important? And then see how that fits in the with the time/space/money continuum. You really, really, really want to have an ethical cow’s milk dairy? And you have an acre and can’t build anything to save your life but you need a barn, milking parlour, etc. Well, maybe you don’t do anything on your land and you meet someone you can partner with. Maybe they have the land but not the time? Or you scale it back. Or you look at moving. I’m not kidding about that last one. I have met no shortage of people who have moved to chase a dream – why is a farm dream any less likely?

 

Anyway, think about the land you have, what you hope to get out of your livestock and then whittle it down to the top two or three things that line up. And then ask people who know you, know the breed, etc. See what they say. If you find yourself saying a lot of “yes but…” you might want to forge ahead but be mindful of those “yes but” things and have a backup plan for them. Some of the best successes have come when people were sure there would be failures so it doesn’t mean give up, just be smart about it. Also – we’re not talking about widgets; they’re living beings. The animals you bring home have a right to quality of life. We’re always learning as we go but it’s not fair to the animals to always get the short end of that stick.

 

Step Three – Start building infrastructure.

So, you want to raise pastured pigs but you have no fences, no shelters, no stock, and no idea of what’s needed. Well, you might be surprised to hear this but farmers tend to be a supportive lot. If you start asking around (your local feed store is a great place to start) you will likely learn about people who share your interest but also glean some tips. Use social media. I live in a teeny tiny town and thanks to a couple of folks, we have a few groups for farming type people. Our membership now stretches almost too far but it’s made for some interesting conversations, means we have an amazing railway to move animals, and people are learning about resources in other parts of the country.

 

So, figure out fences (and don’t cheap out on those – again, ask me how I know). You’re better off to have fewer animals behind a really good fence that you can afford than to try fencing a large space but have break outs and break ins and all of the stress that comes with that.

 

Figure out housing. We all seem permanently behind in the housing department – myself included. My goats don’t need a barn, for example. They have awesome pallet houses out of reclaimed wood that they love. However, one caught a cold this winter and I had nowhere really great for her to fight it back. And, I hate, hate, hate milking outside in mosquito season. I also want to have a stall that I can heat for a mum and baby in the event someone needs it. So, do my goats need a barn? Nope but I do.

You can be as fancy or cute or simple as works for your time/effort/money/sanity.

ImageImageImageImage

 

Figure out hay/feed. Do you have a hay lot? Ask someone with experience if you will have enough (both in quantity and quality) to feed the numbers you want to feed. Do you have machinery or are you going to mow by hand? People are going back to the old methods and for some it’s working really well but the ones I know who are doing it that way have more time than money. And an interest in it, let’s be honest.

 

ImageImageImage << this is not for everyone.

 

Want to raise an English heritage breed of pig but the local vet has no experience with pigs or, even better, there is no local vet? Again, not to say you can’t do it but you need to decide how to do it well. Do you have firearms and skill/experience in using them? If you’re raising animals, in my opinion, you should. There’s nothing like waiting a few hours with a suffering animal because the vet coming to euthanize is in surgery or driving for two hours. If you can’t have a firearm, reconsider your plans and at a minimum, make friends with a neighbour who is willing to do the job for you.

 

Also – learn everything you can about the breed before the animals come home. Learn about all of the problems you’re likely to encounter and how other people have dealt with them. Check and cross check. There is a lot of information on line, but you get what you pay for. Join a breed association or other, similar organization but be cynical. See if things make sense. If there is a suggestion that you can clear hoof rot with turpentine, do a bit of research. Spend money and ask a vet. I know a lot of people are anti-vet but let’s face it, even if they’re not super skilled in working on the animals you’re raising, they understand basic animal physiology, medications, etc. The fact is, they have a lot to offer  – just treat them like any other partner. Be open, curious, and then check and double check. Most vets – especially the ones staying in rural areas – tend to be on the same team as us. Offer them respect and draw on them as one more resource.

 

So, if you look at the intersection of land/time/money (honestly – take the worst case scenario, not the best!) and what you’re hoping to get out of the breed (realistically – also not defaulting to the best case), you should be well on your way to deciding what will work best for you. From there, do build your infrastructure – which includes people who can support you. With all of this careful planning you won’t be guaranteed smooth sailing but you will have headed off the majority of problems that discourage so many when they’re first starting out.

 

Image

Farm life · goats · Nigerian Dwarf Goats · Philosophy

On goats and grain

So, I have been doing a lot of reading about grain. A lot. Tonnes. Literally. What I have learned is that um… there’s a lot of information out there and most of it’s contradictory.

Tell me you don’t love this picture. It’s from
http://www.babygoatfarm.com/Feeding_Goats.htm
by way of google. You should go and see the rest of their cute pics.

The first thing I’m realizing is that grain isn’t really needed if you have good forage; some would even say for late pregnancy and babies. Some would say that it’s always needed. Some would say that it’s needed as an economic balm against (for?) the rising cost of hay. Some would say you must mix your own grain, others would say the average goatherd is too much of a novice to know what their goats need and must rely on premixed. Some would still say they don’t need grain.

So, here’s what I think. First of all, I’m a grain feedeer. Not all year ’round but I have been feeding in winter and I will when the girls are in milk and babies are wee. So, you know you’re getting a “pro-grain” position here. At least I’m pro-grain for my animals, your mileage may vary.

First of all, I’m consistent on feeding grain three times per day (yep, three). Once in the morning, once in the early evening (the goats have tea time as well), and once right before bed. I figure that if the grain stokes the fire of the rumen, better to stoke it thrice on cold days. And because you don’t want to be feeding sometimes and not others (it’s hard on the goat’s tummy), I would rather have the hassle of giving little bits, three times per day. I adjust the amount I give per feeding based on the weather; the amount varying with the temperature. We have dramatic temperature shifts here all winter. The worst is when it’s warm and sunny – or cold and sunny but not windy and then it warms way up above freezing with a torrential rain and then, a few hours later, plummets a zillion degrees to coat the world in ice.

Second of all, I do work with a local grain farmer to make my own mix. Maybe I don’t know as much as my grain guy but one of the arguments against mixing your own is that you don’t know what’s needed for your area. Um… so I don’t but Purinea does? Seems unlikely.

So, I guess where I stand (given that I need to get supper made and this post is already a week late) is simply -do what you think is best. I can’t imagine that a huge company, not based in my area, knows what my goats need. But, if you aren’t lucky enough to be in an area with mine and have other goatherds and a grain guy to consult with, you might want to buy a commercial mix. As always, give it some thought and make the call.

Yes please. I will have grain but I won't stay still for the picture.
Yes please. I will have grain but I won’t stay still for the picture.
Breeding · Farm life · goats · Nigerian Dwarf Goats · Seasonal

Funny noises….

So, because of a glitch – and this one wasn’t a user error, thank FSM! – this post is a week late but here it is.

It seems Athena has just entered the heat cycle. What’s entertaining about that is that she’s a new adult who appears to be a bit unsure about what the heck is going on. Zephy, who is definitely not yet an adult, knows he’s supposed to be doing something but is trying to figure everything out. She’s not in standing heat so she’s not really that interested but she’s kind of interested. It’s hilarious and they are making the most unusual noises. I took a little video that is very poor quality (just used my phone and it’s nearly dark) but so worth a listen.

They’re clearly talking and courting -in a very teenager ‘I’m really into you but get lost’ kind of way. The vocalizations are so out of their usual sounds that LG came in an said “I think Athena’s choking, she’s making a really strange noise.”

So, with no further ado… Well, some further ado. It turns out wp doesn’t want any video. I think I can up them to youtube and link to there.

Here’s a picture from the jostling to tide you over.

IMG_7677That’s Zephy (white) and Athena (tri colour with her butt pointed towards the camera). Poor Percy is on the right, trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

Update: there has been a lot of cuddling and smooching between Athena and Zephy but no more of this behaviour. Me thinks she’s bred but we’ll see what happens in about three weeks.

Breeding · goats · Nigerian Dwarf Goats

It’s raining! (and kidding supplies)

Well, I wrote a post about how it was raining and that was a good thing because I’m not quite ready for winter. And then it started trying to snow. So, I guess ready or not, it’s coming fast! Of course the sad bit of this is that my barn may be on hold until the spring. First World Problems, I know but still…

Of course thinking about the barn got me thinking about goatlings which got me planning my breeding programme for this year (now that we have our boys!). I see babies in the May/June timeframe. I’ve decided it’s easier to keep them warm when there is a mama to do that and having them little now is kind of tough on them.

That, in turn, got me thinking of kidding supplies so, I started to compile a list. I’ve created a separate page for it. You can find that here. It’s also in the index for this blog.

Happy rainy day everyone.

Autumn

Breeding · Nigerian Dwarf Goats

Flannelberry Friday…

Ok – I did forget this week. Friday was such a busy day but for such a wonderful, fun, reason.

So last weekend I drove 1400 kms in 30 hrs (that’s 870 miles in… well… 30hrs) to bring home this:

IMG_7372

This serious dose of cuteness consists of Zehpy (our buckling, on the right) and his buddy Percy (the wether, on the left) who will be the foundation of our dairy goat breeding programme.

All of our goats have come from Outlaw Acres where Sharon has just been reconfirmed as a dairy goat judge. So, when I tell her I’m looking to start a breeding programme and see tells me she’s got the perfect buckling to go with our does (who she knows because they were also bred by her), I know I’ve got a sure thing.

So, how does my trip last weekend mean anything for Friday? Well, they were in the little run right by the house for their first few days here. We could keep an eye on them and make sure they were recovering well from their travels. But, they’ve didn’t really have enough room to really play and run around in there so… they went out to the big run J made for them in anticipation of their arrival. Which meant putting the finishing touches on everything.

Now, not only do they have a super pallet house (we’re aiming to use all reclaimed materials in our building these days), they have a double thickness of fence around 3/4 of the run (the remaining 1/4 is covered in raspberry brambles and storing the rest of the fence) and will have lots of contact with us (they’re out with the chickens and ducks) but are a good distance from both the house and the girls (to cut down on bucky smell). There is a new hay feeder, a bench to sit on in the house and lots of stumps and rocks to play on. In short, it’s a dream goat run.

They’re just the most adorable boys every. I could have a whole flock of wethers, I think, if I didn’t want milk. I do think wethers make the perfect pet. Girls still go into heat – they know their bodies could be doing something during that time and you get to know all about it too. In my experience with Alpine Goats, Nubian Goats and now Nigerian Dwarf Goats, they can be a bit loud and irritable during that time. The wethers though, they’re just the ideal pet. No bucky smell (even Zephy, at his young age, is getting a hint of it), never goes into heat and absolutely affectionate. I see a long life here for these stunning boys.

Trying to eat the camera. Cute and Curious!
Trying to eat the camera. Cute and Curious!