Tag Archives: goat

  • Kidding

    Written By Janice Spaulding, founder of Goat School

    Kidding time is the most exciting time on the farm! Will it be a doeling or a buckling? What will its markings be? What color? How many?? Such fun!

    The big kidding question always is: How do I know when my goat is ready to deliver? Watch your does. The poor girl may get crankier as she gets closer. Some does produce copious amounts of mucous, very stringy, hanging down, and even dragging on the ground. This is a sign that labor is imminent. Our Boer doe, NanC, used to go 4 or 5 days with a drippy butt, other goats do not have any mucous at all.

    Watch their udders. You will see changes as their delivery date draws near. In some goats the udder expands greatly over time, others will expand just a few hours before delivery. As labor gets closer the udder gets very big, solid feeling, and almost shiny in appearance, often called “strutted” udder.

    For Angora’s, (or any longer haired goat) make sure, if the goat hasn’t been sheared, that you crutch her well ahead of time and also trim around the udder. Crutching is cutting away all the hair on the back end and down the back of the legs and around the udder and teats. It will get ruined during birthing process anyway. Make sure the teats are easy to find for those little ones.

    One of the best indicators of impending labor is “calling”. Your doe will walk around looking like she is in a panic, searching for something. She will call out over and over again. Sometimes it’s a very soft call, sometimes a gentle talking to her belly and sometimes a really loud yelling. She is calling to her baby which hasn’t been born yet. At this stage, she should be kidding fairly soon and should be put in a kidding pen.

    If your doe has been calling, it will get more frantic and the calls could end with a prolonged grunting noise. A water bubble will often be visible and will usually break. She will get up, lie down, squat, get up, pee, lie down and so on; so many times it will make you crazy.

    When we hear the sounds of labor beginning over our baby monitor, off we go to the barn. If you have a close relationship with your doe, she may not want to have her kids without you being around! They can hold back their labor for quite some time.

    Once you see that the goat is actually in labor, you will want to put down clean hay in her area and get your gloves ready. DO NOT put your fingers or hands inside the goat unless absolutely necessary! If it becomes evident that the doe needs some help, put some K-Y Jelly on your fingers and insert one finger, massage the orifice of the vulva gently from inside. This will usually relax and lubricate enough for the baby to slide out.

    The kid’s position should be a nose between two little hoofs. This is, of course, the perfect position but it doesn’t always happen. Don’t be alarmed if you see a little tongue hanging out of the kid’s mouth! They sometimes are born this way, and it’s really quite cute!

    After the kids are born, they need to be wiped down quickly. I usually bring the baby around to the front of mom and wipe along with her licking. We work together to keep baby warm and get it dried off. If there is more than one kid, make sure both or all of the babies are kept in front of the doe. You certainly don’t want her to reject any babies.

    Be aware that sometimes the kids are bright yellow when they are born. This will be more evident in the Angora’s. They look like little yellow chicks! This is normal. It usually happens when a baby is a day or two over due. The baby’s internal organs are beginning to function and the baby passes some of the meconium into amniotic fluid, thus coloring it and the baby with it.

    Sometimes the goat’s teat will have a little waxy plug in the end of it, or over the orifice. This is more common in Angoras. This plug needs to be removed so the baby can nurse. By milking a small amount from each teat you will be assured that the teat is free from this plug. If nothing comes out, gently scrape the end of the teat with your finger nail. In stubborn cases, warm cloths will help. Some kids can nurse the plug right out, but others can’t so always make sure you have taken this step.

    Once you are confident that kidding is complete, this is the point where your doe needs a reward. We fill a small bucket with warm water and molasses (1 gallon of water, ¼ to ½ cup of molasses. It gives the doe some extra energy, plus most of them love the taste. They are also very thirsty at this stage.

    During the three or four days that the doe is in her kidding pen with her new kids, I give her extra grain. About 1 ½ times her regular ration along with some supplement.

    Normally the afterbirth (placenta) usually will be delivered in an hour or two. (However, it can take up to 24 hours ) Try to watch for it. We dispose of it in empty grain bags unless the doe decides to eat it. I know this is gross, but there are all kinds of nutrients and vitamins in the placenta that is good for the doe and helps in her healing after birthing. There are also hormones that trigger milk production. Some will eat it and some most definitely will not.

    One of the reasons to sequester your doe during labor and afterward is for her and her babies to bond. Very rarely, but it does happen, a doe will reject her kid. You will have to take the upper hand here. The mom will have to be held while someone else gets the babe on the teat. A 4X4 kidding pen is very adequate for even the biggest of goats.

    We weigh the babies immediately after birth, and again when the babies are 24 hours old. This will assure you that they are nursing properly. We weigh very often during the first month, just to keep track of what kind of gain the kids of each mom has.

    Mom will get a very yucky, crusty area on and around her tail. Once she is finished streaming (getting rid of what is left in her uterus) it gets all dried up and cakey. You can trim it off with some scissors. Some of it will pull off and parts will just brush off. It is best to clean her up especially in fly season!

    Let’s address the kids and their poop. The first poop is a black tar like substance called meconium which hopefully, mom will clean up for you! Otherwise, it’s difficult to clean up. Warm water and a good butt soak will work nicely to soften and loosen up this gooey substance. I also use baby shampoo if necessary.

    Once the meconium passes, the next bowel movements will be bright yellow, about the same color as yellow mustard. Mom will usually clean this up too, but if she doesn’t you will have to. If this yellow poop cakes over the anal opening, it will get hard and make it impossible for the little one to have a bowel movement. This will eventually cause death. Through the years, I have found this tends to be more of a problem with Angora’s. I think it’s more difficult for the mom to clean up all those little curls around the butt area.

    Most of the time you can pull the cakey mess off, other times it will take a butt soak.

    Want to learn more? Come to Goat School! Our spring class will be held Saturday, May 24th and Sunday, May 25th with a Goat Milk Soap and Goat Cheese Making Class on Monday, May 26th! Go to www.goatschool.com/id28.html for more information!

  • Goat Breeding

    Written By Janice Spaulding , founder of Goat School

    As autumn approaches the words “oh the joy of heat, rut, and breeding” can be heard on goat farms everywhere!
    A doe in heat is usually quite obvious if you have a buck around! She will exhibit all sorts of different outward appearances like moaning, groaning, yelling, flagging (tail wagging) and in every sense of the word, make a general nuisance of herself. She will often head butt the other goats, jump on them like a dog, be cranky to you, and will more often than not, have a very red butt!

    Watching a buck in rut is quite comical.  They love to display their equipment, pee all over themselves, curl their lip and make lots of really unique noises. The peeing can cause blisters and sores on their noses and very red irritated looking eyes. Don’t despair, once your girls are all bred, rut will be over and the snow and rain will clean away most of the gross, caked up yucky stuff on their faces and legs. If you are really obsessive, you can give your boy a bath. Good luck with that!

    So, you have a doe in heat and a buck in rut, what now?  The estrus cycle for a doe is 18 to 21 days! Goats are pregnant for approximately 150 days.  A great thing to note here is that if you are planning on a vacation; use one of the goat breeding charts that are readily available on line to make sure your doe won’t be giving your farm sitter an unexpected gift! These charts are great for helping you “plan ahead”.

    Most bucks are extremely gentle to the doe’s. If you have one that isn’t, get rid of him! Personality, as well as “meatiness”, fine fleece, or great dairy features are important factors in your breeding program. Our “problem personalities” go to Freezer Camp (also known as, imagine a deep voice here, “THE PROCESSOR”) rather than sold to an unsuspecting buyer.

    The bucks will whisper in the girl’s ears, kiss them and mount them several times. Record this date and watch to see if the doe comes into heat again, approximately 21 days later. Another cycle can sometimes happen.  A doe is in heat anywhere from 8 to 48 hours. Every now and then you can have a doe whose heat cycle is even shorter than 8 hours and if that short period of time occurs during the night, you can miss the cycle altogether! Coincidentally, the girls who have the longest heat cycles are usually the most vocal.

    At the very beginning of the cycle your doe may not be receptive to the buck. Later in the cycle she will go into the pen, squat and pee for him, flag him like crazy and stand for him to mount her, this is called “standing heat”.

    We put the girls in several times during their cycle, because ovulation can occur anytime during that time period!
    If the doe scrunches up during penetration, don’t worry. It just means the buck has penetrated her so deeply that he hit her cervix. This is not a problem and it doesn’t affect the outcome of the breeding. Also, this doesn’t have to happen for her to be bred.

    Some bucks and does are quite fussy about who they breed AND who they are bred with!  About 22 years ago, we had someone contact us who had one Angora doe that they wanted to have bred. We took her to be bred by one of our three Angora bucks. Well, poor “Diana” was one of the ugliest goats we had ever seen! She had one horn and it was broken, a wicked over bite and she was a bit cross eyed. Her fleece had seen its better days, it was thin and straggly.

    When we put her in with the buck, he wouldn’t even go near her! She was in raging heat. We put her in with the second buck. He looked at us like we were crazy! Wouldn’t even come close enough to sniff her! What to do???

    Finally, we put her in a small pen in the barn, got our first time little buckling (named James Bond) and decided to put him to work. He couldn’t reach Diana, but he sure was willing. Ken, my husband, had to pick him up and hold him in position so the little guy could do his thing. He was successful.


    Inbreeding: breeding animals that are closely related. The genetic effect of inbreeding is that it produces animals with genetic characteristics that are more fixed. Progress towards a certain “style” can be made more rapidly through inbreeding.
    While good characteristics are fixed in fewer generations by inbreeding, bad characteristics are equally fixed, so inbreeding needs to be done very carefully with the purpose of selecting desired traits and culling out undesirable ones.

    Inbreeding can and will decrease size and vigor! It has also been found to cause loss of reproductive performance. Out crossing to another breeding line needs to be done at chosen intervals.

    Inbreeding is considered crossing mother to son, father to daughter, or full sister to full brother.

    Line breeding is inbreeding where the relationship of the goats are kept as close as possible to an individual animal. For example, breeding a superior sire to his granddaughter or breeding half brother with a half sister who has the same sire.
    Advantages to line breeding are the same as in inbreeding except you double up on selected characteristics more rapidly. Be on the look out for undesirable characteristics here also, but there will be less chance of it.

    Crossbreeding or out breeding is crossing two unrelated animals that have characteristics that you want to introduce to your flock.
    This is usually done between different blood lines or different breeds of goats. This type of breeding will produce a hybrid vigor.

    Trait                    Inbreeding    Line breeding    Out breeding
    Uniformity           good             good                  fair to good
    Fertility               poor              good                  good
    Growth               poor              good                  good
    Predictability      good             good                  fair
    Overall Vigor     poor              good                  good
    Longevity          moderate      good                   good
    Uniform kids     moderate      good                   good
    Rapid growth    poor             good                   excellent
    Characteristics and How to Use Them

    There never has been, nor will there ever be a “perfect” goat. That being said, to produce the goat for show, breeding, milk, fiber, or meat, you have to aim for that perfection!

    Breeders will breed hundreds of animals just to get the “best one”.  For most, the production of gorgeous kids is just plain luck, but often they are the product of knowledgeable breeders who are aware of the body style of the dam and buck and how to achieve the characteristics of greatness.

    If you stood all of your does side by side, are they all a cookie cutter image of each other? Then Glory Halleluiah, you’d only need one buck to meet all of your needs. But, guess what? They are all different! They all look different, act different, eat different, etc. So when it comes to a buck, you have to look for a buck that will have great qualities to improve the weak points of your does.

    You want your breeding to consistently produce good qualities that add strength to your herd, not weaknesses. If you don’t consider each and every breeding as the ultimate of importance, you are not only doing yourself a disservice but also the goat industry!

    I once read that a gentleman who used to stay mostly with a particular line of Boers, would also keep a close watch on what direction his herd was taking from time to time bring in a buck that would take some of the extreme does back to the style he liked. He was said to say that when he started to get does that were “too pretty” or “too tubular”, he would need an old style buck “to ugly the does up some”!

    Some goat owners stick with the same buck, year after year and wonder why they are not producing quality anymore. A completely different buck will certainly change things up a bit!

    A breeder should be prepared to continually educate him or herself at every opportunity. Make your breeding seasons count, and take the time to learn how to evaluate each and every animal. The future of your herd does not count on the goats in your pasture, it counts on you! Do everything you can to make your next breeding a success!

    And, please, remember how important your buck/bucks are to your herd! Initially your buck represents 50% of your herd, but with subsequent use that percentage will increase greatly.  It is well to consider keeping multiple bucks of various ages to use on your does.  Diversity in breeding is important for good outcome.


  • What Do Goats Really Eat?

    Written By Janice Spaulding, founder of Goat School

    Volumes can be written about this subject alone. This article will cover basic information on feeding and minerals.
    A few years ago we lost a beautiful doe in her last few weeks of pregnancy. Opting for a necropsy was one of the wisest decisions we have ever made. The necropsy gave us “inside” information on how a goat makes and distributes fat throughout their body. The outward appearance of a goat is not always informative on the inside condition.

    This was a large doe, though not one that would be considered “fat”. As it turns out, her problem was the internal fat storage she had developed throughout her life. We had only owned her for about six months, so, we were not privy as to how she had been fed in her early life. This fat, which packed her internal body cavity, was a major contributing factor to her demise. Her liver had caramelized and her systems had shut down.

    It is difficult when those big, beautiful caprine eyes are looking at you with the “please feed me, I’m melting away to nothing” look.  Don’t give in to it!  Over feeding can eventually kill your goat. Under feeding will do the same thing.  So how do you reach a happy medium?

    Hay, hay, hay, lots of good quality hay is a major component to raising healthy, happy goats. A goat needs four percent of its body weight in dry matter per day. That’s what they will actually eat; it does not include the other two or three pounds that they spilled on the ground trying to get to that little choice morsel that they see in the very center of the pile. Of course, once it’s on the ground, it has gotten stepped on, peed on, and pooped on, so don’t expect to ever see your goats bend down and eat it!

    Now, let’s talk water.  It doesn’t matter what kind of container you use, but you have to KEEP IT CLEAN! Goats will not drink dirty water. With the bucks, you can run into problems with urinary calculi from not drinking enough water to balance the phosphorous and calcium they ingest. Angora goats are even fussier than meat or dairy goats are! One little piece of poop and they will avoid that water like the plague.

    If your water containers start building up algae, you are doing a poor job in your management program. Washing with a little bleach, swished around with a brush and rinsed with water will keep your containers clean. Goats are not dirty animals, don’t treat them that way. If you wouldn’t drink out of it what makes you think your goats will?
    Salt blocks are a necessity!  Our motto has been “keep your goats thirsty”, especially your boys, so that they will drink plenty. Just like humans, the more water they drink; the healthier they will be! A red salt block, also known as mineral blocks or brown blocks is a good choice because they contain not only salt, but also trace minerals such as iron, manganese, copper and iodine.

    Now you get my “feed sermon”, sheep feed is for sheep, goat feed is for goats, cattle feed is for cattle, and etc.
    If you buy a bag of feed that says it is for sheep or goats, you are buying health problems for your goats.
    There are so many great goat grains on the market, why jeopardize your goat with a grain formulated for another type of animal?

    Having the tags from several different brands of grains and comparing them, I noticed that one of them specifically says “Do not feed to sheep, product contains copper”, another states “this feed contains supplemental copper, do not feed to sheep” and still another says it’s a Sheep and Goat Feed and it’s for “growing, breeding and lactating sheep and goats”. What do you see wrong with the third one?  Could it be that there is something missing in it that goats need but could poison sheep? Your right, it’s copper. GOATS NEED COPPER. Excess copper will kill sheep.

    An interesting disclaimer that one of the brands listed was: “Results from use of this product may vary based upon differences in customers’ management, health and sanitation, breeding, genetics and feeding”. Even the grain dealers understand about health, sanitation and feeding!

    Copper is necessary for the absorption and utilization of iron in all goat breeds.

    Copper deficiency in a goat is an ugly thing! It causes the goats bones to become brittle  just like a human’s bones when they have rickets.

    Without iron the goat will rapidly develop anemia.  Iron also helps oxidize other vitamins for muscle growth, formation of red blood cells and bone structure. It is stored in the liver and is supplied through the intestinal walls.

    The daily ration should be approximately one pound per doe and one to two pounds per buck (depending on size).
    Another factor in keeping a healthy goat is plenty of “outside” time. Remember vitamin D comes from sunshine and it helps utilize other vitamins in the system properly. You need to get those “barn potatoes” outside! A good indication of lack of vitamin D is “ring around the eyes”. Sometimes the hair actually falls out in this area.

    Kids need proper nutrition too!

    Creep feeding is a means of providing feed for your kids. If you notice your kids at feeding time, they try desperately to get to the feed and keep getting knocked to the side by the bigger stronger goats!

    Adult meat goats are very possessive about their feed and will not let kids other than their own near the feed. Angoras on the other hand are much more laid back and share the feed. Of course, your dairy goats are being fed at milking times, so they will always get the feed they need.

    A separate area that adult goats cannot access will help grow the kids really quickly. They will be in and out of the creep feeder almost constantly snatching little snacks throughout the day.

    Why creep feed?
    It will increase weight gain, kids will reach a target market weight and can be marketed at a younger age. Creep fed kids will have a greater weight per day of age. The conversion of creep feed to body weight gain is a very efficient process.
    Kids begin to nibble hay and feed at a very early age. Some kids may have a functional rumen and be chewing their cud by two weeks of age.

    A creep feeding areas should be located near water, in the shade if possible and near the place where the kids like to loaf. Make sure the feed in the creep is dry and fresh. Never let it run out of feed completely. Clean it out in a timely fashion.  Remember, kids are incredibly fussy and will pick through the grain to find what they are interested in eating.

    Lastly, and, most importantly, for peace of mind, is a good mineral supplement. If you are feeding your goats anything but a well formulated goat feed please make sure you are adding a good supplement to the feed, otherwise you are doing a great disservice to your goats.

    If your goats are on a browse based nutrition program, please remember that a supplement becomes a critical component to their well-being. While the nutritional value of browse often reaches its peak in mid-summer; other times of the year it may not contain enough nutrients to provide your goats with a balanced diet to meet all of their needs.

  • The Goodness of Goats

     Written By Barbara O'Brien

    A few years back I had an assignment to photograph a small goat dairy near Winona, Minnesota. I happily documented the owner and family with the milk goats and even managed to get some nice images of their massive billy goat who was the undisputed leader of the herd.

    They also had many adorable baby goats and I had fun feeding them bottles and watching them play. I noticed that three little white goat kids had escaped from their pen and mentioned this to the owner. She laughed and told me not to worry; those three are always getting out. I finished shooting and was beginning to load up my gear when a small white kid goat jumped into the back of my open minivan.
    “Hey!” I shouted, and was reaching towards him to pull him out, when the other two kids goats jumped in one right after another. They were duplicates of the first goat. All white with big perky ears, and short wagglely tails. “Hey!” I said again, laughing. The owner came over and stated, “You may as well take them. They are too small for the butcher."
    She explained that they were triplets, and although weaned and ready to go, they weren’t worth anything at the sales barn because they were on the small side. They were males and although she’d like to, she can only keep the females or does for her dairy.
    I remembered my husband Kevin’s prior agreement with me that sheep were ok, but no goats! Goats, from our experience, were nothing but trouble. You can’t keep them in their pen, they like to jump on cars (at least the pygmy goats do) and they eat everything in sight.
    But when their three little faces peered out at me as if to say, “Well? Let’s get going,” I knew I was done. Being an animal person, I always have an empty crate in the back of my van, so I loaded the goats in it.
    My four sons were thrilled when the goat kids jumped out of the crate and ran right up to them to be petted. Kevin… not so much. “Goats,” he sighed, shaking his head. “I thought we agreed."
    “They were going to be butchered,” I told him. “I couldn’t let that happen.” As if on cue, the goat kids ran to Kevin, pushing on him with their heads and wagging their short tails. “Ok.” he said to them, while he scratched their heads. “You’re here. You may as well stay.”
    The younger boys promptly named them Marcus, Aralias, and Tiberius. They tend to name animals after what they are reading and it happened to be about the Romans at the time.
    I set the goat kids up in a horse stall with an old calf hut for even more shelter. It wasn’t long before they figured out that they could crawl under the bars of the gate to freedom.
    They became our constant companions. Whether it was chore time, where they insisted on stealing corn from the chicken feeders, or haying time, where they jumped on and off the bales as I tried to move them around, or just hang out in the yard time, where they tried to nibble on the book I reading, they were always part of what we were doing. When a crew came to insulate the house, the goats managed to sneak into the back of their open truck and had to be locked up for the duration.
    We have learned that we can forget about trying to keep them in their pen. There is an old saying, that if your fence can hold water it can hold a goat. We have found this to be true.
    Just when I thought I had closed all the gaps large enough for a small goat to crawl under, they learned to jump right over it. I watched in amazement as they jumped straight up and over, one right after another, like small deer. I wonder why nobody has started the sport of goat agility like they do for dogs. I think goats would be excellent at it.
    And forget about having a garden; although the goats do eat weeds, they also eat all the good plants and shrubbery as well. I remember the first spring we had them, I had a lovely plot of tulips that were just about ready to bloom. The goats had escaped again, and it only took them moments to eat the tops off of every tulip.
    I won’t say they’re all bad though. Now that they are full grown, topping out at 75 pounds each, they protect the sheep and will drive away dogs they don’t know. They are good company and are always curious about what we are doing. Being white, they photograph well, and are easy to find in the dark. And finally, they are always guaranteed to make me smile.

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