Tag Archives: longevity

  • 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 – LINE BREEDING – CROSS BREEDING

    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.

    n                      

  • 10 Tips for Healthier Chickens

    Written By Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®

    All backyard chicken-keepers have an interest in keeping their pet chickens healthy and happy and making minor adjustments to various aspects of their care can have a significant impact on their health and longevity. There are a number of small steps that can be taken to promote the health of backyard chickens.

    1. Provide the correct feed: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/11/feeding-chickens-at-different-ages.html
    As basic as it sounds, chickens must be fed properly to perform optimally and to be healthy. Even though our great grandparents may have fed their flocks cracked corn or scratch, advances in science and the work of poultry nutritionists reveals that backyard chickens require much more nutritionally to live long, healthy lives, while producing maximally nutritious eggs. Chickens at different stages of development require different feed formulations. While the feed manufacturer's recommendations for their products should always be followed, generally speaking, day old chicks through eight weeks old should be provided with starter feed. Adolescent chickens up to 18 weeks of age should be fed a grower or a flock-raiser type ration and laying hens http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/01/how-hen-makes-egg-egg-oddities.html
    should be fed layer ration no earlier than 18 weeks of age or the the appearance of their first egg. Layer feed contains calcium that laying hens need for eggshell production but can be detrimental to younger birds.

    While layer feed contains added calcium, an additional source of calcium, such as oyster shells or crushed eggshells, should be made available in a separate dish, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/05/my-pvc-chicken-feeder-diy-instructions.html
    apart from the feed.

    2. Limit Treats: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html
    The ingredients in commercially prepared chicken feed are carefully calculated by poultry nutritionists to ensure that a chicken’s daily vitamin, mineral and protein requirements are met. Supplemental foods (treats/snacks) http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html
    replace a portion of those essential dietary elements to some degree. Excessive treats, even healthy ones, can cause any of the following: obesity, malformed eggs, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/01/how-hen-makes-egg-egg-oddities.html
    habitual laying of multiple-yolked eggs, vent prolapse, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/prolapse-vent-causes-treatment-graphic.html
    protein deficiencies, feather-picking, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/03/chicken-feather-loss-cannibalism-causes.html
    fatty liver syndrome, egg binding, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/chicken-egg-binding-causes-symptoms.html
    reduced egg production, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/12/decrease-in-egg-production-causes.html
    increased risk of heat stroke http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/beat-heat-how-to-help-chickens-survive.html
    and heart problems. No more than ten percent of a flock's daily dietary intake should consist of treats.

    Common sense should be the guide in treat selection. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html
    The types of foods we require to maximize our own health are the foods we should consider when spoiling our chickens: high protein, whole grains, low salt, low sugar, fruits and vegetables. Dairy products are an exception to this general rule because birds are not equipped with the enzymes necessary to properly digest milk sugars. Some yogurt on occasion is fine and does contain beneficial bacterial cultures, but too much dairy can cause digestive upset and diarrhea. Opt for probiotics specially formulated for poultry http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/02/probiotics-natural-choice-for-healthy.html
    in lieu of yogurt for good gut health. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/02/whats-scoop-on-chicken-poop-digestive.html

    Healthy Treats for Chickens
    Scrambled Eggs- it may seem ironic to feed chickens eggs, but eggs are an outstanding source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin E and beta carotene.2  Chickens will not develop a raw, egg-eating habit http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/egg-eating-chickens-how-to-break-habit.html
    as a result of eating scrambled eggs.  During a molt, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/12/molting-what-is-it-and-how-to-manage-it.html
    eggs are one of the best sources of protein to feed a chicken.

    Pumpkins are packed with antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, minerals including copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus, dietary fiber and protein in the seeds. Pumpkin seeds contain 30 grams of protein per 100 grams of seeds.1  When  pumpkins are in season, I make my flock "Peeps' Pumpkin Pie," http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/chickens-pumpkin-seeds-and-worm
    for a nutritionally power-packed treat. Unsupported claims propose feeding pumpkin seeds to chickens as a “natural dewormer," however, there is no scientific evidence anywhere to suggest that pumpkin seeds are capable of deworming or reducing worm loads in chickens. As such, I do not rely on pumpkin seeds as a preventative measure or as a treatment option in my flock. I give my chickens pumpkins and pumpkin seeds simply because they're nutritious and they enjoy them.

     

    Meal worms are a good source of protein, reportedly containing 49% http://www.exoticnutrition.com/limein.html
    to 51%. http://www.happyhentreats.com/Products.html
    They can be purchased live or dried and can also be farmed very easily at home. During a molt, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/12/molting-what-is-it-and-how-to-manage-it.html
    meal worms are an especially smart snack choice.

    Homemade Flock Block Substitute- http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/flock-block-substitute-recipe-healthy.html
    Flock Block is a commercially available treat for chickens that is intended to entertain them and fulfill their natural pecking instincts.They can be purchased at feed stores for approximately $13. I have purchased the product once or twice, but have always thought I could make a similar treat myself. I made my own treat block recently and am much happier knowing that my homemade Flock Block Substitute http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/flock-block-substitute-recipe-healthy.html
    is a healthy, fresh, nutritious treat for my flock. The recipe includes Omega Ultra Egg, which increases Omega-3 levels in eggs, improves laying rates and chickens' health and lends naturally occurring amino acids to the recipe, which serve as important building blocks of the protein in feathers and eggs.

    A note about scratch. Scratch is affectionately referred to as ‘chicken crack’ for a reason; chickens love it, can’t get enough of it and it’s not the best choice for them. Scratch typically consists of cracked corn and a mixture of grains, which tends to lack an appreciable amount of protein, vitamins and minerals. Scratch should be thought of as chicken candy and only given in small amounts occasionally. *Scratch should not be mixed into the flock’s feed.*

     

    3. Clean Water: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/the-advantages-of-poultry-nipples.html
    Provide clean, fresh water to chickens at all times. Again, this sounds like common sense, but most backyard chickens drink from waterers harboring fecal matter, bacteria and other organisms that can make them sick. The solution to dirty water is employing poultry nipple waterers. "Nobody who is raising chickens professionally has used cups, bell drinkers or troughs in the past 25 years. ... Nipples have been used successfully on literally billions of chickens. The professional farmers across North America have made nipple drinkers the standard for all chickens. ... The disease reduction is so striking that there is no doubt which [system] is better." http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/the-advantages-of-poultry-nipples.html

    4. Apple Cider Vinegar in drinking water:
    Adding apple cider vinegar http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/make-raw-apple-cider-vinegar-acv-with.html
    with the mother to the drinking water of chickens can improve their gut health by changing the pH of the water, making it inhospitable to many organisms. "Acidifying water alters the gut’s bacteria, slowing the growth of nasty bacteria, and giving a boost to good bacteria. Acid also helps control coccidiosis and Clostridium bacteria, which can cause a fatal disease called necrotic enteritis." http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/make-raw-apple-cider-vinegar-acv-with.html
    One to two tablespoons per gallon of water is the suggested amount of vinegar.

    5. Clean Living Quarters
    A cleaner coop is a healthier coop. Chickens have sensitive respiratory systems which are easily irritated by mold and ammonia from accumulated droppings. Clean coops are less likely to house external parasites such as mites and poultry lice. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/poultry-lice-and-mites-identification.html
    For five ways to keep a cleaner coop with less effort, click here. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/5-tips-for-cleaner-coop-with-less-effort.html

    6. Dry Bedding:
    A wet environment created by accumulated droppings or spilled water, provides a breeding ground for coccidia and other harmful organisms to flourish. Coccidiosis http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/12/coccidiosis-what-backyard-chicken.html
    is an intestinal disease that can rapidly kill chickens if it goes undetected or untreated. Three ways to ensure the driest environment possible are:
    by employing a droppings board http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/droppings-boards-because-poop-happens.html
    and removing droppings from it daily
    by using sand as coop litter/bedding http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/09/chicken-coop-bedding-sand-litter.html
    and as ground cover in the run
    by keeping waterfowl and chickens in different yards (Less moisture results in fewer opportunities for organisms to grow that can make chickens sick.)
    Many diseases and illnesses are easily kept at bay by keeping living conditions dry.

    7. Observe Droppings:
    The first sign of a potential health problem often will be found in a chicken's droppings. Knowing which droppings are normal and which are abnormal http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/02/whats-scoop-on-chicken-poop-digestive.html
    is an extremely useful tool in assessing  chickens' health. Installing a droppings board underneath the roost provides a regular opportunity to observe abnormalities unobscured by shavings or other bedding material. Keeping a well-stocked first aid kit http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/01/chicken-sick-bay-first-aid-kit-be.html
    handy to treat some of the more common illness and disease early is highly recommended.

    8. Break up Broody Hens: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/05/broody-breaker-when-hens-mood-to-hatch.html
    A broody hen is one that is inspired to sit on a collection of eggs until she hatches chicks. Whether she is sitting on a clutch of fertile eggs or an empty nest, she will sit and wait for chicks to hatch indefinitely. In the 21 days normally required to hatch eggs, a broody leaves her nest briefly once or twice daily to eat, drink and relieve herself, neglecting her own health for the good of her anticipated chicks. Her comb will lose color, feathers lose sheen and she will lose a noticeable amount of weight. She can tolerate this drastic change in 21 day stints, but protracted periods of broodiness are unhealthy for her. She becomes vulnerable to external parasites, malnourished and emaciated.  Broody hens that will not be permitted to hatch chicks, either due to the unavailability of fertile eggs or the preference of the chicken-keeper, she should be broken/broken-up http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/05/broody-breaker-when-hens-mood-to-hatch.html
    as soon as possible to return them to their regular routines.

    9. No Supplemental Light for Youngsters: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/09/supplemental-light-in-coop-why-how.html
    Providing supplemental lighting when natural daylight hours decrease to 13 hours or less is a safe and common practice undertaken to keep hens producing eggs in the autumn and winter months. However, adolescent chickens should not be exposed to supplemental lighting as it can cause them to reach sexual maturity too soon, resulting in egg-laying before their bodies are properly equipped. Egg-binding http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/chicken-egg-binding-causes-symptoms.html
    and prolapsed uterus http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/prolapse-vent-causes-treatment-graphic.html
    are two of the possible consequences of premature egg-laying.

    10. Provide Dust Bathing Areas:
    A dust bath http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/01/chicken-dust-baths-ultimate-spa.html
    is the chicken equivalent of a daily shower. Chickens dig shallow spots in dirt, sand, or even flower pots to work into their skin and feathers to aid in skin and feather maintenance and parasite control. A dust bath can be as simple as a dry patch of dirt in the backyard or a shallow bucket filled with sand. No additives or supplements are necessary to accomplish the objective. According to Gail Damerow http://www.utc.edu/Academic/TennesseeWriters/authors/damerow.gail.html
    in The Chicken Encyclopedia, :    http://bit.ly/10iY4Pt
    adding diatomaceous earth (DE) wood ashes or lime-and-sulfur garden powder to their dust bath is hazardous to their respiratory health http://shagbarkbantams.com/de.htm

    and should be avoided unless they are "seriously infested" with parasites. Even in that case, she writes, "the benefit may outweigh the danger of TEMPORARILY adding such materials" (p. 93, emphasis added).

    For an extensive list of healthy treats for chickens, visit my blog here. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html

    The treat trail. They will follow me anywhere for treats!
    JOIN ME ON FACEBOOK! http://www.facebook.com/Egg.Carton.Labels.by.ADozenGirlz

    Further reading:
    1 http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/pumpkin.html
    2 http://www.motherearthnews.com/eggs.aspx#ixzz2AcKccLNq
    http://www.poultryhelp.com/toxicplants.html

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