Monday, February 13, 2012

goat talk

Last Summer I brought home my first 2 goats, soon followed by 2 more, and then 2 more in the Fall.  It's been a whirlwind of learning these last 7 months and I'm thankful to all the breeders who have spent time talking with me and answering the zillions of questions I asked them, I always had a pen and paper ready whenever I called so I could take notes.  There were many books to read and blogs to peruse about goat care. I have followed some blogs over the last year and have learned so much, probably the most from
Wild Roots Homestead and Fiasco Farm .   There is a lot to learn about goats, I'm sure once you've been raising them for several years and you fall into good routines the information just becomes a part of you.  That's why it's so good to talk to and read information from different people who have raised goats for years, their experience and hands on information to newbies like me is incredibly valuable.

When I bought Zolena and Jersey last July, they were a package deal along with a milking stand and all sorts of supplies that a new goat owner would need. It was truly a lucky day for me to see the ad on craigslist for them, I knew right away when we met, they were meant to come home with me.  You can see below all the additional stuff I got, stainless steel milking pails and strainers were valuable right away, along with the milk stand.  Included in the supplies there is birthing stuff for this spring, first aid supplies, a banding tool, hoof trimmers and files, brushes and picks, copper bolus, and a variety of misc. stuff that a goat owner needs at certain times.    

It was so amazing to get this package deal as a beginner from someone who was getting out of goats.  The package was 2 top of the line year old does, a lamancha (milking almost a gallon per day) and a nubian, all the supplies and a milking stand, plus she let me make payments (thank you Beverly).  I know that she went onto my blog when picking out her prospective buyer, there were a couple of us who wanted them, and I feel fortunate she chose us here at Applegarth Farm to bless.   

Learning all about goats began in earnest last summer and all through the Fall.  I've learned about different breeds of goats, milking, feeding, immunizations,breeding, disbudding, banding, hoof care and all the myriad of  information you need to know about, supplements and minerals, nutrition,  fencing and their general well being.   Goats need a proper shelter and good fencing, our fencing projects have gone on and on.  They eat a lot more than you might think, milk goats need good alfalfa, grass hay and grain and I like mine to be able to forage naturally, so they need larger pastures that include forest and undergrowth. 

Breeding is part of owning milk goats and they need to be bred once every year, or every other year if you decide to milk through the winter like I am, rotating my Lamancha and Nubian, so then we'll have a milk supply year round. I only had 2 does to get bred this last Fall, first I had to learn when they were in heat and the signs that indicate they were in heat, then I had to discover when they would be in a standing heat, plus we discovered each one has their own personal tastes.  For Joon we brought home a buck after a failed attempt, and for Jersey we have now been back one more time,the first breeding apparently didn't take and she came back into heat the end of January.  These things are somewhat mysterious to me and I'm still learning.   

Disbudding and scurs have been another question of mine, how do you deal with scurs?  All four of my Nigerians have scurs, should I worry about them, trim them, file them, let them grow and risk breaking?  These are all questions I've had.  The proper age to disbud is around 1-2 weeks, a proper disbudding job lasts forever, and makes the goat show worthy.  I have to learn how to do the disbudding right myself, this is going to be a learning curve I'm sure.  One of the things not included in my stuff was a disbudding iron, so that is one expense I'm planning for this Spring.  Scurs are little deformed horns that grow back after they were disbudded, bucks have so much testosterone it's usually inevitable they will grow scurs.  If they're doelings their little horn buds either weren't done enough and grew back or they weren't disbudded early enough.  I'm going to have to trim Stormy's scurs because one has curved around and is going to put pressure on his head, I'm a little nervous about doing it, but will have my blood stop powder nearby.

Feed, how much, how often, what kind of hay, what kind of grain?  Water with a little apple cider vinegar in it is good for them, loose minerals and baking soda are important to regularly provide.  I'm learning how to feed without wasting the expensive alfalfa, it has been a dilemma, and I have plans to make a covered manger that they can feed off of both sides and there is a tray to catch the falling stuff.    We feed 3 times per day, breakfast lunch and dinner, and sometimes a snack when we're walking about and they're asking, generally I try to keep food in front of them all the time like I do with the chickens and rabbits.   

Deworming is important, bringing in goats from several different herds had it's challenges, along with not having rotational pasture yet.  I have watched the goats closely and have wormed them in early Fall, and again just last month (usually you will worm twice per year).  I've also gotten an herbal wormer with wormwood, and plan to give that routinely.  The signs of worms are whitish gums, look at your goats gums they should be pink. You will also want to have a fecal done by a vet to determine if you even need to worm.  I got a microscope for Christmas from my husband just for doing the fecals myself, and plan to learn, having both dogs and goats that need regular worming, this will be necessary. I gave my goats Ivermectin last month, and will give them Safeguard next time, it's important to switch wormers. 

Trimming feet is easy if they stand still, mine will only stand still while eating so I'm quick at it while I give them some grain, their hooves need to be trimmed every few months throughout the year. Goats also need to be immunized once per year with a CDT booster, and kids need the shots given just like puppies in several doses at a young age.  They also need to be tested annually for CAE, & CL, I haven't done the tests or immunizations and plan to do them this Spring. Doing these tests is something that needs to done as a responsible breeder in order to sell your young goat kids.  If you are planning to just have a couple backyard goats you may not need to do them.   They need minerals and selenium and copper given to them at the appropriate times.

I have loved learning all about goats and their care, it's important to me to do it right, and be knowledgeable.  We'll be having kids come May and I am going to be like a nervous new mother when Joon goes into labor, hovering over her to make sure everyone is ok.  The goats have all become like special members of our family and we cherish them all.

If you have goats and know some good tips to pass on to a beginner like me, I'd love to hear them. 



Anonymous said...

Wow I had no idea that you needed to have so much on hand for keeping goats! I want to have goats and chickens when my little ones are older! Right now I am about to have 4 ages 5 and under! My hands are full :) But I enjoy your blog so much and reading and learning all I can when I have the time... fun stuff! :)

Deborah Granick

(Jim Brown's daughter)

Jewel said...

Hi Deborah, So good to hear from you, I remember the days with all the little one's, enjoy them it will go quicker than you can imagine.

Goats are not hard to care for, but they do require certain things, like anything once you're all set up it's fairly simple. Thanks for following along on our journey, stay in touch.