…Continued from Part 1:
- Our goats are all housed in a large pens, with a 3-sided shelter facing out of the wind. Our buck is housed in a seperate pen from the does, and I like to keep a third pen handy for weaning kids if necessary. The shelters are bedded with a mixture of pine shavings and straw, using a semi-deep-bedding system. The composting that results helps provide heat in the winter. In cold weather, since we don’t have a barn, we close up the front of their shed with straw bales, leaving a small entry/exit point, which helps them stay warm.
- Does and buck rotate turns in the pasture (at least, that’s the way it was until Stallion started jumping the fence. Now, they are only turned out together, to ensure he behaves!), ensuring all get plenty of time to exercise and play. We have noticed all ring-barking of trees in their pens stopped once we started regular turnout and browse time.
- All goats receive a grass/alfalfa mix hay. Does and kids have it free-choice all day, since they are likely growing, pregnant, or lactating. The buck gets about 5 pounds a day. I would prefer feeding it free-choice, especially during the rut season, but have to limit due to Shiloh the donkey being housed with him. The buck also gets about 1/2 pound of grain a day during rut or when any additional weight is needed. Does also receive about 1 pound each of alfalfa pellets every day, in addition to occasional veggie and fruit scraps from the kitchen, and pasture browse. Finally, most does and kids receive a homemade grain mixture each day, with amount varying per individual.
- In the shelter, I have 4 containers of free-shoice supplements: a bucket of Thorvin kelp meal, a container of Hoegger goat mineral, a container of a dolomite and copper (6:1) mixture, and white salt block (which I seldom see used). In addition, I mix raw apple cider vinegar into the water trough.
- I regularly use herbal dewormer for internal parasites. Because its what I have, I use the Hoegger version for now, but due to the Black Walnut it contains, this must be done with caution due to Shiloh. In the future, I will be using Molly’s herbs, as they will make it without the Black walnut, which is safer for equines, but sill effective. Between herbal treatments, I mix diatomaceous earth into the goat grain. This further helps with internal parasites.
- For the most part, general maintenance for goats like bucks and wethers is relatively simple. They need their hooves trimmed about every 6-8 weeks, and if they’re otherwise healthy and fed properly, that’s about it. An occasional brushing may or may not be enjoyed. Bucks may need occasional clean-up in rut season to prevent skin problems caused by some of their icky habits. Kids and does require a bit more maintenance, depending on their use.
- Shortly after birth, you may choose to disbud kids (remove their horns) and castrate the bucklings. Both are fairly simple processes, and assuming they are done correctly, are a one-time deal. When it comes to raising kids, levels of maintenance will vary with the program you choose. We continue to apply the “natural, as-God-designed” approach as much as possible. We allow our does to deliver, groom, and bond with their kids, assisting only if absolutely necessary. We also prefer the outcome of dam-raised kids that spend their early days as part of a herd. Of course, we handle the kids daily, so they are just as friendly as any bottle-raised kid. We leave kids on their dams full-time for the first 2 weeks, then, for our milking does, we seperate the kids at night so we can milk in the morning, then put the kids back in with mom to spend the day. We feel this seems to create both well-muscled, thriving kids, while still encouraging early rumen development. As a general rule, we like to wean the kid entirely from their dam around 8 weeks of age. After weaning, they receive a diet of free-choice grass/alfalfa hay, the same supplements as the older goats, and small amounts of alfalfa pellets and/or grain as needed. Bucklings, wethers, and culled does will either be sold or harvested between 8-12 weeks of age. By the time retained young does are bred for the first time, they will have joined the adult doe herd, and be fed similiarly throughout the pregnancy.
- Adult does that are either pregnant or lactating (all mature does around here are doing one or the other) are fed as stated above. Milking is the most time- and energy-consuming part of dairy goats. Milking twice a day (or more) gives the most milk for the longest time period. Many folks milk once a day quite successfully, but you can expect less milk overall, and increased chance of the doe ceasing production sooner. Contrary to popular belief, a doe does not necessarily have to be bred every year to make milk. In fact, most studies I have read have shown this to be the case with most does. While some individuals will dry off naturally within 10-12 months, and must be rebred and freshen (give birth) in order to make milk again, most does can be milked for 2 or even more years. I have read of several cases where does milked 3-4 years without re-freshening, and one case where the doe was milked for 10 years after her first freshening! Some strong dairy line does may have begin making milk without ever being bred, though this is fairly rare. In any case, pregnant or lactating does should be monitored more closely, to ensure their health is at an optimum level. They can lose health quickly due to the increased demands on their bodies.
- The only vaccine I give is the tetanus vaccine around the time of disbudding.
- Castrating of bucklings can be done by banding or with a burdizzo. This coming year, I will be using the banding method, but plan to use both methods in the future, dependant on the situation.
When it comes to goats, people say you either love ’em or hate ’em, and there isn’t much in between. I have grown to love them, despite any downfalls. They are fun animals, babies are absolutely precious, and the milk they provide is a vital staple for our family and our own health. I know I am hooked for the long run!