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The Goat Keeper's Diary. This is an ongoing diary of the happenings on the farm, with some of my own comments on goat management and philosophy of goat keeping.
December 10, 2014. Youngest kids at play after the big wet. See below.
The young kids and their dams were locked up in the shearing shed for over two days while the "big wet" was on......and are they all happy to be out again.
December 7, 2014. Goats do not like the "big wet".
We have had some very wet weather over the past couple of days and this poses very serious risks for the goat herd. While yesterday we had 80 ml of rain, today we are up to 70 ml and it is still raining and windy, so we are at least 150 ml for the rain event. Temperature is about 16 degrees now. This means for the past two days the goats have been at risk of becoming chilled to the point that they could easily die of cold exposure. While it was not predicted that we would have anything like this amount of rain, fortunately I had prepared the goats, just in case.
Some of the does have small kids at foot, and without shelter these kids would not have lasted long as they would not be able to create sufficient heat to offset the surface area that was being chilled. The bigger kids would have lasted longer, but with the prolonged chilling, many of those would not have made it. In an exposed paddock situation, with the length of the exposure to wind and rain now reaching some 48 hours it is likely that many of the adult goats would also have not been able to keep warm enough to survive.
During this wet weather, all the goats here have shed shelter of some type to reduce the exposure to the elements. The heavily pregnant does and does with young kids at foot are contained in the shearing shed, the other does and kids under and around the shed, and the dry animals in other paddocks with some shedding shelter. The goats only graze between the worst of the weather, and the goats locked in the shearing shed need to be hand fed. The does who are still to kid need special attention, for if their blood sugar levels drop for more than 24 hours due to lack of food, they may well abort their kids or perhaps prematurely give birth, or it may result in pregnancy toxemia.
While it is not useful to turn goats into "soft" goats who will not go out to graze and wait for the owner to come with the food bucket, there are the realities of the effect of cold and rain on their welfare and survival.
Even with the level of shelter provided, rain events are stressful for goats. When it passes, we will take careful inspection of all the goats over the next few days watching for signs of labored breathing (pneumonia), scouring, lameness, and goats not integrated with the herd.
Goat keeping is a special responsibility. I see the sheep next door and the cattle "out the back" coping with this weather seemingly without much effort. One of the main differences is that they carry fat over their back and this helps to keep them warm. Goats have little fat over their back and so they feel the effects of cold and wet conditions. However when the summer comes the tables will be turned. Even on the hottest days, (with the exception of very young kids who cannot cope with being exposed to very hot sun) the goats just keep eating and lie around under the trees as if they are very much enjoying themselves.
See below for the wind chill chart. This only includes wind speed and temperature (F)......can you imagine how including being wet as well adds to the chill factor.
November 30, 2014. Keeping an eye on the kids for problems. Secondly the hormones are rising in the bucks.
We are still kidding here with one or two does kidding each day. As it is warm, the kidding is much easier and the kids have the best chance of survival. It is important to keep an eye on the other kids to make sure all is well. Once the kids are a few days old, our experience is that they are quite robust and it is quite rare to lose a kid once they are strongly bonded to their dam and know how to follow and find her. When kids are a few weeks old they are starting to eat with their mothers and at this time due to the change to their diet they may have a little scour. If they are still well we do nothing and they soon get over it. It is quite rare but if they seem unwell, then we treat for scours. The main problem at this time of year is grass seeds in does and kids eyes (and really in the whole herd)....so keep an eye out for closing eyes with moisture coming from the eye. We check the eye and remove any seeds and then use an ointment Orbinon to sooth and treat any infection.
The Bucks are starting to feel that breeding season is getting close and there is a lot more buck activity, checking the pecking order by challenging each other, spraying, and making very bucky noise. This is the time when bucks can lose a lot of weight as they forget to eat when the hormones are running high. So keep an eye on them and split them into smaller groups if you can. Sometimes they gang up on one buck and chase and jump on him until he is exhausted and so tormented that he will be at risk of illness or malnutrition. You need to remove a buck like this to a smaller group where he has a chance to recover.
It is not only the older bucks that are feeling "their oats" even the kid bucks are starting to chase the does around making their whooping noises. It is quite a difficult decision as to when to remove these buck kids as if they are too small they suffer a significant setback by weaning early. But if they are fertile they may impregnate the does. Once buck kids are about 25kgs they are likely to be starting to be fertile so it is time to wean them and remove them from the kid drop.
November 25, 2014. In a perfect world......does and their udders.
Over the past few days some of the more mature does have been kidding and while they slip those kids out pretty quickly and know what to do, they do have a few other little issues to deal with. While it is not common, sometimes mature age does look for a kid to nurse for the few hours before they have actually birthed themselves. This is where the word "kidnapped" comes from, as the does will take newborn kids from other does if they get the chance. Sometimes you will see does fighting over newborn kids, and it is not good for the kids to be the subject of such affection. Occasionally you will see a doe with a group of new born kids, and one or two other does trying to get them back. This is not good for a stud as every kid needs to be able to be genetically identified with its correct sire and dam. A maiden doe does not really stand a chance against a big mature doe and will usually have her kids stolen and just look on despairingly as they are mothered by the intruding doe. The lesson in this is that it is better to both join, and kid, maiden does separately from the mature does as it is unlikely that a maiden doe will kidnap new born kids.
The other thing I wanted to mention is the tendency for some older does of some genetic lines to have bigger than normal bags of milk when they kid. Generally this is promoted as a good thing as the doe will have plenty of milk for the kids. I would like to oppose this view for while I am a big supporter of good milking does, it is not a good thing if a doe has an udder that is so big it hangs down below the hocks. When you see a Boer kid trying to find the teat, it usually looks for it at a higher level than itself. The does who have low hanging udders make it hard for the kid to find the teat. If they happen to have a blind extra teat a little higher up the udder this is the teat the kid will try to suck for milk. Without assistance, and specially if the weather is bad, these kids are at high risk of starvation as the teat is not in a good place for the kid to find. The other problem with these big udders is that often have swollen teats that are very hard for the newborn kid to suck. Some does have poor attachment of the udder and this results in the doe carrying a low udder that is not necessarily due to her having a lot of milk.
Big udders at kidding are also more likely to result in mastitis as they are more likely to be damaged.
As a goat breeder it is up to us to breed the does that can easily manage the birth, bonding and feeding of her kids with the least intervention on our part.
November 12, 2014. Boers personality.....they never cease to amaze me.
Last evening I was checking the kidded does to see if there were any problems, especially with the newer kids. One doe who kidded about 5 days ago had obviously "misplaced" one of her kids. She had one kid with her but was looking for the other as she knew she had two. (Some does are pretty numerically challenged, and often can't remember they have two kids, at least for quite a while.) At this farm all the does and kids voluntarily come home every night and sleep in a smaller paddock around the shearing shed.
To continue....the doe went back into the bigger paddock and went looking for her kid calling for it and trailing its twin behind. I decided to go looking for it too making the assumption it was asleep somewhere in the long grass. I went round and round the paddock and could see no sign of it. Eventually I ended up higher in the paddock on the top of the dam bank where I could get the best view of the paddock.
Some distance away, I could see the doe still looking for and calling her kid. What happened next was the amazing bit. The doe came across the paddock directly to me, stood right next to me on the bank wall, looked at me, looked across the paddock and bellowed loudly for her kid. We stood together on the bank wall for some minutes looking for her beloved kid. While this doe is not wild she is not particularly friendly to me. However this little incident demonstrated the unspoken bond there is between a goat keeper and their goats. This doe was clearly, in goat language, asking me to help find her baby. I found this extremely touching.
Some time later I found her kid, it had joined some does in the adjoining paddock and had come home with them. I picked up the kid, returned it to her welcoming mother. We will now go back to the the original arrangement between this doe and myself. We will be slightly aloof, but underneath we both know we have an endearing bond.
November 7, 2014. The realities of kidding....don't wish for too much.
I hear lots of people, especially new to the industry, wanting triplets and quads so they can build up their herd more quickly, or to make more money as they have more to sell. Here is the reality. Unless you have lots of people - power to attend all births, you will lose many kids if you have many triplet and quad births. Here are the results of the kidding here so far. Stats are either born dead or died soon after from birth complications.
Of 44 does to kid so far, 1 doe had quads, 13 does had triplets, 20 does had twins, 10 does had singles.
Here is the reality, quads 3 live kids and 1 dead kid
triplets 24 live kids 15 dead kids
twins 37 live kids 3 dead kids
singles 8 live kids 2 dead kids
I am full time on the farm and keep an eye on the does especially if I know a doe is going to kid. By that I mean I will go to the paddock a number of times a day just to check that does are not in trouble, and if I happen to be there at the time of the birth, I may stay to check all is well. When kids are born, I take care to notice if the kids drink and if not I will either warm some colostrum and give the kid/s a bit of a warm drink and then they inevitably find the energy and motivation to find the teat. Alternatively I bring the doe to the shed and assist the kid to drink. If the weather is very bad I will organise the does to kid in shelter i.e. in or near the shearing shed.
Here, the main reasons kids die is either they take too long to be born and are too stressed, or drown in birth fluids, or they are born backwards and drown in the birth fluids as they start breathing when the umbilical cord is broken and their head is still in the birth canal, or kids are born in their sack without the sack breaking when the kid hits the ground and they drown or smother. The risk of drowning in fluids or in sack or cold stress is much higher in triplets and quads as the kids are much smaller and the dam has a lot more to do and may move a little from one spot as she produces more kids and some are not so well attended to when they are born. Occasionally a kid will be born weak or dead from some other reason e.g. damaged umbilical cord in utero, or result of virus or bacterial infection etc. but this is rather uncommon. Kids born at night are at higher risk as it is colder.
If you have enough person power to supervise each kidding from beginning to end, you will save almost every kid. If a kid is coming out backwards you see the back legs instead of the front legs and you get it out fast so it does not drown. If you see whopping size legs coming, the kid is probably a single and you can assist the doe to kid so the process is faster and not so traumatic for the kid. If the doe delivers multiple kids, each kid can be cleaned and warmed and made sure it has its first drink.
For me triplets and quads are undesireable. I find it stressful to see dead kids, and multiples of more than two are by far the most likely to die. Twins are just perfect as they are a good size without being too big. The doe can feed them and look after them without trouble, and they do well with a sibling to sleep with. Triplets are a problem even after they are born, as not many does can successfully raise triplets especially under normal paddock conditions. However if you are the position to give extra feed and care to the doe and her multiple kids, you must still watch for damage to the teats of the doe, and to make sure all of the kids are receiving sufficient milk to survive.
You have to decide what type of farming you are undertaking so that your expectations are met. However you must take care not to just believe all you read about multiples being good, the reality may be quite different on your farm.
Happy kidding.....I still have lots of does to kid.
October 30, 2014. Still kidding....ouch it has to hurt.
Yesterday one of the four year old does was kidding and I happened to be near to her at the stage where two big front legs were visible. The doe was pushing pretty hard as I could see this was a big kid. She would have delivered this kid no problem as he was correctly positioned and she was getting there. Sometimes if the doe is quiet I give a little assistance by pulling on the legs of the kid so the delivery is quicker. I decided to give her a bit of a helping hand and pulled on one leg first. This kid was so strong he immediately pulled his leg right out of my hand and did this several times before I could get a better hold. Note: when pulling kids do not pull straight out towards the tail, but pull downwards towards the hocks as this is a more natural position and is easier on the doe.
Back to the action. This kid was delivered quite quickly and the doe was pretty pleased to have him born. She cleaned him up and while he looked a bit "shell shocked" he was fine. A big kid like this gets a lot more squeezing in the birth canal than a smaller kid, so don't be surprised if they need a little time to recover from the process. Of course this is why big single kids are quite often born dead, as the birthing time is longer and more traumatic for the kid. He was a big kid so I was really surprised to see the doe was preparing to deliver a second kid! She did so and delivered another big kid but a doe this time. This kid was just about jumping out of its skin and demanding milk immediately. I often find the second kid gets an easier birth as everything in the birth canal is prepared by the earlier kid. The doe cleaned them both up and fed them and all was well. I weighed both kids, the buck kid was 5.5kg and the doe kid 4.5kg.
That is a big effort for a paddock fed doe. For those who are interested, the sire of these kids is Koos. You can see pictures of him on the buck page.
October 15 2014. Don't invite your friends around to watch while does are kidding.
Just another note on kidding while it is fresh in my mind. The above is true because strangers and strange voices will often put a doe off kidding, so please keep kidding time private and don't plan to go away or have a party at your place when the does are due to kid.
Here is an example of what can happen. Today, at least so far, was not a great day for kidding. First thing that greeted me when I check the does this morning was a newborn dead kid, no mother nearby and not cleaned or cared for . Not a great picture of a caring dam and she will be noted for one more year. If she does it again, I am afraid it is sausages for her.....and I don't mean she will be eating them! She was a maiden so I will give her another chance. And also to be fair to her it was a single big kid (4kg) and was probably an exhausting and painful delivery.
The second thing that greeted me was a doe who was obviously about to kid as she had separated herself away from the herd, but she seemed very restless, so I took a look. There was a problem, as there was a head sticking out of the doe but no feet and the kid looked pretty dead to me. What to do. The doe is an experienced mother and fairly quiet, so I took a minute to prepare myself by cleaning and disinfecting my hands, and then put my hand in to investigate. No legs even close to the head that was sticking out, however I could feel another head and a set of front legs in a sack close behind the poor exposed head. Obviously they could not come out together and the kid with its head out was not offering any feet so I pushed her head back into the doe, found the second head and legs and pulled that kid out, and then went back for the original kids legs which were much easier to find with the second kid out. The first kid was not well after having its head hanging out of the doe for some time before I got there. Not sure it will make it. However after cleaning up these two, down went the mother and immediately had another kid no problems, and a few minutes later, she got down again and had a fourth kid. Obviously there was a crowd of kids in there and they were in a hurry to get out! Except for the first one they are all well, and have drunk and will be o.k.
While I was helping with this doe, I noticed another doe cleaning up what appeared to be a red kid. When I took a closer look it was not red it was stained brown with its birth waste before it was born. This is usually a sign of kid in distress and delayed kidding, however this kid was up and looking for milk from the doe and all seemed ok. However all was not o.k. and the doe was obviously going to have another kid as she kept getting up and down and pushing, but nothing was happening.
So, for the second time this morning, I prepared myself, put my hand in the doe and could only feel the top of a head and no feet and there was lots of very brown mucus. There is no question, the kid must come out or the doe will die. So I lifted the head so that the nose was pointing to the opening of the vagina, found one of the legs that was folded backwards, hooked my finger behind the knee and straightened it out toward the vagina, did the same with the other leg and then pulled the kid out. It was very dead and swollen and had obviously died some time before today. So this doe was very lucky to have a live kid at all, and lucky I was there to help get the dead kid out. She is a great mother and didn't seem to be put off by a dirty brown kid, has lots of milk and not had a problem before. I used uterine pessaries and antibiotics for both does to help reduce the probability of infection. I am confident they will be fine.
These two problems are quite rare in kidding but as in all pregnancies and specially multiple birthing, things can go wrong and it is important to keep a close eye on the does. While it wasn't the best mornings kidding, the does are all doing well and most of the kids are fine.
I guess the moral of this story is to develop knowledge about what is normal when does are kidding, and if there is a problem deal with it either yourself or seek veterinary assistance sooner rather than later.
Good luck with your kidding. Pictures of the kids soon. About 60 of them so far and quite a few does to go.
Bring on the warmth, it is so much easier for the kidding does and newborn kids when it is warm.
October 15 2014. When does are kidding, everything else stops!
Our first kids are now several weeks old and really booming along and really require little attention. Sometimes they do something really stupid like put their head somewhere it shouldn't be. But overall they have been no trouble. However it is my experience that the first few does to kid from each group are the ones that cause most anxiety for their goat owner. Remember I talked about signs of iodine deficiency. After the remainder of the does were treated with Lugols iodine, there is no sign of goiter in the kids now.
The second group of does have "hit their straps" and dropped their kids quite quickly and unfortunately during the worst weather we have had for some time. I like does to kid in the paddock and then bring them in if the weather is going to be poor. However sometimes you just do the best you can when the weather is a high risk to kidding does. Last Monday was one of those days and nights. Day temperature was only 12 degress and over an inch of rain. So every corner of the shed was filled with kidding does with only one doe having a really tough time. This doe was holding two kids and a mummified kid and did not appear to have the right "mojo" in place to really spit them out so I had to go in and get them. The signs that all was not right was that she had all the signs of kidding e.g. separating off from the herd, talking, mucus and restlesness. However the warning signs were that she did not really start to push the kids out after several hours and the mucus was a brown colour instead of the usual clear mucus. The result one live kid and one that didn't make it, and a really unwell doe. She has come good now but there is always a question whether she will be fertile for next year after human intervention like this.
The rest of the does popped out mostly twins, some triplets, a couple of sets of quads, and a few singles......all doing well and finding their place in the goat world.....i.e. you cannot drink from any doe you like or you will get thumped! More soon.
October 4, 2014. Not all does are equal!
Do you remember me talking about this doe with the brown behind in an earlier discussion on colour. Well, we recently weighed all the does who are not heavily in kid at the moment. This doe was the heaviest of all of them weighing in at 91 kgs. That is a heavy doe! She is not hand fed and has just boomed away on the good paddock feed this year. It is worth weighing all your animals from time to time as it is surprising who are the lightest and who are the heaviest goats in the herd. Her dam, sired by Ginger Meggs, is the daughter of a Junior National show winner (These are pure Nico Botha genetics). Her sire is Terraweena Lucas from an AI program here.
September 19,2014. Boer goat semen arrives in Nepal.
Recently we sent a large shipment of Boer goat semen to Nepal. The aim of the semen is to improve the meat producing capabilities of local goats there. A big thank you to all those involved in making this a successful export including Roger Carmody and staff at Riverina Genetics, Craig Maine and staff from Gene-movers, Colin Ramsay, staff from DAFF and other Government officials, personnel from FAO and Livestock services Nepal. Also thanks to the bucks who "contributed willingly". These included our own bucks, Bart, Hooper, Hoss, Koos, and Rock. Above is the tank with its seal attached by DAFF Biosecurity just before shipment to Kathmandu, Nepal.
September 19,2014. Even more on the iodine deficiency.
Yes, it is pretty clear now that there is a slight iodine deficiency this year. Recently, twin doe kids were born with slightly enlarged glands either side of the neck, just under the jaw. No doubt about it. The kids were full term, quite strong, full coat and except for the slightly swollen glands, no other sign of iodine deficiency. The dam had no sign of iodine deficiency at all.
These "little eggs" either side of the throat should not be confused with the enlarged saliva glands that kids get as they grow, especially the fat kids. They can be wrongly be diagnosed as iodine deficiency, so ask a vet if you do not know the difference. Happy kidding.
September 6, 2014 More on the iodine deficiency
Just a follow up on the newborn triplets with goitres. They were full term kids weighing 4.5kgs, 4kgs, and the doe kid was 3kgs. They had full coat and attached umbilical cords etc. I offered lugols in water to all the goats and none of them was the least bit interested. None of the other newborn kids or the does had signs of iodine deficiency, they had not been heavily fed on Lucerne or other goitregenic feeds......so what do I think was going on. In reality I will probably never know unless there is a further problem with newborn kids. However it is worth while considering that this was a maiden doe, the total weight of the kids she was carrying was 12.5kgs and she probably had at least 5kgs of birth fluids etc Perhaps it was just an individual doe who ran low on iodine at a time when she was most vulnerable. When does are grazing they can choose amongst the plants available and for example cape-weed is apparently goitregenic. The doe has recovered from the kidding and all is well. Even though overdose of iodine is just as bad as underdose, in this area we are sandy loam sea area and iodine is in rather short supply in the soil so we can give a small dose of iodine without risk of overdosing. Check with your dept of agriculture for maps of deficiencies in the soil in your area. It may help the management of your herd.
August 30, 2014. Iodine deficiency affects kidding.
Kidding has commenced at Cadenza Boers, and except for more triplets that I wanted, the does have kidded well and the kids are healthy and thriving. Just recently a young doe kidded while I was away. She had triplets, two big buck kids and a smaller doe kid....all were dead, but the doe had cleaned them up and I had assumed that they had either come out backwards and drowned in the birth fluids before they were expelled, ot they were born with the membranes covering their mouth and nose. (As the weather was warm and sunny, they would not have died of cold before they were observed). These two things are not uncommon in goats, particularly when they have multiple kids. However, this morning I was checking the dead kids as they seemed perfect and I was just looking to see if I could see anything obvious that caused their deaths. To my surprise all three had enlarged goiters. This was probably the cause of their death as lack of iodine results in weak kids. Often the doe kids are not viable (they need more iodine) and there is a marked difference in the number of buck kids born compared to doe kids. Other symptoms are, lack of, or reduced covering of hair on the body in new born kids.
Iodine deficiency is not a usual problem on this farm however we have had a rather exceptional autumn and winter and this has resulted in fast growth of feed. So perhaps this is the reason for the deficiency. It is easily fixed. If it is not urgent, put out mineral blocks that contain iodine. I will act more intensively than this, and drench the goats with lugols iodine. It needs to be diluted in water but the dose of lugols is 1ml per goat. If you are unsure whether to drench with iodine, when the goats are yarded or come home for the night, put out buckets of water with some iodine added. The goats who need iodine will seek it out and drink. However, iodine is destroyed by sunlight, so you must put out fresh buckets at the time the goats are around.
July 8,2014. Kidding is coming for the 2014 drop.
The first of our kids is due in approximately six weeks. So what are the most important issues for us here at Cadenza Boers.
The first is to condition score. The does must be in good condition to produce enough milk and to have good nutrition for the kids before they hit the ground. Do not, as some people recommend, reduce feed to your does a couple of weeks before they are due to kid to get smaller kids....you are likely to cause pregnancy toxemia and have weak kids. If does are carrying multiples, especially triplets or quads, she may not be able to hold enough good food in her rumen to supply both her and the kids nutritional needs. Kids take up a lot of room in the doe....it is not unusual for triplets to average 3 to 4kgs each, plus all the birthing fluids. This means a heavily pregnant doe may be carrying around more than 20kgs of kids and fluids. A human mother-to-be carrying this "load" would probably be under intense medical care at this stage of her pregnancy. For goats, the rumen is restricted by this extra load and unless well fed, the doe may lose weight very quickly drawing on fat reserves from her body to keep her and the kids alive. If I see does who are clearly very heavy in kid and struggling a little to keep up with the herd, I bring them to a smaller paddock and provide more nutritious food. Of course it is also very bad for a doe to be very fat and under exercised as this may cause pregnancy toxemia and problems kidding.
Condition score 3 to 3.5 is ideal.
The other important things to do at about six weeks out, are to vaccinate with 3 in 1,(we use 3 in 1 with B12 and selenium because this area is deficient in these minerals). Check feet as a lame goat uses a lot more energy and has a tendency to sit down a lot when it should be grazing, drench goats if necessary, provide iodine if you are in iodine deficient country, and generally start to take a little more care about nutrition and shelter for the does.
June 30,2014. What should a buck look like.
I see lots of pictures of show bucks and supposedly stud bucks on various web-pages and facebook etc. I often wonder how someone new to the industry knows how to assess these bucks from their pictures. One of the fancy points that is being promoted is bucks with "pig-like" behinds. However when you look carefully, many are an illusion. Look carefully at the buck above. He has a good behind, but it is not a "pig behind". So what is the difference.
The "pig like" behinds are very short from the top of the rump to the pin bone and they often slope sharply. They then often lead to a steep cut-in to the point above the hock. This shortens the rump muscles and gives an exaggerated appearance of extra muscle in the rump.
When you look at the buck above (Tony) he is long from the top of his rump to the pin bone, and the muscle goes a long way down his leg. This gives lots of meat and lots of room (if he was a doe) to hold large kids without stress.
The other obvious point to look at in some of these "show buck" photos specially where they are standing like dogs at a show, is the noticeable lack of depth of the chest. Bucks should be deep in the chest as that is where their strength to push and fight is built. The other reason why it is important to be deep, is that this is where the lungs, heart etc are contained.
Have a look at Tony above. He is deep in the chest and has capacity plus for all his internal organs, as well as having great meat carrying capacity.
So next time you are admiring a meticulously prepared and groomed show buck, look through the fancy details, and look for his power to improve the breeding stock in your herd. Otherwise you will be forever condemned to follow the "fashion" look at the time.
June 9, 2014.
Goats are such inquisitive creatures. No wonder they get into trouble, especially when they are in a boring paddock, or not well fed. Unlike sheep and cattle who will often just give up and die in an unsuitable paddock, goats will usually do their best to find better food. Try to give them logs to jump on, trees to lean on, or if necessary man made amusements. Don't forget to provide dry hay on these cold and wet days, and make sure there is plenty of shelter for everyone. It is hard to keep weight on when it is so cold. If in doubt, try living out in the paddock for a couple of days :)
June 6, 2014. What should a Boer doe head look like?
This is my idea of a very beautiful Boer doe head. It is very feminine but there is a strength about the mouth and jaw that tell you this is a very strong substantial doe. I do not like narrow pointed mouths no matter how rounded and spectacular the head is. The role of a doe is to have capacity to carry her kids, plenty of milk to rear them, and lots of bone and strength to allow calcium to be drawn from her bones without turning her into a matchstick. The femininity and strength of the head tells you a lot about the quality of a breeding doe............and then the whole beauty of a does head becomes evident.
June 6, 2014 Should you cull miscoloured does?
It is not well known that the colour of the Boer goat is actually based on the belted gene. That is why we aften see color down the shoulder and legs in front and colour on the rump or legs at the rear. Sometimes there is just a brown tail at the back. Sometimes two standard Boers will throw an almost completely brown kid or it may even be completely brown. Sometimes the kid is almost completely red but there is a thin white line in the middle area. This doe above shows some of the variation seen as a result of the belted gene affecting the colouring. Would I cull this doe for colour? Not a chance! She is a beautiful doe, she has had a number of kids and they are all normal standard color. For more information check out the scientific paper on genetics in "The Serious Goat Breeder" page of this website.
May 29, 2014 A recommendation for wethering bucks.
We carry quite a number of buck kids on farm until we are able to select the best of the drop. One way we do this is to quicky wether bucks from the bloodlines that have not performed, and those kids that have a conformation fault, colour or teat fault etc. These kids are wethered from about 4 to 6 weeks using rings and applicator. This method causes us no problems at this age and the kids seem to get over the event very quickly. From there we wether the bucks in small groups as it becomes clearer who are the better animals. It is these later bucks that cause more concern to ensure their welfare in castrating them.
Once the testicles are well developed, the small rubber rings do not easily fit over the testicles and if you force them through the ring, the bucks are very uncomfortable for several days. They often lie around, will not eat, and are generally depressed. At the other end of the procedure, as the testicles wither and atrophy, this is high risk time for fly attack, and this is extremely disturbing for the animal. Goats will not allow flies to settle on them in any way and will run around endlessly to prevent them doing so. If the goat becomes fly struck then its life is at risk and it must be attended to immediately.
So what do we do. Other than surgical removal of the testicles, we have tried all of the methods available to wether bucks. Here is what we have found. Very early use of rings seems to cause limited distress to the animal. Use of rings for older animals causes considerable pain and distress. Use of rubber banding (using a strip of tubing with a metal clip) caused extreme pain to the goats and they were very miserable for quite a long time.
The best method we have come across to wether goats is the method called the Burdizzo method. This is a specially designed metal clamp tool that is applied for several seconds to the cord of each testicle in turn This is really difficult for the the operator as the goats yell and jump around as you might expect. The tool operator is immediately aware of the pain they cause the animal as the spermatic cord is crushed for about 10 seconds. There is no doubt it is extremely painful and this is really tough on any breeder who has compassion for their goats. However, while the pain is intense for the immediate application of the device and for a while after they walk stiff legged. We have not seen goats go off their food, or lie around for days after the procedure. It does take a bit of getting used to but if you really care about your goats, wether early, or if you have to wether later use a Burdizzo. Please note that the Burdizzo method is recognised by veterinarians as the most humane method of castration.
March 26, 2014
Our buck Barney has been sold.
We are sorry to see him go as he is such a gentleman. Barney is soon to go to a new home, where he will get the chance to do what a buck is born to do, spread his genetics within the herd. Not many bucks from here make it to his level, and we are sure he will offer his new owner a great new genetic line.
March 19, 2014. The Buck effect.
It is well known that does will begin to cycle if they have been separated from bucks for some time, and they can neither see or smell them. When the bucks are then introduced to the does, this stimulates the does to cycle, often even outside the normal breeding season. Sometimes they will even have a five day cycle if they are not pregnant on the first cycle. This research explains why this is so, and identifies the actual stimulating agent.
Worth a read if you are interested in this area.
March 12,2014. Performance recording with kidplan.
Both our bucks Barney and Bart are performance recorded with Kidplan. This means their genetic performance values are measured in association with their genetic relationships and they can be compared with other bucks and checked out on the Kidplan website.
If you would like to get a running start with performance recording, Colin Ramsay from the farm where the Buck Trial is being undertaken at Cootamundra NSW, is offering for sale, 100 of his mixed age kidplan recorded does. This is a unique opportunity as there would be very few breeders in Australia who could offer a group of does like this. If you are interested, have a talk to Colin on 0417404799
February 28, 2014. Thinking about joining your does? We are offering two of our top sires for sale. One is Barney, and the other is Bart. Go to the Boer goats for sale page for details.
February 13, 2014. Here are some of the young kids from the last drop. Hope you enjoy the slideshow.
February 12, 2014. Going into goats......do your homework or lose a lot of money and goats.
In this diary I try to discuss items that improve goat management and hopefuly save breeders time and money. This is one of the most important things I have to say. If you are thinking of going into goats you must do your homework or be prepared to lose a lot of money and many nights of sleep. First look to the right of this column and read the 10 essentials to start a goat breeding business. They are just the beginning...read on if you dare!
Generally speaking, people new to farming have no idea just how much work farming is and they think that goat breeding will be pretty quick to learn. Most people think the goats will grow, have kids, survive and thrive under their care, and then they will be able to sell them at good prices. This belief is strong even when the new goat owners actually have little or no knowledge of the fundamentals of breeding, caring for goats, or marketing their animals.
Here is what I say to potential goat breeders. I ask them what is your profession? Many people I speak to are highly intelligent and have very responsible professions/occupations. The second thing I ask them is how long did it take you to become really proficient at your work? They usually say something like about five or ten years. I then advise them that it will take at least this long to become a half decent goat breeder. And, that is the truth.
Many people go into goats, spend a lot of money on infrastructure, some buy good goats, and some buy cheap goats that are not suitable. However my experience is that more than 50% do not make it past three years. The major reason they do not make it is because they have not been clear what they are getting into when they first buy goats. They often treat it as a bit of a hobby and do not dedicate the time and resources required to be successful.
I do not want to scare potential breeders from going into goats. What I really want is for people to go into breeding goats with their eyes wide open and a realistic understanding of the time, knowledge, and effort it takes to successfully raise goats. They are such wonderful animals, they deserve to be cared for by kind, knowledgeable and realistic breeders. If you are reading this, I do hope you are one of the great breeders of the future.
February 10, 2014. Measuring performance of your herd.
Below is a link to a really interesting paper on how to measure performance of your does. Well worth a look. Just eye-balling animals for production is not really good enough these days, so have a look and see what you think
February 5, 2014. Those bad old does!
Each year I have several kids who receive injuries due to does hooking at them when they are just too close, or trying to sneak a drink, or competing for feed. I have three kids at the moment with serious injuries all caused by the one doe.
While it is natural for does to love their own kids and put other kids “in their place” some does are just over the top in aggression towards other kids, and sometimes other does as well. These aggressive does are a risk to the whole herd and in reality for a farmed goat enterprise, they need to be moved “closer to goat heaven”.
I have seen does, for no reason other than the other goat is in view, to run at another doe or kid and just smash them into the wall or into the ground. Not nice. However the damage they do to the kids is more likely to be a damaged hip, leg, or shoulder as they hook them into the air with their horns.
What can be done. If you are not ready to send the doe “away” and you need to hand feed, consider these management options. Spread feed out as broadly as possible so animals are not forced to battle for food. This may mean multiple troughs rather than a few fancy ones. If you have clean areas and you are feeding large pellets, or hay, spread this out as widely as possible so there is not so much animal-to-animal contact.
Make sure your sheds are long, open in the front, and there is plenty of room for everybody. This gives animals a chance to escape. Put escape benches in the sheds for the kids. The kids can get under these benches and not be harassed by the does. Try not to have small areas where the kids can get into and then smother each other because it is hard to get out.
Give in, put the bully doe and her kids into a separate area and keep the peace.
February 3, 2014. Check out this website for research articles.
Check out this website for research and for a nice description of how to measure condition in your goats. Most breeders have difficulty keeping condition on goats because of their high productivity. Show goats that are heavily fed, or goats that do nothing to produce may get too fat, but generally it is loss of weight that is the big problem for goats. Correct condition score is between 2.5 and 3.5. How do your goats stack up? Remember a big stomach is not a fat goat. Check out this web-site for video.
January 21, 2014. Now the heat is over (for the time being anyway).
The blast of heat in Victoria lasted days and absolutely dried the grass to a crisp. This means we are very vulnerable to any fires that happen to crop up. In another "diary" last year I discussed managing the goats when fire threatens. Today I am more interested in finding the right feed for the does with young kids at foot. While the big heat didn't worry the goats too much, already I can see the effects of the reduction of nutrition in the standing feed. The does suddenly began to look for any blade of green grass and they have just started to drop their condition more rapidly. It is quite normal for a high milk producing doe to lose weight while she has kids at foot. The best does then put that weight back on as their milk production reduces, ready for the next joining season.
Around here, pretty well all the grass is crisp and white. That means the goats can get plenty of roughage, but not enough protein and energy. I have begun to feed the does with kids, grain cubes, and if I can get them at the right price, would like to introduce some lupins or lucerne or other good high protein feed. Goats can convert dry feed into good quality nutrition if they have some protein to feed the converting microbes. I like molasses as a high energy feed for the goats. It is cheap, highly nutritious, the goats love it.........but what a mess they make of themselves and each other. So be prepared for sticky goats if you feed it in open troughs.
The older goats are doing just fine with one kid at foot, they are losing a bit of weight with two kids at foot. The maiden does are o.k. with one kid, but they are struggling to produce enough milk for two kids. The same goes for the kids. Best conditioned kids are single kids on older does, worst conditioned kids are twins on maiden does. This is the time to carefully look at how good the does are at producing prime kids, and how fast they can regain their weight after raising kids.
January 14, 2014. It is 39 degrees and rising.
Today is very, very hot, and it will be very hot all this week. This means early morning rounds to check all is well, plenty of water and plenty of shade and feed for the goats. There are no young kids or heavily pregnant does to worry about so they should all cope pretty well. Even the bucks "in rut" are taking time off from their hormone driven battles.
However, I do think about the native animals during such intense weather. On occasions in the past it has been so hot, that possums have dropped dead out of the trees, or in despair come down out of the trees during the day to look for water. The birds congregate around water points and try to keep cool.
So on days like today, I put out extra water dishes in strategic places so everyone at least gets a chance to have a drink. I place escape branches or logs in all the troughs, so that any foolish bird that happens to fall in the water while trying to get a drink, can escape after a "ducking". It is a sad sight to see drowned birds in the troughs, and it is not nice for the quality of the drinking water either.
Fingers crossed that we do not have fires accompanying the hot weather. There are several relatively safe areas on the farm where goats will be taken if things turn bad. As all the goats will end up very close to each other if fire threatens, there may be a few unplanned pregnancies in about five months. Let's hope it doesn't get to that.
I hope you and all your animals are safe in this weather.
CHECK OUT THE GOAT KEEPERS DIARY 2013 ENTRIES /goat-keepers-diary-2013-entries.html
April 22, 2013. Time for some humor.
"The Cadenza Hoon". by Jeff Brewer
For those of you who have visited Cadenza Boers, this image will be very familiar...and guess who the "hoon" is?
Hmmm must comb my hair more often.
Thanks to Jeff Brewer for his great work.
April 30, 2013. Worms on the march or should I say wriggle!
This is the time of year when previously sub-clinical problems start to be evident in the Boer goat herd. As the cold bites, the nutrition that the pasture provides is decreasing, the worm burden rises because of moisture availability for hatching larvae, and any deficiencies in nutrition are magnified. One thing that all goat breeders should be able to do is to "condition score" their goats. Most times we aim for our goats to be in condition score three or higher. Does with kids at foot usually lose condition because of the big effort required to feed two kids as well as maintain themselves. We try not to let does get below condition score 2.5 as this leaves them open to cold stress and other immune related issues. It also means they will be in low body condition to join to the bucks. Check out the site below to understand condition scoring: http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/animals-and-livestock/goats/assessment-skills-for-goat-meat-marketing
For worm related issues for each State, we suggest you subscribe to the sheep Worm Boss site, and particularly for us in Victoria, Patricia Veale writes a summary of what is happening with worms and also discusses the results of worm tests coming in to the test labs. This month she has written about coccidiosis and how it is a problem especially with young stock at the moment. While the site deals with sheep, you can be pretty sure this information will also be relevant to goats. Check it out.
March 30th, 2013.The unpaid workers
Ted at the back, and Lucy in front. Great mates.
Ted and Lucy are the working dogs here, but also great mates, lovely temperaments, and a great pleasure to have. They are both soft on the goats, but because it is not really natural for them to bark, sometimes they need to give difficult goats (specially the bucks) a hurry up by slipping in a "quick nip". Ted and Lucy are short-haired Border Collies. I like Border Collies because they are softer, and not as "over the top" as some other working breeds so I can manage them better. I like their short coats because it keeps them cooler, but it also keeps them cleaner and mud free. Ted is actually a better working dog than Lucy, however Lucy is starting to catch up with him in managing the goats, but in a different way. She is highly intelligent and is happy to please. Ted "the cool one" has recovered from his little "operation" but there is no doubt he is slowing down, and Lucy is becoming the main dog, with Ted supervising the action.
Advice: when you buy a working dog, buy from a reputable breeder. The initial cost is nothing compared to the costs of keeping a dog for its lifetime. A good dog will repay the initial cost, thousands of times over.
April 14, 2013. The buck kids are not happy.
The third group of buck kids has now been weaned. They are not happy and nor are their mothers. While I would like to have left them on their mothers for a little longer, they were really into chasing the does and "whooping" all day. The question arises, what is the best way to do the weaning?
I like to leave the newly weaned kids in the shed for a day or two so they get used to being away from their mothers, and the mothers reduce their calling for them. I often reduce the stress of weaning by allowing the mothers to visit their kids and sleep in the pen next to them for two or three days. This seems to comfort everyone and the kids settle better. It is not good practise to send the newly weaned kids off to an unfamiliar paddock as they will be stressed and often try to find their way back to their mothers. They must be kept warm, dry, and well fed over the early weaning days to give them the best chance of thriving. I feed the kids a chaff/lucerne chaff mix or some good quality hay, and some pellets. This fills their rumen with a lot of good feed with high roughage, so the kids are warm and have full bellies. I like to move the does away from the kids, rather than the does seeing their kids taken away from them. It seems less stressful for them as they know where the kids are. After weaning day, I drench the kids, weigh them, electronic tag them, tip their horns, and vaccinate if needed. Often these things are done over a couple of visits to the shearing shed rather than all at once. I also cast my eye over the kids to see if any show real potential as stud bucks. Today out of about 45 kids, I picked 6 buck kids showing potential. When I checked their breeding, I noticed most were singles, and most were by the one sire. So am I selecting primarily based on size and bloom because they were better fed, or am I really able to pick the better kids at this early age? While I hear various breeders say they can pick a champion at birth, I am a bit skeptical. What I often see is breeders taking a special interest in these kids and feeding them better than the other kids. This is called a self fulfilling prophecy because they grow better and look better because of better nutrition. The way to pick a real champion is to give all kids the same chance to grow, and the champion will emerge over time. There is no doubt better does throw better kids, but that is not the whole story.
March 29th 2013. The second worst job for a goatkeeper.
There is a time when the older does are having problems keeping their weight on. My experience is that this time comes from about the age of eight years on, and is often related to how productive the doe has been in her breeding years. Those does who consistently produce triplets and are big milkers seem to be the first affected. While it might be expected the front teeth are an indication of wear of teeth and therefore difficulty eating, the does here seem to eventually have problem with their grinding teeth. This means they cannot "cud" properly and therefore the food is not properly prepared for digestion. The loss of these teeth may well be the result of the massive pull on calcium over their production years.
While the does themselves are still active and running with the herd, they do not seem able to put back condition after they have raised their last lot of kids. This is a real problem with winter coming as they become too thin and cannot keep warm.
What to do with these does. Eventually for all animals there comes a time when we need to take the responsibility of ending their life humanely. Personally, while the doe is happy and able to keep up with the herd, I am happy for her to continue. However the Boers in particular, have no tolerance for weak animals in their group. While I did not see this in the Angoras, the Boers will intentionally seek out the weak goat, attack it, and try to force it from the herd. This is a sensible thing to do from the herd's point of view as it may reduce attacks from predators. From the poor goat's point of view, what was once a comfortable place in the herd now becomes a misery. The other goats will often not let the weak doe into shelter, will intentionally "thump" her whenever they get the chance, and will actually try to chase her away.
I recently "put down" several of the old does here (9, 10, and 11y.o.). I never send these old does off to slaughter on the truck. They have given me everything and I cannot bear the thought of them being so stressed at the end of their life.
For any owner to just allow an animal to die in the paddock because they don't take responsibility for the animals welfare, is a despicable act and they should not own animals.
The most humane way to put down a goat is to shoot it. However the way to shoot a goat is very specific and must be done by a knowledgeable person. The following link talks about the CODE OF PRACTICE FOR GOAT WELFARE and the basics of caring for goats, but if you look at Section 9, it gives you instructions for THE HUMANE DESTRUCTION OF GOATS.
While kids may be shot from the front of the head,( as for cattle), by directing the shot at a point of intersection of lines taken from the base of each ear to the opposite eye (see Figure 2). THIS METHOD IS NOT SUITABLE IN MATURE GOATS, as the brain is located well back in the skull compared with other livestock.
Putting down old does is the second worst job for a goat-keeper, putting down baby kids is the worst. I will try and make the next note in the diary a happier story!
March 26th 2013. Husbandry issues. Infected ears.
One of the issues that occurs in a small percentage of kids, is the problem of necrosis of the hole around the tag pin. The major reason for smelly skin around the pin hole is that insufficient air can get to the hole to enable it to heal properly. When tagging animals it is very important to keep equipment clean. I always dip the tag and applicator in disinfectant between kids, and am meticulous not to touch the pin head of the tag with my dirty fingers. The tag must be inserted in the correct position on the ear as well. Even given all these precautions a few kids ears do not heal up well. Sometimes I spray this with a healing spray, however for the worst of them, I just cut out the tag and replace it when the hole has healed. Because the kids are double tagged I can still identify them even with one tag cut out. Part of the reason the tag hole does not heal well is because the shank of the tag is too short and the Boer goat's ear is quite thick. This means the plastic of the tag on each side of the ear is too close together and restricts air flow. Manufacturers don't appear to see this as an issue. However I note that the electronic round PIC tags have a longer, slightly thinner shank, and I very rarely have any problems with these tags.
This year to try to reduce problems caused by the normal plastic tags, I actually whittled down the inside tag area by slicing off a large piece of the tag on both sides of the pin before inserting the tag into the ear. This allows much more air to flow around the puncture hole. I have found the ear seems to heal up much more quickly with the extra air flow. The electronic tags will be inserted soon, and it is at this time a close inspection of the birth tag takes place, so after this I can confirm whether or not my perceptions are true.
PS. No matter how careful you are doing the job, it is not a nice job tagging kids.......
March 20 2013. The bucks are "smelly" and the does are "waggy" time of year. While the breeding season was a little slow to get going this year, probably because it was so dry, all the goats really want to get the fertilization process going! While some animal species have an all year round breeding season, goats are particularly stimulated by the shortening of daylight hours. That means from about January to July is the prime joining season. I can assure you, at the moment, the does are ready and the bucks are willing, however I am stalling the process for a little while longer as I do not want kids born in the very cold weather. While goats will often join outside the prime season, especially if bucks and does have been kept isolated from each other, you will start to see the bucks reduce their spraying, and the does reduce their cycling behaviour after about July August (as the days start to get longer). It is important to understand the effect of the daylight hours on fertility.
I have heard breeders, especially inexperienced ones, talk about their buck being infertile because they put him with the does but there were no kids five or so months later. I ask them what time of year did you put him with the does, and did the does cycle? Quite often they have not observed the does cycling but assumed the buck was infertile. The buck will not get a non cycling doe pregnant, no matter how hard he tries. Additionally, does in milk with kids at foot very often will not cycle until their milk supply is reducing. It is a rare thing for a buck to be infertile so check to see if your does are cycling before blaming the buck.
Another important management requirement is to purchase a new buck well before you want him to join your does. Goats usually find being moved to another property very stressful. The new buck may take some time to settle and to recover from the trauma of moving homes before he will take an interested in joining does. So aim to give him at least 4 to 6 weeks to settle.
Weanable size kids need to be removed from the paddock while the bucks are serving the does, as otherwise the doe kids are at risk of becoming pregnant. Once Boer buck and doe kids are over approx 25kgs they are close to becoming fertile. Doe kids in particular are at high risk of becoming pregnant and if they do, it will be a very dangerous thing for both them and the kids they are carrying. These does are at high risk for pregnancy toxemia, malnutrition, abortion, as well as having stunted growth themselves and also their kids if they survive. The message is, manage the kidding so your animals kid at the proper time and at the proper body weight and condition. Happy kidding.
WE OFFER A CONSULTANCY SERVICE
For breeders who feel they need more personalised assistance in setting up their goat breeding program, we offer a consultancy service. In addition a goat farm and/or goat assessment service is available for those who would like an opinion on the direction they are heading, and how they are managing their goats. These services are offered on an hourly rate plus travel expenses. Please feel free to talk to us about our consultancy services...no obligation.
Want to be successful breeding Boer Goats? Important for those thinking about going into goats is the basic information FAQ publication (see faqsjan2010.pdf file below).
You are welcome to call us, ask a question, arrange a visit to the farm: 0429661369