December 29, 2010

Some Rather Random Goat Tips

I was not quite sure what to write about today so I decided to share some random goat management tips off the top of my head. Many I have learned over the years I have spent with goats on my farm.

Goats and Kidding

1. Trim your fingernails short before your goat is due in case of trouble and you have to go in.

2. The new mother goat can have a waxy build-up on the ends of her teats making it possible that her newborns might not be able to get that all important colostrum. Milk out a little colostrum right after they are born to make sure her teats are open and the kids can nurse.

3. If a kid sounds like it has some fluid in it's lungs from kidding you can gently hold them upside down for a moment to help clear it. (Be careful newborn goats are slippery, don't drop him!) Old towels from the thrift store are great to help dry kids if the weather is cold. I always let the doe do some of the cleaning (or all of it in warm, summer weather) as this is them bonding to their kids.

4. If a newborn kid gets severely chilled (he will be limp and his mouth will be cold) you can quickly warm him up in a bath of warm water in the sink but DON'T leave him unattended for even a second and take the chance of his head slipping under water. Also use a thermometer and make sure he does not get too warm. The normal temperature for a goat is 101.5 to 103.5. You can tell when he starts to get warmed up, the inside of his mouth will warm up, he will become more active and vocal! I have revived a couple kids this way that almost looked dead they were so chilled. It helps to put them in a thin plastic bag with their head sticking out so that the water does not rinse off the smell his mother will use to identify him as hers. I will give them a bottle of their own mother's colostrum but I also get these babies back to their mom as soon as they are stable so they don't get rejected.

5. A chilled kid can not digest food properly and will not want to eat. Always warm them up first then feed them.

6. It is very important that newborn kids get colostrum (the first milk their mother's produce that is full of antibodies they need) as soon as possible after birth. If a kid is too weak to nurse off the mother I will bottle feed them this colostrum just to make sure they get some with in an hour of birth.

Goat Management

1. Never, ever leave a nylon or leather collar on a goat unattended and don't ever leave them staked out in the yard when you are not watching them. You might think there is nothing for your goat to get a collar hooked on but they are agile animals that like to stand up to eat leaves, making high branches a possibility or even their own back foot or another goat's horn. I had a man tell me once he had two bucks that must have got to rough housing around and one got his horn under the collar of the other one and strangled him to death. Collars that snap together don't always break either. If you feel you must have a collar on your goat at least get one of the breakable, plastic link ones made for dairy goats. Leaving a goat staked out makes them very easy prey for dogs and predators and puts them at risk of getting tangled up, out of reach of water or strangling themselves. I have had people tell me that "well my goats wear collars and haven't gotten hung up on anything," all I can say is that they don't, until one day out of the blue they do and then it might be too late. It just is not worth the chance for something so preventable.

2. In a large herd, one shelter with a single, narrow door does not always work out. It makes sense to build them that way, we did at first thinking they would be so much warmer for the goats. What we did not count on was the fact there often seems to be a dominate "shed piggy" in the herd that will stand in the doorway, blocking the more passive goats in the herd from coming in out of the cold or rain. I even tried removing said shed piggy from the herd and the next cranky female goat down on the totem pole just took her place. I still had some sad, wet goats standing outside of the door in the rain while the one blocking the door was dry and comfortable and probably smirking. I have found either several different shelters or at least one with a fairly wide doorway (or two doors) works much better and allows all the goats to get in the shed more easily. You can hang blankets or tarps on wider doors to block cold air without blocking access.

3. Feeding large round bales of hay to goats can be cheaper and less work but it can also be tricky too. Goats will waste a lot more of a round bale, they will climb on it and pee on it. There is also a danger in the fact that goats will eat around the bottom part of the bale first, creating an unstable mushroom shape that can collapse on a goat and suffocate them. If you are going to feed round bales in the goat pasture it is important you have a feeder specifically designed for feeding goats this way or you wrap a fence or panel around the bale to keep it stable, safe and keep the goats from climbing on it and wasting so much of it.

4. Trying to go into a herd of goats with a bucket of grain is chaos! If you have a large herd you feed all at once, save yourself some frustration and bruises and build a feed pen with a large, strong, free swinging gate. Have a second gate you can access this pen without walking through the goat pasture. This way you can keep the main gate closed, walk into the empty pen and easily dump their grain into feeders, then open the gate for the goats while safely standing behind the open gate as they run in. Or set up feed troughs along the fence so you can feed them safely from the other side.

I hope you found these tips that make life a little easier on my goat farm helpful. I will be sharing some more helpful goat tips in the future!


Teresa said...

A lot of good tips.

Anne-Marie said...

Good to know. Though I don't raise goats, it's clear there's a lot of details to remember =)

goatmilker said...

Great tips thanks for sharing. Rebekah

Melodie said...

The warming a kid in water is a great tip I bet a lot if us didn't know,I didn't! Thanks!

Flartus said...

Well, this certainly shows there's a lot more to raising goats than giving them some hay and something to jump around on! :)

Brenda said...

Great tips and useful advice from years of experience.

Duane Keys said...

Great tips! Feeding over the fence so you don't have to enter the feeding area is a good way too.

Mimi Foxmorton said...

As someone in the process of learning I'm loving this blog!
Have a bright New Year!

JoyceAnn said...

Happy New Year and Thanks for sharing the wonderful tips.

~ Be Blessed ~

Anonymous said...

Good stuff!


Ken and Mary of Fancyfibers Farm said...

Excellent, practical tips! Thanks for sharing them. We've had goats now for over a year and can speak to the soundness of several of your points. We're still relative newbies in the kidding area. We determined that our first year we'd refrain from any breeding, but nature has its ways, and one of the bucks found a way to impregnate a doe. We didn't even discover she was pregnant until almost the end and she thankfully didn't need any help from us (we both came home from work and found the little buck hale and hearty). Your observations about shelter piggies is dead on. We have one shelter plenty big enough for all, but invariably somebody will be out standing in the rain, as a result we've provided additional shelters. We fed one round bale and fenced it in with panels and used your trick for feeding in one of our pastures. My DW hates to get swarmed by hungry goats, especially the ones with horns and they step on her feet. Again, thanks!

Michelle said...

You are such a lifesaver. I had acutally been googling "kidding supplies" when I found your blog. We got our first goats in March and all but one, we have seven total, are expecting in about 9 weeks. I am a nervous wreck so I'm thrilled to have found you! Thanks!

Lanora said...

Great information. I will be getting dairy goat soon and the tips were needed. Thank you.

Esther Garvi said...

Very good advice! It's wonderful to know a blogging friend who is an expert on goat breeding, as we are only amateurs. Hopefully, we'll be having goat kids soon (at least that looks to be the case!) and I'll remember to have those fingernails clipped.