Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What to expect when you are expecting....goaties

A while ago our pal, Chai Chai was interested in what to expect when you are expecting goat babies.

 Fat Deb - looking mighty low in the belly last spring just before kidding

But before I launch into that - has everyone seen this adorable pix of her goaties in the snow? Ohmigosh.. so cute! And since I'm a doofus and can't leave comments on her blog.. I'll answer her question about frozen buckets. Not much you can do but manage it. Some folks like heated water buckets but to be honest that kinda freaks me out. And I think you said you didn't have electric out there anyway. Probably the easiest is to get those black rubber type buckets that you can just pop out the ice. We take warmish water out twice a day to for our critters and just keep breaking up the ice every time we pass by. Hope that helps.

Back to goaties. First I'll say that I only know what I know, so make sure you read up in one of  Storey's guides to goats, the fiascofarm site, and/or the spectacular Onion Creek Ranch page of health articles like this fantastic one here.

Like most things around here we are content to do things as naturally as possible, so is true with our pregnant goats. Pretty much we don't do anything special other than to make sure they have good nutrition, water, and lots of fresh air. We don't supplement, make special trips to the feed store, or whatever. We just keep a watchful eye and let nature take her course. Some folks hop all around, get blood tests to ensure pregnancy, rush their goaties to the vet, blah blah blah. Nope. Provided everyone is up and around, eatin' and poopin',  we just let them be. One thing is sure tho...

Pregnant goats are ridiculous.

Right now Nibbles and Debbie are still trying to kill each other. The combination of not having Vita around, their hormonal selves, the changing seasons, and the introduction of the neighbors cows directly across the fence has turned them both into raving lunatics.

If I didn't know that she was pregnant I would swear that Debbie has rabies. She's moody, fussy, sneers at everyone and every thing, stomps her feet at everyone, and even tried to take a swing at me - which went very badly for her, by the way.

Fattie, aka The Blimp, aka Nibbles is eating everything that can't run from her. She's sulky, snippy, snotty, and has been complaining about the bad service since her performance at the breeder. Occasionally she will forget herself and come over to me for snuggles...then she will realize its me and so she tosses her head and stomps off. Sigh.

Not too long ago Nibbles had a day where she laid on the ground and moaned. If I didn't know better I woulda thrown her in the truck and raced off to the vet thinking she was on her death bed. Not so. She had a day like this with her last babies so I knew better. The last time she acted like this I called the Good Neighbors in a panic. Of course they came running and... nothing. Probably the babies were just positioned strangely in her belly. After a dramatic performance and a lot of attention she was just fine.

Both of the ladies have also had it with being milked. This last time they both hopped around, stomped their feet, and Nibbles almost kicked over the bucket. I think their udders are starting to be sensitive and they are tired of sometime touching their sides. So we are officially done with milking. Since I was just milking every 2nd day, I will just let them be and they will dry themselves off - that is, their bodies will reabsorb what milk they have and stop producing new milk. About six weeks before they kid (goat speak for "have their babies") they will begin to produce colostrum - the very important "first milk" which will help with the baby's immune systems. And their bodies will begin to gear up for a new season of milking. Technically you can milk until this six week mark, but they have had it and so have I.

This rather unflattering pic of Fattie and Fat Deb shows how round they get. See also that Debbie's udder is really getting full. I think this was about 5 days before she popped.

We are OK with the end of this season of milking because we are only getting about a quart between the two of them - so its not really worth the effort. And really - I just wanted one more round of fresh cheese from them. Our goal was to milk them thru November which we did. As such, both will receive "meet expectations" in their mid-cycle performance reviews. Their peer reviews won't be very good tho - the geese really hate them right now.


A couple of  "good to knows":

* Its OK if they are acting weird and/or if the herd dynamics change. If you are concerned tho, take their temperatures, observe carefully, check they are eating and pooping, etc.

* They might just act funny..for instance, both our ladies will turn and lick their sides in a way that they normally don't. Its not the "hey I have an itch" thing its kind of a dreamy look in their eye, lazy side licking that makes you look twice. They  may want you to touch them. They may NOT want you to touch them. This will change randomly and you'll never get it right. Don't take it personally tho.

* They should look good and fat - around the middle that is. Nibbles was at the breeder in mid-Oct. and she is already starting to get nice and round. Debbie was about the same time (different breeder) and she is starting to loose her "dairy" look and starting to fill out. Its OK if they look like barrels on skinny legs, especially in the cold weather. But if they are packing on a layer of fat..then you might want to cut back on the grain.

* Some folks will quote you chapter and verse about the exact amount of protein in your hay, when to change it, blah blah blah. I tend to glaze over with these discussions so I'll just say, "get good hay, feed it to them in reasonable amounts" and leave it at that. Last year we didn't have great hay and I think its what contributed to Debbie's vitamin deficiency and my ill-fated early morning run to Walmart. So check with your local extension office and university vet sites if you are concerned...and don't skimp on the hay.

* Check with your local 4-H club, breeder, or extension office to see if your part of the country will require you to provide additional minerals. For instance, this part of the country is deficient in selenium. This is important to proper nutrition so we give our goats a shot of something called "Bo-Se" to correct this and guard against white muscle disease. But who am I kidding.... our 4H neighbor kid does it, not me. This is specific to our region of the country and its important that you get regional info on this as it could be toxic if your soil is not selenium deficient. Check locally!

* Be very careful about what wormers you use! Some of them can be harmful for pregnant goats - so do your research or do what we do... don't use a chemical wormer while pregnant. Many of the herbal wormers are safe but be extra sure before you do anything.  We assume we will worm our does after their babies are a couple of weeks old and since we don't have huge parasite problems, we aren't over concerned.

* Keep good records so you know when the joyous day will arrive. There are some good "goat gestation calculators" out there - just do a quick google search. Some will even tell you when to stop milking so your doe can start making the colostrum. Note that not all breeds have the same gestation! The pygmies are different from full sized does so check out the specific breed sites. And, of course, there are variations between individual does.

* Keep them safe. Be extra careful with your gates and security so dogs, kids, or other predators don't chase or over excite them. Keep your routine to keep their stress level low. Hang around with them if they are fussy - they might just want to lean against you to get some additional scratches and snuggles. Keep them dry and out of the wind...and out of trouble. Remember when I found Debbie hanging from the feeder and I was afraid she would loose her babies? For heavens sakes. Goat are crazy and do crazy things. And they will start to get bored from being inside during the winter so suit up for the cold and just go and hang around them. 
Last year me and about 40 hens all sat around in the goat house with the ladies. We had a good time and the goats enjoyed the company.  We enjoyed the sunshine and had a nice time.

There are tons of sites out there that have lists of what to have on hand for kidding day. This isn't one of them. I readily admit that I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies... so I arm myself with a worried look, a bottle of tequila, and the 4H neighbor kid's phone number in my speed dial. Come to think of it... what happened last year is kind of a funny story ... maybe I should work on that one.

Anyway, thats what I know about expecting goat babies.


Mrs. Weeb said...

One day of moaning is all you get? HA! My two nubians lay around and moan the entire last two months!
Someone gave me the bright idea of using a baby monitor last year so I could hear them when they started pawing and moaning in labor...um.Yeah. That lasted all of an hour.

One thing we now do different is to start feeding grain at night. I was told something with digestion and what-not that for some reason it makes them kid during the day rather than the wee hours of night. I don't know how true it is, but mine birthed at 9 and 11am respectively with the switch last year.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hi Mrs Weeb! We got off easily b/c Debbie didnt make a peep the whole time. Nibbles tho.. ohmigosh. She wants me to stand there and fan her with palm fronds and fluff her pillows. The moaning and laying in a heap was just ridiculous. TWO months of it!!? Sheesh.

Great thought on the baby monitor! Some folks I know use them in their hen houses so they will be alerted if there are predators.

Interesting about feeding at nite. We feed bagged food 2x's a day as it is so we are on track. I'd love to hear how your ladies do this year. 9am is a little early for me tho...and the neighbor kid isnt home from school yet.

Unknown said...

I'm so glad I knew what was coming through your stories last year. My ladies are acting precisely as described. Crazy. Rory will only let me touch her face. Don't even pretend like I'm going for a belly feel.
Unlike you I can't wait to get out there and help birth those babies! Woot! I'm going to be a goat midwife! (and I'm sure they are hatching plans to both birth in the 15 minutes out of the week that I need to run to the grocery and I'll miss it)

small farm girl said...

Thank for the info. Since I'm a first time goat breeder, I wanted someone who actually has gone through it, instead of reading it from a book. I think the books kinda over do it a lot of times anyway. Thanks once again.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

you said it, java! I'll give the rest of the folks a spoiler for the upcoming "play by play" and remind you that Debbie INTENTIONALLY had her babies when my hubby was GONE! I know she did it on purpose.

hey SFG! nature is amazing.. I'm not sure how much we change how things go anyway.... Its good to know what COULD happen.. but most likely everything will be just fine.

Heiko said...

I used to work with goats when I lived on a farm in Ireland and really enjoyed it. Been wanting my own goats ever since. On day...

Sara said...

Love it! I didn't know that about pregnant goats. Great blog!

Grandpa said...

This is a great manual OFG! I'm gonna keep it for reference. And I suppose having that tequila on hand helps...

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hello Heiko! Were they dairy or meat goats? We love our dairy gals. There isnt such a market for goat meat here in the states..in truth, I'd rather have lamb.

Thanks Sara! Goats are crazy and none of the books tell you how ridiculous they are, ha!

Hi Grandpa! The tequila keeps me from barfing on the neighbor kids during the Joyous Occasion.

Chai Chai said...

I am going to have to think on the hay quality as their is a lot of wastage going on. That Walmart post was too funny, could it really have been that long ago?

Fat - check, goofy - check, moaning - not yet! I had to reread that part to make sure you weren't talking about the owners......

Thanks for posting this, I will be referring back to it.

Heiko said...

They were dairies. We lived veggie on the farm at the time. We even had a haemaphrodite (is that how you spell it?) goat, which was just there for cuddles.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

CC - nothing is wasted when you have chickens! can your clucks get to the goat area? let them clean up the hay and then just assume its going to bedding. some folks freak out over this "deep-ish" litter method (there is a risk of listeria) but most goats wont eat anything they've stepped on. also dont discount all that fabulous compost you will get. i know it feels like a waste but you'll get a return on it. try giving them less so they quit screwing around with it.

Heiko - so did you milk? by hand? we love the goats milk..and the cheese.

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