Goat kidding season 2018 has flown by without me having time to journal the experience as I did last year. (Though that’s not quite accurate because I have one girl who still has not kidded yet, but it feels like the bulk of kidding season is over around here.)
Let me back up and say our goat herd has undergone some changes since last spring. We had 4 does kidding last spring; two of those – Oakley and Emma – have moved onto to other homes as they were not quite what we were looking for in our herd, and two remain with us – Nickel and Llama. We also added another doeling to the herd last May named Lily. We also used a different breeding buck this fall named Warrior.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with raising dairy goats, typically goats are bred in the fall for spring kids. Goats tend to be somewhat seasonal breeders (like white tail deer). A goat’s gestation is 5 months. A goat can be milked 3 months into pregnancy and then dried up for the last 2 months before birth. However, for us, we are tired of milking by the time the fall breeding season has rolled around. In addition, milk production usually declines by the fall. Therefore, we like to dry them up and breed in August or September. Ours are often dry for their entire pregnancy, which is good for them, but means we have no milk. The only risky factor in breeding early is having kids in freezing weather in December or January. However, ours got bred late last year and had kids in freezing weather in mid-March. So, we’ve decided to just breed when we want to and hope for fair weather over kidding time! Goats seem to have a knack for snowstorms - be it December or March.
To breed our goats, we put the buck in with the herd and allow nature to take its course. We watch closely and can often pick up on when the deed is being done to be able to calculate an approximate due date. 1-2 months after we think they are all bred, we do a blood test for pregnancy. This year when we tested our three girls, Lily came back negative for pregnancy. This was actually a good thing. Lily was born in February 2017, which means in August 2017 when we introduced our buck to the herd, she was quite young. While it is common to breed a dairy goat her first fall, breeding late rather than early gives them a few more months to grow. We tossed around the idea of separating her, but she was a good size and separation from the herd causes a lot of stress for goats. Weighing all the pros and cons, we decided to see what happens.
Upon receiving the negative pregnancy test, we were glad she had not taken early. Our buck then made a visit to another farm for a few weeks. When he returned, we made sure he was healthy and ready to move onto a new home. We had him advertised for only a short time before we found him a new farm. The week before he left, we noticed he was quite interested in Lily. We hoped she would be bred before he left. We chose not to test her because, even if she wasn’t bred, we weren’t going to get in another buck in January. Thus, we’ve just been watching her closely and hoping. The most obvious sign, especially in a first-timer, is the development of an udder 1-4 weeks before birth. Lily is due in about 1 week, and she has a promising udder taking shape, as well as bulging sides.
Back to the other girls – Nickel & Llama. In typical goat fashion, they delivered their kids within days of each other. Nickel had twins – Lightning & Star – on January 31, and Llama had twins – Hero & Susie – on February 2. Below are some pictures.
As you may have noticed, this year we decided to bottle feed all the babies. We fed them raw milk from their moms. (We test for CAE when we test for pregnancy. [CAE is a disease that can be passed through the milk of infected mothers.] Since our girls are negative, we feed the milk to the babies.) We sold all four of the kids within 2 weeks after their birth. This was, of course, a bit sad for the human kids around here, but they were glad to see them go to good homes and be relieved of the bottle-feeding duties.
And now we get to enjoy the fruits of our labors in the past months – fresh, raw goat milk! For those of you who just gagged a bit, I challenge you to find a home dairy where the milk has been handled and chilled with care to see for yourself. We have many people say it tastes "just like milk!"
Stay tuned and check out our goat page to see Lily’s kids!
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Vanessa from Russell Homestead. Follower of the Lord Jesus, wife of my knight in shining armor, mother of 5 wonderful children, and joint-keeper of the Russell homestead. Thanks for stopping by!
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