The Goats' Turn to Speak
It’s the goats’ turn to say “hello” on the blog. We’ve had an interesting goat year. Life with goats is usually interesting!
Our herd continues to change as we work on getting the best dairy genetics to meet our needs. We began the 2019 year with 3 does – Nickel, Llama, and Lily. We also kept our 2018 breeding buck – Captain. We typically get a buck for fall breeding and sell him again (due mostly to our small space and a buck’s trademark bad smell). This year, however, we weren’t one percent sure Captain had done his job, and we liked his genetics and his disposition – so he stayed. He kicked off the year with a case of “bottle jaw.” His symptoms began with foam coming out of his mouth – not a lot and not all the time, but consistently over time. We also found a hard lump on his jaw bone. After talking to our vet, we decided he had bottle jaw – an infection in his jaw bone. The lump was a growth of his jaw bone around the infection and the foam was a result of not being able to chew right due to the infection and the lump. Our vet told us to treat him with antibiotics. He said it is hard to treat because the infection is in the bone; he didn’t give us much hope that Captain would recover. After 2 weeks of penicillin, Captain improved! He had no more foam and his overall health seemed better. The lump on his jaw will remain because it is actual bone growth, but the symptoms of the infection are gone. We were very thankful for his speedy and easy recovery!
Let me back up and say that we test our does for pregnancy in the fall to be sure our buck has done his job. To test them, we draw blood and send it off to Precision Diagnostics. Last fall, we could only get blood on Lily. Since her test came back positive for pregnancy, we hoped (but doubted) Captain had done his job with the other 2. As spring progressed, we became more doubtful that Nickel and Llama were bred. Lily delivered 2 bucklings on March 15 – Socks & Bright (see photos below).
We bottle fed them and sold them when they were almost weaned. We were excited to finally have goat milk again! This was Lily’s second kidding. Her first time around, she had only produced a half a gallon of milk (a good milk goat should produce a gallon a day). We knew that a goat’s first year is not necessarily their full potential, so we decided to give Lily a second go of things. This year, she barely got to a peak of half of a gallon and quickly dropped off to not even producing enough to feed her babies. Though we loved her pedigree and personality, we decided we did not want to keep those production genetics in our herd. We found a perfect home for her with someone who was okay with her low production.
Around the same time we sold Lily, we decided we need to know if Nickel and Llama were bred. A friend of ours assisted us with the blood draws and soon found out that Nickel was and Llama wasn’t. So, looking at the prospect of only one goat in milk, we decided to buy another one. We went back to Llama’s breeder because she is hands-down my favorite goat in the herd. Unknown to us, Llama’s breeder had just announced she’s selling her whole herd. We decided to purchase Lassie - a niece of Llama’s – and Lassie’s newborn doeling. Lassie had delivered twins on a Thursday late in May, and we picked her up Saturday. The one twin had not survived and the second one was not doing well. The breeder advised us that she may be selenium deficient. She said she wouldn’t administer selenium yet, but wait to see if the problem resolved itself. We took Lassie and Little Lassie home, doubtful that Little Lassie would survive, but ready to give it our all. We bottle fed her and watched her joints (selenium deficiency results in weak joints). She steadily improved to walking correctly, but she always walked as though she had arthritis. Our hopes for her survival soared, but, suddenly, after 2 weeks of doing well, she could not longer stand. We started selenium tablets, but we were too late. Little Lassie seemed to have lost all control of her legs and, sadly, she passed away.
While Little Lassie’s story didn’t end happily, Lassie’s did! It is always a risk bringing a new goat into your herd. Goats do not handle stress and moving well. Lassie had a lot of stress – delivering kids Thursday, losing one, moving to a new home on Saturday, and learning to be milked. She never missed a beat, milks like a champ, and has fit into our herd well. She’s producing a half a gallon a day and seems to increasing as her appetite grows.
And, we can’t forget faithful Nickel – she delivered 2 bucklings on May 24. We named them Wilbur and Orville and began bottle feeding them. We had decided we were going to keep one of Nickel or Llama’s doelings this spring. Well, Llama didn’t get bred and Nickel had boys. So, we thought we’d just keep Little Lassie, who didn’t survive. In the midst of all this, Nickel’s buckling Wilbur wormed his way into all our affections and we decided to keep him. He’s quite the character! We sold his brother, Orville, as a bottle baby to a family looking to have their children raise a goat.
So, that brings us to the current. We are milking Lassie and Nickel twice a day. Llama doesn’t quite understand why she doesn’t get a turn on the milking stand, but judging by her growing belly, she might have kids in the next few months. Spring breeding doesn’t usually happen with Nubians, but we’ll see. Captain hangs out with the ladies and doesn’t have a bad smell yet because he’s only 1 year old. Wilbur is still on the bottle and he thinks, perhaps, he a person or maybe a dog, as we are his “herd” right now. We plan to put him in with the bigger goats once he’s weaned.
Looking back on the spring, we feel very blessed! Captain has fully recovered from his bottle jaw, we had 2 easy deliveries with healthy kids, we have lots of milk in our fridge, and we learned a few more things about raising goats.
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!
Independent Field Representative