Tips for Raising Dairy Goat Kids

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADairy goats are an animal that people seem to either love or hate. Raising dairy goat kids is a key part in keeping these animals as well as insuring that you have a continuous supply of milk with each generation being better than the one before. As you become familiar with these animals you will see a side that few others do. The purpose of breeding is to make the next generation better as even the best doe will not last forever. Having healthy, quality daughters to step up in her place insures a steady supply of milk, but this doesn’t come without a plan and a fair share of time.

Pound for pound a good dairy goat can outmilk a cow. In an open ag forum I would get teased by dairy cattle people and at the first insult of my goats I issued the challenge. The fact is a good Alpine in the herd milked 18 pounds per day on official test, and at roughly 100 pounds that’s producing more than her body weight in milk every week. Seen another way, a 1,000 pound cow at 10 times the body weight would have to produce 180 pounds (also 10 times) to equal her and that simply does not happen. This was a good doe but not even close to the world record holder. That title goes to a registered Toggenburg.

Heavy producing does need good management to maintain that kind of production without taking a toll on her body. These are the kind of does to product to the bucks for daughters that continue the family tradition. Often those criticizing the goat see the other side of the picture. This is the low production, hard keeping doe with poor tasting milk often because she’s grazing on brush and garbage forage that do not meet her nutritional needs. The dairy doe, like her growing kids, needs good nutrition to perform at her best.

As a homesteader you want the former type of animal or her daughters, whether or not they are purebred. Don’t gauge butterfat or production on breed as this can lead you wrong and any doe said to produce “a gallon a day” should have a clearly visible milk vein’ that runs on the underside of her belly. I’ve never seen a heavy milker without that vein clearly visible no matter what size the udder is.

Once you select your dairy kids from these types of animals you need to start early to keep them growing and healthy. If you are raising them from early on make sure they get plenty of colostrum from the doe, preferably two or three feedings. Due to some health issues many people remove the kids from the doe and pasteurize the milk. This also insures there is milk for the people as well as limits the damage a kid can do to a doe’s udder when aggressively nursing.

Contrary to often stated opinion goats do not “eat everything” and as you start feeding them you will wish sometimes that was true! They will nibble on many things and do have an appetite for boxes because it’s fiber. However, from early on the young dairy goat needs quality feed.

This means good clean hay and plenty of it! If you can find alfalfa mix hay so much the better. Have a feeder the goats need to reach into in order to eat and minimize what is pulled out of the feeder if it hits the ground many goats will not touch it! This adds up to a major cost for the homesteader as wasted hay may not be bad, just on the ground. Some people run a couple of hair sheep with their dairy goats to clean up such hay and make use of it!

Plenty of clean water is needed also for the growing dairy goat. Make sure the tank or bucket is cleaned often and keep it (again!) from where feet or debris can get into the water.

Many breeders provide a trace mineral block as well as a good mineral. If you run any lambs with the goats watch the copper level in the mineral goats need it but sheep can ingest toxic amounts of it. Don’t be tempted to feed sheep mineral but rather use a mineral for dairy cattle. The difference in this became clear when a change meant darker, richer colors on the Toggenburgs and a better hair coat on the goats. Some things goats and sheep are the same but in many you will need to adapt things down from dairy cattle.

Deworm young goats and treat for coccidia, a parasite that can kill a young goat remarkably quickly. This means treating with Albon or other drugs for coccidia as a regular wormer does not kill them. A good quality grain should be fed as soon as the kids will start nibbling on it. Don’t overfeed though as this can cause stomach upset which can be fatal.

There are not many vaccinations needed for dairy goats but a couple that shouldn’t be skimped on are tetanus and C&D. These will cost you under $8 including the disposable syringe and needle. The C&D helps protect against enterotoxaemia or “overeating”, a digestive upset that can be fatal. Tetanus is advised especially if there has been or are horses on the property.

Dairy got kids need a dry clean place to live. Dry is important as it not only prevents health problems but also prevents parasites. Good quality dairy got kids are an investment in your food supply. Feed and house them well and they will return it many times over not only in milk but also in their antics. There’s the occasional kid that especially likes people that grows into the doe that is always following you thisclose and it makes it even more rewarding to be able to say “I raised her.”

An Introduction to Meat Goat Breeds

boerkidwikiPDMeat goat breeds are often seen as being Boer and Boer cross. While it is true that any goat can be used for meat, just as beef cattle are heavier muscled than dairy so it is with goats. This puts more pounds in the freezer for the space and resources used.

Often misspelled as boar or bore, the Boer is a South African breed that is a powerful, stocky, meaty goat. They typically have large horns on the bucks with smaller horns on the does. The Boer was introduced and initially brought incredibly high prices with $30,000 or more not uncommon. They were crossed with Spanish and Nubian goats largely due to availability and the high cost of Boers made it impractical to sell them for meat. When the market crashed many found themselves with expensive Boers that no longer held the value.

The initial Boers were white with red heads although sometimes black or tan were seen in crossbreds. So dominant has the Boer been that anything carrying Boer markings was priced higher. They have a high growth rate but some became disappointed in the Boer as to finish well it was said they had to be feedlot fed’. The most disappointed were the people who believed goats “eat anything”, bought expensive animals and turned them into barbed wire areas with scrub brush that offered little to no nutritional value.

The Myotonic goat is smaller and has several names including Tennessee fainting goat, wooden leg and stiff legged goats. This breed has a high meat to bone dressing percentage and can make a good outcross for other breeds. The unique trait of these goats is their “faint” which despite appearances is not fainting or seizures nor is it painful. The muscles will stiffen and the goat often falls down, particularly when startled or scared. These goats absolutely MUST have tight fences as they are helpless in a predator attack. They are aware of what is going on but cannot run. Owners must make sure especially with this breed there is proper protection.

The Kiko has also gained favor among many as a more efficient grazer than the Boer. The Kiko is a New Zealand meat breed developed from native feral goats using Anglo-Nubian, Toggenburg and Saanen bucks then selective breeding to produce a meaty, solid and deep bodied goat with plenty of muscling. The horns of the Kiko are different from a typical Boer and the Kiko excels under natural conditions. Like the Boer the Kiko has a breed registry to maintain purebred meat goat lines.

The Kiko Boer cross has found favor with some meat goat producers. Still others have selected heavier muscled dairy animals such as some producers in California in the mid 1990s with working towards establishing a Santa Teresa goat. Using largely Alpine and LaMancha these goats were slated as a dual purpose, milking a good amount but also producing weathers that finished out at heavy weights. Indeed at one carcass show the Santa Teresa easily won the class over all the Boer crosses with simply more meat over shoulders, hindquarters, ribs and top.

The best breed of meat goat depends on your situation. Like most animals the goat can benefit from crossbreeding commercially to increase the frame and function. Buck kids slated for finishing for meat should be castrated for reasons of meat quality, although some ethnic customers require only buck kids be consumed so your methods depend on your market.

No matter what breed or combination of breeds that you use good genetics, good feed, good fences and good management will product the best meat goats.

Cow Productivity Depends on Cow Comfort

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACow productivity and cow comfort is something that often is pointed at dairy cattle. Beef cattle, too, are more productive when comfortable. The comfort of cattle is of primary concern among producers who not only want to maximize the care of the cattle.

Modern dairy cows are often a focus due to confinement situations that are needed from a labor standpoint. Many modern confinement systems provide shade, fans and even misters for cows in hot weather. Feed that is easily available is important as well as clean water – both make for more milk. While concrete pens are usually used for reasons of ease of cleaning, it can be hard on a cow’s feet and legs. For this reason a comfortable, dry, clean place to lie down is important.

Free stalls are designed so that cows walk in and lie down, helping to insure that the manure deposited when she stands up is in the gutter or at least at the back of the stall where it is easily scraped into the gutter to be scraped out. Sand, shavings, rubber and cow mattresses are all options that are used in dairies around the US.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile the basics of feed, water, shelter are a great deal towards cow comfort that certainly isn’t all. Dairies that dry cattle off for a rest grass based dairies and beef facilities also make use of pasture. Ground is easier on feet and legs, but more difficult to keep dry and sanitary.

Dry areas to lie down reduce the chances of mastitis and other problems. Cows will lay down in many areas and some cows are just messy and don’t seem to mind laying in manure, but most given a choice will choose a dry stall over a wet one.

Cow comfort of course goes much further. Keeping feet properly trimmed and maintained makes it easier for cows to walk without pain. If they are hesitant to stand or walk they won’t be up eating and, pasture or confinement, can lose production and condition.

Pest control is another important part of cow comfort. Cows that spend their time fighting flies aren’t eating or resting – both essential activities of a cow’s productive day. There are also diseases such as pinkeye that can be transmitted with flies. Pest control also includes controlling mice and rats around the feed supplies.

When designing barns, shelters or even feeding areas in pastures keeping the focus on cow comfort pays off whether it’s 2 cows or 2,000. Observe cattle daily for signs of soreness or injury.

Keeping up on cow care basics is important but it also is important to think from a cow’s preference, not a human one. Don’t let dominant cows keep more submissive ones from the feed – make sure there is plenty of bunk space for all to eat without harassment or fear.

Plan well for cow care and productivity. Your cows depend on you as much as you depend on them, and a good cow is too expensive to replace in rotation before her time. Take care of your cows and they’ll take care of you.

Build a Fence to Suit Style, Need

FH010003_editedThere is a wide variety of fence designs available for homes of any style or taste. Before you decide on what to build, consider what you want your fence to do. Are you looking to confine pets or children? Do you prefer a privacy fence or perhaps wish to fence off around a pool or other area? Like any other household project, building a fence is best done with a plan and thought to the best fence for the job. Along with the type of fence, the primary use of it and the cost you might also consider the labor involved to build a fence.

If you are looking for a long lasting, low maintenance fence to confine pets or children, to accent landscaping and allow seeing through to your home while minimizing access to it, you might consider chain link. Costs to build a chain-link fence can be somewhat high, not as much for the chain link but the posts and fittings that go with it. It can be somewhat labor intensive to put up but once installed you have a fence that will require little maintenance for years and still looks great.

If you don’t have little dogs or children but do have larger dogs, an option in fence design might be an ornamental fence – these are often described as “iron” fences with bars that allude to elegance with stability, and often are not a “do it yourself” kind of project.

Another option is PVC covered wood fences which can vary from decorative to a plain post and rail. The PVC covered wood extends the life of the fence without painting or maintenance, although some clean the fence annually with a pressure washer to remove debris and the green tinge that occurs in some areas. If you know how to build a fence these have been constructed by people with an eye to detail and a willingness to do the work themselves.

Wood fence designs vary widely from a picket type fence to one with more texture to a solid privacy fence. Basic information on how to build a privacy fence is available online. Aside from the installation there is also maintenance of staining and care of the wood to preserve the fence itself.

Getting the right kind of fence for what you need at a cost and maintenance you can live with.

Selecting the Right Sheep Breed For You

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASelecting the right sheep breed starts with what do you want the sheep to do? With the answer to that question it directs your answer while eliminating those who don’t do so well at what you want.

For example if you’re looking at showing in open market lamb competition you might get away with a Hampshire or polled Dorset but your primary choice will be Suffolk. That is what excels in the show ring. However there may be some arguable exceptions. A small sized youth may be more comfortable and learn more with a cheviot or Texel which aren’t as tall but still make the muscle weight to show. True it would take an exceptional animal to win, but for many the WINNER is learning to make the most of choices and livestock husbandry, which they’re more likely to do hands on.

If you’re looking to raise lambs outside on pasture what kind of range do you have? How big are your pastures and are you interested in meat or wool? If the latter do you have a market or are you willing to work hard to develop one? Do you want to mess with wool at all? If you aren’t willing or able to shear the sheep and there isn’t someone to hire then don’t think about anything but hair sheep or maybe hair cross.

The fiber market is exacting – no weeds, seeds or “trash” in the fiber which weakens the fiber as well as takes more work to clean. This necessitates *GOOD* pasture that is clean to insure the fleeces aren’t contaminated.

For those without a great deal of room interested in wool the Shetland may be an option – maturing about 90-125 pounds with ewes slightly smaller, the Shetland has a Bradford count in up upper 50s or higher, with 2-4 pounds per shearing not uncommon. Several colors are available and they are considered a rare breed both in the UK and the US.

If you’re dedicated to conservation the Leicester Longwool may be of interest. This is an old breed once kept by George Washington now critically endangered. They have a heavy curly fleece that is commonly 11-15 pounds with some up to 20 pounds. Those with more room and a real dedication to wool may consider the world’s largest breed – the Lincoln. Adult ewes are often 200-250 with rams 250-350 pounds, with distinctive long fleece that is well wooled to the knees and hocks. The Cotswold is slightly smaller.

Another interesting breed for fleece is the Romney big enough for a good eating and with a low “grease” – or lanolin – content to the wool. While the lanolin can be a good product many correlate the amount of lanolin affects the taste of the lamb, which if affecting the fat makes sense.

If you’re not interested in fleeces as much consider the Barbados blackbelly, Wiltshire horn or possibly the California Red.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThose without a great deal of room may find the 160-200 pound size of the Cheviot (ewes to 160 pounds) easier to handle than the larger breeds. If volume is your interest Polypays can be the solution, with the ability to lamb more than once a year and breed early. Another option is the Southdown but these do have wooled faces and legs, an objectionable quality for some. For something the same size but completely different consider the ‘redheads’ – Tunis sheep have red heads and a reddish cast to the wool. They’re born red.

For something completely different there’s the Karakul, originally brought to the US for pelt production. They are a “fat tailed” breed with ewes 100-150 pounds and rams 175-225 pounds not uncommon. They may be several colors and are distinctive in the sheep world.

The Cheviot isn’t to be confused with the slightly larger North country Cheviot – similar but the latter is not uncommon for ewes to be 180 and rams 300 pounds. The North Country Cheviot is also known for being aggressive on dogs.

In the larger range size of Suffolks ewes are 180-250 pounds with rams 250-350 pounds. Hampshires are also black faced and ewes are minimum 200 pounds with rams 275 and up. In appearance the Hampshire has wool on top the head where the Suffolk does not. Another similarly sized breed is the Oxford which has a black face but more wool on the face, down to the nose.

Slightly smaller at maturity is the Dorset, with ewes 150-200 pounds and rams 225-275 pounds. These may be horned or polled. They have a white “open” face (no wool on face).

Remember these mature sizes when you get “cute little lambs” – don’t tease them or play with them in any way that they butt at you. A 200-300 pound ram can do a lot of damage – don’t fear them but do treat them with respect. If you’re not large enough to ‘tip’ them for trimming and shearing plan and train when they’re small enough to handle. With one Dorset ram I knew throwing him wasn’t going to happen (I’m 5’2″!) so from the time he was a few months old I picked up his feet. He learned much as a horse and as an adult he was very easy to do his feet. Often I could do all 4 faster than others could tip him!

Also research the grazing and finishing abilities of your chosen breed. These are just a few of the sheep breeds available, and there’s many who are in other countries but not here.

  • Breeds vary from adult weights of about 100 pounds to over 300 pounds.
  • Some are wool specialists while others are for meat
  • Consider the amount of pasture you have – don’t overgraze.

Did you know?While in the US we think of sheep for fleece or fiber, the Friesian breed was developed for milk. Dairy sheep, including cheese, is in the US but less common than the other uses.

Livestock Guardians: A Guide to Introducing Guardians to the Herd


  • Guardian animals are some of the most loyal and intelligent animals you’ll ever own.
  • They should NEVER just be turned in a strange field with animals.
  • They will give their lives if need be to protect their charges.

Livestock guardians are used to keep predators and stray dogs out of fields, usually of sheep or goats. Without proper introduction and training the guardian can become the predator. Don’t make mistakes that cost you animals.

Recently I received an urgent plea to place two young guardian dogs – 8-9 months old. It seems the owner had alpacas and was going to run the dogs in the field to keep other things out. She did everything wrong possible – got the dogs, at night put them in the field (with animals they’d never seen before) and the next morning she found a $10,000 alpaca dead and another one chewed up. The sad part – it wasn’t the dogs’ fault. It was hers. And these stories are told far too often.

Two of the most popular livestock guardians are dogs and donkeys. They’re popular for a reason – they’re effective! They’ll guard not only sheep and goats but alpacas, llamas, poultry, deer, exotic livestock and much more. They’re effective because they’re territorial. When something is in their territory that shouldn’t be their instinct is to run it off or if need be kill it. So bringing a guardian home, sticking him in a field in the dark tells him “this is your territory.” How is the guardian supposed to know those animals BELONG there? They’ve never been introduced!

Even a trained, experienced guardian needs proper introduction to charges. A new one needing to learn is 100 times so. Until they are solid and trained leaving them alone is a risk. Introductions should be done in daylight!! You need to be able to observe them and if need be correct them!!

Guardian dogs may be several breeds, or combination of breeds. Great Pyrenees are popular as are Anatolian Shepherds, Maremmas, Kuvasz and several others. They are developed and bred for centuries to do what they do – live with and protect livestock. These breeds will automatically get wound up if you play a recording of a coyote howling…they tend to be barkers. Their first warning is to run something off. If it doesn’t run and is a danger to their charges or their people they can and will run it down and kill it. Anatolians have killed cougars. They don’t play fight – they are serious. When they grab an intruder that doesn’t run there is no mercy.

My dad’s previous Pyr – and there were no livestock involved – was agitated at coyotes being too close one night. His booming bark echoed across the field and a fight ensued. He returned in the morning covered with blood – and not a scratch on HIM. My guess is somewhere out in that field a couple coyotes lost their lives. Each breed is a little different. Generally Pyrs are more accepting of people – Anatolians are not.

The two I had if they didn’t know you then you do NOT go in the barn unescorted. NO EXCEPTIONS. They would die protecting their animals and their territory. In their homeland of Turkey it’s not uncommon to see dogs hit – one writer commented on the stupidity of dogs that were in the road then witnessed something. A flock of sheep were crossing the road with several Anatolians with them. A car approached the herd and to protect it the dog stepped out – they weren’t stupid they were literally giving their lives trying to protect their charges. They live for their herds. But young dogs still need trained – they still need corrected if they seen a flock member as a playmate. They need corrected if they try to run with the herd – they’re still dogs and still predators and the line between playing and killing is very fine.

Donkeys are also an effective deterrent of dogs. Jenneys (females) especially can do amazing things – I’ve seen them stand over newborn lambs and kids to protect them from being stepped on. They will chase, bite, strike and kick any dog they don’t know in the field. In an eight acre field I had a 42″ donkey who I never saw do much – until the day two known killer dogs detoured 1300 feet back, 300 feet across and about 800 feet back up the fenceline to avoid cutting through that field. Angel stood in the middle of the field and walked down the center as if to make sure they kept going. These were purebred Rottweilers – which could of been bad but apparently at some point they’d met her in the dark. I never lost a lamb, goat or bird when she was in the field but they were sure eager to avoid her.

When you bring a guardian home put him or her in a small pen NEXT TO what he’ll be guarding. Let him see his new charges…sniff them, get used to them. It instills in their brain who the guardian is and lets him bond with the herd without being IN the herd. Once he’s quietly accepting introduce him into the field supervised…perhaps during the day when you’re home. Observe him and correct negative behavior. A guardian should never chase, play with, mouth or roughhouse with a member of the flock. It’s your responsibility as flock owner and “head boss dog” to insure that they know this. Once he is reliable leave him out more until he’s with them 24/7. Make him EARN respect and responsibility.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven with experienced guardians don’t set them up to fail. Give them a private space to eat. A dog who is trying to eat while 30 goats crowd in trying to take his food is going to defend it – and in this you’re giving him permission to nip or threaten a goat in order to defend his food! This is NEVER ACCEPTABLE. The thought of having to defend themselves against their flock should never be introduced. You have to remember these dogs will give their lives for their charges – don’t undo that by having them turn on the animals they’re protecting. If there is an aggressive herd member eliminate it. Aggression in a goat or sheep isn’t good anyway, but an aggressive animal that constantly torments a guardian is setting the stage for retaliation – and it’s YOUR responsibility to keep that from happening. YOU put the guardian in the field – make it possible for him to do his job right!

You have to understand these guardians are on duty all the time. They live to work. They are focused on one thing – protecting their herd. If you cannot make concessions to help them do their job then it’s your fault for losses and really you don’t deserve the loyalty of a good guardian. The only thing they ask is food, clean water and a decent working environment. Many don’t even ask shelter – they’ll stay out in the snow or under an object in the rain so they can watch and observe for intruders. My Anatolian would not use a dog house or even sheds. They had access to 4X8 foot sheds with the goats – but if they were in there they couldn’t watch for incoming problems.

Training a guardian is not difficult – a good one HAS the instinct. All you have to do is properly introduce them and direct what the ground rules and boundaries are. Guardian animals are some of the most intelligent animals you’ll own. They think on their own, they evaluate if that person is a threat or a buyer, they sense things and notice things we don’t even see! You will not ever have a more loyal worker than a guardian animal. They don’t ask for much in return but DO need some early effort. Those not willing to learn and do this should not get one.

Did you know…Guardians normally have positions – if they see a threat one will go out and confront it while another stays with the herd. With multiple guardians the jobs are further split – this takes care of a threat while insuring others don’t come in behind.

10 Awesome Farm and Home Sites

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAre you looking for information about farming online? Would you like a source for accurate information to learn more? Would you like to make your household more efficient? Read on!

The amount of websites that come up when you do a search for “agriculture” is staggering. Each has links to follow as well and there’s a wealth of information to be found.

1. – from classifieds to farming information to a forum this site has a great deal of information and links. There’s a section solely for women in agriculture, there’s forum sections for animals, crops, small business and many other things affecting modern agriculture families and residents.

2. – another great farm orientated site. There is offers to subscribe to the magazine of the same name, as well as information on a wide variety of agriculture, from traditional farms to much more.

3. – The Farmers Almanac has long been a resource for farmers and non-farmers alike. This site expands that – with a section on weather, natural information, cooking and baking and much more. There are so many links on this site for information it’s easy to get sidetracked – but much good information and a chance to share recipes with others.

4. AmericanLivestockBreedsConservancy – This organization is dedicated to fanciers of rare livestock breeds, some that are critically endangered. There’s many links to information, merchandise, books and much more for animals.

5. – information, sales, breeding and much more information about cattle on this site. Heavy stress on beef breeds but dairy cattle included. There is some of the profiles still under construction – but a good site useful to those interested in cattle.

6. – This is a site to bookmark – with much information and articles about home management, gardening, cooking and much more. Decorating on a budget has information of use to those even not on farms.

7. – This site and the sister site have a great deal of information to make the holiday season enjoyable, with less stress. The organizedhome site also is extensive in information. Efficiency in planning and running the home can save money and frustration, and allow us to do more with less.

8. – Oklahoma State offers a wonderful complete site for livestock enthusiasts. There’s information, links, photos on common livestock breeds such as Hereford and Angus cattle as well as less common breeds such as Hereford hogs and many more. Look through rare breeds as well as get information on animals that might fit your farm or homestead.

9. – Another site sponsored by a magazine. For anyone who loves tinkering – making things from scraps and nothing, finding unique solutions to problems, this site and the magazine is a must read! Extra income opportunities are included as well as new products and reusing things. There’s a whole book on other uses for school busses, for example.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA10. – The moon affects tides and many other earthly things. With garden tips, moon phases and information on planting in those phases and signs, which many have done via various farmers almanacs for years, this is a site chock full of information.

While many abhor the internet as a source of information, and it’s true there is much misinformation on the internet as well, these sites have much information and it’s changing – there’s so often something new to see when looking a week later than what was there previously. The next rainy, dreary afternoon when there’s not much to do – or when it’s too hot to accomplish much outdoors, spend some time planning, organizing and making your household and farm more efficient. So often a few little changes can save so much!