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We bought our farm in Stockdale, Texas in 2008. I retired from training horses. That was a fun ride for 25 years.
We bought all the same livestock we grew up with to have on our farm. We thought that cattle were the answer for our farm and for the ag exemption. We went off what we were taught growing up.
Due to the very dry weather the drought here in Texas we had to sale off the cattle. Our farm just didn’t feel complete without the cattle.
Our good friend Ike recommended that we should get goats in place of the cattle. We tossed the idea around for weeks. I never thought I would own a goat much less a heard. Although we had a goat that stayed with a stallion that I had in training years ago. The goat went everywhere with that horse. (It was fun when we went to horse shows with a goat tagging alone.) Oh, and my youngest daughter had a three-legged Barbie doe that someone gave us. It ate and ran with our horses. LOL! That was the only experience I had with a goat.
We went over to visit Ike and Barbra to look at their goats. Most of all Ike gave us so much advice about owning goats. The more I was around his goats and worked with the goats the more I liked them. I came to realize that a goat is much easier to handle than a cow. They are smaller than a cow. So, I can handle them by myself. Which is a plus because I will be the one doing the milking and handling them daily. Also, a goat will do all most anything for a treat.
But, we didn’t know where to start, or what breed would be the best for milking. Ike told me in his opinion Nubian and Saanen goats make the best milkers. I did know one thing, I wanted to milk the goats, so we could have fresh milk.
Ike let me borrow two does (female goat) that was in milk. He sent two goats because goats are herd animals. Which that means you need to have at least two goats together to keep them happy. I was so excited about milking the nannies. The two nannies were Nubian goats that Ike loaned me.
Milking a goat is not as easy as you might think. Goats can be fidgety, stubborn, moody critters. The nannies were not trained to milk. I had my work cut out for me. It was much easier to train a goat than a cow. Milking a goat is much different than milking a cow. So much for thinking it would be like milking a cow. Hahaha! After a few days, I could milk them without any trouble.
I knew I needed a better set up for milking after a very brief time. If I was going to milk goats I needed a milking area with a milking stand. Like the old saying “work smarter not harder.”
We bought four Saanen nannies goats from Ike. We are in the goat business now. All four of the nannies were bred to his Nubian buck.
A goat’s gestation period is five months (approximately 150 days). So, we had a few months to get ready before we had kids (baby goats). Goats are known to have twins, single or triplet births are common. Less frequent are litters of quadruplet, quintuplet, and even sextuplet kids. Birthing is known as kidding, generally occurs uneventfully. Just before kidding, the doe will have a sunken area around the tail and hip, as well as heavy breathing. She may have a worried look, become restless and display great affection for her keeper. The mother often eats the placenta, which gives her much-need nutrients, and helps to keep her from hemorrhaging. Also, is reduce the chance of predators finding the baby.
A doe doesn’t just reach a certain age and suddenly begin filling it’s utter with milk. A doe needs to be bred and give birth. Freshening (coming into milk production) occurs at kidding. Milk production varies with the breed, age, quality, and diet of the doe. Dairy goats generally produce between 1,500 and 4,000 lb. of milk per 305-day lactation. After nursing her kids to at least three months old you can continue to milk the doe.
A doe that is treated properly, fed well, milked daily will continue to produce milk for ten months to one year. An excellent quality dairy doe will give at least 6 lbs. of milk per day while she is in milk. A first time Milker may produce less. Occasionally, goats that have not been bred and are continuously milked will continue lactation beyond the typical 305-days. After her milk dries up she will need to be bred again and the process starts all over.
Does of any breed come into estrus (heat) every 21 days for two to 48 hours. A doe in heat typically flags (vigorously wags) her tail often, stays near the buck if one is present, becomes more vocal, and may also show a decrease in appetite and milk production for the duration of the heat.
Bucks (intact males) come into rut in the fall as with the does’ heat cycles. Bucks may show seasonal fertility, but as with the does, are capable of breeding at all times. Rut is characterized by a decrease in appetite and obsessive interest in the does. A buck in rut will display lip curling and will urinate on his forelegs and face. Sebaceous scent glands at the base of the horns add to the male goat’s odor, which is important to make him attractive to the doe. Some does will not mate with a buck which has been descended.
In addition to natural, traditional mating, artificial insemination has gained popularity among goat breeders, as it allows easy access to a wide variety of bloodlines.
Don’t try to do it all at first. Raising show goats, breeding stock, milk goats, and slaughtering meat goats are four different goals for raising goats. Pick your main focus because you’ll need to manage your herd differently depending on it.
Here is a list of books that could help you with more goat information.
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Margarita & Stace