Bottle Raising vs. Dam Raised

Whether to bottle-raise or dam-raise your kids is a big decision when raising kids. On the one hand, bottle-raising kids makes them super friendly without a lot of work – but the effort of bottle raising can be quite labor intensive. On the other hand, dam-raising takes away a lot of the work, is more natural – but you need to make sure you spend time with your kids to make them people-friendly, and a much higher chance of milk-related diseases to be passed on.

For those visual people out there, I’ve made a pros and cons list!

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Obviously, this isn’t a balanced list. This list is just to highlight the elements to take into consideration when deciding how to raise your kids. Many of these things can be managed to be a lesser problem. For example, taming kids is solved with just a half an hour of sitting down with new babies to familiarize them with you and people in general. And oh, it’s such a “chore.”

Different elements are going to have different weight depending on what you’re looking for. If you have a huge herd, taming all those kids may be a monumental task – in the same vein, bottle-raising may be entirely too much work.

The risk of CAE is unacceptable to some, and all kids are bottle-raised. Hard-core breeders who show consistently may not be willing to make sure to check for lop-sided udders, and kids are bottle-raised for the same reason.

In other scenarios, such as needing CAE testing, the testing should probably be done anyway. For lop-sided udders, which can be managed with some attention, you might not care if you’re not going to show.

It all depends on what you’re looking for in your ladies and what you want to do. And I have posts on dealing with different issues that arise depending on your preference for raising kids, as well.

Here’s a post on lop-sided udders

Some specifics for bottle-raising kids:

Do not skimp on the colostrum, even if you’re bottle-raising! It’s the absolute best thing for babies in jump-starting their immune systems and making sure they grow up strong. If you don’t have a source of natural colostrum, there are colostrum replacers that can be bought. Try to find a goat-specific version.

If you do have a natural source of colostrum and are bottle-feeding for disease-related reasons, make sure to heat treat, not pasteurize, the colostrum. Pasteurizing the colostrum will turn it into pudding.

Also, if you’re going to continue using replacer, I really recommend buying cows milk and feeding half cows milk and half replacer. Feeding only replacer can make the kid bloat.

Have any pros and cons to add to the list? Let me know! I’d love to add them.

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Kidding Stories: Sari, 2016

Easter Day, I had just returned from celebration #1 (with several families, holidays are a bouncing of place to place) to check on the new ducks I had just picked up the day before. They were, of course, out yonder and not where I wanted them to stay, so I herded them back where I wanted them.

During this escapade, I caught Sari eating something off the ground. Not where food is normally put. It was a bit odd, so I just watched a few more minutes while herding furiously-quacking ducks.

Then I saw her paw at the ground and lay down. That really got my attention. Forgoing duck herding for the moment, I watched a few more minutes, and saw her strain.

Yep! It was happening!

According to my online chart, she was supposed to kid in three days, not today. (I’m using an online calculator, and this is the second time it’s been wrong, so I need to stop trying to cheat and just make the calculations myself)

I had my partner’s brother (who was helping me herd ducks) call my partner down below and bring hot water and towels, and I got Sari into the kidding pen. She was even straining while standing up, which meant a kid was pressing against her cervix and really ready to get this show on the road.

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After about 20 minutes of serious straining I knew something wasn’t going right. I should have seen presentation of some sort. So after I lathered up with soap and water, I carefully pushed in to see what was happening.

I have a lot of experience with this. I used to help kid 40 – 60 goats a year, and at least half of them always had something wrong with presentation. It probably would have worked itself out over time, but it’s hard for me to watch them straining and obviously in pain and not do anything about it.

It took me a minute to locate the head – which was right there, as it was supposed to be – and then I found another head right next to it. Both kids were trying to come out at the same time. There wasn’t a lot of room for either one to really move around, so both of them were pressing. Not necessarily incorrectly aligned or one foot of each trying to come out (which I’ve had before), but still a problem.

I pushed one kid back and carefully followed a head down the neck to the shoulder to find the feet. I wasn’t able to do that totally (as it was pretty tightly crammed in there and I didn’t want to hurt mom any more than I had to) but I did a skip hop to feel both feet were there. Then I tugged a little to line them up right.

Sari pushed; I carefully pulled (just in case I had a wrong foot), and black baby doeling #1 entered the world. My partner and I cleared her mouth and nose, she sneezed and coughed a little, and there she was!

I placed her next to mom’s head, and Sari licked for half a second before starting to push again. A nose immediately presented, only a head – I was worried for a few minutes it was elbow-locked (front feet too far back and elbows flared out). But Sari pushed and I somewhat helped and blonde baby doeling #2 arrived!

Nose was cleared, and exhausted baby sprawled out next to mom. I noted that both of them were pretty skinny, but I blamed it on being early (which I now think may not be true).

I checked mom one more time for babies, just to be sure there weren’t any more (I’d already had my CLEAN hand inside, so I it wouldn’t hurt), and carefully found just growing-babies stuff, so I left Sari alone.

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Then I turned to the babies. Ohmygawd two baby girls, a black and a blonde!

I made sure to dip their cords in iodine and check noses and faces. The blonde girl was pretty sprawled out, enough to worry me just a tiny bit, as the black doeling was already trying to stand and was already making a lot of noise.

But after a little bit and a nap, she was just fine. A little cold the next morning, but both of them are slowly getting the hang of nursing, and mom is being incredibly patient and careful with them.

Yay, healthy goats all around!

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The Benefits of Brushing

Besides earning eternal adoration from your caprine friends (okay, that was a given, but still), there are many benefits to brushing them consistently. It’s a lot like brushing our own hair. It moves oils along, works out the strands, massages the skin, and removes dirt and other such things.

I attempt to run things at my little farm pretty naturally, and brushing is a great way to deal with minor skin problems. Too much dandruff? Brush! Weird scaly skin? Brush! Rough coat? Brush brush brush!

(And if that doesn’t work, try black oil sunflower seeds.)

Of course this isn’t a veterinary prescribed cure for skin problems. But in my ladies day to day life, with the normal up and downs that happen for whatever reason (weather, changes in diet, etc) it seems to help. Cocoa is the oldest goat in the barn and has the most health problems, and by rights, should have the worst coat. But hers is the softest and cleanest of the whole group – she’s the one who demands the brush every evening.

Besides, if your goats have an expression anywhere close to Cocoa’s look of complete bliss when I give her a thorough brushing, it’s worth it.

Be warned though: they may end up fighting over the brush. Cocoa, Phe-Phe, and Sari tend to get pretty annoyed that I don’t have three hands to brush them all simultaneously.

Feeding: Minerals

You should always have a mineral block or loose minerals available. Though they’re pretty dumb in some areas, it seems like they’re pretty smart about eating what minerals they need to supplement what they don’t get from their other food.

Salt blocks come in a few different forms, and most of them are for horses and cows. There are actually goat salt blocks showing up here and there at feed stores that I’ve seen, but if there isn’t a goat-specific one, that’s all right. Get a horse one with the most vitamins and minerals listed.

Read the instructions on the packaging, too. They’re all a little different and I’m sure there’s something I haven’t seen for feeding these. For example, some goat specific blocks are actually crumbly (!?) and are meant for a herd of 12-15; so feeding the whole thing to five goats might be overkill.

I understand that with livestock such as horses, they can make themselves sick off of them. I’ve never known a goat to do that, but I don’t know every goat in the world, either.

Loose minerals, on the other hand, looks kinda like sand. But is super salty (obviously). It’s easier to eat for goats, so many goat herders like it for that reason, though overeating is more of a risk that way. Again, I’ve never known that to happen to a goat necessarily.

Also, goat-specific loose minerals seems to much more readily available.

(Funny story: Sassy makes odd little annoyed sounds when she eats it, and I finally figured out it’s because she’s eating so much so fast it’s drying her mouth out and making it hard to swallow. She has to make a few water trips to make it work)

I actually have a salt block AND loose minerals. Each pen has a salt block they can chew on, and I bring out the loose minerals a few evenings a week. I’ve thought about setting up a dish-hanging contraption for the loose minerals and moving away from salt blocks, but haven’t yet. Besides, the evenings I feed the minerals I get fun bonding time, and who’s eating the minerals and who’s not gives me an idea of how everybody’s feeling, too.

As I write this: growing babies and milking does are the ones that want the minerals, but nobody else is that interested. Hmmm…

Anyway, I starting feeding both because of my old lady, Cocoa. She struggles with weight and keeping her mineral/vitamin balances up, so I have the loose minerals that allow her to easily ingest what she needs without spending hours licking a block. When she started getting access to the loose minerals, her health really improved.

(That, and the weird herbs I give her, but that’s another story.)

There are also other supplemental things you can supply your goats.

Black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS): I love feeding these guys; black oil sunflower seeds contain vitamin E, zinc, iron, and selenium, as well as fiber and fat. It makes their coats shinier and increases the butterfat in their milk. I add it to the grain I’m feeding, or just as a handful or two if somebody needs it (but isn’t on grain).

Kelp meal: Kelp meal is a great source of iodine, selenium, and other minerals. I use it to help prevent iodine deficiency. I hear it also helps with milk production and protecting against mastitis.

Baking soda: Many goat owners offer their baking soda free choice, which aids digestion by keeping the rumen pH-balanced. If one of your goats is having tummy troubles, offer baking soda.

Beet pulp: I’ve heard of people who feed this; it adds fiber, protein, and energy to a goat’s diet, and contains calcium and phosphorus.

Apple cider vinegar is also a good one; it’s full of enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. If you put it in their water, it may also convince goats to drink more water as it smells interesting.

Other articles on feeding:

Head back to https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/on-feeding-an-overview/

There is also: https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/feeding-alfalfa/

And: https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/feeding-grain/

A post on grass hay will be up soon!

Any questions? Comments?

Feeding: Grain

Grain has a much higher level of protein, vitamins and minerals, and energy than other feeds. Goats are built for eating roughages, so grain should always be fed more sparingly; adults shouldn’t really get more than 1.5 lbs a day, and kids should have even less. It adds the extra boost that helps with milking and growing, but too much causes goats to get fat and can even cause illness.

Grain should be given to milking does and kids under a year. Milkers need it to support milk production. Kids need it to grow up strong and healthy. A lot of breeders don’t like the heavy, growthy kids that come from feeding grain too early, so a loose rule for feeding grain to kids is starting to give them a little bit at two months. And only a little bit!

Healthy bucks don’t need grain – and can be detrimental over time in high quantities, particularly for whethers. Kidney stones are no fun for anybody. Feed them alfalfa if they need something, grass hay otherwise.

(That being said, I am feeding grain to one of my bucks at the time of this post. But ONLY because he’s only just a year and super skinny. It is not a routine feeding regime, much to his chagrin)

Feeding grain to goats over a year who aren’t milking will just make them fat, unhealthy, and lead to illness. Goats are ruminants, making hay the majority of their diet; grains are only to supplement and help support. If you want to have treats for you goats, don’t head for the grain bin: save your apple cores, or bring a clipping of some blackberries from that overgrown patch down the road.

Now. I’m going to end on a note about feeding grain to pregnant goats. The immediate assumption is to give pregnant goats grain, because hey, it’ll help grow strong kids and keep the mother strong and make sure she’s all healthy…

Well. Yes but.

If you start feeding grain early on in the pregnancy, it increases the chances of something called pregnancy ketosis.

Pregnancy ketosis is scary. It will kill a goat rapidly, is hard to combat – but is relatively easy to prevent. I will be writing a post shortly on what that is, but the basic gist is this: you can give a little bit of grain to a pregnant lady in her last month (and then as she’s milking). But not before. It does weird things to body chemistry that may result in a dead lady.

Now that I’ve scared you a little bit, moving on to choosing your grain!

There are a variety of different grains you can choose from to feed your goats. Goats are funny, and need different quantities of vitamins and minerals than other types of livestock. So while general livestock feeds are fine to give to goats (and sometimes your only option), they do not have the quantities of vitamins and minerals that goats need.

For example: copper. In the doses that goats would like it, it would kill sheep and horses. Ergo, lower quantities in general livestock feeds – nobody needs dead horses and sheep.

 

Another other option for feeding grain is to mix it yourself. I don’t know much about that, though I may post links for information here at some point. You may have to work with a vet or nutritionist to get the mixture right – and, if you’re planning on having a giant herd, mixing your own grain actually ends up being cheaper.

 

I’m pretty lucky in my area, because somebody around here makes a feed specifically for goats. But even with that awesome feed available, I still mix it up a little. I also have wet cob on hand. Why?

Firstly, web cob is a basic thing with only three ingredients: crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber. As a base feed, it works. It just won’t give them anything else they need.

And, because my goats are weird, they LOVE web cob more than anything else in the world, even to the refusal of the expensive-really-good-for-you grain. I’ll add a scoop of the wet cob to whatever I want them to eat and they’ll generally eat all of it just to get to the cob.

For Cocoa, my old lady who struggles to keep her weight up, it’s good for giving her the extra base STUFF she needs. It helps that she’s obsessed with it; that and the chicken feed, which I DON’T let her eat (weirdo…).

If you have a finicky eater, trying giving them some wet cob. I haven’t met a goat yet who doesn’t like it.

All that being said, if you don’t have access to a grain made for goats, or have a smaller herd that doesn’t make it efficient to make it on your own, do not despair! Get the general livestock feed, or give them “straight” grains like oats, barley, etc. Minerals (read the post below) exist to take care of the rest!

My other posts on feeding your goats:

https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/on-feeding-an-overview/

https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/feeding-alfalfa/

https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/feeding-minerals/

Feeding: Alfalfa

Alfalfa (a legume) is the wonder food in goat-land. It provides protein, calcium, and all sorts of wonderful vitamins and minerals for any goat who is milking, growing, pregnant, or (for bucks) in rut. Each goat fitting those requirements should be getting a few lbs of it a day, though some of this can be supplemented with browsing and/or quality grass hay.

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Baby face eating the good stuff!

If your lovelies are not milking, growing, pregnant, or in rut, feeding alfalfa is unnecessary. Particularly if they have access to lots of brush and things to eat. Alfalfa is more expensive, and will eventually make them fat (which is, of course, bad). You can feed a nice grass hay instead.

A quick note about bucks: feeding too much alfalfa to bucks, or to whethers (who should almost never get alfalfa) increases the possibility of urinary calculi. This is a build of solid particles in the urinary track due to too rich of a diet — and is very painful, causing pain, fevers, vomiting. Don’t overfeed the alfalfa!

Now, an extension of what I was saying in my https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/on-feeding-an-overview/ post: alfalfa grown in different areas will provide different levels of vitamins and minerals. In order to know what exactly your goats are getting, you might want to get your alfalfa tested. It’s not that expensive, and will help you figure out if you need to add a little extra this or that to their diet.

(Or make friends in the community, who already know some handy tips about what is deficient in the area and where to get hay.)

For example:

I know that my area is deficient in selenium (NW Oregon – though I’m not sure the boundaries of the soil deficiency). Selenium is handy for things like muscle growth, brain function – you know, small things like that. If you read my https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/on-baby-goats-born-with-weak-pasterns/ post, you’ll get a clearer picture on what a minor selenium deficiency looks like.

Because selenium is deficient in this area, I buy alfalfa from Eastern Oregon. Most of the alfalfa around here is shipped from there anyway, so it’s easy to get ahold of. They’re not deficient in selenium in that area and the alfalfa naturally has it in higher quantities. Now, I still have to occasionally give shots of selenium, so the alfalfa isn’t completely covering it – but it’s much better than giving it totally through shots.

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Image stole from here

 

As with most things, the more natural you can get, the better.

The quality changes depending on which cutting the alfalfa bale is from — first, second, or third. First is best, the others following, respectively. Most of the nutrients in alfalfa resides in the leaves, so choose the leafiest alfalfa you can (and some picky goats won’t eat the stems unless it’s a last resort anyway). The more stems, the more fiber and less nutrients.

Sometimes you may not have much of a choice, depending on the season and how you acquire your hay. Just remember to go for the leafiest, brightest-colored, most sweet-smelling alfalfa you can.

And for any type of hay, always check to make sure that it is fresh and clean. Moldy hay can make goats very sick — and in large enough doses it can kill them.

Any questions?

Posts on grass hay will be up shortly!

Here’s the post on grain: https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/feeding-grain/

There’s also an important one on minerals: https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/feeding-minerals/

Or you can head back to the https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/on-feeding-an-overview/ post.