Genetics of Personality

As new babies are born and become little bundles of (increasingly bratty) joy, their personalities emerge full force. It’s amusing to me to see the differences between Maggie and Aztec, and now Beltane and Inanna.

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When I worked with 120+ kids a year it was harder to see how their individual personalities presented themselves, except for the few who really let their personalities shine. With a smaller herd and making sure I spend a lot of time with my dam-raised babies to make them tame, I can’t help but notice all the differences between them.

For Maggie and Aztec, I didn’t raise their parents (Blackberry and Rhett), so I don’t know what their personalities were like when they were toddling around. But the similarities to their adult parents’ personalities is striking.

They were a little doomed for being attention-needy, as both Blackberry and Rhett are both obvious and loud about their desire for attention. And I can understand the kids being whiny and hiding behind me when they’re threatened — Blackberry does that, and they will follow her example.

But weird quirks that Rhett has keep popping up — and I can’t blame that on learn by example because they’ve never spent time with him!

For example, Aztec does the exactly same wave his head in a circle while looking up at you that Rhett does when he wants attention. Maggie does the same back arched, head down, eyes half-closed thing as her father does too. And it started by the time they were a week or two old!

Beltane and Inanna are no less striking. Sari is a fearless tank who does exactly what she wants when she wants to — and little Beltane really got that personality aspect. Within two minutes of being born she was getting to her feet and searching insistently for the milk. She’s also the one that just trots out wherever she wants and explores to her heart’s content. The other day she was trying to fight a chicken.

Inanna, on the other hand, laid there quietly upon being born, looking around, collecting herself. She even took a nap before deciding to get up and look around for sustenance. Maybe it’s just that she inherited her father’s sweet face, too, but she is strikingly like her quiet, collected father.

Now that they’re older, both of them definitely have the cantankerous, in your face aspects of Sari, with really sweet moments of Sauvie. And, of course, there’s just something that’s all their own, too. Beltane does this little head flip that’s the cutest thing ever. And Inanna is into everything.

It all just fascinates me.

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On Disbudding Kids

Most of us recognize the image of a horned goat. But disbudding goats (or, preventing the horns from growing) is a common practice for those on all sides of the goat-raising business. In the wild, they’re necessary for defense. The argument is that they are not necessary, and even dangerous, in captivity.

This is for a variety of reasons: they can be injure themselves, other goats, and their caretakers, too, ranging from getting caught in fences and breaking a neck in panic (since goats like to stick their heads in EVERYTHING) to accidentally gouging out your eye if you’re too close and they pull their head back too fast. It is also a very bad idea to house horned and de-horned goats together, as the de-horned goats will often get injured with the unequal playing field.

Also, it’s a requirement to have a goat de-horned in any sort of showing capacity. I don’t know if a kid will be barred from being registered if they have horns, but they won’t be allowed in the show ring.

(^Beltane and Inanna napping both Before and After disbudding, in a box in my car^)

On the other side of this argument is how inhumane the de-horning process is. There are several ways to disbud, but the most common way to do it (and the easiest, most humane and fast method) is by using a disbudding iron. A hot disbudding iron is taken and pressed on newly-starting horn buds, cauterizing the nerves and veins that supply blood for horn growth. It doesn’t harm the kid beyond stopping the horns from growing and pain, and if you do it correctly, it shouldn’t be longer than 10 seconds. But they do yell. It’s painful. No one enjoys the process.

There is also the consideration that a goat’s horns is their natural protection. If you take these away, you need to supply something to protect them in return.

You should decide if you will be de-horning fairly quickly after a kid is born, because the most humane time to de-horn is within the first few weeks of age. This is when the horns are just starting to appear as little nubs on top of their heads, before the horns have created roots that attach to the skull. Each breed of goat has a slightly different horn grow rate, so you should pay attention. Once you can clearly feel (and see, if you part the hair) the horn buds, it’s time. Earlier is better.

If the horns get bigger, the process to disbud becomes longer, more painful, and tedious. And if the horns develop fully (and attach to the skull) de-horning becomes a major surgery with a likelihood of complications.

I recommend finding an experienced goat owner in your community to teach you how to do it (or, if you’re squeamish, to pay them to do it). There are also many YouTube videos on it, if you don’t have someone to teach you.

This video is a great PG-rated one for getting your feet wet on the subject (I also appreciate how considerate they are for the little kid):

Notice how little time it takes.

Here is a more involved video showing the whole process and going into the details of the reasons and considerations: 

I don’t give shots against tetanus beforehand like the video above (because I avoid shots as much as possible, and because I’ve never had a kid contract tetanus from disbudding before), though the antiseptic doesn’t sound like a half-bad idea.

The key components about disbudding you should keep in mind:

  1. Buck kid horns will grow faster than doelings; pay attention to your kids and try to get them disbudded as soon as a bud can be clearly felt.
  2. Trimming the hair around the buds not only helps with seeing what you’re doing, but makes the contact time needed with the iron time much shorter, and prevents the terrible burning hair smell.
  3. Always make sure the iron is HOT. It makes the process accurate and MUCH faster, which the kid will really appreciate.
  4. Restrain the kid so s/he won’t thrash around. Some people just “sit” on the kid like the first video, and others use the box. Whatever you decide, you don’t want to accidentally burn anything besides the horn bud.
  5. Copper is the color you’re looking for, all around the base of where the bud is growing.

My method is to pay a lady in my community to do it, not only because I hate doing it (though no one likes it), but because I’m helping her out while I’m at it. (Also, I used to help disbud 120+ kids a year and it’s a relief just to let someone else do it).

Any questions? Comments? Advice or crazy story to add? What’s your method?

Nursing Kids and Lopsided Udders

There are a couple reasons that a doe’s udder may be lopsided. Mastitis is also another reason; if you see your doe severely lopsided, you should probably get a test just to make sure there isn’t anything fishy going on there.

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Lopsided Udder: Picture shamelessly borrowed from the Wild Roots Homestead blog

However, with dam-raised kids that are nursing, it’s often because the kids are nursing unequally. This is especially prevalent with only one kid, but it happens with two kids, too.

For example, about two and a half weeks after Blackberry kidded with Magnolia and Aztec, I noticed that one side of her udder was smaller than the other. Not by a lot, just noticeable. I’d been putting her up on the milk stand and milking a little in the evenings so a) she’d become used to the milk stand, and b) her production would keep up no matter what the kids were doing. The next time I had her on the stand, I inspected and discovered that the smaller side had less mammary tissue, especially up in the back.

Uh oh.

After some research, there looked to be two possibilities about what was happening. Either the kids were drinking mostly on the smaller side, making the “milk memory” smaller as it was constantly being depleted (the other side more prone to filling up and expanding the milk memory). Or, the kids were drinking off the bigger side more, and the smaller side was drying up due to less use.

My research also cautioned that lopsidedness can become permanent really fast, so you needed to jump on it as soon as you noticed it.

That evening I taped up the smaller side to a) see exactly how much she produced without kid interference, and b) convince the kids to drink off the other side. The next morning she’d gotten the tape off, but her udder looked even.

Which meant it was the first reason. So I spent probably a week taping the smaller side in the evenings to give it time to expand and fill out the “milk-memory.”

By this time Blackberry was getting annoyed with the kids nursing, too, so she was only letting them nurse for a few moments when she felt like it (which meant they had no time for pickiness on deciding which side they liked better).

Overall, her udder is almost exactly even now. When you milk her out you can still tell there’s a little difference in the development of udder tissue, but she looks good:

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Now cue Sari kidding. I was being more watchful of the issue this time around, but I barely had time to prepare for this one. The kids ONLY drank off the one side, and within two days, that side was about a third of the size of the other side (which they were not drinking off of). I’m not sure what that’s about.

But, the same protocol as before. In the evenings I started taping up the smaller side to give it time to expand and create “milk memory” while encouraging the kids to drink off of the other side.

There was definite improvement, but she was still pretty lopsided. Worried about how much I had to try to fix this problem, I ramped up my efforts, and taped her up during the daytime, too.

This is where you have to be careful: make sure you fully milk out the side that you’re working with if you decide to tape up 24/7 (even if you tape only for 12 hours, milk the side out). You don’t want to create the opposite problem and have the smaller side dry up because she’s full too often!

The morning after I did that (several days into the night-time taping up) her udder was pretty even, milk wise. The smaller side was still tighter than the other side and obviously had less “milk memory,” even though they both had about the same amount of milk. The next morning, after only a 12 hour tape up, she’s looking much better. There’s only a little difference between the halves.

I wonder if being only a week from kidding helped with allowing her udder to be flexible. She also has such a strange udder that completely disappears when she’s not milking, the super-malleable quality probably helped. I also wonder if it’s hindering as well though, and that’s why the lop-sidedness was severe so fast.

My strategy for now is to rotate which days I’ll tape up that side for 24 hours (with every 12 hours milkings) vs. 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Hopefully as her production naturally increases and the kids become better at nursing (and she gets more impatient with them like Blackberry and only allows them to nurse at certain times and not be picky!) it will be all even.

I think the key thing to keep in mind is to pay attention. If you catch it quickly enough, it seems to be decently fixable!

 

Do you have any lopsided udder stories? What about tricks to keep the babies nursing off of both sides? Anything to add?

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.

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.

On Baby Goats Born with Weak Pasterns

 

These adorable little kiddos were born on January 15th, 2016, to Blackberry. She’s a first time mom and is one of the neediest, baby-like yearlings I’ve ever met, so I was worried she was going to be a terrible mom.

NOT.

I was actually at an event for work when they were born (typical goats – never kid when you want them to), so one of my house-mates found them first. I instructed him via the phone what to do until my fiancee could get home take over.

I received updates over the next few hours, telling me that, first, Blackberry wouldn’t let the kids nurse. But when they held her still for a moment and let the kids suckle, she immediately got the idea. We haven’t had a problem since. Like, absolutely no problems. Blackberry even cleaned butts and ears incessantly for days afterwards, and pretty much has an anxiety attack if she can’t check on her babies every 30 seconds.

I didn’t get home until nearly 10:30 at night (much to my extreme annoyance), to see all the important after-birth things done: the kids cords had been sprayed with iodine solution; mom and babies had been put together, separated from the herd, in a pen of fresh straw; mom had plenty of food and water; and since it was cold, babies had been tucked into fleece baby coats I’d picked up from Goodwill.

Apparently I’d overestimated how big these kids were going to be, because the kids were SWIMMING in the clothes I’d gotten. We ended up using twine and elastic bands around their bodies to keep the coats from tripping them up.

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Mom (Blackberry) with kids in oversized baby clothes

To be fair, the kids are TINY. (Not so tiny anymore!)

That evening I noticed that the kids – the girl more severely than the boy – were walking on their fetlocks. As in, their pasterns were so weak they didn’t support their weight, so instead of remaining on their hooves, they collapsed down onto the next joint. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take pictures, but I found a picture that’s close enough that I stole from here.

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Notice the extreme bend at the fetlock, causing the hooves to tip up at the toes? All of that should be pretty much straight.

My little girl was even worse than this picture, the bottom of her hooves pointing almost directly forward.

With a little research and a sneaking suspicion, I realized that this is due to a selenium deficiently. (Disclaimer: I am not a vet, nor am I trained as such. I do my best educated guesses based off of the knowledge I’ve gained and almighty Google). Selenium is naturally deficient in the area that I live (NW Oregon), and vets caution pretty much everyone to supply selenium in goats feed due to this.

Usually that means: supply mineral supplements (either loose or a block), feed alfalfa imported from Eastern Oregon (where selenium is not as deficient), and give a shot of selenium once a year. Preferably, 2 months to 6 weeks before a goat kids (if you’re breeding), so that the kids have an adequate supply of selenium from mom and won’t need shots themselves.

Severe cases of selenium deficiency result in white muscle disease. Less severe cases can result in… well, what happened with these kids!

The good news is that an injection of Vitamin E and selenium will usually fix the problem, even severe cases. As it was, I didn’t have any selenium on hand, and the kids’ pasterns were already better by the next day. Within three days, their feet were almost completely normal – and now, you would have never known they had that problem at birth. They’re climbing over everything!

And their names have been decided: Magnolia (Maggie, on the left) for the girl, and Aztec Gold (on the right) for the boy.

In the Beginning there was Love

My introduction to goats came by way of a neighbor we moved next to when I was eleven. This neighbor had been raising dairy goats for 35+ years. And not just raising any dairy goats, but championship quality Nubians who won routinely at shows. When I showed up, she had about 40 full-time milkers, excluding maybe a dozen or so retired ladies, and bucks. This number only grew with my help.

It took about three seconds for goats to become my love and joy. Think horse crazy girls, only with goats. I spent every moment I could in the barn, to the point where my family would asked in exasperation if I was ever coming home. I wanted to learn everything; I wanted to participate in everything.

I spent five years learning this way. I learned everything from care and management, to how to best show them in the ring, to what excellent conformation really looked like. I won at 4H. I fell in love with newborn kids. I loved and lost some of my best friends. In a lot of respects, I discovered what humanity was.

It’s been 12 years since my family and I moved next to the neighbor with all of the goats. I have only one of the original ladies I raised from that time. Cocoa is ten years old, stubborn as a mule, and spoiled rotten.

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Cocoa was returned to me with only one of her daughters, who I named Phoenix. She’s the spoiled rotten, heart-of-gold Princess of the group. If you stand there when she’s obviously asking for something, and refuse to give to to her, she rolls her head around (goat version of rolling your eyes) and races manically around the barn. She has a habit of face-planting in your lap when she wants attention. Or rolling around on you.

 

 

As a graduation present to myself, I bought Sari, an opinionated, butthead of a lady who doesn’t take no for an answer. She loves food, and then affection. In massive quantities. In that order. She also routinely falls asleep in my lap if I lay outside reading or writing.

My first gentleman came to me in 2015. Rhett is a lug of a buck who practically vibrates with the need to get and give attention… but has no idea how to express it, so usually just ends up invading personal boundaries and accidentally biting people when he just wants to get your attention. We’re working on that.

 

As a moving in present when I moved in with my fiancée, he bought me Blackberry and Sauvignan Blanc. Blackberry is the neediest goat you’ll ever meet, who practically goes comatose when you give her attention. She will probably follow you to the ends of the earth, though she’s incredibly loud and wants to yell all the time, so it wouldn’t be a quiet journey.

Sauvie is the sweetest boy you’ll ever meet, very shy, and very curious about everything. He’s only recently begun to actually stand up for himself, which usually results in epic battles between him and Rhett, and trying to get out the door when I’m feeding the boys.

 

Sassinach (Sassy) and Duchess are half-sisters and cousins, born of sisters bred to the same buck (Rhett). They are mutts; meaning, their father is a purebred Nubian, but their mothers are boer/Toggenburg/Nubian mixes. Both of them are much too intelligent for their own good, and get into absolutely everything. When I’m mad I call them the Devil Twins.

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On Friday the 15th of January 2015, these adorable beautiful babies were born. They hold a special significance for me. All of the babies I’ve cared for up until now were born under another’s name, or I bought them when they were older.

These beautiful tiny ones are truly mine.

It’s hard to explain why that means so much to me. They don’t feel any more “mine” than my adults, and it’s not like I haven’t seen hundreds of other babies born; there were even some babies born last year on the property I’m currently living on (Sassy and Duchess). Perhaps it is because legally now, as well as physically, nothing can be done to these babies without my express permission.

This is the first piece of advice I will impart upon you all. When raising goats, and becoming attached to their beautiful faces and personalities (which you undoubtedly will), make absolute sure that they are legally yours. I doubt many of you will have that problem, but still: be smarter than me. Put it all down in writing.