Forever, it seems, I have wanted to own a couple of goats. I have always considered them singular creatures, intelligent and goofy at the same time, regal and clown-ish. Dairy goats figure in quite well with small farms like ours, too. Their needs are few yet their byproducts are many (bedding for the compost, milk for us, and kids to sell or to add to the herd). Unlike sheep, goats don’t think you’re always going to kill them; unlike cows, you don’t need acres of pasture for their sustenance; unlike non-draft horses, goats are actively contributing members of the small farmstead. T-bell is a friendly, happy soul, and I feel terribly lucky to have her.
I found her on Craigslist, if you can believe it.
Our goat girl is a sundgau-colored French Alpine. She’s kidded before, twice; both times unassisted…in point of fact, she kidded before the family could get there in time to assist her: her kids were there in the straw! She is in every way very much what they call “an easy keeper.” I found a housecall-making vet who specializes in goats and sheep and she has confirmed that T-bell is in great shape, AND pregnant (yay!). And, the vet confirmed she’s free of a certain disease that is fairly common in dairy goats…this was a big concern of mine, as it would require that I sterilize the kids’ milk (it seems convoluted, but I will milk her to bottle-feed her kids). Heating colostrum (first milk) is tricky because it wants to turn into caramel! (No disease = no need to pasteurize the milk.)
At her previous home, she spent much of her time indoors, so her coat is not as thick as those hardy Michigan goats kept outdoors. Like people, they’ll avoid going out into the snow if they can help it…wouldn’t you? Anyway, my vet and I were concerned. Her new home is draft-free, but it’s an unheated, concrete-floored shed. She’s in deep bedding in her pen but we figured a little goat coat wouldn’t hurt. And my mother-in-law loves to sew. (Oh: and the kids will need coats for their first week or so…depending upon the weather.)
Look at the header to see how much plumper she’s getting
She’s due Feb. 26th.
All my dabbling in cheesemaking will soon find some purpose. And the gardens can’t wait, frankly, for the additions of this great bedding…just think how I’ve doubled my compost quantity by adding one animal. And I keep having dreams, too, about the birth. My daughter thinks she’ll have four kids. Two is more like it, but, well…let’s hope for at least one little doeling!
> Unlike sheep, goats don’t think you’re always going to kill them
Interesting 🙂 I always thought that goats are jumpy and flighty and the sheep are calm and trusting 🙂 A lot depends on a particular flock and what they’re used to, of course.
I heard a while ago (and I think it’s true) that goats and sheep thing is the same as cat people and dog people – almost everyone has a strong opinion one way or the other but there is really no rational explanation 🙂
Oh but Leon I just love sheep too! One critter at a time or my husband will divorce me. My experience with sheep is they’re lots less trusting than *dairy* goats (who have no problems getting into your personal space, believe me) and just tend to spook easily. Lots of meat goats though are plenty skittish. It’s all with how they’re raised though. I think everything comes down to good parenting 🙂
> I think everything comes down to good parenting
Can’t argue with that 🙂 And of course you’re right about diary vs. meat animals.
One of our ewes used to follow me like a dog everywhere when she was younger. Of course, now she’s all grown up and too busy with her own life (you know – lambs, social circle and all that) but she still comes when she wants to be scratched sometimes 🙂 Kinda reminds me of our kids 🙂
And while I’m in “old man with grown up kids” mode, here’s her picture: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_aaAOYxGUIqk/SljR4a6Bi7I/AAAAAAAAAGQ/L0YDPB-xkNU/s1600/newspaperSheep2.jpg 🙂
Is it weird that I’m jealous of your straw and poo? I only have chicken poo for my garden…
If you need a pattern for goat coats, there’s a free one here: http://www2.localaccess.com/rockyrun/coat.htm
That’s the one I used to make goat coats for my neighbors kids. (I’m a hired goat-sitter!)
Oh, and I re-sized it in the computer before printing.
She certainly looks like La Chevre de Mr. Seguin. Let’s hope she won’t share Biquette’s fate though.
The shepherdess of our tiny cow herd – on grass all year long – decided to experiment and give one the milk cow a blanket last winter – like they do for horses. Her husband laughed at her. But stopped laughing when the milk production was up. The cow was spending less energy keeping warm and it went to more milk production. All the cows now get their blanket when it’s cold.
Sylvie that makes complete sense, considering how, say, the chickens stop laying when it gets really cold. Right now she’s quite the furnace but once her kids are born she might be easily chilled. OH: and just think: it’s an opportunity for farm fashion! Hwah, considering how ill-clad I am, wouldn’t it be funny if the goats were more couture than me?
That’s interesting about the cow giving more with a coat on, and does make sense. Don’t you just love shutting up your husband by being right? Not that we don’t love them, because we do. It’s just so SATISFYING though. Someone once said it’s not about being right, it’s about doing right.
Sometimes being right is doing right!
squee! kids! i can’t wait to hear all about your new babies, milk, and cheese.
(will your daughter get to watch? my eldest, then six, attended a few goat births with me last spring at a local artisan dairy. she even got to name a couple of them! it was wonderful prep for seeing her brother born a couple weeks ago.)
I made chevre just the other night. Few things better.
There’s nothing wrong with milking and bottle feeding. But I tried the fiasco farm method last year and it worked well for me. The first 10 days or two weeks let the kid suckle straight from the Dam, just make sure they are getting full bellies. After the initial period, seperate the kids from the Dam at night and milk the Dam in the morning. Then allow the kids to suckle during the day. For me, it meant that I didn’t have to milk as much and I got the Dam through her peak production period without having to milk her twice a day to avoid popping her udder, or at least listening to her telling me her udder was going to pop 12 hours a day. We did this for the first time last kidding season and I’ll definitely do it again this year.
Aside from CAE, the big fear people have about letting the kids suckle is the perception that Dam raised kids will be more skittish. It’s possible, but I didn’t see it with my kids. And I find I still spend plenty of time with the kids. I usually sleep in the kidding Jug with the Dam and kids the first couple of nights anyway to make sure they are getting enough milk. So I get a good imprint on them even if I am not dolling out the milk. Many people feel that first 24 – 48 hours is what counts for herd imprinting anyway.
If you are interested, check out http://WWW.FiascoFarm.com. She has a lot of good goat information that will help you get on your feet with goats. She also sells herbal suppliments for goats that many swear by.
So exciting! I’m learning so much here!
It seems likely that you might miss the birth since she went unassisted with the first two. Mammals are very crafty when left to their own birthing devices. 😉
I think it’s fascinating that heated colostrum will turn to the consistency of caramel when heated! Liquid gold indeed!
Reading the last comment about sleeping with the kids to make sure they’re nursing often enough reminds me of my job (and the occasional stress that goes along with it re: new babes)! It’s a good reminder (in all my envy of folks with farm animals) that right now is not the time for me to pursue anything more than what I currently have.
Living vicariously through various bloggers works well in the meantime! ;
Will be waiting with much anticipation for your gorgeous girl to kid!
I’m with Amanda…”living vicariously through you!” So exciting to have babies coming and such a healthy little mama goat and the coats and the prospect of cheese and, and, and….
So wonderful for you, and that bedding is fantastic! Babies on the way — so much fun.
My first freshener Star is due right at the same time as your girl! There is nothing so exciting as baby goats and I can’t wait to have fresh milk again! Good luck with your kids and here’s hoping for twin doelings and an easy kidding!
ps…….I too milk once a day and leave the kids on the way they describe on the Fias Co Farm website. Works great for me, I just make sure to spend lots of fun quality time with my kids!
Leon, your girl is adorable!! Actually they all are, but I love how she gets right up in the camera: did you have a treat for her? I think you’re quite right that it is all about how well you treat them…just like housepets too and children…consistency is key. Consistency and always having their best interests at heart.
Mavis, I am telling you: I get really excited about big compost piles. Really. Like, not quite ready for therapy, but close.
Karen, thanks, m’dear! We cobbed that one and another then my superior goat-riding skillz when I traced a pattern on her and indeed, we got something. I need to take more pictures of it: it’s lined with microfleece and has a reflector at the collar. Sweet! I am looking into boiling some old wool sweaters for the kid coats.
Sylvie, indeed, let’s not hope for that. But yeah, she’s not keen on the coat but she’ll just have to get used to it; we just hit a cold spell.
Paula, eminently satisfying. It can get old though…or at least that’s my experience 😉 One should always strive to at least do right for the collective good…that’s the card I always play!
Yay Serina!!!!! Here’s wishing you a long extended bubble of happy-baby-time. And sleep: sleep for both you and that little boy. How wonderful your daughter could see him coming into the world; what a gift you gave her. But indeed, our girl will help milk: T-bell was milked by the 4 year old at her last family…she’s that tame. And we hope we get to see the babes being born too but she could be sneaky and have them when we’re at work/school or something…
MMP, thanks for the head’s up about FiasCo Farm. I’d already ordered raspberry leaves from them…that was the routine our goat had been on pre-kidding before. That girl does some amazing work, sharing all she knows: what a goldmine. And you’re quite right: CAE was my biggest fear but it appears she’s negative, to my great relief. I do have a question, though: do the kids then *always* want to suckle after that 2 week period? I do laud your ability to go in and actually bunk out in the goat house: wow. I suppose I could do that (and might have to). The last two kiddings they removed the kids immediately to prevent any chance of passing CAE, so I am not quite sure what she’d think about actually having to nurse those guys. But I hear you about easing the pressure off yourself and the poor dam.
Amanda, the parallels are too numerous to mention. It’s really quite humbling, frankly. And I think back to my own experience, six years ago today as a point of fact, to my daughter’s own birth and the anxiety that went all around the whole feeding issue. Goodness it finally worked out but that whole elation/anxiety rollercoaster I was on, I wouldn’t ever want to go through it again so my hat is off to you for choosing it as your career path! I don’t know what I would’ve done without my doula, and my ob was pretty flipping spectacular too but wow was it crazy. Yeah, isn’t that funny about colostrum? The routine for pasteurizing it is actually to heat it to 130 or so and keep it there for something like over an hour. Poor kids, their instinct to nurse kicks in way before the whole birth/milk out/heating/bottling/feeding thing happens, so…I am glad I get to skip a few steps!
Oh Carlie, it’s exciting but it’s also kind of intimidating. Gone will be the days of hitting snooze on the alarm, and wow, I will have to be on top of things, even having a cheesemaking routine! Something will have to give; might be the blog, who knows.
Stef, thanks! The bedding is the bomb, frankly; unlike chickens there’s lots of nitrogenous pee in there to get the pile up and burning quickly. Whee!
Hi Ms Goodwife, wow, so you’ll be milking two goats? Lucky you! There aren’t too many kinders up here by us; the Nigerian Dwarfs seem to have the edge as far as small goats go, and goodness are they expensive. I enjoyed visiting your site and seeing your goat lessons: your milking one was priceless, and it cracked me up. Thanks for the post-birth advice! I am considering it.
CC! Hah. T-bell fortunately does not translate to that annoying spiteful fairy. What a twit she is. Nope; it’s a pseudonym though. Do you like her coat?
>Leon, your girl is adorable!! Actually they all are, but I love how she gets right up in the camera: did you have a treat for her?
Thank you 🙂
Nope, she just very curious and likes to be scratched behind her ears.