Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Winter kidding vs. Spring kidding

There's only 2 months difference in their ages but a world of
difference in the size of these Kiko does.
You may remember a few months ago I was talking about how I had changed my kidding from January to March to avoid the cold weather, frozen kids and the human misery associated with kidding in winter. I did have a few does kid in January this year, and after watching them grow alongside the March-born kids, I'm now wondering if I did the right thing.

Both the bucks and does born during freezing weather in January are nearly twice the size of the March-born kids. The rate of growth is significantly different. Of course this has been an unusually hot and dry spring and early summer so I'm not sure if that is the reason or not. 

When I got to thinking about it, I remembered a column I wrote many years ago about winter kidding. I wrote that the kids born in January were so much better than spring-born kids that it was worth losing up to 10 percent of the kids due to severe weather. I had forgotten about that column until I witnessed again this year the difference a couple months can make in the kids.

I have another week or so to decide what I will do this year. If I want January kids, I need to start turning in the bucks in August. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Louisiana 4-H exhibitors visit ranch

This group of 4-H exhibitors toured Egypt Creek Ranch and
the offices of Goat Rancher magazine on Wednesday morning.

I played host Wednesday morning to a group of 20 young people from Louisiana with several adult escorts. These 4-H goat exhibitors were selected to participate in the 2011 Goat Educational Award Trip because of their accomplishments in the LSU Spring Livestock Show.  The trip was coordinated by Matt Martin, County Agent, Rapides Parish.

The two vans of young people left Louisiana Monday and made their first stop at the Ryals’ family's Rocking R Ranch in Tylertown, Miss. The Ryals have a very successful Boer goat operation and now operate a top-class goat dairy where they make and market their own cheeses.

The group also visited Ward’s Boer Goats in Soso, Miss., the Miss. State Vet School and Jesse Cornelius’s club goat farm. The trip included a few non-goat stops, including the Bass Pro Shop in Jackson and a canoe trip planned for Friday in Seminary, Miss.

This was probably the best-behaved group of kids I have been around. Usually there is a lot of noise and horseplay whenever a group of teens get together. These teens asked good questions, were well-mannered and very mature. It was a pleasure to show them around the farm.

We had a great photo opportunity when the whole herd of goats came over a hill and mingled with all the visitors. Too bad I was busy talking about my goats and forgot to use the camera! Some reporter I am… I did get a photo as the group was getting ready to leave.

Trapping wild billy goats

A little shelled corn in the livestock trailer quickly attracts a crowd,
but the wild buck at far right is still suspicious.
A few months ago I acquired several Kiko x Spanish bucks. To say they were a little wild is an understatement. They were penned up in horse stalls when I picked them up. It wasn't until I got them home that I realized what great jumpers they were. As soon as I unloaded them at the barn, the largest three promptly jumped over the catch pen fence. Unfortunately the biggest, nicest buck caught his back leg in the fence and snapped it right below the knee. We were able to splint it, but pneumonia set in and we lost that buck.

We managed to herd the others into an area where several of our bucks are spending the summer. Apparently the new boys didn't like living in a pine forest, so they jumped over a 48-inch net wire fence into the paddock next door. This happened to be the pasture into which I was going to rotate a herd of does so I needed to get the bucks out.  This is about a 50-acre area with hills, woods, bottomland and a small stream -- no way to corner wild goats here.

So I moved the tame bucks into the pasture with the wild ones. They eventually found each other and became one herd. I occasionally put out shelled corn on the ground for the bucks, and the tame ones taught the wild ones how to enjoy this treat.

Last week, I parked a livestock trailer in the pasture and put shelled corn inside. Of course the tame bucks jumped right in. It took awhile for the wild bucks to drop their guard. Twenty-four hours later, I put more corn in the trailer, went out the escape door in front, walked around and closed the back gate and had them all trapped.

I used the inside cut gates to sort out the wild bucks, turned the tame ones out and got ready to head for the sale barn. The good news is, even with losing the biggest buck and having to chase the wild ones around for a month, I managed to turn a profit on the group of bucks.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Banding meat goats

How did you spend your Sunday morning? I got up at 6 a.m. before the heat set in and sorted my purebreds from my little bucks that were destined for the meat market. Those poor market goats had to endure  the application of a thick rubber band around their testicles. They whined, rolled around some, but by the end of the day they were back to normal.

They will be put back in the big pasture with the does to graze the rest of the summer. Come December and January, these little guys will make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the winter feed bill is paid in a timely manner.

I like to wait until the bucks are at least 3 months old before castrating. This year, I ran a little behind and most of the little fellows are 4 months old or more. Their testicles were bigger than I liked for applying the rubber bands. The whole time I was putting on the bands, I kept thinking "What a waste!" I could have made several meals off those oysters if I had cut them instead of banding them. But I was working by myself -- and it's no easy task to cut a billy while you are trying to hold on to him too.

Not many folks know it, but if you flip a goat over and sit it on its butt, it paralyzes him -- just like a sheep when it is being sheared. You can apply castrator band, trim hoofs or any other unpleasant task. I don't trim hooves like this anymore. I can't bend down that far for too long. Be careful, though. I've had a goat bite me on the back of the leg a couple times.

With the little buck sitting paralyzed on its butt and its head between my legs, I can take my time ap
plying the castrator band.

These guys were a little old for this method, so I had to push the testicles through one at a time. Here goes the first one.

Got the second one through.

All done!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Widespread drought

How bad is the drought? Visit the official U.S. Drought Monitor website for an accurate, detailed look.

Culling does

I picked out several does that needed to be culled. It wasn't scientific -- I call it my "comparison" method of selection. First, I called up the goats near the gate then threw out some shelled corn. Then I walked around and looked at each goat, focusing exclusively on body condition score

At this time of year, all the does should have begun regaining any weight they lost during kidding and lactation as long as they had plenty to eat and were not ill or wormy. Kids have been weaned for more than a month so the mommas have had plenty of time to start gaining weight. If they have not started putting on weight, something is wrong and they probably won't be ready to breed any time soon.

So it easy easy to look at all the does at one time and see which ones stand out as being in poor condition. After a walk through the herd, I picked out four that scored 1 on body condition score, which means no body fat -- and in these cases, not much meat either. 

In all four cases, the does were over 5 years old and were anemic. And none were original Egypt Creek stock. Fortunately, I have a good many does over 5 years old that are still healthy and producing.

Gathering the does with a little shelled corn for inspection was easy.

Determining that this doe was in poor condition also was easy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Deciding which goats to sell

Some of these doelings will have to be sold to pay the farm's bills.

It's always a delicate balancing act trying to decide which does to sell and which to keep as replacements. I started the process today. I've listed some that I have decided to sell on my "Goats for Sale" page. The link is at the top right of this page.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blue Goose Farms

Vance & Nichol Treuil of Blue Goose Farms In Sarah, Miss.
Here is a great example of how goats are bringing the world closer together. To help cover some of my costs traveling to the International Boer Goat Association National Show in Louisville, Ky., this week, I posted on the The_Boer_Goat Yahoo! group that I would transport goats from the Memphis area where I live to the Louisville area for a small fee. (This is something others who travel to shows and sales might consider to help cover costs. If you are responsible and know what you are doing, there is always a demand for goat transport.)

The first call I got was from Jane Cremola of Kentucky who wanted two Angora kids transported from Sarah, Miss. At first I thought she was confused about the city, because I am from Sarah! She assured me that Sarah was the correct address and the farm was on Blue Goose Road. Well, Blue Goose Road (no one seems to know where the name came from) is about 4 miles from where I live. Out of the thousands of folks who look at the Boer chat group, what are the chances that someone would want a goat hauled from just down the road?

I visited Vance and Nichol Treuil's Blue Goose Farms Wednesday to pick up the two kids — a boy and a girl. It turns out that Vance had visited my farm many years ago when he was researching the goat business. Because Nichol spins yarn, they had settled on Angora goats and Shetland sheep. It was good to get reacquainted with them and tour their farm. In addition to fiber animals, they produce chickens and eggs. They have a very nice homestead. Below are some snapshots from their farm.

A quick note: In another case of "what a small world it is", When I dropped off the kids in Kentucky, Jane's partner was David Thompson, a USDA employee that I had met before and who was helping inspect goats as they came into the Expo Center for the IBGA Nationals.

The kids are loaded in the goat tote and ready to go.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Apple cider vinegar

I apologize for not posting more stuff lately. About two weeks ago a dark spot that looked like an eclipse starting moving across my right eye. I called my eye doc and was told to get there immediately ... it sounded like my retina was pulling loose. Sure enough it was; I was sent straight to the Hamilton Eye Institute at the UT Medical Center in Memphis for laser surgery. All went well but I had to really restrict my movement and activities for awhile until the repair 
could heal. Plus I have been pretty much blind in my right eye. Vision is returning, however, and I even wrestled a few goats the other day. I really appreciate my vision now having gone through cataract surgery on both eyes last winter and now this.

Below, I am reprinting an article that ran in the July Goat Rancher. For those that don't want to invest in a 60-gallon drum of apple cider vinegar, it's available at Kroger and health food stores. It's a lot more expensive that way but easy to get a sample. The brand name is Bragg's. 

Ron buys his apple cider vinegar in 60-gallon drums.

The vinegar is fed free-choice in rubber mineral feeders.

Apple Cider Vinegar Works - Somehow
By Ron Polette

  I have been using a hi-copper mineral mix for many years now from Wick’s
Livestock Nutrition, along with many other large goat ranchers around the Midwest, here on my large Kiko goat ranch in Missouri. I have always had
great luck with Mike Wichman’s mineral product. Feeding it free choice, and
mixed with salt, to my herds of goats and to my herd of Scottish Highland
Many generations of goats and cattle have flourished here consuming
this mineral mix for many years and my herd of goats almost always look
great. So when Mike contacted me all excited about his latest nutritional
find, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, made from whole apples, he
certainly got my attention. Apparently the health food stores around the
country have been selling this “juice” to humans for their consumption each
month by the tanker loads, touting the many health benefits to people, but
nobody, with maybe the exception of the Amish here and the Australians down
under, had really used this stuff on farm animals much.
So I decided to trust Mike again and try a barrel of the “juice”. Wow, that ended up being a smart decision.
Well, we got off to very slow start at first getting my Highland cattle
and especially my goats to drink the terrible smelling stuff, but once we
figured out how to train them to the cider they went right after it. The
cattle were the first to really catch on to the juice. We made the 50%
water/cider mix available for them in ground “bull” feeders and after a few
weeks they were visiting it and drinking a few ounces of it almost daily. I
would never have believed it until I witnessed them drinking it. They seem
to know that it is helping them somehow.
Then we noticed an amazing thing with our cows. After a month of regularly drinking this wonder juice, the cows barely had a fly on them. They were
almost completely fly free, and they looked great! How could this be? No
constant jumping and tail swishing from millions of flies. Then another
discovery. The cows manure had very small pieces of stems in it. They were
digesting their food much more completely than before the juice. I began
telling my friends that a chicken would starve to death following behind my
Then after finding that their consumption of food went down and their
body scores went up, I decided to really put this stuff to the test. What we
did this last winter was really something to see. We did not feed the cow
herd anything out of a bag. No grain, no cubes, just free choice minerals,
free choice vinegar, spring water, and round bales of grass hay. They made
it through an extremely harsh Missouri winter, without shelter, with minimal
pasture, and with new fall calves on six of them without a hitch. The cider
had improved their digestion efficiency and in effect supercharged their
digestion of the hay and what little grass they could find in their small
paddock. Their manure from the big bales of hay looked just like it did in
the Spring and Summer. Almost no stems over 1/4 inch. I was really impressed
Mike explained to me what some other Ranchers and Farmers had been using the juice for. He has a couple of customers that raise chickens and they are
reporting much improved feed conversions, greatly improved egg production,
and improved meat tenderness, when the juice is added to their feed or
water. They won’t be without the cider anymore. He has a bunch of dairy cow
customers that report when they feed the juice in the cow’s feed ration they
save about 10% of their feed for the same amount of milk. I’m sure they don’t want to be without this cider anymore either. Also they say that bloat was
almost completely eliminated when they started feeding this vinegar.
Then there are the folks in Australia that drench 20 CCs of the vinegar
mixed with water to their wool sheep and claim it raises the quality of the
wool, which means more money in their pockets, and they claim to save enough
feed to more than pay for the vinegar and the other health benefits are a
Then Spring progressed and goat kidding started up here full swing. Even
though we specialize in Kikos, there are always a few problems with the
crosses and other goats that we pick up here and there when purchasing herds
or groups of goats through the year.
We had our normal share of bottle baby makers that would soon become culls, and of course a few does with the dreaded mastitis that would also be culled. We had put these problem does in with some other nannies that had new kids with them next to one of our barns, so in case of extreme weather we could grab the kids and put them inside.
Since I had to supply water there, I started adding some vinegar to
their water and it gave me a chance to see how much the nanny goats liked
the stuff and how much was needed. I have two, 20 gallon water tanks, side by
side in that small barn paddock. One of the tanks I filled with clean water
only, and in the other tank I added two cups of vinegar. To my surprise they
drank the vinegar water first. Somehow they knew it was good for them. I
kept trying different amounts each time I filled their water supply and
ended up only using one cup to “treat” 20 gallons, but then I added vinegar to
all the water tanks when they got filled. No algae would grow in the tanks
Later when we got ready to go to the sale barn to get rid of the
problem nannies and those with mastitis, we were shocked to find that those
does that had rock hard udders and could not feed their kids earlier had
almost completely recovered in just six weeks. Again we were impressed. This
was a huge find for us. Mike later explained that in the Dairy cow industry
they watch somatic cell counts, which are the numbers of white corpuscles,
and that after a month of consuming this vinegar, that these counts go down.
I am not about to pretend that I know what he is talking about, but I do
know what is working with my goats and my cows and I know the results that I
am having.
We had also noticed that the does raising new kids seemed to have
an exceptional amount of milk too. So after this discovery I was completely
impressed with this juice, and I thought it was time to have another talk
with Mike about this stuff and discuss more about what he had learned from
other producers that had purchased some from him. What we have found is that
the unpasteurized apple cider vinegar made from whole apples appears to have
MUCH better health benefits when compared to those vinegars made from
spoiled apple sauce products.
This vinegar has malic acid in it, which I’m told acts as a blood purifier, and is mostly acetic acid, that I’m told helps ruminants supercharge their digestion efficiency. Not to mention the other natural enzymes and trace minerals occurring in vinegar that probably also help with digestion.
Anemia is helped because the juice seems to help
ruminants utilize iron better. Perhaps because it has colloidal copper in it
and digestion efficiency is increased. In long-term studies on herds of
cows, many benefits have been observed, e.g., lack of mastitis, itchy skin,
influenza, respiratory diseases, easier freshening (whelping), lack of
eclampsia, and cramping after delivery of calves.
Well I’m not sure about all this, and I’m not pretending to be an expert in
nutrition, but I know what I witnessed and continue to witness. This juice
is doing wonders for my critters and helping me cut costs.
We recently had a serious bout with Dermatitis (we think) spread through
our goat herds. At first we thought it was mange because there were many
goats that were losing patches of hair, and little kids with bumps all over
their noses and ears. Scales that looked like severe dandruff were very
common. Some of the kids faces and ears where just terrible looking.
My guess was that it might have been caused by all the constant rain, every other day, week after week for months, here in Missouri. With a couple of
tornadoes and flash flooding all over that had made for the perfect
environment for both skin fungus and very wet feet, which could soon become
foot scald on many but the best of my Kikos.
So I decided that for what little it would cost, I would drench the infected animals with vinegar. I figured if it improved the skin and hair of sheep, it would sure not hurt to try it on what looked like bad dandruff in the goats.
WOW, two days later the entire herd’s skin problems were cured and almost completely cleared up. Now I was super impressed. I’m not sure if the juice changed the PH of the goats skin, or if the malic acid in the juice purified
the blood and that got rid of the fungus and/or infections. Whatever the
reason, it had worked great! I had only used a couple  two liter bottles of
this juice to treat all my goats and the cost was pitifully low. I’m buying
this stuff for around $5 per gallon. We used 20 CCs for adult goats, with
doses going all the way down to 1 CC for nursing kids. This is fantastic
stuff!  I really started to think that all the other goat ranchers out there
needed to hear about this wonderful juice, and asked Terry Hankins to spread
the word about it in his Goat Rancher.
Now Mike Wichman is telling me that he believes this vinegar, coupled with a mineral mix of copper, and iodine, in the right combination and amounts,
could have a huge impact on intestinal worms, and that I should not need to
deworm nearly as much as I normally would need to in my large commercial
Well, I’m from the Show Me State. But after all I have learned about this
juice and the cures and benefits that I have personally seen, added to the
fact that his minerals also work so well, I don’t think I would be surprised
any more, and I’m determined to find out if it works.
I have spoke to a few “experts”, both Vets and PHDs, about this vinegar and they tell me that there is no research to back up these claims, and no good
reason for it to work so well. Experts also stated years ago that the
hi-copper cattle mineral mix would kill my goats too. That did not happen
Most of us commercial goat ranchers have figured out that most of
the products that work on or for goats are “off label” use. So I’m not
surprised, and I don’t really care much about research in this area because
research is rarely done on natural cures and preventions for goats, and
almost entirely funded by chemical, drug, or feed companies. They sure won’t
make a bunch of money selling vinegar, so I sure don’t think the research
will be done. 
As for me, I’m completely sold on this apple cider vinegar
for my goats and my cows. I want to save money on feed, medicines and
dewormers, and I have seen it work, despite the fact that nobody seems to
know why it works.
I told Mike Wichman, “I’m from Missouri, show me,” and with much improved animal health and efficiencies, the juice did!
I suppose I better make a disclaimer now about this story and make it clear to all that I am not a vet, a doctor, or an expert in animal nutrition, and I’m not suggesting that anybody do what I have done or use this vinegar the way I
have. If anybody wants to experiment like I have, they should do so at their
own risk. I’m simply explaining what happened when I used this stuff on my
farm, and what my opinion about it is. Happy Trails!

Ron Polette
Arcadia Valley Goats
Ironton, Mo. 63650
Cell 314-808-7664

Michael Wichman
Wick’s Livestock Nutrition
208 East 5th Street
Atkinson, Ne 68713
Cell 402-340-3811