Thursday, February 23, 2012

This is why I don't always get birthweights

This photo of newborns was taken with a zoom lens straight down a steep hill.
It would be great to weight each kid as soon as it hits the ground. I could keep great stats and calculate average daily gain, etc., etc. And in some years I have done that with some goats. And since 2004, I've been sending buck kids to one or two performance tests a year (let them do all the weighing and calculating). 

But in reality, when I'm in my truck heading to the office and I see a doe with new kids 50 yards down a steep hill, I'm not going to jump out, climb down the hill (cause I know I'll have to climb back up) and weigh the kids. I can't afford to miss an appointment that may cost me several hundred dollars just to see if a baby goat weighs 6 pounds or 8 pounds. At weaning time I'll estimate the birthweight at 7 pounds and go from there. 

The birthweight of the kids in this photo is moot anyway. I've had the Kiko-cross doe for 7 years, she's a Rusty daughter that never needs deworming and always has twins with no assistance. Common sense tells me to keep her. And the sire of the kids is a double-bred Xcelerator buck. After 11 years, I'm pretty confident in those genetics.

I don't even know if the doe here has boys or girls. In a few days she'll bring them up by the fence and I'll try to get a look under their tails. For now, the most important thing is if they are healthy. Even from a distance, they look OK to me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Escaped goats start having kids

You can see the fence at right as it goes along the creek.
In this case, the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.
I knew the goats were out and I knew where the hole in the fence was. I just hadn't had time to do anything about it. A creek runs along the western border of my property. A net wire fence runs along the far side of the creek and on the north and south ends, we have to keep panels to keep the goats from escaping out the creek. We use panels so that we can replace them whenever a big rain washes them away or buries them in silt.

The panels on the south end had washed out last fall, but I had not fixed the hole. The goats had been content to stay in my pasture and not go wondering off. That was until the grass REALLY was greener on the other side of the fence. My neighbor has 300 acres of pine trees, a few hardwoods and numerous deer plots. Way too tempting once the goats got over there. They were in no hurry to come home.

I finally found a day to go searching. Daughter Lindley, her baby Lane and I got into the Mule with buckets of corn and range cubes and started driving the fire lanes looking and calling for goats. About a half hour later and about a mile from the barn, we could see them through the pine trees. We had to drive down one lane and back up another to get to them. But there they were, 10 does and two new buck kids. 

Finding kids is usually exciting, but on this day, we were a quarter mile from the nearest gate back into our place. The babies were too small to walk that far and the momma didn't want to leave her birthing spot. So we loaded the mom and twins onto the Mule and rattled a bucket of corn to get the other goats moving. After several starts and stops, we finally got all the goats and babies back into the right pasture.

My helper Roland and I reset the posts and wired the panels back up to keep the goats from getting out again. At least until the next rain comes along.

Lindley has a handful of babies; it looks like

they are getting ready to share a kiss.

New Kiko kid has unusual 'eye makeup'

This 100% New Zealand buck kid is white with gray
 ears and rump and vertical red streaks across his eyes.
This is one of the most unusual looking kids I've seen lately. He's light colored but has brown vertical streaks on his eyes, almost like eye makeup. The streaks are the only dark color on him.

I wasn't sure who he was for a few days. We saw him by himself in the big pasture one day, didn't see him at all the next day, then saw him alone again the third day. It wasn't until the fourth day that we saw him and his mother together. She had been leaving him in the sagebrush each day to go out and eat. Finally, she started letting him follow her around.

That's the way I like my goats. Get out there and have your babies and when you decide you want to show them off, then come find me. Otherwise, don't bother me.
The mother is light brown with vertical white stripes
on her face. It's almost like the kid is a reverse image
of the mother, light colored face with dark vertical stripes.

Of matrons and good manners

The old does and young bucks now live together peacefully.

We ended last year with three late-born buck kids that didn't fit in with any other group of goats. Being summer-born, they were a little too small to sell as breeding stock last fall but a little too good to cull yet. They were too big to put with the doelings and too little to put with the January-born bucks. So I put them into a small pasture near the barn.

In December as we started moving some of the pregnant does closer to the barn so we could keep an eye on them and provide a little extra feed, I started running out of pastures. I couldn't put the older, bigger, meaner does in the same pasture with the pregnant yearling does — the young does would have gotten beat up on a regular basis. 

I finally decided to put  the older does into the small pasture with the three bucklings. The does were starting to bag up, so I knew they were already bred. And if a buckling got butted in the side once in a awhile he might get bruised up but no risk of losing a kid like a young doe might experience.

The first day I put the big does into the buckling pasture, the boys thought all their dreams had come true. They charged the does, sniffed them and tried to mount the biggest one. Big mistake. In less than a minute, three bruised and battered bad boys were shaking their heads and wondering what the heck had hit them.

Those young guys were persistent, though, and it took a good two days before they figured out these gals did not want to date — they didn't even want to have casual conversation. A couple months later, the boys have totally changed. The old matrons have taught them a thing or two about good manners. The boys don't chase or sniff or try to mount the ladies, and they all eat peacefully at the same trough. And if the girls happen to get into a bad mood, the boys step back and let the matrons have their share of feed too. They are content to come back later and pick the spilled feed off the ground.

Boys will be boys sometimes, but a firm matron can work wonders with the rowdiest "teenagers"

New guardian puppy needs to learn some manners

You can see the bloody spots where the puppy apparently 
tried to pull the kid's ears and ripped the skin.
Introducing a new guardian dog can be tricky, especially a young dog that still wants to be playful with the goats. This Great Pyrenees puppy's mother was an older rescue dog who spent most of her time under the back porch; the father is our best male guardian. We have high hopes for him. He has been in the pasture with about 30 does ranging from 10 months to 2 years old. He'll occasionally chase a goat but they'll butt at him or just quit running and he loses interest.

Most of this playfulness has been harmless, but I am always worried about a new dog when kidding season arrives. You never know how the new guardian is going to react around kids, and I've had a couple bad experiences. One year we had a guardian that was so protective of the kids, he wouldn't let the mothers get near them. I think some of the older mom's finally explained to him who was boss.

Another time we had a guardian that tried to help the mothers clean up the new kids. Trouble is he licked too hard, tearing open the stomachs of several kids before we figured out what was happening. He was quickly disposed of.

I watched this newest puppy interact with the first kid born in his pasture. He tried to be too playful, chasing and knocking over the kid. The mom stepped in and I was hoping she would give the puppy a good pounding and teach him a lesson. She was young and, I think, a little too shy. She walked between the kid and puppy to separate them, and the puppy left them along. I hoped she would take care of the kid overnight and not let the puppy hurt it.

No such luck. The next morning the kid was soaking wet from the rain during the night. I guess the puppy had kept it chased out of the barn. And the kid had bloody ears from the puppy pulling on them with his teeth. I was as mad at the momma goat as I was at the puppy. A good head-butt by the momma would have taught the puppy to leave the kid alone.

The kid got a case of pneumonia from the night in the rain. A couple days of Nuflor and Nutri-Drench got him back on his feet. I put antibiotic salve on the ears and they seem have healed OK.

As for the puppy, he has a new home. I moved him across the road to the yearling buck pasture. He hasn't bonded with them to the point where he'll follow them out in the morning, but he doesn't chase and bite on them. Those guys are a little more intimidating than a mom and her baby. 

As the pup matures, we'll try him again with some bigger kids and see how he does. Typically, my Great Pyrenees pups have matured faster than some breeds I've read about. I'll give him a few more months and see how he progresses.

The pup isn't so quick to try and be playful with his new
pasturemates, seven yearling Kiko bucks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What to do for a snotty nose

Notice the green discharge from his nose and eyes. 
Early this morning I noticed one of my yearling bucks standing off by himself in the pasture. Anytime I see a goat off by itself, I get nervous and wonder what's wrong. I walked out and as soon as I got close I could see the discharge running out of his nose. I don't worry about a clear discharge; its usually an allergy. (Every spring when the pine pollen starts filling the air, I and my goats all start sneezing and blowing our noses.)

On this morning the goat's discharge was a dark color, which can mean pneumonia. It also means you do not want to waste any time or take any chances. These situations always remind me of Greg Christiansen's Rule #355. Greg raises goats and manages Grandview Livestock in eastern Kansas. A few years ago he kept a diary during his kidding season and a condensed version of the diary was reprinted in Farm and Ranch Living Magazine. In the diary, he talks about Rule #355:

"We have rule #355 because number 355 kid didn’t look quite right one night but I thought I would check him the next day.  He didn’t make it through the night.  After you do this a while you get to know the look that says, you better do something for me if you want me to be here tomorrow."

I think we've all had that experience. So when a goat doesn't look or act just right, the producer can usually tell when action is needed. If a goat has scours, I usually give it 12-24 hours to get over it on his own. But if dark snot and runny eyes means there is a possibility of pneumonia, I'm going to treat it quickly because the goat can be dead within a day.

His nose and eyes were dry by lunchtime.
I brought the buck to the barn and gave him 4 cc's of Nuflor. I gave him some fresh water, a little feed and a flake of hay. I came back and checked on him at lunchtime and he was much better — a little weak eyed, but his nose wasn't running and his eyes had dried up. He had been in the hay feeder enough to clean all the buggers off his nose! 

I'll give him another dose of Nuflor tomorrow morning and go ahead and give him his pneumonia vaccination booster. If he's still doing OK tomorrow afternoon, he'll go back into the yearling billy pen.

Super Bowl Sunday with Bill & Brenda Moore

Bill & Brenda Moore — February 2012

For the past several years I have taken a few days off to go to Jasper, Ga., and spend Super Bowl Sunday with Bill & Brenda Moore. Bill & Brenda operated BBM Kikos — one of the best known operations in the business — for many years. Both of them had health challenges a few years ago and had to disperse their herd. As you can see in the photo above, they are both doing well and looking great.

"Sometimes I wish we still had goats so we would have something to do," Brenda told me. But she and Bill agreed it was nice not to have to check on babies and feed goats in cold weather.

They still keep in touch with many of their goat-industry friends and try to attend a few goat functions. It seems once you have raised goats for awhile, it's hard to get them out of your system.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Last roundup before kidding season begins

The goats gather around the 4-wheeler as I call them out 
of the brush and woods (below) in preparation for the trip to the barn.

The kids should be arriving in less than a month, so I took advantage of this week's warm weather to round up the does and give them their annual boosters for CD&T and pneumonia. I also vaccinate for CL, but I don't do that while they're pregnant; the shot can make them pretty sore and I don't want to subject them to any unnecessary stress. The pneumonia vaccination makes them limp for a day, but in our humid climate, it's worth the risk to make sure they are vaccinated.

I also don't like to deworm does during late-term pregnancy. I haven't seen any scientific evidence that such deworming can harm the fetus or cause abortion, but some folks say it can happen. So again, I don't want to take a chance that I don't have to. We checked the eyes on 52 does yesterday and dewormed only two — Kiko crossbreds who were both over 6 years old. 

Last week I began feeding these does each a half pound of 20% cattle cubes. I haven't purchased the goats any hay this season, just letting them eat stockpiled grasses, dried weeds, acorns and fallen leaves.  There's no way to determine their protein intake, so for a few cents a day I don't mind providing the cattle cubes as insurance during these last few weeks of pregnancy. I chose the cubes because the pasture where these goats are located has no facilities, including no feed troughs. I can drive back to the pasture and dump the cubes on the ground.

Penned up and ready for working.
A beautiful sight: Lots of developing udders!

Mild weather has mixed blessings

Thick green grass is growing in many areas. This photo was taken on Jan. 29.
This has been a crazy winter here in northwest Mississippi. First, we got two snows in November and now we've had milder than normal temperatures. I've got green grass and spring flowers popping up everywhere. The goats have enjoyed the fresh grass but weather this mild can cause problems come summertime. With no really freezing weather, the fire ants seem ready to come out in full force and we've even had a few mosquitoes on the back porch. With no real winter to set them back, I'm afraid a whole host of pests, including most goat parasites, will be a challenge this year.

These jonquils were blooming at the end of January. Do
you know the difference between jonquils, daffofils and

Fire ant hills are starting to pop up. Normally you
get a good freeze this time of year to help kill back
the fire ant population.