Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Goats benefit from a little drought

This map shows drought conditions across the U.S. on May 22, 2012.
Conditions range from Abnormaly Dry (yellow) to 
Exceptional Drought (dark brown).
I just knew when I checked the U.S. Drought Monitor this morning that northwest Mississippi would be under a dark brown Exceptional Drought alert. I was surprised, however, that we are just Abnormally Dry. Our area is 12 inches behind in rainfall this year and my pastures are beginning to show it. Fortunately we had plenty of spring moisture and early warm weather, so our pastures were knee deep in grass by the end of March. With only about 100 head of goats on 175 acres, they have made only a slight dent in the forage.

The forage that is out there has a low moisture content, which makes for better grazing. As the grasses dry, the nutrient content condenses; in a normal year, our grass is probably 90 percent water. It's a lot harder for the goats to get the nutrition they need from such high-moisture grasses.

There was an article in this month's Stockman Grass Farmer about the benefit of feeding good hay to cattle while they are grazing on high-moisture pastures. It helps with nutrition and digestion. The same thing probably holds true for goats. Right now, however, I literally have "standing hay" in some areas. I guess it is good for the goats because they sure look good right now.

The dry weather also has helped with the fly problems. A month ago I had to keep fly traps out and spray occasionally around the lounging areas to control the flies. For the past week I have noticed that the flies are not nearly as bad. All the mud holes have dried up too, so that has helped with the mosquitoes.

When raising goats, some dry weather is beneficial. I just hope Mother Nature doesn't go to any extremes.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Coyotes take bite out of weaning ratio

These are some of the buck kids we weaned over the weekend. They are
10 weeks old and have had no supplementation — except plenty of
momma's milk. Unfortunately, coyotes took a lot of this kid crop.
Kidding season started out great at the last of February — lots of the commercial does having twins, all the moms were healthy and had plenty of milk. With just a few does having singles, I was shooting for a 175% kid crop. Then my big female dog had puppies, not in the pasture where the does and kids were, but under the barn near the Goat Rancher office. And that's where she stayed. That left one dog in the pasture to guard the goats.

It's my own fault that I let myself get down to two grown guardians. I've had as many as six Great Pyrenees guarding the various pastures. But as I let the goat herd get smaller, I also let my herd of dogs shrink. The number of goats may have been smaller, but the acreage they were roaming has grown, so I should have known a couple of dogs couldn't patrol 175 acres cut into numerous pastures.

By the time we weaned the little boys last weekend, the weaning average had dropped to 80%. In other words, coyotes had taken nearly half the kid crop. That also included at least three New Zealand Kiko bucklings and one NZ doeling. Conservatively, that was a $2,000 predation loss. Including a number of commercial kids adds another couple thousand dollars. In hindsight, I could have purchased and fed several more guardian dogs for what I lost in goats this year. I can promise these losses won't happen again.

I have my two grown dogs, one pup from last year, a male and female I recently purchased and four new puppies. That gives me a total of nine guardians. That should be enough!
Our young female Great Pyrenees had four nice
puppies. Bad thing is she had them during kidding

Another leisurely roundup

Munching on berry vines.
It's a good thing that I have some hardy goats, otherwise I'd be in trouble (or out of the goat business).  A busy spring has kept me on the road and in the office more than usual. That means less time in the pasture taking care of the goats. My little commercial herd had not been rounded up in about 6 weeks. The 2 1/2-month-old kids had never been eartagged or had any vaccinations. Click here to read more about our vaccination regimen.
Last Saturday the herd happened to be near a gate by the driveway so I opened it up and let them drift out. The roadside had grown up this spring with dewberry vines, weeds, johnson grass and saplings. The goats enjoyed all of it. 
I was pleased with the overall condition of the goats — mommas and babies. The does have had no supplement. With plenty of grass and weeds in the pasture, the does are in great body condition and the kids are all healthy.
The does and kids ease down the road toward the barn.

10-week-old kids enjoy sweetgum leaves.

The goats arrive in the yard adjoining the barn.