We first chose our three Nigerian Dwarf female goats, called does, from a local woman selling hers. Sushi, the mother goat, and her two doelings came to us all together. I knew we wanted milk so would need to breed the females in order to begin that process. The hunt for a male was similar to our earlier search in that we looked at online Facebook goat groups, livestock ads in the paper and Craigslist ads also. We found our Herdsire on a Craigslist ad from Narrow Way Farm which is about an hour away from us.
After doing research on how to disbud, or remove the horns, on a young goat, I knew that vet care to do that would get expensive quickly. We want to use the goats for show which means that they may not have horns. It is also safer for me when handling the goats for their care and milking to not have the horns to contend with. Thankfully the O’Keefe family had begun the process of creating a herd with the genetics that carry goats that are polled, naturally born without horns.
We visited one time when the baby goats were 4 weeks old and chose our male from the few that they had available. Jim quickly became the obvious favorite as the babies climbed all over him. The buckling that we chose was a polled, blue-eyed, almost entirely white ball of goat energy. He had characteristics that we wanted. The ability to have his offspring not have horns, blue eyes and he carries black and brown on his predominantly white self. The herd was tested clean for diseases common in goats, the goats were fully registerable and the family selling him had similar goals like us. It felt like a really great match.
Some of the information that I learned was gathered from books and websites, A few of my favorites are specific to Nigerian Dwarf goat colors and other are about Dairy goats, which Nigerian Dwarf are.
Now that Mattis is almost 2 years old, I can look back and say that he is really doing an excellent job being our Herdsire. He is a stinky buck but that’s his job. He knows how to put on the stink to impress his ladies. Is that a bit much? Mattis earned his name from a living legend, USMC General James Mattis. My husband Jim is a USMC veteran and proudly names all our males by either Marine or Army leaders. In our pasture we have 2 wethers, castrated males, named after Army Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur.
He was such a cute boy when we first brought him home. The girls beat up on him a bit, but we fed him separately and made sure that he was ok during that transition time. Mattis quickly outgrew that collar!
If we look at how are the genetics doing, then I think I would admit to needing to do a better job of keeping record of who is polled and who is not. Lessons for me to employ for 2017. Just looking at the chart I quickly did, I would say that it has been worth it to find a polled buck.
2 polled boys
2 polled girls
2 polled girls
3 female -1 polled, 1 horned, 1 still
I look forward to seeing the many colors and combinations that happen for each kidding season!
Below is Dalai, Mattis and his two sons, Dwight and Doug wondering why Tommy is keeping the gate closed.
Part of goat care includes trimming their hooves. It doesn’t sound like a big to do until you add in the fact that most goats see this as a type of torture to be avoided at all cost. I have attempted trimming hooves in a variety of manners. They include coaxing them gently to their shed and then tackling them in a corner while they scream for mercy while I chop away at their dirty little feet. Or you can also try to get them across your lap and use your legs to scissor them to avoid their wriggling so you can do the job without cutting you or them. No really.
The most effective way has been restraining them in the milking stand while I use my body to help steady them and pull one hoof up at a time with good lighting to see the little crevices and areas needing trimmed.
A few words of advice:
Trimming after they’ve been on a damp or wet pasture for a few days to soften things up is much easier than if they are in dry conditions all the time.
Study what you should be trimming or watch Youtube videos to help you get comfortable with the process.
Use a sharp trimmer to avoid needing to go back over the same places repeatedly.
Leave a flat surface when you’ve finished.
Good lighting is key. Dusk and dawn are bad times for this task unless you have electric in your barn.
Cursing neither improves nor impedes the process. Do what you have to do.
Give them a bit of grain or a treat to occupy them while you work away at their hooves. In my case I am trimming Nigerian Dwarf, so they have a daintier, but no less difficult hoof.
My girls do not enjoy the process but seem to tolerate it much better with a bit of grain, pressure from me against their nursery wall and the use of a sharp trimmer that accomplishes the task quickly.
Keep the hand holding the hoof steady pulled back far enough so that you do not nick your knuckles while trimming.
Our Nigerian Dwarf buck was locked in the barn, and decided to demonstrate his dominance of the space by taking over the turkey nesting boxes. For some reason, the nice straw on the floor was unacceptable, he had to take over the top of the box, so he could see across the barn while napping. I am surprised at how agile this guy is! He can jump walls, spools, fences and pretty much any other obstacle under six feet high, which considering how small he is, makes quite a sight.
His agility was on display to full effect when the females went into their first heat after the babies were born, and he and Patton broke into the barn by headbutting the large door relentlessly until thy got an opening. He hit the nursery wall at a full gallop and cleared the wall with room to spare, with one objective (or 3 really I guess, since I am not sure he was feeling picky about which girl, just A girl). I happened to be standing next to the pen in conversation with my wife at that moment, and caught the poor guy in mid air (thrust).
He was not a happy goat when he realized he was making sweet goaty love to thin air while suspended in my arm over the pen. It took him a few air thrusts to figure out he was foiled, and boy did he complain! His tenacity paid off for him in the end as he did manage to sneak past us eventually and get to his girls. We will have to work out a better confinement plan next cycle.
Chalk that one up to yet another of the many continuous lessons we are learning here.
We have had several births this year, our first full year of raising goats. We have a post about preparing for kidding, but we were hoping we were truly prepared. While our first two mommas gave birth during the night, the last one was a mid day affair, and it turned out to be a very good thing!
Sashimi, on the left in labor, is being attended to by her mom and her sister. It was very cool to see how they wanted to keep an eye on her and seemed to be encouraging her in the process. At this point in the deliver, I was not too worried, and feeling pretty relaxed about being a labor and delivery nurse for a goat.
When the baby started to come out, we (my bride – Mrs. Blue Barnyard) realized there was a problem. She said the head and hoof were not lined up correctly and she needed to “go in” and fix things. Ok – so now I am not feeling so good about the whole goat nurse thing. I was convinced that nature was cool and would handle it, but she said it was time to glove up and help her out! I held the goat and kept saying nice soothing things to her to calm her down, at least that was my intent.
After the intervention, things went smoothly and a little beauty was born. Momma took care of her and it was pretty amazing to witness. Later, after speaking with our vet and describing the process, he confirmed that if Jess had not intervened, we would have likely lost the mom and both of her twin babies. I was quite proud of all the research and the cool calm and collected way she handled this.
This photo shows our youngest girl, her new momma and her grandma, all in one picture. It is so neat to see them all care for each other!
Adrienne was the assistant nurse with me, and was helping care for the babies through the process.
We got Patton as a rescue goat, to keep our Nigerian Dwarf herd sire Mattis company. He is a wether, and a gentle giant.
All he wants is attention and love, and he is quite the escape artist if left in the pasture too long! We have come to love this guy despite his shenanigans, and enjoy him following us around the barnyard like he is another one of our dogs.
We know that our goats are pregnant thanks to the presence of a buck in their pen for the last six months. We had the vet out and he suggested that we save our money and not do the ultrasound test since we could see by the visibly growing bellies that they appeared pregnant. The Vet laughed and said that we could pretty well guarantee a happy kidding season in our future since we choose to pasture them together. So without knowing an exact due date we proceeded to prepare for kidding season.
Jim built beautiful stalls within a larger pen inside the barn as a start. A place where we could house everyone away from the elements was very important to me. I picked out several lovely designs from Pinterest for him to see where I was gathering inspiration. Husbands love it when we do that don’t they? Pens, gates, and kidding stalls were what I was seeking ideas for.
After that was completed a secondary pen was built using our 10 by 10 dog kennel panels on the far side of our barn. It worked out nicely that we could take down a previously used turkey pen and assemble the panels for the goats with a section saved for our roosters. This was done with shelters and large spools within the enclosure for our buck to be separated from the Mamas. He now lives there full-time with a doe we borrowed from another farm as company. It wouldn’t be fair to leave him out there all alone.
The official “Kidding Kit” was put together and placed near the inside pen in a tupperware container to keep everything clean. There are plenty of clean towels, a trashbag and contents for the kit inside. We left the lubricant and Betadine in the house so they wouldn’t be overly cold when they were needed.
Many books on goats – both dairy and meat goats were read. Each author adds details sharing how to prepare for the impending birth of your goat kids. They provide diagrams, photos and lists to help the novice learn. A few of my favorites are: Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, The Meat Goat Handbook and also many websites for goat health.
I reviewed our paperwork ensuring that all the does and buck have the appropriate certifications to make selling and showing the kids to be a smooth process. We had our American Goat Society certifications and paperwork in hand. Throughout the investigative process I realized that it would behoove us to seek dual certification through the American Dairy Goat Association. The reason for this was the number of shows on the East Coast that I found for non-members of ADGS were smaller. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are a great milking breed so shows to share that and attempt to win awards only betters our farm reputation.
Identitfy genetics and pedigree of our animals. Now normally I would say that this is something you should consider prior to buying your animals. We did this backwards so Jim and I began a family tree to show the pedigree of our goats. There were many templates and information found using google, however Jim ended up using PowerPoint as he is comfortable with the program and it is free. Many of the Pedigree sites had a fee. Using ADGA was interesting as I could look up the relatives of the goats we own! Through the process and reaching out to the breeders of our goats, we found out that there are champions in the pedigree so hooray for us, we lucked out.
Physical observation – Now this comes as no surprise that observing the normal behaviors of your goats is important; touching them regularly to keep an eye on the health and wellness. For example – now that we are nearing the time of birth, it is evident that the girls go from sitting to standing, rubbing their sides on the pen walls and exhibit opposite traits than previously observed. Raindrop runs away from me where she used to be the first to greet. Whereas Sushi comes to me, practically sitting in my lap where she used to be more standoffish. Much of the symptoms of labor have been noted in this article by Fiasco Farm. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/175781191678818226/
When we got our Nigerian Dwarf goats, we had to build a shelter quickly, and they ended up with a small 4×8 shelter that has served us very well. We were able to pick up the house and move it to their larger pasture on the forks of our tractor and despite the moving and shifting, it has worked out very well.
Now however, we have been able to build a larger barn and plan to over winter our goats there, to facilitate the kidding process and simplify chores. We have attached paddock areas for the goats to get outdoor play time complete with climbing toys, but the objective inside the barn was to have separate birthing stalls and a means to contain them while in the barn.
You can see in these (admittedly messy construction time) photos some of the details we built into the project. The coolest part of this build, it that we used oak board, harvest from our trees we removed to make way for the barn. We used a local sawmill and it was a good feeling to see the full circle for this lumber.
Each of our girls have their own stall, though as often as not they all pile in together. We will be adding stall gates to isolate them for the birthing. We are also planning to remove one of the wall boards to create feeding stanchions to better control what they are eating individually, but right now we manage that with buckets. The hay and straw rack on top is a handy addition that we use for storage as well as feed to keep things contained.
Lessons learned here include the fact that even little goats can climb! Note the photo of our buck on top of the wall. Overall we are happy with the result, but we will be making some updates in the coming months after we get a bit more time in to see what else we can improve.
An important lesson in keeping goats is that they climb everything and eat almost anything except their medicine! Here you can see our buck letting me know that the walls I built for the stalls are nice places to stand while he poaches the hay bales!
Our goats have a couple of play areas and this one is just outside the barn with a few toys to keep them and the birds entertained while they get “yard time”
The question “Is this a pet or a farm animal?” was posed to my husband as he sat with our Nigerian Dwarf doe, Sushi last fall. Why does this question even register as something to consider, exemplifies the learning curve he and I have been on as we began the our small farm.
A pet, is defined as a domestic or tamed animal kept for companionship. Well, our goats live in a pen or pasture outdoors, we provide for all of their needs and we decided that they are to be treated as a farm animal. According to the online Free Dictionary, a farm animal is any animal kept for profit or use. In fact, the accompanying graphic shows a goat.
We hope to sell their milk, products made from their milk and offspring.
So as my dear farm guy sat with our frightened doe in the waiting room surrounded by large, snorting, drooling pigs on leashes someone else called their pet, he replied, “she’s a farm animal.” The vet suggested that her limp was the result of a strain or simple injury, recommended against intervening and suggested that she would baby it till healed.
Crisis averted. No lame Herd Queen. Phew! So as we proceed with our farming venture, it will be observed that some decisions we make in regards to the health and wellness of our livestock might not mesh with how others treat their animals. I think it might boil down to how they view their farm animals. Is it a pet or a farm animal? Prior to going this route you have to decide or you can quickly find yourself down the rabbit hole of costly treatments. Yes, Sushi could have received injections in her joint to relieve pain for multiple days. She also could reinjure herself or worsen the condition by not feeling the injury and going about her daily goat activities of frolicking, jumping and head-butting. As it was, she spent 3 quiet days watching from the sidelines, basking in the afternoon sun in her favorite spot and enjoying extra ear scratches from all of us.