It’s Kidding Season

It’s kidding season and you know what that means…frolicking baby goats, new moms munching spring forage and cheese just around the corner….

We are at the middle of March and nine does have kidded so far, 8 Nigerian dwarfs and one La Mancha.  The count is at 13 does and 10 bucks so far.  We will be keeping all the does this year as we grow our herd and assess our bucks, but most of the boys will be for sale as wethers (castrated males).

Many people wonder if we name all our animals and how can we remember them…yes, they all get names, even the boys we are going to sell. We have no trouble remembering their names…they all have unique personalities and look different so we can quickly tell them apart.  For the first month our kids are bottle fed three times a day and handled at each feeding…that helps keep them people friendly and gives us a wonderful dose of love and joy from each of them.  They are then bottle fed two times a day for the second month and one time a day for the third month.  We start them on grass hay, fresh water and free choice mineral mix right away, and add in alfalfa hay at a month of age.

Why don’t we just let the moms raise them?

One of the hardest parts about being a dairy is that we need the milk to make cheese.  Our current kid-rearing plan is to let moms nurse their kids on demand for the first 24 hours, then 3 times a day and overnight for the next two days.  The moms and babies are separated at 3 to 4 days of age when moms are milked and kids are switched to a bottle.  The moms go back with the herd and the kids join together in a baby goat pen…lots of fun.  This year we are using frozen goats milk from last season, but that will soon be gone and we will buy store milk, add some cream to bump up the fat content and mix in some of our goat yogurt to put good flora into the kid’s rumens (the “active” stomach of a goat).

The other challenge is that goats are at risk for parasites, particularly coccidia. The young goats are new to the environment and need age and experience to handle coccidia.  Based on advice from our veterinarian and friends with goats we have decided to treat with decoquinate to help prevent the overgrowth of coccidia in our kids…they will only need this for a few months. This treatment is added to their bottle each morning. We also use boot covers to prevent transmission of parasites from our adults or llamas to our more at risk babies.  We would rather spend the time to keep our animals healthy and hopefully avoid the need to treat for illness.  As they get a little older they will go on a herbal worming program to help avoid the need for any worming treatments that could require us not using their milk…so far…so good…but we are always on the watch.

If an animal in milk needs antibiotics then their milk is separated and not used in our cheese, even if the medication has zero milk withdrawal.   So, you can see, keeping our animals healthy is of paramount importance to our milk supply and quality.

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