Just this past October I attended what for me might just have been a once in a life time opportunity. I was fortunate enough to attend the International Goat Conference. It was a great chance to get the better management practices, overall goat health and the normal topics we hear about at field days and events. I was surprised to see the participation of so many people especially the strong showing of folks from other countries. To me it was a good sign to see so many folks interested and involved, that the goat industry is growing and thriving in what many people consider a weak economy or at best a “recovering” economy. By the way have you seen the prices the Selection 1 goats are bringing in New Holland! I think we are setting and breaking more butcher price records.
We also were so very bless to be in the Fall Splash of Color sale. We put in four does with our high selling doe, a black and white spotted full blood doe bring $1475. It was a great time to meet new people and get to see some truly amazing animals.
We also were very bless to be in a second breeder sale the BGANC Fall Production sale. With last years’ huge success we wondered if it would be repeated. Indeed it would be. With double the head from last year and a few new consigners that brought us some of their very best. We decided to put more lots in the sale than last year and were exceedingly happy with that decision. We thank all the buyers and those who attended it certainly made it a success.
We have about wrapped up our fall kidding season and await one more doe to kid. We have pulled out all the breeding bucks and hopefully starting in February will have some more spotted kids being born. We have made a purchase of a new Jr. Herd Sire from MAX boer. A black and white spotted buck sired by Max Boers’ Thriller.
So the last few months have been busy with kids, sales, breeding season and trying to make the best decisions to better our position in the spotted/colorful boer goat industry of NC.
August September October
Boy does time really fly. I have been little behind as of late on my “corner”. We were thrilled with our turn out at the field day, wrapped up a very successful spring kidding, and getting ready for the Fall Splash of Color Sale. Our field day we deemed a wonderful success do to such a big turnout and the excellent feedback you guys gave us about our speakers. Anytime you get together with other goat farmers share with one another what works for them, what products they like and use. The mingling and learning from each other can generate as much “education” in many case as the seminars.
This summer has been a much wetter, cooler, and humid summer than we have had in many years. This has cause a problem with our feed storage. MOLD. We store our feed in bags on pallets off the ground but with this weather it simply hasn’t been enough. We buy in bulk to help keep our cost down but this summer the extra feed has molded. I would encourage you as we leave summer and head into fall to watch the feed you buy. If you get feed from a chain store probably no issues with it being climate controlled but would be very careful at a smaller open air store. A store that doesn’t sell a lot of your product would be another one you need to inspect what you buy. I would say as feed companies move away from the cardboard/paper sacks to the plastic one the problem is reduced but the potential is still there. Thought I would share that with you as we have struggled with that issue. To help we stack the feed in the driest area possible, and spread the feed out best as possible, filling some barrels with feed also. We make sure to feed oldest feed first and inspect the feed don’t feed the moldy feed. If you are feeding a ground or cracked feed be careful with your storage during the hotter days it will not keep as well now as it will in late fall through spring.
January February and March
So please forgive me due to the hectic schedule of December and celebrating Christmas I neglected to get a new corner up during December. With the spring kids coming a little earlier for us I went ahead and decided to do three months.
Whether you have just started in the goat business or been in it for years, having to raise a kid on a bottle is part of the territory. It may be an orphan kid, mother with not enough milk, or a triplet kid needing a boost, there will be bottle babies. We have our fair share of bottle babies and sell several during each kidding season and along the way have picked up on some things that we feel help the kid and at times saves us a little money. When it comes to bottle feeding some want to wean the kids off the bottle as soon as possible. We don’t and despite the hassle any kid we choose to keep we will bottle feed it out for three months, same as if it was on mother. We try to mimic what the mother would do and feed several times a day and use real goat’s colostrum for the first few days. Each year we will freeze some of our herd’s true first milk to have some for the next time it’s needed. We also feed the kid as often as possible when they are young. We feed the kid 4 to 5 times a day, 4oz to 6oz each time for the first two weeks. As the weeks go on we will add more milk to each feeding and reduce the feeding until we get to one feeding a day. To help save money on milk replacers, we try to milk the does that have extra milk to feed a bottle kid. This also helps the kid grow better by using real goat milk. I feel no matter how good the milk replacer is nothing can take the place of natural goat milk. Milk replacers will do just fine when you don’t have any extra milk. Practicing those techniques, we have better results with the end product and in most cases you cannot tell the difference between a kid raised on bottle or mother. We have all seen those stunted and runt looking kids that were weaned to soon or overall mismanaged. We have learned from our mistakes and been able to improve the quality of our bottle raised kids. When we sell a kid to an individual to be raised on the bottle we warn them no matter how tempting don’t over feed the kid, it’s hard not to because they seem like they are starving but you will do more harm by feeding all they will hold. They can bloat and scour which can lead to death, or at least a very sick kid. We also encourage and practice regular intervals and consistency when feeding. We feel doing that reduces the chance of scours; at least it has with us. Make sure to never let the kid suck air, allowing that can lead to upsetting the kid’s stomach later. Overall the kid’s stomach is sensitive and temperamental and special care needs to be taken so the kid’s digestive system stays normal and that kid will grow off looking just like its litter mates.
These two full blooded boer brothers had to be pulled and unfortunately there mother passed away due to complications of such a long and complicated delivery. Thankfully they are doing well, growing, playing, and even eating feed.
October and November
High Cost of Feeding got you down?
Well it is an understatement to mention that feed cost a lot more now than it did last year. It is getting hard to find a profit with these feed cost even with goat prices relatively good. So what do you do to help combat the challenge of high feed? At this point most goat farmers are like ourselves and older, less productive, or over all cull goats are long gone. Maybe some have even gone as far as selling off more keeper replacement does than they had planned. So you’re like us your not wintering anybody that you don’t have to, so now what else can you do? Well maybe not that much more but here are a few things we are doing to help get the most for our dollar.
Minimize waste, this is probably not the first time this has been mentioned to you but it’s the best place to start. All of our herd feeders are built so the goats can’t get their feet in them, dirty them up, or flip it over. We have all the feeders in a good shelter than prevents a blowing rain from dampening it. We all know that the goats aren’t going to eat feed that has been stepped in, raked over, damped, or flipped out on the ground. So providing a place that you can easily keep clean, and prevent contamination is the first place I would start. For whatever reason we have a goat up and use a pan feeder we try and not over feed the goat so it doesn’t waste. We will take the feed out after 15 to 20 minutes so the goat won’t flip it out or get manure in it. The saved feed we can normally feed back to the herd, as long as it is pretty clean.
Keeping goats in good shape and not letting them get thin is another prevention and cost saving we try and use. The cost has to be measured in prevention versus cure; it may not directly have an easily calculated savings. We feel that if the herd is in good shape, wormed, and over all good health it is easier to keep them in good shape. Taking less feed to maintain than if they were a little behind. If they lose weight we are forced to feed more of that expensive feed to get them in the shape they need to be. Cutting back on the amount of feed may seem like the first thing to do, however we can’t afford to do that. Let me explain, if we cut back we are hurting our investment, the bred does. In a few months when they kid they have to be in good shape so recovery from birthing is quicker, immune system in better shape, and they have plenty of milk for those spring kids we will be selling. Healthy moms will result in healthy and most likely at least a little bigger kids. That’s the start of your foundation if you get behind there you will be feeding more and playing catch up. To keep the does in good shape we have split the herd up into three herds. We have done this to provide better feeder space so none of the goats get pushed back from the feeder and get their adequate portion. We have put the spring kids in one herd so we can manage and feed them to their needs, and the pregnant does can be feed to meet their needs and requirements.
Make sure to always feed quality hay and feed, don’t just settle for a feed or hay just because it’s cheaper. There is a reason that it’s cheaper, the quality and protein is less and you will end up feeding more to achieve the same results. For a savings that your wallet can directly see, negotiate with your feed provider if you can. Buying at least a ton at a time results in significant savings with us, try and buy in bulk as much as your budget allows, and your goats can eat before it goes bad. Even most stores will knock of some if you buy 10 or more bags for example. Storing the feed becomes very important, keeping vermin out of it along with keeping it dry to prevent mold. If you’re buying a lot see if you can get a discount for paying on time, within in 10 days or less than 5 days for example. We are able to save several hundred a year just by paying within 10 days. You just never know how much your feed provider will work with you, especially if you’re a prompt paying and loyal customer.
Hope these ideas and methods can help you out, or at least get you thinking outside the box on ways to battle the added cost of feeding this year.
August and September
Hoof trimming, seems simple enough and probably is, but I felt it was worth spending time on because the importance of proper hoof care is so critical with the heavy meat breeds such as boer. Heavy breeds epically the bucks tend to have so much weight on their front legs we see the front hooves have more trouble. The extra weight will spread or turn the hoof in an undesired way thus having to trim to keep it growing correctly. Also another over looked part of hoof care is dry place with dry bedding. I imagine we have all had to deal with hoof blistering and foot rot, we were not exempt from it either. We have majorly cut down on the cases of blistering over the years by improving the way our goats are house and management of the bedding. In our first few years with older barns we would put down hay and straw and after a few days your bedding would look dry however if you watch were you or the goat would step moisture would build up, if you ever knelt down with your knee you know exactly what I am trying to describe, the brown wet spot on you pants would all the proof you need to show that the stall wasn’t as dry as you thought. Changing the bedding helped but the same effect takes place around barns, entry ways, and epically shelters that are not fully enclosed were the main entrance catches a lot of rain. Poor drainage can add to a wet shelter/bedding area. The goats have to step through this wet manure and mud over and over which sticks on around and between the hooves.
This is at one of our older barns the darker color is the "bad stuff" we have to keep this area cleaned more, it is right in the eve and all the rain sheds off right at the entrance to the barn. So planning ahead to avoid these problems can help with new construction.
This is one of our newer barns, had the same issue but we placed sandstone around the edge. It helps keep the area drained better so you have less we manure which make it easier to keep clean. It can be costly but has helped out alot in reducing hoof problems.
If hooves are not trimmed properly it worsens the problem by holding manure in the pockets the untrimmed hooves make and holds moisture between the hoof. The manure and moisture will ammonia burn or blister between the hoof and over time you can actually get the real hoof rot that eats away at the hoof. The rot that we have seen actually forms between the hoof walls on the padding part of the hoof. Once the blistering or rot gets bad enough you see the trademark hopping and holding weight off the leg of the affected hoof. Hopefully you will only have one hoof to deal with, but it is critical to treat the goat immediately so your goat doesn’t lose weight or at least anymore weight. If it hurts to walk the goat will graze less, be late to the feed trough both leading to losing weight and overall health can suffer depending on the severity of the root/blistering. This problem becomes even more critical if the doe is pregnant or nursing kids, so when treating any hoof problem were the goat is hoping we do and suggest putting the goat up in dry stall so it can easily eat without competition and gain the weight back. Same thing with a buck at breeding season, how much breeding will he do if he is limping around. So loosing fertility, lost weight gain, and poorer health are all serious and costly things so that why prevention is so important to hoof care. Now actually trimming the hooves, is normally pretty simple if you start with the kids keeping them properly trimmed. For a pattern you want an adult goat’s hoof to look very similar to a new born kids hoof. However without regular trimming you will start to see some over grown hooves. Our biggest mistake in hoof trimming started many years ago, that was NOT trimming our yearling does. Facilities were not the best and they were strong harder to handle so we “assumed” their hooves were ok and concentrated on the older goats that had issues.
Example of a goats hoof that was not trimmed early in its life or trimmed on a schedule
If we had only taken the time we would have prevented a bunch of problems down the road. If you get a goat with a badly overgrown hoof you want to trim a little at a time so you don’t cut the hoof into the quick and have it bleeding. We suggest cleaning the hoof as best as possible so you can better see what you’re cutting. Removing the mud, dirt, and manure will help keep your trimmers sharp. Keep a good set of trimmers, hoof heal, and some stop bleed around just in case you make a wrong cut or the goat kicks at an most inopportune time. If you get one bleeding flour can work to help stop the bleeding, however it is better to trim a little at a time often than too much and have a bad cut.
You can see in the picture the hoof is a little over grown in pad, and outside hoof wall. Nothing serious or can't be corrected in a single trimming session. Not bad for a 15 year old goat.
This is the before picture
Same hoof now trimmed, its not prefect but no serious issues, goat was not in any hoof pain, lame, or had signs of hoof rot. Just trying to maintain a good shape and keep it from over growing.
June and July
It is now June and most of our kids are a month to month and a half old. The mothers are in heavy milk production trying to meet the needs of their rapidly growing kids. If we are not careful and don’t stay on top of our herd health it can go south very quickly and can have grave consequences. Grass is green and the goats have turned from hay to browsing and heavy grazing. When we took a good look at our pastures we noticed the grass is a little shorter than normal due to the goats heavy grazing. This can lead to or amplify a parasite problem. The reason for this is, or at least the reason we have been taught, the worms will be more concentrated the lower you go on the blade of grass. So the lower the goats have to pick the more worms/eggs the goat ingest and thus more in the goat laying eggs, and the more hatching and feeding off the doe. That scenario would be bad enough by itself, but now add to it a doe nursing kid(s) and the potential for a bad situation dramatically goes up. So we will take a close look at the herd, checking the eyes for signs of paleness, supplementing grazing with feed once a day, and keeping fresh water and minerals available. If we check a goat and feel the goat is too pale we will worm her and if it is bad we will check her in 2 weeks for possibly worming her again if little to no improvement is noticed. We will look for signs of a goat that just doesn’t seem to be doing as good as she should. For instance we will look for a coat that is rough looking, or slow to shed, anything that isn’t slick or smooth. Another more severe sign that is often accompanied with a “shabby” coat is a few ribs showing, or the goat thinning down some. It is normal for a doe nursing to thin down some but you don’t want to see too much of that because it hurts your doe and it takes her longer recovery time before next breeding.It also reduces milk production which reduces the amount of “food” for the growing kids and slowing them down cost weight gain on those kids. With over 150 goats it is inevitable that some moms will get a little thin so to help out we keep a full crib feeder which has benefited us greatly allowing us to wean kids at 3 and 4 months at the same weight we use to get at 5 and 6 months. This is based on our experiences and hope it helps you prevent some future problems. Some of it may seem common knowledge but often we get busy and don’t pay attention to the common things, like grass getting a little too short, mineral feeder low on minerals and not noticing that goat getting thin before it cost you.
Top picture shows dad checking eyes and giving the goat a good once over, lower left picture is of myself filling up our mineral feeder to keep those very essential minerals there for the growing babies and mothers nursing those demanding kids.