Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Changes in the herd

I have a feeling that this year will be a year of transition for my goat farm. I have six goats on my “keep” list but I know I can’t keep all of them.  Currently I can house and care for five adult goats through the winter. That’s all my barn can hold and that’s all I can handle. This doesn’t include breeding bucks since they get sold or butchered in December. This also doesn’t include any kids born in the spring because they are also sold or butchered by December. 

Normally I breed anywhere from two to four does each fall. This provides me with four to twelve kids each spring and lots of fresh goat milk. I am realizing that while I love goat milk and use it for tons of stuff, I don’t need 3 gallons a day. One gallon of that goes back into the kids. Half a gallon of milk goes into my family. The gallon and half that is left is fed to the neighbor’s pigs or I try to sell it. I am not using almost half of the milk I get each day. This is a waste to me in time, energy, and lovely milk. I could easily just milk two goats all the time and probably get plenty of milk for the kids and for my family. If I have five goats in the barn, I need to figure out which of them I will breed. Thus I need to make some decisions. 

There are currently three goats that I have no plans to sell or get rid of. One is my wether Angora, one is my soon-to-be-retired Alpine doe, and the other is an Alpine kid to be used as a breeding replacement for the retiree. The wether and the retiree will not be producing next year or any years after that. They won’t be making kids or milk. The Angora does produce some mohair but he is more for decoration on the farm than anything else. The replacement doeling is too young to breed this year but I have plans to start breeding her next fall. She should be a productive animal as soon as she is big enough. This helps eliminate three of the goats from the breeding line-up this year.

The three remaining goats in the group are a mix of older and younger, Nubian and Alpine does. There’s one 4 year-old Alpine who produces great milk and has a beautiful udder but she always has twin bucks, regardless of who she is bred with. There’s a 3 year-old Nubian who is really pretty and from good breeding stock but she’s dumb as a brick. Finally, there’s a one year old ¾ Nubian/ ¼ Alpine who is very pretty and hasn’t been bred yet. Being ¾ Nubian makes her slightly stupid but hopefully the ¼ Alpine part is the part responsible for the brains. Due to my barn constraints, one of these (or more) has to leave the farm this year. 

 There’s a shortage of Nubian breeding bucks in the area so trying to breed pure is tough. This makes me hesitate to even have Nubians at all. I could switch to a Boer buck for my Nubian does, but that would pretty much guarantee that I would be eating all of those kids. I would like to breed the partial Nubian to a full Nubian buck to bring in the longer ears. She has shorter ears and if I could get a brightly colored but long eared doe out of her I think I would keep that instead of her.  Although, there is no rush to do this since she is only a year old and has a lot of breeding time in her. The full Nubian always produces beautiful and colorful kids so she is worth keeping productive as a breeding goat. 

The Alpine is a great goat but she always has twin bucklings. She has had twin boys the past 3 times. I have used three different bucks and she still gave only buck kids in return. She has yet to kid this year but I would eat my hat if she has anything other than two bucks. I love her personality and she makes great milk but a lot of joy comes from the different types of kids I get. If she is only going to have bucks then she is losing a lot of her charm in a hurry. (I know that the male gamete determines the sex of the fetus but please explain to me how she can have twin bucks every single friggin’ year!)

In the end, I have a tough decision to make. I have to decide which of my goats is going and which is staying. Hopefully it will work out and the decision will get made easily. If I can find the right happy home for one of these goats, I will gladly watch them go.

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