Buck Camp

One of the most important parts of your herd is your buck. But what happens when your buck doesn’t “buck?”

We all know a buck’s usual behaviors, especially during rut. They urinate on their beard, legs, and face, exuding a musk so strong it makes your eyes water from yards away. They stick their tongues out and blubber a delightful love song to the girls.

But why would a buck not exhibit any of these behaviors? What would cause an intact buck to act placid and uninterested in a doe?

Simply put – socialization.

The first time I ran across this particular issue was an article by Fias Co Farms, who talked about a buck they raised that saw his owners as his companions and does, and ignored any actual caprine females put with him. Years later, a friend of mine raised a sweet little Nigerian Dwarf buck on the bottle, and when it came time to breed, he simply had no interest. He never rutted, and eventually she wethered him and sold him as a pet.

I kept this in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t until just a couple years ago when I encountered yet another young buck who “wouldn’t buck” and took a shot at trying to get him back on board.

Before we moved to the dairy, we had some fabulous neighbors who were just starting to get into Nubian milkers before we left the area. They raised a very handsome little buck along with two doe companions, who got along great. They were well cared for, well loved. However, when autumn came close and the girls were supposed to be going into estrus and the buck into rut – nothing was happening. They reached out to me for advice, and after mulling it over a bit, I told them to bring him here. Bring him to Buck Camp!

My thought was that this was a mixture of issues – Pinky, the buck in question, had been raised with his little friends and only ever exposed to them. I felt as if they too might need a jumpstart – if you’ve ever heard about the “Buck Effect” (which I should write a post on someday too, thinking of it) you know what introducing a strange buck in rut to a herd can do. Here at the dairy, we had an entire pen full of bucks in raging rut, urinating on everything that came near and bellowing their beautiful amorous noises at the does peering through the gate at them. If these guys couldn’t help teach Pinky how the world works, then nothing would. It was definitely worth a shot.

Pinky arrived looking very confused, and after a short quarantine period, in with the bucks he went. They immediately fell upon him as if he was a doe, bashing him about and mounting him. Poor Pinky! He had quite a shock coming to Buck Camp, a place filled with more testosterone than Super Bowl Sunday at the local bar. Within days however, he had settled in, and I could almost see his brain working as he watched the other bucks go through their wooing behaviors.

Several times I pulled him out and put him with a doe in heat, letting him smell and explore all the wonderful things a female goat might have in store for him. Slowly, he began to show interest, curling his lip back over his nose in the classic Flehmen to smell their pheromones, and he even started to paw at them. He did not gain enough confidence to mount one of our bossy standard does, but after two weeks, I felt he was ready to go home. I was hoping that his little girlfriends at home would be stimulated into strong heat cycles at his return, which would hopefully kickstart his brain at long last.

So Pinky was loaded into the backseat of a truck, missing his scurs that the other bucks had knocked off for him, smelling much more ripe, and I swear he had a big smile on his face. I wished my friends luck, and told them to let me know how Buck Camp worked out for them!

Well, it worked pretty darn good. Just five months later, kids hit the ground. Buck Camp was a roaring success.

Socializing your young bucklings, especially bottle raised bucklings, is important. Bring them in with your does – let them chase and blubber and do all the things they’ll need to know as an adult. Don’t let mature aggressive does beat on them excessively, possibly frightening them away from others. It’s a real shame to raise a young buck for months, only to find it was wasted effort when he cannot produce kids for you.

And if all else fails – consider Buck Camp if you can! Pinky’s proud smile speaks for itself.

 

 

Minx & Mocha


There are at times, goats who pair up with an unrelated goat, appearing to become best friends. I have come to call these special pairings “close-companions” and can name several great ones, but one pair rightfully stands out in my mind – Minx and Mocha!

Most folks know who Minx is – the “face” of our farm and my favorite goat by far. Full of personality, she is descended from our first Nigerian doe and sired by our most influential buck. She was still a junior when we moved to the dairy, and it wasn’t long before she met Mocha.

Mocha is a doe close in age to Minx, exhibiting all the best quality of the dairy farm’s lines. I fell in love with her and it wasn’t long before she joined my personal herd. It took even less time for the pair of them to become joined at the hip.

Though Minx’s mother had rejoined my herd, I bottle raised Minx and so her closest friends were the other goats her own age, and suddenly she’d gone from a farm with just a couple of age-mates, to one with many! They formed the first ever “teenager gang” here at the dairy, with Minx at it’s head of course, backed up by Mocha. They broke fencing, unlatched gates, and made holes to wriggle through. The entire lot of junior does were bouncing atop cars and banging on the doors before we knew what had happened.

Thankfully, after several of their gangster friends moved to new farms, they settled down somewhat, and we turned to the thought of breeding them, along with a group of similarly aged La Mancha juniors. We wanted to try having the young does kid out a month before everyone else, to have a little extra milk in our down time. To accomplish this, we decided to use CIDRs.

CIDRs (Controlled Internal Drug Release) are an intravaginal progesterone insert used in ruminants to control the estrus of the animal, and when used with the proper protocols, can help you more carefully plan your time of breeding.

Inserting the devices was an exercise in hilarity between my employer and I. The lubrication we brought came as a powder and had to be mixed. It turns out, if you don’t add enough water, it turns into a disgusting clinging slime that set us off into peals of laughter. Then came the actual insertion of the T-shaped device into the vagina of the goats, who were displeased to say the least. It was a tight fit on most of them – until we got to Minx. Minx had more than enough wriggle room, leading my sweet unassuming employer to exclaim, “Minx! What have you been doing out there?”

The results of our adventure with CIDRs was less than successful – not one La Mancha settled after breeding.

Minx and Mocha however had quite an exciting day with our new very fine young buck Khan, and five months later they were round and ready to burst – a month earlier than the rest of the herd.

I locked them in the pen nearest my house, and kept a close eye on them. Minx started labor first in the evening, and went all night long before finally kidding around 7am with two very handsome bucklings. Mocha assisted her friend in cleaning them off and helping them to stand and nurse. Satisfied with their health, I went back inside – only to pop back out a few hours later as Mocha gave birth to a huge single doeling.

  

Just as Mocha was alongside Minx with all the help one could ask for, Minx was there for her friend. They cleaned off Mocha’s little girl, and had her up and nursing in no time. Even without anthropomorphising this type of herd bonding behavior, it was a touching and wonderful moment in time to be a part of.

For the several months up until the three kids left for their new homes, Minx and Mocha shared them, nursing all three without discrimination, cleaning their bottoms, answering their cries when they became separated. And all three of the kids were close, especially when they could gang up to bully the much smaller kids who began to arrive a month later.

Now, a few years and freshenings later, the two remain amicable friends, though they’re not quite as close as they were as youngsters. A parallel to our own world, really, where our relationships with others grow and change over time. Yet in my mind, they’ll always remain the best of friends – Minx and Mocha, the first of many terrible teenager gangs.

 

My Experience with Meningeal Worm in Goats

Although we love dearly our ability to browse our goats over such a varied bit of land, this style of keeping brings it’s own issues. Meningeal Worm is something I’ve unfortunately become very familiar with.

Meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongulus tenuis) is a parasite that live in the brain and spine of whitetail deer. When the eggs are shed, they are often picked up by snails and slugs, which are then ingested by ruminants such as goats, llamas, and sheep.

This can cause some serious issues, as the parasite gets “lost,” potentially causing hind end lameness and even paralyzation.

My first experiences with Meningeal worm (henceforth referred to as MW) were confusing, because there was almost no information on the parasites, nor the strange symptoms we were experiencing. In the beginning, I actually thought I was looking at two diseases – one that caused hind end lameness, and one that caused skin lesions.

It started that very first year the rains really returned. We had been in a drought for so long, I think a lot of us forget just how green and wet it can get. As slugs and snails thrive in the wet, and whitetail deer are everywhere, it’s simply the perfect environment to pick up MW infection – though I didn’t know it at the time.

The skin lesions were the true start of my quest. Some of the goats – almost exclusively La Manchas – began to present with awful raw patches of skin. They started as small bare spots, but within a day would be bloody and raw, as if the goat had scraped it ferociously against something. Sometimes the lesions would grow larger, sometimes they would remain small. The vast majority were located on the upper parts of the body, most commonly on the neck. There have been instances of the lesions appearing on the head, shoulders, spine, rump, but rarely below the middle of the goat. After a few days, the lesions healed, and the hair grows back eventually, leaving no trace.

  

I assumed it was a fungal infection to start with – perhaps rain rot or ringworm, though it didn’t exactly fit any of those ailments. When treatments had no effect, I did a skin scraping to look for mites and found nothing. I was left scratching my head in puzzlement over the issue, and the problem was left unsolved.

As the season progressed, the skin issues continued, but appeared to have no long term effect on the goats. They’d rub themselves raw, then it would heal with no issues. No one lost their appetite, ran a fever, or became lethargic. I sent the pictures to several fellow goat owners, and even posted them on a couple forums, with no solid diagnosis.

However, at the same time, I began to have issues with hind end lameness. Several La Mancha does started to drag a hind leg or have trouble standing. A promising young Nigerian Doe had trouble getting up one day, and by the next, was completely paralyzed in the hind end, and could only drag herself about. This I could diagnose – surely MW. While researching MW I never once came across a description of the skin lesions, until Onion Creek Tennessee Meat Goats updated their own MW article, which included the following:

“You should suspect Meningeal Worm disease if the goat displays bare patches of hide from quarter to palm size (generally on the flank or near the front leg), a bloody hole chewed in the hide, neurologic signs or any problem involving the spinal cord, from hind leg dragging to inability to get up.”

It suddenly all made more sense, and I immediately launched into treatment not just for the lame goats, but the ones exhibiting skin. We use extremely high doses of fenbenzadole – 10x the normal dose at least, over several days (minimum five) depending on severity. If the animal is showing neurological symptoms, I include a dose of banamine to act as an anti-inflammatory.

Closer inspection of the lesions made it painfully clear it was MW causing these issues – the parasite exits the skin once it becomes lost, and underneath the hair, one can often find “track marks” and holes where it has done so.

  

No one else had described these lesions anywhere, and even a parasite specialist from Texas A&M during a small ruminants veterinary conference had no idea about them, asking us to bring some examples this year if possible. When I tried to bring it up during a goat meeting (that I no longer attend) I was promptly shut down (the rude way in which I was dismissed is one of the reasons I no longer attend, actually). I admit to feeling some vindication when Caroline Lawson wrote an article for the Dairy Goat Journal recently that also described the lesions – the first time since the Onion Creek article that I have seen someone other than myself report these issues in conjunction with MW.

Many claim that monthly doses of Ivermectin injectable will act as a preventative, but after trying this method for a season, I was forced to conclude it was not effective for our herd. It’s interesting to note that while both breeds we run can exhibit the hind end lameness, it’s almost exclusively the La Mancha that develop the skin lesions, while the Nigerian Dwarf have only two recorded cases of minor sores. Yet the Nigerian Dwarf are much more likely to go completely down in the hind end and become paralyzed, and also do not respond as well to treatment.

Most of the goats treated recovered, though not always 100%. One Nigerian Dwarf doe who had a minor case continues to show some permanent lameness, but it has not inhibited her ability to produce kids or keep up with the herd. Several La Mancha who have had varying degrees of infestation have recovered completely with no sign. A Nigerian Dwarf buck that lost complete control over his hind end recovered through intense treatment and therapy, but can no longer breed due to the weakness of his hind leg still.

And unfortunately, three goats – two Nigerian Dwarf does and a La Mancha buck – never recovered the use of their hind legs and were humanely euthanized.

Thankfully, this issue is rarely seen among penned goats, but unfortunately it’s one of the risks we personally run here with our style of keeping. There are positives and negatives to any way of keeping, and Meningeal worm remains our largest enemy running our goats the way we do. It’s a risk that, in the end, we have chosen to accept in order to continue to reap the immense benefits of free browsing. The life of a goat owner is never easy, and we all must decide what is best for ourselves and our own animals. Thankfully, the past few years have made me nearly an expert on this parasite, and I hope that this post will help someone else understand what they’re dealing with some day.

The Goat That Floats

There’s one thing that goat owners learn very quickly: goats hate water. We’ve all seen our goats race for shelter when the rain begins, laughed as they jumped over puddles, and a few of us have even used a squirt gun to discourage inappropriate behavior.

And yet, another thing we’ve all learned is that there are always exceptions to the rule. And here at the dairy, we have one extremely notable exception, though our entire herd has become rather more tolerant of water than the average dairy goat.

Lime, a young La Mancha goat, has proven herself to be quite the swimmer.

I’ll never forget the first time I caught the goats in these antics. As many of you know, our herd browses on a mixture of forest and pasture during most of the year. There are a few ponds, and a rather large creek runs through the property as well. More than once I have had the fortune of catching the herd crossing the creek at a low point, jumping, swimming, and walking through the water rather nonchalantly. So when a couple of goats had turned up recently with hair that showed evidence of being wet, I thought nothing of it.

One of my favorite things to do is to take the camera and go out and walk with the goats. I take pictures, shoot video, and just hang out with the girls. It was quite a hot afternoon when I decided to go out – I checked the GPS location of the goats (two of the herd members wear trackers on their collars), finding them relatively close, near a group of ponds. They often rested in this location and I figured I had plenty of time to catch up to them.

When I approached, I immediately became concerned – there was a goat in the water! A storm had blown over several trees into the water; the goat must have climbed out for leaves and slipped. I hurried towards the scene, worried that the goat was caught up in branches and unable to get out. As I got closer, I stopped in surprise, realizing that the goat was swimming.

I turned the camera on right away, knowing no one would believe it unless I had proof! I hardly believed it myself. What kind of goats are we raising around here? Lime was just a head bobbing about in the water, and she wasn’t alone either – several other goats had joined her in an effort to reach what had to be some really delicious leaves.

I moved closer to get a better look, the goats ignoring me as they usually did in these instances, and was just blown away by the antics of these La Mancha. And it’s interesting to note too that it’s only the La Mancha (and primarily Lime) that I catch swimming or wading voluntarily. While the Nigerian Dwarf will cross water if they must, I’ve yet to catch one swimming or wading just to browse.

Over that summer and fall, I caught them in the ponds several more times. It still surprises me to see them indulge in this behavior, but I have to say it makes for some great video! As for health concerns, we’ve yet to have any issues stemming directly from the swimming (or drinking of pond water) but precautions should always be taken when it comes to animals around open water.

 

 

 

The Deformed Kid

This post contains image/video that may not be for everyone. 

 

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that every kidding season comes with it’s own surprise. This year was certainly no different. For the first time in hundreds of kids, we had an extreme deformity.

Many people are familiar with the flaws a kid can be born with – wry face, supernumerary teats, parrot mouths, underbites. And most of us have seen pictures of very strange deformities – extra legs, cyclops, legs turned backwards. But I’d never had a deformity of this magnitude born to any of my animals.

Midori, the doe famous for kidding five-six kids every year, delivered something completely different in 2017. Not only did she have a big healthy doeling, she delivered a deformed kid.

The birthing went perfectly fine, Midori needed no assistance, and the first doeling was completely normal. The second however, was a surprise to us all.

The second kid was almost completely hairless, with just hair on the lower legs, tail, spine, and top of what should have become a skull. You could clearly see the developed blood supply system that had kept the kid “alive” up until birth, when it surely suffocated. Since it had no discernable face. The rest of the body appeared to have formed fairly normally, (it was a doeling), the joints were in the proper position and it had muscle structure. However, once you reached the neck, you could clearly see things had gone wrong.

The neck vertebrae felt normal upon palpation but the soft structures of the neck and throat were mushy, underdeveloped. Where the neck ended, there was merely a hard knob instead of a formed skull. Instead of a face, there was only a strange small ear, with possibly another auditory hole on the other side of the head.

Thought I was sorely tempted to perform a necropsy on the kid, I know of an author working on a book for deformities in livestock, so I wrapped up the little creature and stuck it in my freezer until I could get it to them.

There were some questions of outside influence creating a deformity, but I personally do not believe this was the case in this particular instance. These things just sometimes happen – just from conception to live birth is a miracle in itself, with how much can go wrong. Most things that go wrong are absorbed or slipped very shortly after conception, so we rarely see one last this long.

I admit, I became entirely too excited over this deformed kid, insisting that my employer take a look with me. Yes, it is sad that this kid did not develop normally, but at the same time, we were experiencing an unusual occurrence. I felt it was important to stop and appreciate the fascinating way something can go wrong – however strange that sounds.

The live doeling continues to develop and grow perfectly well, and is in fact quite a good looking girl. She’ll have to get a name soon.

I’ve posted pictures of the kid below, along with a video I took. There is no gore, and in my opinion is not disgusting or disturbing, but please look/watch at your own discretion.

 

 


Building a Social Media Presence

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I am a very lucky person to have so many great hobbies, but one of my greatest passions, one that has lived longer and surpasses even my love for our caprine companions, is computers and technology. My dear grandfather is the source of this – as an architect, he had access to home computers very early on in their life, and as he adored me as all good grandfathers do, he shared this with me. Nevermind I was little more than a bouncing baby! Almost before I could read, I knew how to switch on the computers and navigate MS-DOS (Windows was a thing of the future in these times) via keyboard (the mouse too came later!) to the simple games and programs a young girl might enjoy. Even better, I knew the appropriate way to shut the computer down – much more complicated than it is now!

I’ll never forget the first day we logged into the World Wide Web. I barely understood how it worked – and I had no idea how it would shape the rest of not just my life, but the world itself.

My grandfather passed on fairly young, but the love of technology stayed and only grew. As my life changed and computers were much too expensive for me, I learned how to rescue parts and pieces from others and build my own. When personal websites became available, I taught myself HTML. I remember typing classes in Elementary and advanced networking classes in High School. For many years, I funded our farming venture by building websites for others – until WYSIWYG builders put me out of business!

I continue to seek out new things to learn in the industry however, as I’ve always really enjoyed the straight forward challenges of writing code. And too my interests have expanded to include many other aspects of our new world, all of which tie back into my beloved desktop computer.

So – obviously – I’ve managed to build a miniature “social empire” surrounding K-N-S Farm. Following links, one can find my website, my Facebook, my Twitter, my Youtube, my blog, my Reddit, and a few other less attended to social media platforms. My logo is recognizable at a glance, and the content I put out consistent – or at least I hope it is.

In this day and age, a presence on social media is almost necessary. When people are looking for local farms and breeders, it’s Google they turn to now, not the local Thrifty Nickle. So let’s look at what’s important for your farm:

  • Logo
  • Website
  • Facebook
  • Other Social Media

 

Logo: Your logo is so important! This is what you should use on anything that comes from your farm/operation. From website header, to Facebook avatar, to Forum signature. Keep it simple – it’ll be easier to add it to anything, and you never know what you might want to put it on someday. Pay or create something original for yourself – avoid using clip-art spliced together or pre-made logos if you can. Often times farms start with these, and they often work well enough, but as you grow, remember, you’re also growing your brand recognition. It’s worth the investment.

Website: In this current time, there are a good number of operations that believe websites redundant, and prefer to use other social media platforms exclusively. I say they’re wrong. A website is an incredibly valuable resource for your customers – all of the information they need should be there. A customer should be able to view your stock/product, and contact information should be available to them as well. Keep in mind when building your website – it’s for the consumer! One may love sparkles and music, but when someone goes to your page and encounters lag from particle effects and auto-playing music, they’re going to close your page.

Facebook: There are many social media platforms now, places where one can connect to others, be they local or distant, but there is no denying that Facebook is still the current king. There are an uncountable number of resources for goat and other stock breeders and keepers, from sale groups to pages about color patterns. Just about every farm I know these days utilizes a Facebook page – myself included. I always recommend to have one, and to ensure a link is easily available on your website. Don’t forget to share the page on your personal page!

Other Social Media: First and foremost – don’t take on more than you can keep regular, but don’t forget to check out other social media platforms. The Internet moves at breakneck speed and it waits for no one. You just never know what the next platform to explode will be! If you have a special or favored hobby/skill that falls in line with one of these, absolutely use it to its best advantage. Love to take a lot of pictures? Instagram is great for that. Do you have a talent for videography and editing? Youtube offers a ton of possibilities. Even if you don’t have the time to dedicate now, it’s often prudent to sign up to these services and set up a profile that links back to your mainstay location.

There’s more to it than just setting up and posting, of course. It’s incredibly important to treat your farm’s business pages as exactly that. Remember that you are posting to potential, past, and present customers and consumers. Your page, website, etc, are no place for political, personal issues, and religious postings. Now, I know many farms are founded on religious ideals, and perhaps there are farms founded on political ones as well. Your pages are like your farm in the end – yours. Post as you will, but when it comes to drawing in a large – and varied – fanbase, you must be aware of the image you are presenting.

How you handle an issue that arises will change how others perceive you and your farm as well. It’s difficult to give guidelines in these cases because they vary so wildly, and each farm will handle problems that arise differently. The rule of thumb to remember is to remain calm, collected, and never allow yourself to become heated publically. Whenever possible, move issues with customers into a private method of communication.

Finally, you’re never going to please everyone. You’re never going to make everyone happy, and no doubt you’ll face some type of online harassment, abuse, or negativity. This is just part and parcel on the Internet. The keyboard and screen gives some the courage to be ugly, and there’s absolutely no point in responding to it. Block, ban, and move on. Occasionally there may be instances in which it’s prudent to respond, but for the most part, there is nothing to be gained from it.

We are so fortunate to live in this age of fast paced communication and education. I remember clearly the days of scanning the newspaper ads, or putting ads in them ourselves to sell stock. The bulletin board at the local feedstore was the original Facebook local sales group. You played phone tag with a stranger, then wrote down directions and hoped they were correct! The flea markets were the hot places to be when looking for a varied selection.

Now it’s easier than ever to get what we’re looking for, and so many ways to utilize it. Break free of your Internet comfort zone and expand!

 

Dairy Diaries: The Making of Minx

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If you follow my farm in any form, be it Facebook, Youtube, or even Reddit, you know who Minx is! How she came to be, and came to be mine is actually an interesting little tale, that covers a range of goats and even a couple of generations.

Our first goat was Hope, a rather large Nigerian Dwarf doe. Once we’d moved to our little farm, we added a few more goats to the herd, and made a few goat friends. I leased a very handsome buck from a neighbor, Pace County Roadhouse Blue, and he bred the handful of does we had.

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Hope gave me two beautiful blue eyed doelings. Both buckskin, one a bright gold, the other a darker shade. Immediately, there was something just . . . not quite right with the darker doeling. I’d never before seen (and never seen since) a kid reject its dam. But this is what this doeling proceeded to do. As both doelings struggled to stand on their wobbly legs, the darker kid wandered away, over and over. No matter how Hope called to her and licked her and chased after her, this kid completely ignored her.

I was able to encourage her to nurse by holding her up to the teat, but after filling her belly, off she went again. As you can imagine, I took both doelings inside, concerned. I milked out Hope and made sure they got full bellies. In the morning, I returned them to Hope. The golden doeling nursed immediately, but again, I had to help the darker doeling.

I christened the doeling “NQR” – Not Quite Right – and kept her inside for a week or so, taking her outside to nurse on Hope alongside her sister and let Hope fuss over her. Besides her strange behavior, NQR was normal – she grew at the expected rate, played, and was a typical goat kid. Both doelings spent the nights inside, as I didn’t want NQR to be lonely.

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After a week or so, NQR’s little lightbulb seemed to go off, and she began to nurse on Hope by herself, though she showed little other interest in her dam. I still kept her inside at night, though I started letting her stay longer outside with her sister as the days passed. Before long, she was almost like a normal doeling in the pasture, so I decided she could go to a pet home with no problem. Her new owner would be a lovely young woman who recommended me through a friend, and after her visit to meet little NQR and my other kids, I had not just a new customer, but a new friend. She planned to take little NQR home when she was weaned, and put down a deposit.

Unfortunately, before that day could come, I suddenly found little NQR cold and still one morning. I’ll never know exactly what happened, but her little life was over.

Saddened, I offered her sister, who I was calling Rose, in replacement. Her new owner promised to bring the now named June back to be bred, and then I could have a baby, as she emphasized with the disappointing turn of events.

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June did indeed return the next year, to meet the most influential buck my herd has seen.Sometime in between she’d lost her ear to a very rude dog, but she hardly seemed to notice. Her owner was planning her wedding, which would be fairly close to the birth, so I was happy to agree to board her again when she was closer to kidding, so that her owner wouldn’t need to worry about her while trying to plan the most exciting event of her life at the same time.

June’s pregnancy progressed normally, and it was almost no time at all before she was back. She enjoyed an extended stay on our farm, and when it came time for her to kid, she had a stall all to herself, and I had a camera to monitor her. When her labor began, I set the camera to record so I could share the event with her owner, and settled in to be with her.

The labor was fairly quick, and uneventful – which is always nice. The kid was a large single, so I gently assisted June as she pushed, and soon the kid landed in the bedding, steaming hot. June was shocked by this and retreated to a corner of the stall to stare at this new foreign life form. I rubbed the kid, stimulating it as it breathed its first startled breaths, and marvelled at what a pretty kid it was! Sturdy and large like most singles are, it was a buckskin like June, but splashed with patches of white. I picked up the kid and checked between the hind legs, dreading the sight of a scrotum, and was rewarded. It was a doeling!

I gently brought June back over and showed her the doeling, and after a short time, she was nuzzling and licking her, one hundred percent mom material. Indeed, she’s ended up being one of the best goat mothers I’ve ever known.

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Once June recovered from the birth, and her owner recovered from her wedding, the little doe went home, and began a career as a home milker. The little doeling stayed with me, and for anyone who doubts whole milk to raise goat kids – that’s what this girl was raised on!

She 485717_2168043218094_370609915_nearned a name quickly enough with her bold hijinks and playful attitude as she froliked amonst the other kids on the farm. I named her Minx, and I adored her like I’d never loved a kid before – though I’ve loved a few almost that much since. She grew quickly and flaunted her domination of her age group, and when I moved her and her companions to Honey Doe Farm, she took it in casual stride. Totally unfazed, she made friends with some other does her age and created the first “teenager gang”, constantly squeezing under gates and getting into trouble together. We’ve had a group of them every year since – much to my dismay!

Since then our love for this doe has only grown. She’s proven herself not only intelligent and affectionate, but a good mother and a great milker. She rules the Nigerian Dwarf herd with little challenge, but she always has time to break off to request a scratch or two from her favorite people. It wasn’t long before she became the face of our farm, with her likeness adorning everything to do with K-N-S Farm. She truly embodies the goals of our breeding: A hardy doe that milks well, mothers well, and does it all in style.

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I Don’t Trust Raw Milk

uh9jch3Let me finish that sentence – I don’t trust raw milk that comes from any animal but my own.

I know that many folks are immense fans of the benefits and digestibility of raw goat’s milk, but I must say that I also feel that some overlook the risks that raw milk truly carries.

I’ll start by saying much of what people claim raw milk can do is greatly exaggerated. I have seen blog posts and news articles hailing it as a miracle healing broth, and quite frankly, I find that terribly amusing. It’s not – it’s milk. “An opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.”

It becomes something far better with a little skill, but cheese is a topic for another day!

That doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to goat’s milk of course – we all know how much easier it is to digest, how much more efficient goats can be when compared to other production species. Many people find that it tastes better, and seeing as the majority of the world drinks goat’s milk, it’s certainly a very popular product!

We consume raw milk from the goats here at our dairy. Our animals undergo a full panel of testing before joining our milking line. They have a full time on site caretaker – me – who makes it a mission to spot problems such as mastitis and illness before the milk from that animal is combined with the rest. I know every detail of their history, from deworming, to their last antibiotic treatment, to when their hooves were last trimmed and the health histories of their parents.

So I trust our raw milk.

There’s a reason they do not recommend raw milk to the immunocompromised, the elderly, the pregnant, and the young. While a mature healthy digestive system will have little trouble with raw milk, the fact remains that it can be the vehicle to pass along many problems. Toxoplasmosis, Chlamydia, Q-fever,  Brucellosis, Tuberculosis, along with many other types of bacteria, viruses, even internal parasites and fungal infection.

While it’s unlikely to see many of these problems in a clean maintained herd, the possibility exists, and a shiny healthy looking goat may indeed be hiding a lurking monster, unbeknownst even to the herd owner.

It’s very easy as well, to take a person’s word that their entire herd is CAE-free, use their raw milk to bottle feed your kids, and then later realize that a mistake was made somewhere along the lines. It’s happened before, much to the dismay and grief of both parties.

It happened to me.

When it comes to the health of your stock, it pays to be cautious.

Pasteurization is not some evil method cooked up by corporations to “ruin” the integrity of milk. It is a proven and appreciated way to ensure the safety and quality of your milk. It’s not even terribly difficult to do! Here are some links to help you out:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/pasteurize-raw-milk-at-home

http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/raw-milk-news/story/how-to-pasteurize-raw-milk-at-home/

You’ll find there are nearly as many opinions on pasteurization as there is raw milk, so be sure to do your own research as well.

As with all things, the contents of this blog post are my personal opinion – if raw milk works for you, and you enjoy it, then there is little reason to stop using it! Just be sure to do your research and check into your source, if you’re unable to produce your own. Be careful out there, friends – when folks get sick from raw milk, it only hurts the industry as a whole.

 

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Dairy Diaries: Goats Gone Missing

396928_1744080219284_2108549644_nHow I met Honey Doe Farm is actually a much more interesting story than one might think.

Though I had, from time to time, seen their advertisements online, I had not yet had a chance to visit their farm, which was only about twenty miles from our then home. When another goat friend decided to go see what they had available, I hitched a ride, and we drove up to check it out.

I was surprised to find such a beautiful farm tucked away along the highway, hidden from plain sight and pretty much a complete unknown to the local goat community. Even better, as the sweet and friendly owners described their method of care, I was impressed to hear that they were up to date on the latest in goat maintenance.

The herd was made up of Nigerian Dwarves, my breed of choice, and some funny earless critters I knew to be La Mancha goats. I’d not yet seen one in person, and at first I thought they were rather off balance, but as they swarmed around me to be patted, I had a newfound appreciation. Especially since the Nigerian Dwarf members of the herd only stared at me suspiciously.

Now I had quite the problem! There was an entire herd of Nigerian Dwarves in front of me – and I wanted one! But I hadn’t thought to bring any money. Thinking quickly, I offered to make the farm owners a website in exchange for a doe – after all, it was a shame that no one knew this nice little herd was here. They accepted, pleased with the idea, and I picked out a little golden doe named Cinder.

Unfortunately, Cinder ended up being sterile, and when the website came up for renewal, I returned to Honey Doe Farm and picked out a replacement – a lovely red and white Nigerian Dwarf doe, and a cute little golden Mini Mancha in exchange for another year of hosting.

Upon returning home, I secured the now screaming newcomers in a small pen, and went inside for a nap. I woke up later and immediately realized it was entirely too quiet.

I had left the shelter (a large dog house) too close to the fence, and my new goats were gone.

Great, I thought. Just great. I grabbed a feed pail and went searching. A couple hours later I came back, retrieved my pony, and expanded the hunt. By nightfall, I had to call it quits with no luck. I sent an embarrassed email to Honey Doe Farm, describing how I’d managed to lose the goats in rather record time. Immediately they responded, offering to come help me look. I was very grateful, and that next morning they arrived, toting a border collie alongside, and we set out searching.

During this time, I got to know both owners better, and we traded stories as we trekked through pastures and along roadways. They told me about their plans for the near future, plans to build a dairy and make cheese. They even promised to bring some along next time.

We didn’t find the goats that day, but we persisted. During one evening, putting up posters, they asked if I would be interested in helping butcher some turkeys in exchange for one. Well of course! I’d seen their big fat delicious looking turkeys, and it happens to be my favorite bird to eat.

Just three days after the disappearance of the two runaways, I received a phone call from a lovely family a mile down the road. Their dog had cornered a little goat in their shed, and that morning they had seen my post at the feed store. It turned out to be the Nigerian Dwarf doe, who earned the name Gypsy for her wandering ways. I took her home gratefully, and she stayed in the pen this time. One of her daughters still resides in our herd – K-N-S Farm Catnip.

Unfortunately there was no sign of the little golden Mini La Mancha, and as the days went by, my hopes of finding her dropped lower and lower. It was very likely she had been killed or died somewhere, and I pretty much chalked her up to a loss; an easily preventable loss that I had caused by one silly little mistake. Ah well – we are all harder on ourselves than we should be.

During this time, I did indeed help with a group of turkeys and took home one for myself, along with some ground turkey as a bonus. It was the best tasting turkey we’d ever had. They also shared some smoked queso fresco with us – so delicious my husband and I fought over it. As we continued to visit and help out, more invitations to come and work came. The farm owners were not put-off by my inability to drive – “Why, it’s not that far at all! We’ll come get you.” and were always very interested in hearing the latest in goat news.

One day I pointed out several just beautiful Nigerian Dwarf kids and mentioned I could probably get those sold for them if they wanted – I had by now been dabbling quite often in “brokering” goats (selling for people and earning a commission on the sale) and had a fairly good grasp on the market. We quickly came to an agreement, and I toted home a crateful of kids that I disbudded, broke to the bottle, and sent to new homes.

Another afternoon after finishing up tattooing some yearlings, the upcoming dairy was the topic of the day – it was a short time before construction began – and I laughed and said, “Well, you’ll surely need help once you get going. I know where you could find a good goat keeper, at least.”

Two weeks after going missing, Yumi the golden Mini La Mancha was found on the side of the road ten miles away. A friendly chicken farmer picked her up and brought her home, and later saw my now faded and tattered flyer on the Post Office bulletin board.

They never ran away again.

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The Overnight Expert

dsfadfaThe definition of “expert” is having or involving authoritative knowledge of a subject. Often times it’s not a self-described trait, but one placed upon you by your peers. Dr. Anders Ericsson says that it takes ten thousand hours, or twenty hours a week, fifty weeks a year, for ten years, to become an expert in a field.

For some, it’s a label they put on themselves at the first opportunity. Perhaps out of arrogance, perhaps from ignorance, perhaps out of insecurity.

Most people who have known me a good long time know that I was not always the goat person. Before goats, I handled, bred, exhibited, and kept many species, ranging from exotic mammals including deer and wolves, to slithering scaly or slimy cold blooded animals, be they frogs, turtles, or snakes. I have always been grounded in the animal world and I am extremely fortunate to have gained experience and knowledge on a wide range of life before I finally “settled down” to become a goat enthusiast. Since then, I have been only digging myself deeper into the world, turning it from a hobby into my literal employment. I am with goats more often than I am with my husband.

I now fit the definition of a goat expert by most accounts, but I always get rather amused with myself anytime a situation needs me to actually present myself as such. While I am not foolish enough to deny that I have gained a great deal of knowledge about goats, I am also not quite conceited enough to believe that I know it all. In fact, I’m one hundred percent certain I don’t even come close to knowing everything about goats; there is not a season that goes by where I don’t learn more.

Every kidding season brings a unique birth I haven’t had before. Every message sent to me has the potential to be a problem I’ve yet to handle. Every day brings a brand new opportunity to learn. While there are several ailments I have a good working knowledge of, I have no hands on experience of them yet, which is often the most valuable part of learning and where one gains confidence in a situation. Where I may be strong in some areas, there are others who may be stronger, and there are areas where I am weak in knowledge where I depend on the experiences of others.

Which is why the phenomenon of the “Overnight Expert” can be such a potentially dangerous thing.

Not unique to the goat world in the least, an Overnight Expert is someone who comes into a hobby, and after a relatively short period within, begins to dole out and dispense advice alongside the veterans of their community. Much of what they tell others is parroted from their own mentors or sources, which in itself is harmless enough, despite the lack of solid understanding behind the given. It’s often driven by a desire to prove oneself in their community, and I can certainly empathize with the desire to be a part of the group. It rarely comes from malicious roots, and is often unintentional by the person in question. These folks are just seeking to share and help, and there’s nothing untoward about it, as it’s merely a facet of human nature. These are our friends we must show patience and positivity to, as we continue to guide them along the path. More than one of these innocent and unknowing Overnight Experts has gone on to take the title legitimately, because of those who supported them.

We do no one a favor when we drive away the new members of our community for overstepping the invisible understood boundaries. Patience, patience, patience.

However, the range of Overnight Experts, as with all things, does include those who do far more damage than good. These are the folks who twist their limited knowledge to spread misinformation, speak over those who should be speaking, and drive away others with a sour high horse attitude. You’ve all met at least one, if you’ve spent any length of time in a community.

When they spread misinformation, it hurts those new to our community the worst, because they know no better. We so often believe things we read on the Internet or are told to us with no concrete evidence of the claims. We are subconsciously thinking the best of those who appear to be helping us, leading us to not question what we’re told.

One of these was a claim by a group of “young” goat keepers that CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis) was not “as bad” as the older generation claimed, that the “hysteria” surrounding it was unfounded. They went on the claim that it was cruel to cull infected animals, and that CAE infected milk had potential benefits. That “most animals are asymptomatic anyway” – I am being very broad here, and they had their reasons to back up their thoughts, some of which are even worth a second look.

But the truly cruel thing here is any defense of a disease that causes our beloved animals terrible pain. Yes, some animals are asymptomatic throughout their lifetime, but how could one even begin to consider the risk of perpetuating such an awful preventable disease in any fashion. I have seen what the effects of CAE can be. I am not hysterical about the disease, nor do I consider it always a death sentence, but this is something that breeders before me have taken immense steps to control and eliminate. To speak so callously against the great work they did is, quite frankly, insulting in my opinion. There is nothing I appreciate more than those that do and did the work that I benefit from now.

Regardless, this blog post is certainly not about that discussion, and both sides have valid thoughts. Where the problem lies is when that way of thinking is marketed straight to a professional looking website or blog, forum or Facebook, paraded as fact from a truly experienced source. Where newcomers to our community read it and begin to think that they don’t need to test their herds. That CAE will not harm their animals.

This is only one large example in a sea of misinformation surrounding our funny little caprine friends.

In the end, it really depends on you to do your research. Don’t take anyone at their word – and don’t forget as well, what works for one farm may not work for another. It doesn’t make one farm wrong and one right. Ask ten breeders a question and you might get fifteen answers – all of them right in their own way!

We’re all in this together, and our community has room for all of us.

 

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