Maaaaa! They hear the crunch of my boots in the snow and start their bleating call-it is joy to me to be greeted so. Last week we discussed birthing procedures and left off with placing the baby goats in a separate pen, away from the mothers since we want to bottle feed.
This insures a more healthy growing baby goat, a more healthy mother and if for no other reason the sheer joy of sitting each morning and early evening with the babies and nursing them.
Initially we take the colostrum from the mother goats after first wiping the teats down in an iodine anti-bacterial solution, squirting some colostrum out, as there is sometimes a plug of dirt in the teat canal, and taking but a small amount. I use a common calf ½ gallon plastic “bottle” with a calf nipple for feeding. Each rubber nipple is inspected to make sure it “squirts”, and as time progresses we may have to enlarge the nipple hole.
It is not urgent to feed the baby goats immediately after birth. As you place them in the hay covered pen they will stand up, walk a bit and probably get sleepy. With a pen full, perhaps twenty or more baby goats you quickly learn you need two pens. One separate and adjoining that you sit in with them and the other to be able to lean over a bit and place the fed baby in and out of the way. Baby goats become very pushy and with twenty little people vying for that nipple you will laugh at first but in time as they grow bigger and stronger you have to change feeding tactics.
Let’s start with the first sip. You sit down in the hay and pick up a cat size baby goat. You hold the head up and open the mouth with your left hand and gently insert the rubber nipple and squirt a drop or two. I need to say at this point you are squirting the colostrum, or powdered goat milk, or even pure goats milk from a mother who is already producing from an earlier birthing. This bottle is pre-warmed to 95 degrees Fahrenheit- blood warm. Cold milk will be their death. As the first feeding is but sips we need only one warm bottle. I use a plastic pail with hot water to keep the bottle in. Later as we progress we will use a five gallon plastic bucket filled with four or five calf ½ gallon clean bottles, with clean nipples all soaking in hot water; since February is cold and milk chills fast.
About 6PM they will want more that a sip, and it is quite obvious who is going to become the classic “greedy goat”. By the next day or two they will be calling you at the correct time for feeding.
Shortly your goal is to lift the baby goat up with your hand under the chest, as the little goat will be smacking for the nipple. This is by the late second day or early third day. You tilt the head back and slide the nipple down the throat and fill him or her up. The stomach will expand as the milk pours down the throat and the baby goat will pull back when it is full. Now you have perfected the state of feeding you want. A full stomach is far more than the baby would get from the mother goat afield and will grow proportionately bigger and stronger.
Before I get ahead of myself, at the second feeding the baby goat will poop. This first excretion is a black tar-like substance that clings like glue. You want to have some paper toweling with you to wipe it up. Usually not more than a tablespoon size it is sticky and fragrant. This is the cleansing of the intestinal track and shows health. Do not sit in it.
So as time progresses it is a daily joy to hear them call you, feed them, and separate them from one side of the pen to the other. Eventually you cannot sit down, they are becoming too big and you let them out of the pen into the nursery area. By the time they are six months old and you still have plenty of milk to spare you keep feeding them but they are butting you and you decide enough is enough. You quit with the milk.
Soon after leaving the pen they will start munching hay and in time you think of bringing some grain in your pocket for them to nibble.
Somewhere in this melee of baby goats you have the grand idea of buying a bucket feeder that shows several baby goats/pigs/sheep or whatever all in a circle around the multi- nipple bucket of milk. Phooey! They will compete with each other, butt one another and knock the bucket over. Save your money. Cute feeders do not work.
I did come up with the idea of a six inch diameter PVC pipe, capped at each end and having an in line cut out holes for the younger goats to drink milk out of, but again they would see each other as having what they did not, and greedy goat would fight each other for the milk. So I put up panels as separate stalls so they could not see each other. This lasted one day, as someone else’s milk ration was better than theirs even though their drinking cut out was just as full.
I went back to the bottle and decided that six months was enough with the bottle; time to wean them off. How quickly I was ignored as they turned to the hay.
Now it is important to keep the young goats away from the adults at the time you are graining the adults. Big goats are just as greedy and pesky as little goats. But graining the milkers means more milk and a healthy animal. So I devised a simple row feeder, paneled off from one another and a headlock to keep them focused on their grain ration. I briefly mention this at this time to warn you that having the little goats among the milkers at graining is a major problem. Just keep them separate.
I am now going to tell you how to castrate the males and how to de-horn the goats. I must say the reason I dehorned, also known as disbudding the goats, was because we had children and horned goats are more inclined to butt than dehorned goats. The horns in the field are used to pull down branches and shred bark. Goats also love to rear back on their legs and come down in a big “clack” banging heads together. The breed bucks, kept separate from the females will run at full tilt toward the “corral or oak boards trying to break the walls down. Build your coral very strong. Also an electric fence is helpful but not a guarantee when breeding season starts.
I would not dehorn goats now that we have no children at home. Looking back in time when I did dehorn I could have just managed the children better by keeping them away from the goats. I do not like dehorning at all.
Castration: you will do best if you buy the elastrator models that stretch a small rubber ring out so you can slip it over the scrotum. To do this quickly and correctly have a long towel folded in half long ways laid on a table in your milk house, take the male 3 to 5 day old baby goat that was first or second born in birth order. These are larger goats, third or fourth birth order goats-if you are keeping them- are best castrated at 5 or 6 days. Lay the baby goat on its back and wrap the towel around the four legs. Have the elastrator rigged with a band; turn the goat around so it is easy to see the scrotum and take the loose skin and two tiny testes inside so that you can work them outward. Slip the band over the scrotum and release the band. It is important to have the testes outside the body-now cutting off the blood supply so that in a month the scrotum and testes will wither and just simply fall off. There is no pain to speak off but there is a noticeable sleepy state or numbness at first. Feed the baby goat first; then do the castration procedure. Return the baby goat to the pen.
Older males could be castrated too but they are not cooperative and I do not recommend trying it.
De-horning is described by the goat guru writers in the New York Apartments as a simple chore. They often cite the classic tale of an old sweet grandmother sitting on the porch, and using a red-hot poker to gently disbud the baby goat. This is all Bull. I think grandma should place a red-hot poker on the writer’s head. This is not gentle, but I have found the way that seem to be the most efficient and takes twenty seconds.
First let me say do NOT use caustic dehorning paste. They will rub it in their eyes and on other goats. This is a chemical burning paste and it burns and burns for hours if not all day long. As far as I am concerned, the New York writers can use it on their own heads if it is so great.
OK! Let’s get started. You will need a long towel, the barber electric shears with a close blade. You will have to purchase a calf disbudding electric iron. This looks like a soldering iron but has a ½” hole in the middle of the hot tip.
Castrate the male baby goat first. Make sure the baby goat has been fed. Plug the iron in and check for full temperature by burning a piece of wood. The iron, if hot enough will burn a black ring. Lay it on a spoon or metal support so it does not burn the wrong thing-or you. It will have a wood handle.
Feel the top of the baby goat’s head. You will feel a bump on each side; that is the horn bud. Take the clippers and shave the top of the head so the hair will not act as an insulator, which reduces your effectiveness with the calf iron. Improper heat, improper application will result in spur growths that are difficulty to remove later on.
Lay your watch on the table so you can see the second hand. You will work in a ten second application. DO NOT EXCEED 10 seconds. Prepare yourself. The baby will scream. You will get rattled-I did and still would, but I refuse to do this anymore.
Here we go. Wrap the legs so the baby goat cannot move, flip her over and cover her with your armpit and arm holding the head firmly in a grip. As soon as the watch second hand is on the top of the time strike firmly with the hot iron and watch the seconds count. Rotate the iron as you do this. There will be smoke; screams and the baby goat will start to pant. Let the baby goat’s head cool down for a few minutes and repeat the procedure on the other horn bud.
If you drink- have a shot. Tell her you’re sorry. Feel guilty. She will still love you.
Remove the baby goat to the pen with the sleeping other baby goats. The head will be sore for a few days. Do not pick the scab. The next morning the baby will drink a full amount of milk.
There is also the drama of shearing the feet. If you pour a small slab of rough concrete-not cement—and your goat has access to this slab she will rub her feet as necessary and as she wants keeping her hooves in line and eliminating your need to cut the hooves with a knife to maintain shape. I do recommend checking the hooves for foot rot. This is cured by cleaning out the rot around the horn edges, then place a cotton pad soaked in formaldehyde, a preservative, and wrapping the foot up the ankle so she will not kick it off. This usually cures foot rot problems. You will need to lay down extra floor hay and keep your goats out of the wet muck. You can dip the goat’s feet when finished milking too. They will not walk in a pan of liquid like cows will.
Factoid: More goat meat is consumed on this planet than beef. Goat milk is the “Universal” milk, and more healthy than cow’s milk.
COPYRIGHT: 2010, Back2theLand.com, Mark Steel