Last weekend I hauled 40 bales of hay into the barn. Matt went and picked up straw and I am about to go and load the entire back of my SUV with feed for all the animals.
While it never is a bad idea to stock up on all the necessities that those silly animals need, it also is a great idea when I am getting ready for goat kidding season to begin.
I tend to breed my goats later into the breeding season so that the temperatures are a little steadier and I typically don’t have to worry about any Polar Vortexes taking place. Most other folks with goats breed for January babies. Mine are usually anywhere from March to May depending on the breeding schedule I set up in the fall.
Goats are pregnant for five months and depending on breed, goats can have anywhere from one to four baby goats, which are called kids.
We raise Oberhaslis which are a rare Swiss dairy breed that we are trying to assist in strengthening numbers in hopes that we can bring them fully out of the endangered rankings. Oberhaslis typically produce twins, although I had one woman that said her goat had quints. I have a hard time just managing a set of twins after they are born. I could only imagine the chaos with five newborns.
Back to the reasoning of why I breed so late, unless you run a furnace into your barn or have a safe heating system hooked up, the only way to add some heat into your barn is by using heat lamps. Hay and straw are highly combustible, and there is typically a lot of it in any livestock barn.
I know of way too many people that have lost their barns as well as herds to fire due to a heat lamp that was knocked down or somehow malfunctioned. My heart goes out to all those folks who were really trying to improve their animals’ lives by trying to keep them warm. Granted, I do own heat lamps. However, I very rarely turn them on— like once a year. When I do, I place my security cameras in the barn so that I can keep tabs and check in throughout the night.
Newborn goats are not able to regulate their own body heat, so they rely on their moms to help them. Luckily, with my breeding late and the fact that I have some great mamas in my barn, I don’t run into many problems. Most of my goats quietly labor and will be already cleaning their newborns up before I even make it to the barn with a fresh towel.
I, being overprotective, feel that I need to keep watch to be sure that everyone involved is recovering well. Making sure that kids are able to find their mother’s udders and making sure that they are actually getting some milk out of them is really important –especially the first few days when the colostrum is being fed to them, which is full of all sorts of good things that even a milk replacer can’t replicate.
Every once in awhile we do have an issue. The summer before last we had Princess who was due to kid a month later and was starting to show signs of labor. We were checking on her and watching her progress.
Out plopped a little boy buckling, but he wouldn’t move. Princess was busy pawing at him and trying to get a response so I came in and tried to do all I could to clear his airways. He was so little compared to our other goats that I was having trouble figuring out what went wrong.
Princess had kidded before and never had an issue in the two years prior that she was bred. Luckily my sister was also following along on the progression of Princess and decided to stop over to see if she could figure it out.
Like I said earlier, Oberhaslis typically have twins and Princess hadn’t delivered her placenta which is my sure sign that things are wrapping up. We ended up having to reach in and pull her other kid from the inside of her as it had already passed.
Both of her twins were buried not long after and we experienced the most miserable week. While losing little bucklings was awful, the worst part was when Princess would call and look for them. I would break down in tears every time realizing that she didn’t understand where her babies had gone.
Many things can cause a miscarriage or premature birth in goats, with the main one being that they were rammed from the side. Goats are playful in nature and sometimes they don’t realize the things that they should not do, and I am pretty sure this was what happened in Princess’ case.
However, the excitement of healthy goat kids compares to nothing else out there. They are like little springs and seriously hop everywhere they go. They are also super agile which means sometimes they end up places that they shouldn’t be — like on the chicken roosting area.
Other than that, they are the cutest little creatures you have ever laid eyes on. Of course, our goat guardian Great Pyrenees Bell wants to adopt all of them. Often you can find a kid all snuggled in with Bell at night cuddled up and keeping warm.
This year we have five does that are bred and expect up to 10 kids in the next two months. Last year both Gretel and Loralei had single does and not twins, so the numbers are never a sure thing.
We will let the kids stay with their moms until they are able to be weaned which usually is near three months and in the meanwhile then we start matching them with their future homes.
I made a deal with myself when I started that I would make myself able to sell the kids each year and keep the moms. So far, I have doing almost OK. I did keep Liesel from two years ago and added her to my does and last year I kept Lucy who is currently residing at my grandmother’s house to keep her pygmy goat company after her older goat passed away.
Eventually I hope to find time to make soap and start a little soap business on the side, but until then I will keep milking and bottling the milk until I manage to take the time and teach myself the joys of soap making with raw milk — which we all know will just turn into another adventure.
Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org