I quarantined the new goats when they were brought to the Farm until I was able to draw blood and send samples off to be tested. The process of drawing blood is not particularly difficult but it involves attention to timing as it is not desirable to have the blood samples arrive at the lab late and sit over the weekend. In the past, when I have had veterinarians come out to draw blood, all of them have used the New Mexico State Lab. The State Lab is back-logged so test results were often delayed for several weeks. In addition, the charges were excessive. After doing some on-line research I discovered that WADDL (Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab) offered the same services much, much cheaper and that I could have the same tests run on four goats for what the State Lab would charge of a single goat. While I am not opposed to the idea of paying a veterinarian to draw blood, I discovered that none of the veterinarians in this county would ship samples to WADDL – even though it is a fully accredited lab recognized by the State of New Mexico – and one veterinarian even refused to draw blood unless it was sent to the State Lab.
Knowing I intended to start drawing blood samples myself, I had ordered the requisite blood tubes last year. In past jobs I have drawn blood on humans, dogs and cats so I was not unduly concerned about drawing blood on the goats. However, since blood draws on goats are done via the jugular vein and not the cephalic vein as is usual in dogs, and since it has been about 20 years since I last drew blood, I decided I would ask whether I could pay a veterinarian from a local clinic to come out and give me a quick refresher on drawing blood from a goat. (Yes, there are plenty of Youtube videos and step-by-step written instructions on the Internet, but I learn best by observation and then hands-on practice under supervision.)
I set up an appointment and earlier this week the veterinarian and her tech arrived. We discussed what I needed and she agreed to walk me through the process. As drawing blood is generally a two person job – one to restrain the goat and the second to perform the draw – we discussed that I intended to use the milk stand to restrain the goats. Therefore, after the first goat was done in the usual fashion, we did the remaining goats on the milk stand. I remembered there being a learning curve to draw blood on the first stick and therefore was not surprised to find that while I remembered the “how to” I had lost the knack of finding the vein on the first stick. I managed to draw the first and last goat I tried, but after three unsuccessful sticks, had the veterinarian draw the other goats.
Since some of the tests I run are not reliable on goats under 6 months of age, the two bucklings will have blood drawn for testing at the end of the summer. More practice for me.
The blood samples were duly packaged per WADDL instructions and mailed Priority Mail. Some of the tests are run on Thursdays and so will be run today. Other tests are run on Tuesdays and those will be run next week. I expect the test results to be mailed by the end of next week.
Since I have a closed herd I have been comfortable in the past just testing every three years (this is the first time in several years I have brought in new goats from an outside herd). However, if I draw blood myself and use WADDL, the costs will be significantly less than in past years and I may go to testing every other year, or even annually.
Several friends of mine took care of the farm for two weeks recently so I could travel out-of-state to pick up my next farm dog. I spent those two weeks back east – a week in Vermont and a second week in Pennsylvania. The shades of green in both places were truly beautiful and very different from home. However, things (mostly weeds of course) greened up here while I was gone and while the green may not be as vibrant it is nonetheless a very welcome change from the winter browns.
Before I left I had given considerable thought to where I wanted – and needed – to be with the farm to achieve my original goal of the farm being self-supporting. While I was willing to pay for fencing, maintenance, etc. I wanted the livestock to be profitable enough that expenses for hay and other items directly related to maintaining the livestock were not coming out of my pocket. After several years raising lambs, I finally acknowledged that the lambs were simply not paying for themselves and that my pocketbook was being steadily drained; hence the decision to sell off the sheep. At the current time, it hasn’t been determined whether or not the hogs will pay for themselves once I start selling hogs, although I suspect that the hogs, too, will be a money drain. The chickens are seasonal producers but because I really like fresh eggs, I’ll maintain a small flock of chickens.
In recent years, the only livestock pulling their weight have been the Nigerian Dwarfs. I am also addicted to their milk, another reason to keep goats. As I had started drying off my does prior to leaving on vacation, and expected my does to be dry when I returned, I made arrangements to buy a doe in milk on my return. The difficulties in finding a buck with an excellent milk pedigree whose owner was willing to let me health test and lease him resulted in me deciding to purchase a buckling. After considering the matter I decided to buy two bucklings, from different breeders and with different pedigrees but both out of excellent milking lines.
A well-known Nigerian Breeder was retiring and selling all of her breeding stock so, in addition to the doe in milk, when the puppy and I traveled to Tulerosa to pick up the doe in milk, I ended up buying the last two available does . Both does have been exposed to bucks for fall kiddings.
At the present time the three new does are housed in quarantine, and the two bucklings are also in separate quarters, all awaiting health test results. More information and photographs of the new additions will be forthcoming.
I am currently contemplating different arrangements for new pens which will give me more flexibility in separating dry does from those in milk, weaned kids and so on.
The new puppy has been home for just over a week now and has settled in very nicely. He is accompanying me on chores twice a day and learning the routine. He has also finally managed to get one of the older dogs to play with him a little.
After serious consideration of several factors, I made the decision this winter to downsize and have sold most of the breeding ewes along with the lambs. The remaining ewes will either be sold or eventually find their way into the freezer. I had already downsized the goats, putting the wethers in the freezer earlier this year, selling Nutmeg’s three doelings and most recently selling a doe in milk (Nougat) along with a dry goat (Thyme). Currently I only have three Nigerian Dwarf does. Although I had no plans to downsize my flock of chickens, the Mexican Grey Wolf which passed through the area took care of that for me.
Nutmeg kidded on September 24th. She is 18 days into her second lactation. This morning about 10:15 I pulled her from the lambing jugs where she has been residing with her three kids and put her in the doe pen for the day. Around 5:15 – about 7 hours later – I put her up on the milk stand.
On her first lactation she gave me 22.0 oz after having been separated from her twin kids for about 12 hours.
It is hard to believe but Saturday the kids will be three weeks old.
I’ve written before about my dislike of disbudding goats. To get me through this process, which is high on my list of least enjoyable tasks, I cast my mind back to those instances where I have had to deal with goats who have gotten stuck in fences, and the couple of times when the goats have broken their necks in fences before I found them. Since the paste method has been ineffective more than it has worked, I had ordered an electric disbudder earlier this year. The first one I received was defective and the second one arrived too late for me to disbud Nougat’s twins.
I’ve been checking Nutmeg’s triplets daily as the timing of disbudding is critical to its success. While I was prepared to have to disbud them on different days, as it turned out, all three kids were ready for disbudding today. So this afternoon I plugged in the electric disbudder and gathered up the equipment I needed while it was getting hot. I started with the largest kid, the last born, and worked my way backwards since the first-born was, and still is, the smallest kid.
Here is the middle kid:
After putting the kid in the box, I used scissors to clip hair away from the horn buds and then once the iron was hot enough, applied the tip of the iron for four seconds. After doing the second horn bud, I went back and reapplied the iron to the first horn bud for an additional four seconds. I repeated the process on the second horn bud as well just to ensure I had a good “copper ring” around each horn bud. (Though to be fair, it didn’t look copper as much as it looked charred to me.) If I have to do this, I want to make sure I do it right and don’t end up with scurs. Time will tell whether I was successful with any or all of the triplets.
With four* goats now producing milk I’m having to be more and more creative on how to utilize it. Unfortunately, most of my goat milk “projects” – soap making and cheese – take more time than I have to spare currently. Ice cream is quick and easy but it doesn’t take long to run out of freezer space. I love milk but even I can’t consume more than about a quart a day. Luckily I have hogs and dogs, both of which are also getting milk on a regular basis. So, in an effort to reduce the overload in my refrigerator, from now through the end of October I am offering a special on goat shares. Please contact me for more information.
*will be five in another couple of weeks when I start milking Nutmeg again.
More information on goat milk (the highlighted phrases are links to the source material):
Here are 5 reasons goat milk is better than cow milk.
1. Goat’s milk is less allergenic.
2. Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized.
3. Goat’s milk is easier to digest.
4. Goat’s milk rarely causes lactose intolerance.
5. Goat’s milk matches up to the human body better than cow’s milk.
Differences between goat and cow milk:
Fat composition – The fat globules found in goats’ milk are typically smaller than those found in other animal milks, this makes them easier to ‘break down’ and digest in the gut. Furthermore, there is a higher amount of ‘medium chain triglycerides’ found within the fat globules present in goats milk when compared to cows’ milk. Medium chain triglycerides are a type of fat that is digested, absorbed and used within the body more easily than fats with longer structures.
Protein composition – The proteins found in milk can be divided into two main groups: caseins and whey proteins. For both cows’ milk and goats’ milk, around 80% of the protein present is casein based and around 20% is whey based. The casein proteins found in milk can be divided into four major types: alpha, beta, gamma and kappa caseins. There is a subtle difference in protein composition between the two milks with regards to the proportion of each type of casein they contain. Goats’ milk contains more beta caseins than cows’ milk, whereas cows’ milk contains more alpha caseins, particularly alpha-s1-casein which is understood to be one of the proteins responsible for cows’ milk allergy*.
Prebiotics – Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that encourage the growth and activity of the ‘friendly’ bacteria in the digestive system, therefore supporting normal gut health and function. Oligosaccharides are a type of naturally occurring prebiotic found in a number of food stuffs. There are thought to be 4-5 times more oligosaccharides in goats’ milk compared to cows’ milk.
There’s a difference in fat molecule size – The fat molecules in goats’ milk are much smaller than the fat molecules in cows’ milk. Think about it this way: imagine boiling a big pot of water and adding broccoli to make soup. If you were to add large florets vs. small florets, your body would have to work a lot harder to digest (bite, chew, and swallow) the bigger chunks of broccoli vs. the smaller ones. The simple difference in the size of the milk’s fat molecules makes it easier to digest.
It’s naturally homogenized – Homogenized simply means “to make uniform in consistency.” Fresh cows milk, if left sitting on the shelf, will naturally separate where the fat will float to the top – something that we find to be less desirable. To avoid this lumpy texture, we process our milk to homogenize it. The great thing about goats’ milk, is that it’s naturally homogenized – smooth and consistent without it undergoing a man-made process.
It contains less lactose (milk sugar) – Our bodies produce enzymes to help break down our foods, especially sugar. Goat milk contains less lactose (milk sugar) than cows’ milk, which makes it easier on our stomachs simply because we need less of a particular type of enzyme to break down the lactose.
It’s less allergenic due to the protein contents – One of the most common allergies in children under the of age of 3 in the United States is a dairy-allergy and it has a lot to do with a particular protein in the milk called Alpha s1 Casein. The levels of Alpha s1 Casein are about 89% less in goats’ milk. – which is one of the main reasons why people who have dairy sensitivities may get away with consuming goats’ milk as an alternative.
The last kid is indeed a doeling. Final tally 9 kids – five bucks (now wethers) and four doelings. Six are gold and white so the buck’s coloring would appear to be dominant.
I calculated the date for Nutmeg to kid on September 27. This morning however she was crying when I fed and I suspected she might be going into labor. I was scheduled to drive the truck up to Los Lunas, about 55 miles, to get new tires on the truck and on the trailer (those tires were in the bed of the truck). While I briefly considered rescheduling, it was something that really needed to be dealt with and I wasn’t 100% sure Nutmeg was actually going to kid today. When I got home early this afternoon, I checked and she was still vocal but had eaten most of her hay. This evening just as I was heading out to feed, she started screaming. I ran out and found her cleaning off a kid. She no longer seemed in distress so I went ahead and started chores. When I got back from the barn she had a second kid on the ground. It looked like the placenta was starting to be passed so I figured she was done. After chores I came in to get the sling, scale and betadine to dip cords.
After weighing kids I left everyone alone and came back in the house. A short time later Nutmeg started screaming again. I figured she was having contractions trying to pass the placenta but went out to check. It turned out that she was passing more than the placenta.
Triplets. While I won’t bet more than a couple of bucks on it, it looks like all three are doelings. I’ll check again tomorrow morning after the third one is cleaned up.
So the final tally for kids in 2016 is nine kids.