Monthly Archives: February 2016

Kidding Season

Kidding SeasonIt’s kidding season on Tottys Bend Soap Farm which means spring is just around the corner and new baby goats are bouncing around in our field. Kidding season is exciting and there are many things to anticipate. Will the deliveries go well? Will everyone be strong and healthy? Are we going to have to get up in the middle of the night and assist with a difficult birth in freezing cold weather? These are all things we worry about during kidding season. But so far so good! Our first two does have had successful and relatively stress free deliveries, blessing us with two girls and two boys. Our does will continue kidding from now until the end of May. When our last doe has kidded we will have between six and twelve new baby goats on our farm. Baby goats are just about the most adorable things you will ever see! The cuteness overload of kidding season makes up for all the worrying we do this time of year.

We kicked off kidding season with the birth of two beautiful does, Godiva and Gucci. Godiva was the first born and is the more outgoing of the two. She is brown with white ears. Gucci was born within minutes of her twin sister. She is the first solid white goat kid to be born on our farm. Gucci is a little shy. Daisy is their momma. Daisy is four years old and is an experienced momma. She gave birth on a Saturday afternoon while I was at home and Nate was at the Franklin Farmers Market. We knew Daisy’s due date was near so we were keeping a close eye on her. You can determine a goat’s due date by counting 150 days on your calendar from the time of their breeding or you can use an online due date calculator programmed for goats, assuming you know the exact date of the breeding.

Gucci & N8On our first day of kidding season Daisy ate grain for breakfast and then went out with the herd to nibble on some grass until about noon. That is when I saw her go into the barn by herself. Goats rarely leave the rest of the herd so I knew this was a sign that the babies were on their way! I went to the barn to keep her company and to make sure she didn’t need any help. I sat with Daisy for a couple of hours as her contractions came and went. Soon the contractions were getting pretty close together. She stretched and yawned, pawed at the floor, and began to push when the time finally arrived. Both of Daisy’s does were born in the diving position which is one foot in front, then the face and then the other foot. This is the ideal position because it allows their head and shoulders to pass through the birth canal easily. I was relieved because I didn’t have to reach in and reposition either of her kids which can be very stressful for everyone. As the babies were born I picked them up one at a time and placed each one in front of Daisy so that she could clean them off. This is an important part of the bonding process for momma and baby goats. They learn how each other smells and this will be how they recognize one another. Within ten minutes both babies were standing and walking. Soon they found their momma’s teats and had their first taste of colostrum. I was extremely proud of Daisy for bringing us two healthy, beautiful does. When she was ready I gave her a treat of warm water with molasses and a big basket of hay. She and her new babies stayed in their special stall for a couple of days until it was Windy’s turn to kid.

RockyWindy is two years old. This is her first kidding season. We anxiously anticipated the arrival of her babies because Windy is very shy and does not like to be handled by people. It is always hard to predict how new mommas will react to their first babies, and to us if we need to help. Sometimes new moms get confused and do not want to accept their babies at first. When the time came Windy delivered two bucklings, who we named Rocky and Jimbo. Her baby boys were delivered in the diving position without any complications. It took Windy a few minutes to get warmed up to her new babies but soon her instincts kicked in and she began to clean them off. This was a relief. The next step was to get the boys to eat. This task was more of a challenge because Windy’s udder was very small and the boys couldn’t find her teats on their own. We had to help. Helping newborn goats eat for the first time is extremely tedious! They are clueless and will nibble on just about everything except for the teat that you are desperately trying to place in their tiny mouths. Eventually each of Windy’s new bucklings had a taste of her colostrum and we knew Windy had bonded with them. It took a couple more days for Windy’s udder to fill with milk. In the mean time we supplemented Rocky and Jimbo’s diet with goat kid formula which we fed them from a bottle. Rocky was the first born and was a little bigger than Jimbo. He seemed to be getting enough from his momma and wasn’t very interested in the bottle. But little Jimbo happily took his bottles until Windy had enough for both baby boys. We are still keeping an eye on the boys to make sure they are getting enough to eat and growing like they should. We are also supplementing Windy’s afternoon grain with a top dressing called Mo’ Milk. This supplement is formulated to increase milk production. We haven’t used it before so we are interested to see how it works.

Now the babies are a couple of weeks old and they are running, playing and getting into everything. One of their favorite games is chasing each other around the oak tree. This is the time during kidding season when we are the happiest and most proud because we know our goat herd is healthy and their offspring are starting their little lives off on the right foot.

Winter Goat Care

Winter Goat CareWinter goat care on our farm means stocking up on nutritious feed, administering supplements, and preparing for kidding season. While there is no milking to do at this time there are still daily chores and special preparations to make. My favorite part of winter goat care is getting ready for the baby goats to arrive!

Winter goat care begins with acquiring and storing high quality hay. During the winter, our goats are unable to get enough fresh, green forage from the pasture so they rely on us to provide them with an abundant supply of good hay. We seek out certain types of hay like clover, alfalfa (which is very hard to find where we live), orchard grass, perennial weeds and Bermuda. Alfalfa is the preferred choice for many dairy goat breeders because it has a high level of digestible calcium and protein. Goats need lots of calcium and protein when they are in milk production. Milking goats can develop hypocalcemia if they do not consume enough of these important nutrients. This dangerous condition, also known as milk fever, can result in death. Therefore, if we can’t find alfalfa hay for our winter goat care, we will feehayd alfalfa pellets. These pellets can be purchased in 50 pound bags from our local Co-op. They are a great source of calcium and protein for our winter goat care.

Winter goat care also means administering oral supplements to every goat in our herd. In our region of Tennessee, the soil does not have enough copper or selenium to meet the dietary demands of our goats. When a goat doesn’t get enough of these minerals in they become anemic and their milk production drops. Signs of copper deficiency include a faded and rough coat, balding tail and face, and very dry skin. Selenium deficiency can cause weak kids and white muscle disease. In years past our goats have experienced these symptoms due to not enough copper and selenium. Thankfully we learned what to do and we now give them supplements that are formulated specifically for dairy goats.

We purchase winter goat care supplements from Valley Vet Supply. We prefer the selenium that comes in a paste form over the inject-able selenium. It is easy to administer and less likely to cause an overdose. The copper comes in capsules. Each capsule contains tiny rods of copper which are released into the goat’s system over a period of time. These are much harder to administer than the selenium paste. We have to load each copper capsule into a contraption called a bolus gun and then Suplimentsforce it down the goat’s throat so the capsule is deposited in their stomach without being chewed. When a goat chews the capsule the copper rods get broken and will not work properly. If this happens or if the goat spits out the capsule, we have to start over with another capsule. Administering supplements for winter goat care can be frustrating but when its finished and every goat has had her share, we feel confident that our herd will have a healthy kidding season when spring comes.

Preparing for kidding season is another important part of winter goat care. Our kidding will start a little early this year. Daisy will be the first to kid. She is due any day now. In the mean time we will be setting up our new video monitor so that we can see what is going on in the barn at night from the comfort of our cozy bed. In the past, when a goat was due to kid, Nate would get up every couple hours and go to the barn to First Kidscheck for signs of labor. Hopefully the video monitor will work out well and he won’t have to go out there in the freezing cold dark night! In addition to setting up the monitor, we will be stocking up on emergency milk replacer, puppy pads (which we put under the newborn kids while their mamma cleans them off), iodine to dip their navels, and treats for mamma goats to have after their labor is over.

Each of these chores is a labor of love because we know we are doing our very best to keep our goats healthy and happy. Like we always say, happy goats make great soaps!