Winter Weather Report

Anne & Belle’s kids: Annika & Andy; Cap’n, Cherry, and Crystal

We continue to cope with the weather here in Northern Antarctica—I mean, Imnaha. Sheesh! How long can this cold snap go on? Every morning I look out my window to see the thermometer stuck at 2 degrees. If it makes it to 12 or 14 during the day I count myself lucky. Man, I’d love it if it warmed up to freezing. I know I say I won’t complain about mud when it thaws—but I know I will. Nothing is ever perfect, but I’m really tired of hauling hot water from the house for the animals to drink three times a day.

On a brighter, happier note: We have kids! Even though most of our does did not cooperate and are due to kid in April, May, and even June, we did have three come through, presenting us with three lovely doe kids and three bucks. All are healthy, happy, and hungry, and we are very pleased with them, too. They are really active, so I can tell you exactly what “bouncing off the walls” sounds like. It’s been so cold, we kept them in our utility room on the back porch for several days before transferring them outside to a larger area in one of our outbuildings. They will move on from there to a larger kid pen in the does’ Quonset once it warms up a bit, hopefully within another week or two.

Silver Belle’s kids from Amador: (L > R) Crystal, Cap’n, and Cherry

The rest of the goats seem to be coping well with the weather, though they spend most of their time eating hay or cuddled up together ruminating, rather than hiking up on the hill to forage. It’s just too cold for that! When I let them out of their Quonset this morning so I could feed and milk, there was one huddle of five with their noses all pointing into the corner. A couple had managed to scrape up a little hay to sleep on (they do have shavings for bedding on top of rubber mats, so they aren’t on the ground), and the others were huddled together in the opposite corner. The bucks were nestled down into the bedding in their shed, too. As soon as I show up with the warm water, I get mobbed.

Fortunately, the three does I’m milking are doing well—today is our first DHIA test day of the year, so I’m collecting milk samples to send off (we’re on Owner/Sampler-AR 40), in addition to weighing milk. One doe (Queen) is on her third lactation, one is on her second (Silver Belle), and one is a first-freshener (Lady Anne). Annie, in particular, is exceeding my expectations and looks as though she will do as well as her older sister Jane—or maybe even better? Annie came in with a really lovely udder, plus she is very well-behaved on the stand. She tends to leak a bit if you show up late to milk, however, so that keeps me on my toes. Udders are all still hairy, too, since I declined to clip them until it warms up. Right now they need all the protection they can get.

In the meantime, I need to update the information on PCdart so I can enter our test data. It’s a good time to update the goats’ individual health pages, too, with dates for booster shots, hoof trims, etc. from this past month, so I don’t get behind. Nothing is more daunting than getting behind on any kind of chore and having to catch back up. Think I’ll do that with a cup of hot chocolate!

Stay warm!

Cap’n & Andy with Annika behind

Cherry & Annika

Kidding Season: Set Your Does Up for Success

Many folks are busy coping with the fall breeding season right now, which is either just over or still going full tilt. That means in five more months we’ll be spending our nights at the barn delivering that next kid crop and feeding babies! How well we do depends on how well we’ve prepared for it.

Lady Victory in the maternity pen with her 2015 twins. Jane is preparing to nurse.

Lady Victory and her 2015 twins. Jane is preparing to nurse.

Before Breeding season starts: Probably the best thing we can do is be sure all of our animals are in top physical condition going in. Check their body condition scores to be sure none are too thin or too fat (ADGA has an excellent video showing how to do this). While sheep breeders know they can increase the number of lambs from their ewes by flushing them (feeding a grain supplement, so the ewes’ bodies think they can support more babies, thereby producing more ova for fertilization), that hasn’t yet proved to be true for goats. It’s up to you, but I must say that we do this. Besides, it won’t hurt as long as your animals aren’t already too fat.

Make sure you are ready for those kids: Start preparing your maternity and kid pens and kidding kits. Be sure to order any vaccines you need well in advance, because sometimes they go on backorder just when you need them (so does everyone else). Make any large purchases you’ve been putting off, such as tattooing supplies or disbudding irons. You’ve been intending to make that kid box? Now would be a good time.

It’s also a good time to decide whether you need to isolate the kids from their mothers or you can let them nurse. While convenience may be of some consideration, it’s not your only concern. Test each doe for CAE and CL, because the primary route of infection for those diseases is through the mother’s colostrum and milk. Any does that may test positive cannot nurse their kids, so they will need to be removed from their mothers immediately and bottle-fed with heat-treated colostrum and pasteurized milk or only milk from does testing negative for CAE/CL. That means you will need to have a separate kid pen and equipment for feeding them—bottles and nipples or a multiple kid-feeding system, such as a lamb & goat milk bar (I am not making any brand name recommendations–I have never used any of them, preferring the pop bottle approach myself). It is recommended that any positive does should be separated from your negative does as well. Believe me, I know it’s inconvenient, but it’s well worth doing whatever it takes to stop those two diseases in their tracks.

Two months before due dates: Dry off does so their bodies have a chance to rest and prepare for their next lactations. Do a CMT (California Mastitis Test) on each doe to check for mastitis, and if needed, treat with a product specifically made for dry does. Better to catch it now, than have it incubating while she’s dry. If you suspect mastitis, always consult with your veterinarian as to the best course to follow.

One month before due dates: Give annual booster of CDT (AKA Three-Way or Clostridium perfringens Type C & D with Tetanus toxoid; usually sold in 10-, 20-, or 50-dose vials); do a fecal egg count reduction test on your does (or have your vet do one) to see who needs to be de-wormed and what to use. Be sure you have some Keto-test strips and a bottle of propylene glycol (or another good concentrated source of sugar, such as Karo syrup) in the event a doe goes down with pregnancy toxemia (ketosis). You may never have it happen, but a bottle on the shelf is cheap insurance. Make sure you have everything you need in your kidding kits.

Kidding Kit:

  1. Isopropyl alcohol
  2. Bag of sterile cotton balls
  3. Sterile surgical scissors or disposable scalpels (for cutting umbilical cords)
  4. Plastic OB gloves
  5. OB lubricant, such as KY Jelly or petroleum jelly
  6. Rubber OB leg snare
  7. Tincture of iodine or gentle iodine spray
  8. Syringe of probiotic for newborns (there are several good brands)
  9. Roll of paper towels
  10. Towels (1-2 bath towels and several hand towels seems to work well; I like to lay each kid on a bath towel and pick off the placental mucous first, then rub the kid to dry)
  11. Animal crayon, marker stick, or plastic kid collars you can write on (if using a crayon or marker, you can use a different color for each doe and her kids)
  12. Notebook & pencil (for recording weights, sex, colors, etc. You won’t remember any of this later.)
  13. 5-gallon bucket with lid (for holding everything)
  14. Optional: Umbilical cord clips (I have never had the occasion to use them myself)

Two weeks before due dates: Dust off those clippers and give each doe a pre-kidding trim. This consists of clipping the hair on the doe’s back end, tail, and udder to make clean-up easier when the kids are born. You have to clip the udder anyway, right? Hopefully you have a grooming stand and your does are trained to get on it. Ours has a short ramp, so they can walk right onto it. Does can kid as much as two weeks in advance of their due dates (there’s some evidence they have limited control over this), so it pays to be ready. Be sure your maternity and kid pens are set up and bedded with plenty of clean, bright straw or grass hay, too (no sawdust or shavings right now). Then you will just need to put hay in her feeder and fill the water bucket with clean fresh water when you put the doe in the pen. Have your kidding kit ready to grab and the veterinarian’s phone number set up on speed dial, and you should be ready for anything!