Notes from Windward: #71


goat update - end of summer 2011


     Right now we have a pretty substantial goat herd. With three adults, six kids, a one adopted lamb.

chowin down on some pine needles

     This year's kids are all children of Barabis, a buck we purchased last fall. Because of his big size and physical features, I'm pretty convinced that he is a Kiko. A New Zealand breed of meat goats that are presumably very fast growers. In the older kids (Becca and Alison's), the Kiko does not seem to be showing through much. They are still relatively small, and have a fairly Nubian look to them.

Barabis fresh from the auction

      Aria is a mix breed. Her mother was Allison, a full nubian doe. Her father was Leo, 1/2 boer 1/2 nubian. That makes Aria 1/4 boar 3/4 nubian. Aria was kept on as a milker/breeder to see how that 1/4 Boer would effect milk production. Since the boer is a sturdier meat goat, we think there is a potential for having a milk goat with a bit more bone mass. Ultimately this could mean they have greater stores of calcium and phosphorous to draw from for milk. Boers are also not seasonally dependent breeders (called poly-estrus meaning coming into heat many times). Whereas Nubians are seasonally poly-estrus, meaning does will only come into heat for a few months in the fall/winter when the cold temperatures start to set it. Since Aria had her kids in the beginning of summer, that is already evidence that she can take breeding late in the season. We will be working with her type of goat more.

      As for her milk production, Aria produces about 1/2 the amount of milk than Becca who is a full nubian. I have yet to sit down and do all of the math on whether or not we want to continue with Aria as a breeder and milker. But my immediate response is to not keep her on the joint basis of her temperament and low milk production. However, I do wish to keep her biggest boy kid as a breeder. Since he will ultimately have less Kiko in him. Her kids are also very healthy and vigorous which is a good sign. I'd hate to lose that.

Mariposa Traicionera Del Amor AKA devil-child because of an annoying tendency to be in your face all the time.

      Becca is a champion milker and seems to be content with her position as head doe and primary milk producer (in other words, she likes all the delicious grain). Her gentle demeanor is much appreciated from my end. She will be kept on, and I may not breed her this fall to try and keep her milking through the winter. I have never done this before, but we also have Dora, a newly purchased doe who will be bred this fall. Dora is fitting in well. She is very curious and alert, friendly and affectionate. She can be a handful at times since she likes to test out the gates and fencing regularly.

      Badger' s brother, Corner, had a similar bout with some kind of enteritis (upset stomach). He managed to pull through though and is healthy and vigorous. His horns are also bigger than everyone else his age. I have no idea why.

Badger in his last days

      **I apologize for the lack of pictures. My camera has been very spotty lately and most all the pictures I have taken have been very blurry.

notes on feeding and future plans for the goats

      The goats have been getting regularly batches of garden weeds and cut tree branches from forest thinning. They seem to really enjoy the treats, and it is a proper use for all of the vegetation.

      I am hoping to expand the goat pen system in the near future to provide some more grazing opportunities into the summer months. This is a bit challenging because of where the goats are located. The forest canopy tends to impede the growth of a lush under-story. I have limbed most of the trees in the area I wish to expand into.

      The products of the last two stall cleanings have been piled in the area and are composting. Our new guinea hogs will be fenced in with the manure pile to aerate, and mix it into the soil. After this material is worked into the soil a mixed arrangement of perennial grass, legume and forbs will be seeded.

      Another cool thing that is happening naturally, is the relationship between the goats and guinea hens. There's a common natural relationship between birds and ungulates. The ungulates eat the grass down and deposit manure on the ground. The birds come in a have better access to the soil surface for picking out bugs and seeds, and can feast off of the bugs and parasite eggs which inhabit the manure. The guineas hang out in the goat pen all the time. Not only is there food, but they also drink from the baby goats water which is lowe to the ground. It makes me happy to see the guinea's getting to forage with the goats.

      Both Opalyn and I have been really influenced by Joel Salatin's integrated animal husbandry approach at Polyface farm. The pigs in the compost pile, and the guineas living with the goats are two examples of techniques which Salatin is also utilizing effectively in his farm operation.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71