Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Care For Bottle Fed Baby Goat Kids

Sometimes a doe (mother goat) has more kids than she can care for, other times she dies while giving birth or shortly there after, or she may just reject one of her kids. Either way the result is a kid that must be raised by hand.  These are often called bottle baby kids, or bummers.

When a doe is overwhelmed with her kids, not feeding them all, or does not have enough milk, one or more of them will start to look poorly, typically standing hunched up and generally not thriving.  If a doe is not producing enough milk, but is not being aggressive against the youngster, the kid may be left with the doe and will require bottle feeding. If she is being mean to the kid, it should be removed and treated as an orphan.

Bottle feeding kids is hard work. Ideally family members can take turns caring for the little one, as this will help everyone not become too overwhelmed. Bottle feeding will be especially difficult if you have more than one kid to care for.  Some farmers will give these kids away, or sell them, rather than do the work themselves.

If the doe has died and the kid is newborn, dry it off and keep it warm. In most cases this may mean bringing it into your home. Goats, and especially baby goats, need to be kept warm, you can leave them in a small pen in your barn, but will be making several trips out so this may be inconvenient.  A temporary pen, such as a dog pen, may be used to contain young goats in the house.

How To Bottle Feed Baby Goats


The most important thing, is to ensure the kid received, or receives, Colostrum, which is the mother's first milk. Colostrum contains the first antibodies and the kid should get some within the first 18 hours after birth. It does not have to be their first drink.

Colostrum can be obtained by milking the doe, by milking another doe who has also just given birth, or by purchase. If you have several does, you might want to purchase Colostrum before hand and store it.

Colostrum may be purchased from a Veterinarian, Veterinarian supply store, or a livestock feed store. It may come frozen or powdered. In an emergency powdered calf colostrum is acceptable. Colostrum can be fed by gently squirting it into the kids mouth with a syringe or by using a bottle with a small nipple. Use caution, if you go too fast you risk it entering their lungs.

You will also need to purchase proper kid/goat milk replacement formula. This is a powder that comes in large bags, and can purchased at livestock feed stores. Do not use cow milk for human consumption. If goat milk is unavailable look elsewhere, or get lamb, or calf, milk replacer. You can also buy bottles and nipples from the livestock feed store. Most young goats like the kind of nipple that attaches to 750ml pop bottles.

Larger breeds may prefer a larger nipple. If you don't have a bottle and nipple on hand, use a syringe or even a turkey baster at first. If you need emergency formula, as the case where it is late and stores are closed, you can use canned evaporated milk, adding a wee bit of molasses to give the kid extra energy.

Bottle feeding is tricky at first because the kid will not understand the milk is coming from you. It is their nature to look for a nipple from their mother. Pick up the kid and hold it in one arm. Then use your hand to pry open its mouth and put the nipple in. When using the plastic pop bottles as bottles, you can gently
squeeze some milk into the youngster if it is too weak or confused to suck. After a few days the kid will start to understand what is going on and will be able to drink normally from the bottle while standing. If you have multiple kids you will eventually want to get a system where you can put the bottle in a holder and the kid can drink on its own.

Bottle kids need about 5 oz of milk per pound of weight every day. You can figure this out and then break the feedings down to multiple times per day. In the first 24 hours you will want to feed around the clock, usually every 2 hours in the day, every 3 at night. After one day the kid will be okay over night if you feed as late as possible, and again as early as possible. With the other feedings continue every 3-4 hours throughout the day for the first week. The water used to make the formula should be warm, you can test it on your wrist to make sure it is not too hot.

When it is two or three days old the kid will also want to eat hay and grain. Kid ration is a dry feed that can be offered instead of grain, and contains more nutrition for young goats. This should be offered in small amounts. If the kid is uninterested in eating this, it can be encouraged to do so by actually putting small bits of food into its mouth. Introduce new food slowly so as not to cause an upset tummy which could cause scours.

As the kid gets bigger it will eat bigger meals, but less often. After about 1 week the kid can be bottle fed every 5-6 hours. Reduce this so that at 4 weeks of age it only is feeding twice a day. Of course as the number of feedings are reduced the amount per feeding needs to be increased.

Bottle fed kids grow into friendly adult goats, but in the case of billies (intact males) care should be taken not to allow them to become too friendly or they may be aggressive as adults.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pictures of My New Friendly Roosters

We just bought three young roosters.  They are Ameraucanas.  Ameraucanas are the ones where the hens lay blue or green eggs.  Our roosters are 11 weeks old, so they are not fully mature.

For the first two days they pretty much stayed in their shelter but by day 3 they were walking around and exploring their enclosure.  We have them in a geodesic dome starplate aviary for now but after they are bonded to the area we will let them out to free range in the yard.

I did not get any good pictures of them on the first days as they stayed in the shelter, but I thought I might get some pictures today.  For a few minutes the sun was out and I gave it a shot, but it would seem the roosters are too friendly and stayed too close to me for me to take a good picture.


Most of my pictures were blurry and totally unusable.  Thank heavens for digital cameras rather than wasting film like in the "old days".  I did get one okay picture, above, but I nearly cut off one rooster's head, and we know chickens are not too keen about having their heads cut off!

I tried for more pictures but mostly got blurry images of them running back and forth in front of the camera.
In fact of the dozen or so pictures only two were not blurry, here is the other.


This is kind of cute as it shows how cute chicken rumps are.  I think a cat walked past the enclosure and got their attention for a moment.

I will try to get more pictures in the next week or so, and of course later when their tail feathers get longer and more showy, by then I am sure they will be out free ranging and eating lots of grass hoppers! 

It is nice that these roosters are friendly, we hope they stay friendly and do not become aggressive.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Is it Time to Sell The Sheep?

My husband and I have been keeping sheep since buying the 10 acre hobby farm.  The sheep are important as they do keep the grass chewed down and as such they prevent it from becoming a fire hazard.  In the fall tall dry grass is a real concern, but equally so are the risks in the spring, in fact a farm near us had a big fire caused by a fire in their burn barrel that got out of control.  As far as I know they lost their house, barn, and garage.

As such getting totally out of sheep is out of the question, but we are toying with the idea of selling all the lambs and the younger ewes and not getting a ram this fall.

This last winter was very hard on me physically.  Not only did we have a ridiculous amount of snow to deal with this winter but my back went out on two occasions and I could hardly move for days.  We lost 4 lambs over the winter, which really was not too bad considering the winter we had.

Mrs Dark Brown Barbado and her lamb

Some of our ewes are getting older, particularly Diamond, who was one of our first ewes, and Mrs Dark Brown Barbado, who we bought at auction very early on.  It is time they got a break from having lambs.
As such what I am thinking is to sell the lambs and the younger ewes, keeping the older ones and just letting them have a "retirement home" more or less.

I will still have to buy hay and oats for them in the winter, and will no longer have the benefit of selling lambs to offset the costs of feeding them, it will will still be some work, but less worry.

So I have the summer ahead to consider what to do with my sheep.  My daughter thinks it would be great to get horses instead, and while I would love horses, they are not exactly cheap. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

What a Crazy Winter on the Farm

It has been an exhausting winter.

We had more snow fall this winter than we have had in years, it set records, and people started wondering where they were going to put all the show every time they shoveled.  Our truck was completely buried under the snow for most of the winter.

We were lucky to have such great neighbors, one was driving by taking some hay to his cattle up the road and saw us with our pathetic shovels and on his way back he cleared the drive and parking area with his tractor.   When the next massive snowfall happened, he did it again.  Another neighbor had a smaller snowplow and did our driveway a couple of different times too.  We gave them both gift certificates to go out for a good meal.

Our bird aviary under snow, partway through winter.
The snow made life pretty rotten for the sheep too.  Normally, even in the winter, they wander around most of the pasture, making trails in the snow, but this year the snow was so deep they never ventured off their one trail that went to the barn, shelter, water trough, and feeding area.

We had 18 lambs born, but 4 died, so we have 14 lambs remaining.  

I hurt my back twice, partially due to the shoveling, but also due to having to do excessive heavy lifting at "work".  I think the excessive cold weather may have also contributed to my bad back.

Right now I am rethinking breeding the sheep this fall.  Some of our ewes are getting older and we do not really have a place to keep them separated so they would not get bred if we had a ram.  As they are more like "pets" I do not have the heart to get rid of them, other than the lambs which we would sell anyhow.

Diamond and her triplets, all survived.

By some miracle the donkey is fatter than ever...

Here it is, nearly the end of April, and there is still snow on the ground in places, and lots of runoff.

So now we are all hoping for a glorious spring, we need it.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Katahdin Hair Sheep Ram Cross

Rams, male sheep, are sexually mature at five months of age.  They are not physically mature for another six to twelve months, as some sheep breeds grow faster than others.

Katahdins are relatively slow growing sheep, the rams mature slowly in terms of their physical size and appearance.  By the time they are a year they are pretty impressive, but at the age of two they can be quite stunning.  I remember at one auction a 4 year old Katahdin ram entered the ring and people gasped as so few had seen anything like it, he looked like a miniature cow, wide nose, strong appearance, and he was brown too. 

6 month old Katadhin cross ram. 


This (photo above) is a young Katahdin cross ram, he is not purebred, his mother is a Barbado hair sheep cross.   Hair sheep have many advantages and they are becoming more and more popular in the United States and Canada, where wool is generally not as valuable as it was even 20 years ago.  The photo gives you a good idea of how hair sheep look in the winter - as he does have a thicker coat.  He is only 6 months old in this picture and will get a longer mane as he gets older.

You can see his tail is a bit shorter than the natural tail of a wool sheep breed. Hair sheep do have shorter tails, and they are less likely to become dirty with feces.




Hair sheep do not need their tails docked, do not need to be sheared, are more parasite resistant and there are claims that their meat tastes superior, even in older animals.  I personally do not eat lamb or mutton, this is just what I have heard and read.

I try not to treat the rams as "pets" as I find if they are too friendly they can also become dangerous.   I like my ewes to be tame and friendly, but if a ram is a little bit scared of me that is okay!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Most Money Spent on an Auction Trip Without Buying Anything

What a year!

Normally I would post an ad for sheep for sale and they all would be gone in a matter of weeks.  This year was a funny year.  The hair sheep ewes sold very quick but the rams were just not selling.  I had some people call and claim they were going to come, then cancel for one reason or another.  I had a lot of people call and ask if they could "butcher them on the farm" which I do not allow.  So as such I had 6 ram lambs and 3 ewe lambs left to sell. 

With only ten acres and a small barn it is not possible to keep more over winter and the rams were fighting each other as it was.

The only other option was to go to the auction.  Every Easter and Canadian Thanksgiving (October) there is a large 3 day auction about 1.5 hours away from where I live, Friday is sheep and goat day.  So we made plans to take the sheep down to the auction, but there was a small problem; the truck was not wired for trailer lights.

So.. first thing we had to do was to take the truck fitted with a light plug for the trailer.  We took it on Monday but the mechanic was busy so we did not get it back until Tuesday.  Fine.. great.. ready to go!



Wrong.

On Wednesday we hooked the truck up to the trailer and noted that the lights were not working on one side of the trailer.  It has been at least 2 years since we have used the trailer so we hauled it to the mechanic on Thursday.  He phoned to say the wires were a mess but since it was an old trailer he would do a "cheap" repair rather than putting too much effort into it.  Well the cheap repair was not cheap, $250.. but at least we were ready to go!

But...

As we were driving to the auction something caught my eye, It looked like the tire flap was shredding and falling off, but soon I realized that it was something different; a flat trailer tire!

We pulled over, being in the middle of nowhere.  We had no idea how to lift the trailer to change the tire so called road side assistance.  They came and put the spare tire on.  But it was flat - so they pumped it up and we were on our way.

By the time we arrived at the auction, already late but at least they had not started selling sheep yet, we noted the tire had gone flat again.  We unloaded the sheep and went straight to the nearest tire place.  They got us fixed up, the spare tire was not even repairable, so we had to buy 2 tires as we did not want to drive home without a spare!  That was $300+.

Now we still do not know how much the sheep sold for and just are hoping it was a good price - but what a heck of a time that was.

All told, plus gas and lunch, I think we spent over $700 just to get the sheep to the auction!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Benefits of Breeding to a Hair Sheep Ram

Fall is typically when sheep producers look for a new breeding ram.

Unless a person is set on breeding sheep for wool (which has lost its value in some areas) or they insist on breeding purebred sheep, there is no reason why a person with wool ewes should not select to breed to a hair sheep ram, in fact there are many advantages of breeding to a hair sheep ram.

Katahdin hair sheep ram


Easier Lambing

Hair sheep tend to have slightly smaller birth weights, which makes for easier lambing and fewer complications.  The lambs are still healthy and strong and, especially with a good milk producing ewe, will grow up well.

Meat Quality

If a person is wanting to sell lambs for meat their are many advantages of selecting a hair breed ram including the fact that ethnic buyers tend to prefer to buy hair sheep because that is what they are more familiar with.  The carcass quality of hair sheep is very good and the flavor is said to be better as well.  Even older hair sheep can be easily marketed for meat.

Less Work

The lambs of hair sheep, and hair sheep crosses, do not need their tails to be docked.  They tend to be shorter and will not get as wooly.  Ethnic buyers prefer to buy lambs that did not have their tails docked.  The ram itself will not need to be sheared in the spring, instead he will shed his hair and be ready for summer.

Hybrid Vigor

By breeding to a ram of a different breed than the ewes a producer can take advantage of a genetic benefit known as hybrid vigor.   This means the lambs are usually genetically more healthy than their parents, and tend to be better sheep.

Health Benefits

Hair sheep tend to be more parasite resistant, and seldom suffer from hoof rot.

Hair sheep x lamb


Hair Sheep Breeds

There are many different hair sheep breeds some of the most common are the Katahdin, Dorper, St. Croix, and Barbado.

Each hair sheep breed is slightly different, some have more color than others, and some have horns, but all have the advantages as listed above and should be considered when selecting a new ram for breeding season.