Milk Room Tour

Our Milk Room is a work in progress and there’s a list of stuff that needs to be finished, but this is what we have so far. It’s usable and I love how bright and cheery it is.

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Here we see the milk stand with the vacuum pump for the milk machine underneath. It’s plugged into an outlet with a switch so I can easily flip it on and off. There is a “mud rug” on the deck to provide a non-slip surface and it’s nice to be able to take it outside and shake it off. The “Dutch” door goes to the does’ barn. I keep the top part open while milking so I can keep an eye on everybody. There’s a mini fridge/freezer with medications and supplements, ice for disbudding and frozen water bottles to cool down the milk quickly. And there’s a fan for when the temp gets in the 90-112 range in the summer.

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The cabinets are filled with everything from syringes to herbal supplements. There’s a kitchen scale, bathroom scale, disbudding iron, Oster clippers and blades, measuring cups, iodine, etc. I keep a drench syringe, zip ties, caribiners, a thermometer, a stethoscope, etc in the drawers. On the counter there’s supplements I give daily (Diamond V yeast culture & dolomite), treats, a container of scissors, hoof clippers, pliers, and at the far end the stainless bucket for the milk machine. It sits on a dish mat and hiding behind it are my dish gloves and long-handle scrub brush. The far cabinet contains a small water heater with the reverse osmosis filters and pressurized tank. On the floor I have the chemicals and buckets for cleaning the milk machine.

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Here’s a better look at the sink area but also part of the shelving with bins. There are a dozen bins with organic alfalfa pellets, organic dairy pellets, organic chicken feed, kelp, diatomaceous earth, Redmond salt, goat minerals, etc. The extra bags are piled on the floor. Up on top there’s bins with kidding supplies, towels, baby bottles, goat sweaters, show leads, etc.

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Here you can see the hoses and inflations for the milk machine hanging to dry. The white board is where I write the “menu” so that if anyone else has to feed, there’s no confusion as to who gets what. I also have breeding dates and other notes written there. The sling for the baby scale is hanging on the back of the door along for a hook for my rain coat/winter jacket. Then you can see extra feed bins, udder wash, paper towels, teat spray, etc. There’s strip cups and disposable gloves in the drawer, and a hanging scale for weighing milk and babies.

You are welcome to e-mail if you have any questions about what something is, where I got it, how I use it, etc.

 

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There Goes the Garden…

I thought they weren’t supposed to eat nightshade plants! I tried to tell them… but there’s no stopping 7 goats that just discovered the garden. Good-bye Roma tomatoes. Good-bye eggplant. Good-bye sweet peppers, zucchini, and crookneck. Need to come up with a better plan for the winter garden. I’ve seen nice hoop houses with bent PVC and covered with wire fencing and plastic to make a green house. Watching them rip the heavy-duty tomato cages out of the ground, I’m not sure that would stop them. Might need one of those motion-activated predator sprinkler set-ups!

Nigerian Dwarf Colors

One of the many reasons why people love Nigerians so much is because of the endless color possibilities. There are several solid colors (cream-gold-red and chocolate-black) and several common color patterns (buckskin, chamoisee, swiss-marked, etc) and then there is the white over-lay which mixes it all up a bit. Some colors/patterns are dominant and some are recessive and some create a combination. If you want to study more, check out Coat Colors and Nigerian Dwarf Color Genetics.

After 11 buckskins, Acorn gave us a black baby. We thought we had one 4 years ago but she turned out to be a dark chocolate, so this one was quite a surprise. Black is a recessive allele so it takes one from the sire and one from the dam to show up in offspring. Because Clark’s dam was black, we know he has a recessive black allele hiding behind his dominant buckskin. Although Acorn looks like a solid chocolate under her white, she’s actually a chocolate buckskin, which is why she and Clark have so many buckskins. Side note here- because she is a chocolate buckskin and he’s a black buckskin and they both have a black recessive, they should have 75% buckskins with a black cape and 25% with a chocolate cape.

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Anyway, we didn’t realize Acorn had the black recessive allele; we thought she had a chocolate instead. So the big question was where did she get it? She doesn’t have any close black relatives. Acorn’s dam was chocolate and her maternal grandparents were chocolate and a light buckskin. Her sire, Castle Rock Cleveland Sage is gold and his dam was chocolate and his sire, Castle Rock Tanzanite was gold. But… his sire was Castle Rock Guy Noir, who was black. Found it! 5 generations back and passed as a hidden recessive just waiting to meet up with another recessive black. Knowing this, there is a 25% chance Acorn and Clark will have black offspring, but we’re at about 10% at this point. And one more interesting thing is that Firefly’s little black and white baby got her black color from Firefly, obviously, who got the recessive from her buckskin sire. Sly Farms Catching Fire got it from his dam Sly Farms Catalina, who is black and is guess who’s daughter? Castle Rock Guy Noir 5 generations back. Fun!

 

 

 

 

Non-GMO Goat Feed

titleMost of the alfalfa, corn and soy grown in our country is genetically modified. Growers plant GMO crops so that they can spray the whole field for weeds and insects, which means that most goat feed is not only genetically modified but also sprayed with a cocktail of toxins.

In reading the Small Ruminant Research journal, I came across a 2015 article that proves that GMO feed may not be so good for goats. In the study, 60 does were fed either GMO soy or GMO-free soy for sixty days before kidding. The does’ milk was tested; data from the babies was collected.

The does fed GMO soy had significantly lower antibodies, fat and protein in their colostrum than does fed non-GMO soy. This is important because the babies need those nutrients and the immune protection from their mother. The babies from the GMO soy group had 40% lower antibody levels, weighed less, and were significantly smaller when measured at the chest and withers, at one month old and at slaughter.

So we can see that feeding non-GMO concentrate to the pregnant does gives the babies a better start in life. We still don’t really know what feeding large quantities of GMO alfalfa, corn and soy to goats over a period of ten years might do to their bodies, but we do know that whatever they eat goes into their milk. Transgenetic DNA fragments were found in the babies of the does fed GMO soy, so if they’re drinking it, so are we.

Many of us buy organic for our families but not for our goats. Organic feed costs more and isn’t readily available. Before we got our first dairy goats, we were drinking raw organic cow’s milk, so I’m not going to all the work of raising my own goats just to drink tainted milk! I choose to feed my goats organic alfalfa pellets to ensure that it’s not GMO, to avoid the toxins from the herbicides, because pellets take less space to store, and because there’s zero waste. I also choose to buy Modesto Milling’s organic soy-free dairy pellets. Of course I want the best milk possible for my family, but I also like the health benefits that my goats receive.

http://www.smallruminantresearch.com/article/S0921-4488%2815%2900052-8/abstract

Goat Probiotics and Vitamins

Because of the sudden weather change yesterday, I checked all 9 noses and doled out Vitamin C “just in case.” The next morning I had a sick goat on my hands, and with a perplexing set of symptoms. I called the vet and was told to bring her in. Aspen ended up on antibiotics and anti-ulcer meds, among other things. I continued to give her vitamins and probiotics throughout her treatment.

Whenever I have a goat that is a little bit “off” or actually sick, I like treat with vitamins and probiotics in addition to whatever the situation calls for. Vitamin C for immune system and mucous membranes, Vitamin A with D for lungs, Vitamin E for immune system and lungs, B Complex for stomach and a bunch of other things, plus probiotics for gut flora. I tend to dose those all separately but just recently I re-read the label of my Goats Prefer Probiotic Powder and realized it had everything in it, and in much larger doses. It easily dissolves in water with a yummy orange flavor that the goats love. The label says to drench or top dress basically any time something changes- feed, weather, travel, kidding, antibiotics, etc.  Goats Prefer Probiotic Powder costs half as much as Probios Powder because the canister is actually filled to the top, so 90 servings run $12.99 at Tractor Supply. It doesn’t involve injections or prescriptions, and is readily available and easy to dose.

Feed Your Backyard Goats For Less

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Even if you don’t have acres for pastures, you can get creative and grow vertically. Our goats prefer trees and bushes because their deeper roots provide for the higher mineral needs of dairy goats.  The most common question we get is “Are they good lawnmowers?” Our usual answer is “Nope, but they’ll destroy your roses!”

If you’re going to let them out, be careful to remove all of the poisonous plants and fence off young plants you don’t want destroyed such as young fruit trees.

The many different plants offer a smorgasboard of nutrients for them, and  they get their exercise roaming from tree to bush, nibbling here and there. The following is what is on the menu in early October.

redwood

olive leaves

coastal live oak

grape leaves

roses

grasses/weeds

fallen apples

photinia (red-tipped bush)

pear tree leaves

orange and lemon tree leaves

We are planning on planting several more trees and vines to continue to provide year-round browse that we can cut and carry. More on that to come.

Goat Books

We planned Goat Day at our local library for the K-2 after-school program. The kids learned about different kinds of goats, goat behavior, and what goats eat.  After listening to Gregory, the Terrible Eater, they got to taste goat cheese, draw about what they like for dinner, and snuggle our baby goat. I think Pinecone recognized they were little ones like her and she wasn’t nervous at all.

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There are some wonderful books for extended learning about goats, beyond the typical goat care references.  Pat Coleby’s Natural Goat Care  and Dairy Goat Judging Techniques by Harvey Considine are two of the best I have read so far.

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And there are some lovely books written for children that adults enjoy too.

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Billy Goats Gruff, anyone?

Dairy Goat Genetics

Don’t you wish you could choose a buck for a particular doe that would “fix” a trait on that doe herself? I know, right? If only it were that easy…

My daughter’s animal science textbook listed the hereditability of traits for all different types of livestock so I pulled out just the dairy goat info, and then after searching the internet to see if I could add to it, I found the same chart I just made on the ADGA website. Apparently anything over 15% is worth paying attention to and once you get above 30% you have a good chance of carefully improving your herd. But still, if you think about it, a trait that is 30% hereditable means that you should have a 15% influence from each parent. So where does the other 70% come from? It’s a mix from grandparents. So when looking at that pedigree, get to know the grandparents as it seems they contribute more than the parents do!

Time to choose a buck!

Dairy Goat Trait Heritability
Stature 52%
Strength 29%
Dairyness 24%
Rump Angle 32%
Rump Width 27%
Rear Leg Angulation 21%
Fore Udder Attachment 25%
Rear Udder Height 25%
Rear Udder Arch 19%
Medial Suspensory Ligament 33%
Udder Depth 25%
Teat Placement 36%
Teat Diameter 38%

Wiggans, G.R. and Hubbard, S.M., Genetic evaluation of yield and type traits of dairy goats in the United States.  Journal of Dairy Science 2001.                             

How to House Train a Goat

 

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Little Honey at the bank with Elaine

Aspen was house trained for the first nine months. It was really not that difficult and well worth the effort. We brought her home when she was a week old so she lived in the house with us. We took her out on a leash and told her to “go potty” on the lawn and squatted down next to her. While she squatted, we scratched her and praised her. We made sure we took her frequently and crated her when we couldn’t watch her. It worked really well and she never made a mess. Once she was 6 weeks old, she was launching herself off the table and prancing on my laptop so she got exiled to the goat pen. In order to keep up her training, we took her in the car with us and always provided her with frequent lawn visits.  We kept a look-out for good pit stops, pulling over when she let us know she needed to go. Even now, when prompted, she usually squats to “try” whether she really has to go or not.

It’s easy when they’re babies, but once they’re grown up, I’m not sure it would be that successful.

Goat Eye Color

One of the fun things about Nigerians is that they can have brown or blue eyes.  Or amber. That’s not an official color, but Aspen clearly has golden eyes. Her sire has blue and it took a couple of days to be sure that hers weren’t going to be blue like his.  I’d love to know what made hers amber instead of brown.

Comon belief is that blue eyes are dominant, which means that if you pair a heterozygous blue-eyed goat with a brown-eyed goat, you have a 50% chance that each baby will have blue eyes. An interesting thing that we noticed is that Clark has brown spots in his blue, and so does his daughter, Pinecone.

If you pair two heterozygous blue-eyed goats together, you have 75% chance that each baby will have blue eyes.

And if you pair a homozygous blue-eyed goat with a brown-eyed goat, all babies will have blue eyes.

We don’t have any homozygous blue goats right now, but I might end up with some by crossing blue with blue. The only way to tell will be by breeding the blue-eyed offspring a couple times to brown-eyed goats and waiting to see if there are any brown-eyed babies.

*Note- I’ve been doing more reading after going to a show where there was another amber-eyed Nigerian, and I found a website on which the writer assumes there are four alleles for eye color instead of just two. After reading through the charts, I think this makes more sense but I can’t find anything else to back it up. The article does include the reasoning for why some blue-eyed goats have brown color mixed in (like Clark and Pinecone), how amber is a separate color (like Aspen), and how two brown-eyed parents can have blue-eyed offspring. Of course this makes things a whole lot more complicated and a lot less predictable!   http://goatspots.com/genetics/blue-eyes/