Category Archives: Firestone Creek Farm

Breeding Season? Things to look for in a buck!

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Rumor whispering sweet nothings to SunShyn

The whispering winds of winter are drifting in, sending nuances of dried, and sometimes wet, leaf smells into the air from fading autumn. The golden yellows, glowing reds, and sunset oranges have paled to browns now. They no longer dance everywhere–along the street, through the gardens and parking lots, or certainly through the yard–unless a gust happens to dive down from the north. The pasture is brown now, too. The air has a chill to it every time I open the back door. Yes, fall arrived, stayed for a cup of tea, and now winter is inviting herself in without a welcome! The girls are pouting, preggers, and passing the time in front of the round bales, waiting for spring babies. And the bucks? Well, let’s talk about that.

The bucks have not given up. Oh how I applaud their vigor! A wonderful eau de parfum de buck, better known as LOVE, is still in the air and emanating from the buck pen. Of course, with most of the does now pregnant, the only ‘takers’ are not ready to breed quite yet, so I have some frustrated boys right now.  Planning out which buck to breed to which doe got me thinking about the things that are important to me when it comes to choosing bucks for pairings. While we all have some similar things we look for, there are some things that are ‘givens’ when it comes to looking for a good buck.

Disease: A good buck should be tested negative for disease, or if a buckling, he should be from a clean herd. The last thing anyone wants to do is introduce CL / CAE /Johnes or some other disease into their herd.

Genetics: Some people breed for type. Some people breed for production. Either way, genetics play an important role in both of these areas. While it is slightly possible to breed Ugly Daddy to Mediocre Mommy and get a purty little thing with a few good characteristics, it is very improbable. Someone in the mix needs to have some good genetics, and the chances of having good stock increases the better that the parents are in the genetic department. Not only that, but the idea behind improving animals is to find good traits and to lock them in. Outcrosses are good for creating vigor in animals, but in the process, outcrossing brings in a multitude of new genes that have the potential to disrupt any progress already made in your animals.

So what do you? You do research. Put on the glasses, open up the ADGA database, and start Googling (not ogling, Googling) the goats you find that are related to your BEST animals. Try to evaluate traits that need improving in your animals, and use LA scores to find bucks who are related to your animals that are also stronger in those areas than the bucks you have in your herd. Then make a list and keep one eye open (even while you sleep since you never know when the opportunity will present itself) for a buck or buckling that will help you improve and lock in the traits that you have while still adding some vigor.

Dairy animals: I am speaking generally in the area of dairy animals here since I haven’t bred meat producers. To produce dairy animals of good quality, you need to have dairy animals of good quality. While examining those pedigrees, the awards, etc, make yourself acquainted with what all of those **’s and ++’s mean in addition to the VGs and Es. An animal earning a star, etc, or an animal having starred animals in its background, does not guarantee what type of children that animal will produce. What do you look for?

Pictures! Lots of Pictures! And video–if you can find it. If you can get your hands on the actual animals, by all means, go for it! The main goal here is to check out the mammary systems behind the bucks you are looking at–all of the mammary systems. That includes sisters, aunts, mothers, grandmothers, etc, and if those have production records, WONDERFUL! When examining production records, check how long lactations were along with overall data, but keep in mind that records can still be an inaccurate measure; as I always say, “the data is only as good as the milker, the weather, and the feed!”

Linebreeding: This is one way to lock in traits, especially if you have good animals. It’s also a good way to find out if you have hidden problem areas in your animals since they can pop up sometimes in linebred animals. As Keith Harrell once said, linebreeding is the way to truly find out what you have in your herd, especially if you are trying experimental close linebreeding. You might end up with a fantastic foundation animal or something you cull quickly. Either way, choosing the best is again the direction you want to go with this. When looking for a buck, you can always search ADGA to find out who your best producing/winning animals have been; I’m sure someone will have a buck out there out of one of those lines!

Age: Yes, when it comes to goats, age matters. Older bucks are more experienced than younger bucks; they get the job done quicker (unless you have a super Sol like I did last year; he was 3 months old and breeding (successfully) everything under the moon (and sun!)). Older bucks are usually not quite as aggressive with does as some of the younger bucks can be. Younger bucks often get frustrated easily and get rough while trying to figure out what they are doing. They can also frustrate an older doe because sometimes they just can’t figure out how to do the deed; they are all about foreplay, but not sure where to go after that.  A slow groove might sound wonderful to you or me, but to a doe, especially an experienced doe, they may get aggravated if they have to wait more than a minute to ‘finish up,’ especially  if they have been standing, wagging, at the fence all day long. I’ve had does try to finish the job by bringing in another doe to educate Senor “Slow” Goat. I have also had a few try to teach the young man how to take action by ‘showing’ him how to do it, jumping on his back and going through the motions! Both of these techniques usually thwart the young man’s efforts a bit and annoy him, making the whole process take even longer! An older buck doesn’t care one way or the other; the goal is the same, no matter how he gets there.

Essentially, the ‘best’ option would be a buck who has successfully bred at least one doe and produced offspring. Sometimes people will call this a ‘proven’ buck; technically, that is incorrect. He is not a ‘proven’ buck until he has produced excellent daughters who excel in the milk pail and show ring, but we’ll stop there and say that a buck who has produced before and is still intact has at least two things going for him in the reproductive department.  The only thing is that 99.9% of bucks have that same thing going for them if given enough time to mature.

Now, I’m not knocking young bucks. As long as you have time to wait or have a backup if all else fails, by all means, try him out. Good quality bucks need to have a chance to breed to as many does as possible (and to be collected when possible) because it often seems like the really good ones have passed on by the time we realize how great they were. I can also say the same for many older bucks out there who may not have been ‘proven’ in some herds since their daughters haven’t been on milk test or shown.

Color: Bahaha! Some people out there will get annoyed by me mentioning this, but I know many of you love color. Some of you even buy based on color. Personally, I love color just as much as anyone else. When I first started in goats, I oohed and aahed over all of the cute moonspotted babies and blue eyed girls. Thennnnnn… I got over it.

While color can be a beautiful aspect in any species, it should never be a deciding factor for breeding a buck unless you are choosing between A (Gorgeous and Great) and B (Gorgeous and Great) or unless it’s some crazy, once in a lifetime, may never ever be recreated again color–like purple or pink. In that case, go for the blue eyes, purple, and bling if you are into that (and then email me because I might want to buy him after you finish with him!).

Good luck in choosing your bucks! Happy breeding season…

 

 

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Deep Litter or No?

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I will dive in and say, yes, we deep litter during the winter. What does that mean? It means that instead of cleaning the barn completely every week, we let the ‘litter’ (hay, straw, pine chips) pile up in the barn. We remove really wet areas, especially areas around the doors where the girls are trampling in and out and mucking up the place. After all, I can’t just sweep it and mop it up, though I often wish I could! Letting the litter pile up has its benefits and drawbacks as does any method. Ultimately you choose what to do on your farm.

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Benefit:

  • Yay! You don’t have to clean the barn as often. That’s nice, especially when it’s so cold. With all of the time spent going back and forth to the barn to make ‘baby checks,’ the last thing anyone wants to do is clean, clean, clean in the cold weather.
  • HEAT! Composting material creates warmth for your animals. If you pile up the ‘cleanish’ litter for them, they will lay together, snuggling in this area, and that will keep them nice and warm.
  • Feed: If you are one of those people who believes in feeding a ton of extra grain to keep animals warm in the winter, I guess using the deep litter method could actually lower your feed bill, too.

Drawback:

  • Ammonia: You will need to try to keep the ammonia smell down, which means reducing number of animals or allowing more air flow in the barn. You can get down on your knees and sniff. If the floor smells strong to you, imagine how your kids and adults feel when they have to lay down on it!
  • Bugs: Lice and mites love deep litter as do some types of bacteria. Add mite and lice bites together and you have animals with a tendency toward anemia, so you will need to make sure you use diatomaceous earth or some other type of pesticide to keep the biters at bay in addition to making sure the animals aren’t being used as houses for pests.
  • Wet areas: Wet areas can lead to problems like bacteria growth, which can encourage udder and feet infections. Keep an eye on udders, especially, for staph infection and mastitis. I would suggest using a different loafing area after milking to avoid problems.

All in all, it is your choice. If you are going to do it, just be aware of the drawbacks and stay on top of them to avoid health problems for your animals.

Every step you take, I’ll be WATCHING you (during Kidding Season)

Oh, dear. It’s stalking time again! No, I didn’t mean talking time. I really meant stalking time! I hope no one calls the police, but then again, I am referring to the 80s band, The Police, who probably didn’t have goat breeders in mind when writing this song, but hey, whatever works! Maybe I am wrong and Sting, the writer, has some cute country cottage in England with lots of sheep and goats.  After all, if you have a name like Sting, I have to assume he likes animals (bees, in particular)! In either case, when I hear:

Every breath you take,
Every move you make,
Every bond you break,
Every step you take,
I’ll be watching you…

I certainly think KIDDING TIME! This is what I do every spring as kidding time nears (in truth, I begin doing it from day 1 of breeding).  Right now I only have one left to kid, and she is making me wait! I check goats two, sometimes three times a day. As the impending due date nears, I watch their every movement from my kitchen window and back deck (ok, I admit I spy on them from the window in my study, too). Often I peek in on them, watching for movement of those babies on the right side (kick! kick! Sometimes it looks like a ping-pong game going on in there). I pay attention to breathing, belching, stretching, moaning, groaning, crying, scratching, nibbling, licking– everything. I watch for broken ties with old friends and anyone who suddenly wants to be a loner or leave the herd for new pastures. I watch back legs, looking for nice angularity to give way to two–2×4 posts suddenly. I watch. I wait. I sigh. I moan. I groan. I guess. I hope in anticipation, and then I am let down. I wait some more and inevitably, watch some more. OMG… I AM a stalker–a goat stalker.

Some might think I am a bit odd at midnight, leaving the house with my silly-looking, waterproof headlight/flashlight combo, slogging through the red mud, wet snow, freezing rain, icy sleet, dense fog, and other icky nastiness that heads my way just to go to the barn to do a bedtime check before trying to go to sleep myself (no, not in the barn though I have considered making a lovely, little cozy warm spot out there somewhere to keep out the freezing rain a few times!). However, I know I’m not odd. If I were alone, then I’d be odd, but I’m not. No, there are a whole group of goat stalkers out there! I’m so glad I’m not the only geeky goat girl slogging through the ick. There are plenty of us, and then there are those who … yes, believe it or not… those who want to be us! (join now! Membership is only $25, and you can PayPal it direct to me! 🙂    For those of you who are ‘new’ to goats, or even for those who are considering goats, here are some things you should be prepared to watch out for when it comes to impending delivery of kids in future months/years/centuries (you vampire goat watchers).

1) Loose ligaments– The ligaments are located on both sides of the tail head. When they get loose and droopy, enough that you can or can almost close your fingers around the tail head, OR if the area around the tail head ‘visibly’ appears to be sliding down toward the ground, birth time is close. Some people will say kidding is within hours. I disagree, because I am a goat watcher, and I’ve had ligs soften up to 2 weeks ahead of time, especially on those goats that have freshened before. After ligs, look for the other signs, too.

2) Posty legs — If you look at your goat, and her legs have gone from curvaceous beauty to two, 2X4 posts, you have labor shortly around the bend (usually within 24 hours).  There’s no missing postiness when combined with loose ligaments. The poor gal will look like she’s trying to do ballet around the barnyard while her tail is drooping toward the ground.

3) Pawing the ground — Yes, she’s big. Yes, she’s uncomfortable. Yes, she just wants to lay down and get comfortable, but no, it’s not going to make her feel any better. She’ll do it anyhow. Usually, pawing the ground directly precedes labor, and most will be happier if penned at this time with nice, comfy bedding to paw at before ‘pushing time.’

4) Crooning, Begging, Crying, Cursing at her stomach — Yes, and sometimes all of the above. Not all does talk to their babies, but many of them do. Many of them may think there’s an alien lifeform in there because they really do a lot of yapping at the belly.

5) I VANT TO BE ALONE! — Oftentimes does will separate themselves from even those who have been their lifelong friends when the time comes to kid and bond with their new babies. Some of them, especially first fresheners, might just be trying to hide from the alien that seems to want to come out, and perhaps, when labor pains begin, some are trying to protect the rest of the herd from what could be an enormous bout of flatulence–the worst ever! Either way, many do want alone time and will separate. This is why it is important to have kidding pens set up. If you let your do have the kids wherever she wants, she may become confused and abandon them or have kids in several locations where they could chill or be ‘forgotten.’

6) Contractions– A does breathing changes during contractions, and you will notice her abdomen hardening into a ball. She may cry out during this time, or she may ‘talk’ to you. Some want your attention during contractions, and some will even lick you in prep for cleaning their kids.

7) Streaming — Doesn’t that sound lovely? I picture a sweet meadow with a babbling brook, lots of fragrant wildflowers, chirping birds, and a gentle, warm breeze. Not. In fact, it just means she’s losing her mucous plug and ‘oozing’ it in a goopy ‘stream’ of fluid the consistency of jelly. This is good news though because it means…

8) Pushing — What else can I say but KIDS WILL APPEAR WITHIN MINUTES TO A FEW HOURS. HOORAY!!! The doe will bear down, sometimes brace herself against the floor or wall, and push. Does will sometimes lay down to push. I encourage mine to stand since I know gravity well help get those kids out of their faster.

Kids are born (normally) in a diving position with the head resting on front feet. In most cases, does do not need assistance, but if she has multiples or a precipitous (fast) birth, you can help clean off babies. If you are going to be milking, it’s a good time to get her used to your hands. Let her lick you, and you can ‘nurse’ (milk) from her, too, and she will be eager to care for you on the milk stand.

I hope the rest of your kidding season is great! Have a good one.

Geeky Goat Girl on Facebook

We have a new Facebook page dedicated to Geeky Goat Girl. The others will still have info on our farm site, too, but this one will have a few other things related to goats. 🙂

Please give our new page a like and we will be adding fun things goat as time progresses.

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