Monday, March 21, 2011


With a herd the size of ours and the amount of work required to support and milk each goat, we have to focus on devoting limited resources to healthy, productive animals:  robust, sleek, active and alert with a healthy appetite and no bad habits like opening gates, jumping fences or kicking off the milk inflations.  Then there's Goatie.

Goatie had a rough start.   Goatie's mom died at her birth.  She was older and health stressed after the winter and kidding is hard.  Some do die.  We were gob smacked with work, in the middle of a storm of births, and kids, and the start up of milking chores.  After tube feeding the weak and dehydrated newborn kid, we tried to save a little time on bottle feeding by just taking Goatie into the milking parlor and letting her drink off of any doe that was full and willing.  Goatie had a really strong feeding instinct and took to this right off.  She had her favorite teats, not really having the one on one connection between mom and kid that is normal.  This went on for about a week with Goatie being kept with the bottle babies between milkings.

Then she got so strong that we decided to put her in with the moms and kids.  For a few more days, Goatie continued to come on the milk stand with the does and drink her fill, sneaking thru the legs of the big does waiting to come in.   Then we realized Goatie wasn't coming up all that often and we started looking out for her in the barn.  What we saw was Goatie eating off of basically any mom that would stand still for it, going from one to the other.  Finally, a doe in the peak of her health, who's boy kid had been sold, decided that Goatie was ok and she fed and raised her from that time forward.

She's a three year old and she's little, little, little.  Kinda scrappy looking.  So little that when my grandson was four, he would go out with Grandpa to do the chores and he'd stand in the goat pen kind of staring at the mountains in the distance and Goatie would come stand right next to him and only come up to about his waist.  She'd put her head directly under his hand and move her head to be stroked.  They would stand there together quietly for minutes and if Makai moved, Goatie went too.  Makai named her Goatie.  Goatie never bred. Goatie never milked.  Goatie wasn't robust or sleek, though she was active and alert with a healthy appetite.  Bad habits?  She had a few.  But she was basically no trouble and she was always available for a good interaction if we had visitors new to goats.  She is sweet.  Tiny and black with white spots.  Goatie has a home for life though it took awhile for David come around.  Everytime we were making decisions about culling, he'd wisely suggest Goatie who met all the criteria and I would say "No, not Goatie."  He'd say, "why not?" He tries to be pragmatic but once he was reminded each time that Makai really liked Goatie, and he saw that it was fruitless to move me on it, he embraced the idea.  Now Goatie is his little special pet too.

Goatie was the first to kid this year, having bred to a really small Nigerian Dwarf buck.  We had assumed that she would never be sexually mature in a normal way but she was in with all the yearlings. She was two, she was still one of the smallest ones.  We raise the kids during their first year with a Nigerian Dwarf buck kid so that any younger animals that become sexually mature will mate to a small buck and have minature kids and an easy birth rather than accidentally being bred by the large buck.  (As good as your fences and gates are, stuff happens and they can be pretty determined when in that frame of mind.) She wasn't a dwarf, she had just been malnourished as a kid and had to compete so hard as the smallest goat.  Being genetically a full sized Alpine,  even with the small buck, Goatie had a pretty big boy kid.  As they will often do, she kidded near dawn,  I'm sure it was a long, hard birth, hard on the kid and when we found it it was dead and looked as if it had never even moved.  Hers was the first birth so even though we had been waiting, it was still a surprise.  We brought her in and gave her grain, warm water and some nutritional supplement with minerals.  I gently washed her and milked off her colostrum, petted her and then David put her in a warm, private stall with fresh bedding and the finest stemmed, best hay.  She's doing great.  She loves the milking routine of coming up the ramp in line, just like she did when she was little, and trotting right down to the correct stanchion, putting her head in and chowing down.  Goatie is no trouble though I can only milk her with two fingers on her tiny little teats.  She gives quite a bit and it will be very high in butterfat.

I don't have a picture of her.  We take photos of the moms and kids for ID purposes.  In later years sometimes its hard to remember who came from who and records become words on a page.  But a picture!  It seems Goatie was the orphan stepchild that year and wasn't ever photographed.  When I mentioned to David that I was writing this, he reminded me that he never took her picture because he never thought we'd be  keeping her.  I'll take one tomorrow or the next day and post it on the blog.  It's 3 am now or I would just go out there with my Droid and take one.  Manana.

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