Nanny Notes: Basics of Dairy Goat Management
Health and Nutrition Goat Basics
Normal Body Temperature: 102 - 103 degrees F.
Normal respiration 12-15/minute.
Normal heart rate 70-80/minute.
Normal rumen movements 1-1.5/minute.
The "term off feed" refers to an animal that is not eating and indicates that your goat is sick. Healthy goats have good appetites and will usually eat with great relish the feed put before them. If a goat is off feed the first thing you should check is her body temperature. If the doe is milking check for mastitis or irregular milk and/or inflammation in the udder. Observe her breathing pattern and check under her lower eye lids for indication of anemia. A healthy goat should have a dark red to deep pink coloring there.
B-Complex shots at the rate of 5 to 10 cc can be safely given to an adult goat when off feed. The B vitamins help to stimulate the appetite.
If the goat is anemic an iron hydrogenated dextrin injection can be safely given at 1cc/20lbs of body weight. Repeat in 10 days if still anemic.
Free choice mineral should be offered at all times to keep goats healthy. It is important that the minerals given to your goats contain copper. Copper deficiency in goats can lead to unthriftiness, poor hair coat, and increased susceptibility to parasite problems. We use an all season pasture mix for dairy cattle from Turner's (located in Hartville, Mo.) because they have a much higher copper content than the goat minerals available in our market area. If you have sheep never let your sheep have access to minerals with cooper in them. Copper is toxic to sheep but a must for healthy goats. If you can not separate your sheep from your goats try cooper bolus or Multi-min for cattle shots for your goats to help provide the needed cooper.
The average healthy goat will eat an average of 4.5% of her body weight in dry matter, so a 150 lbs doe would need 7 lbs of hay/day. Feeding 2-3lbs/day of grain (16-20% protein dairy ration for a doe in milk) would cut this back to about 5lbs/day. Never feed more than 4lbs of grain/day to a doe. Too much feeding of grain can cause a condition known as acidosis which is an imbalance of the rumen pH. Feeding sodium bicarbonate helps to buffer the rumen and avoid upsets of the digestive system when feeding concentrates. We mix baking soda into our minerals so that it is available at all times and as needed by the does.
A good milk doe should produce an average of 1 or more gallons (8lbs or more) per day over her lactation.
In Missouri due to our humid summers internal parasites can be a major management challenge to keeping goats healthy. We alternate the wormers we use to try to cut back on the worms becoming non susceptible to a specific wormer. We generally worm our does with Valbazan at kidding time and then after the entire herd is freshened reworm the does with Cydectin pour on. We use it as a pour on and do not administer it orally. This also gets rid of external parasites which can cause a problem in the winter months when the goats are housed in the barn and are in closer quarters. Then generally after that through the summer months we worm on an as needed individual basis usually using Iverside plus injectable wormer.
For a more natural approach to worming we have begun to mix the following hers and spices into our free choice minerals:
garlic; parsley; red pepper; ground cloves; oregano; ginger; dried mustard; and cinnamon. The cloves and mustard are purportedly useful in combating coccidia, and the ginger is an appetite enhancer. Cinnamon and oregano are to help with metabolism and conversion of feed more efficiently. The garlic, parsley, red pepper are natural wormers. We mix these into the minerals at about 1/3 cup per herb/spice to one 2lbs coffee can's worth of minerals. We also mix in baking soda to the mixture and feed free choice.
Parts of the Dairy Goat
Dairy Goat Reproduction 101
Goats, like deer, are seasonal breeders. The breeding season in our neck of the Ozarks usually begins in mid August and extends into December. Does will begin with what we call a "teasy" heat and may not stand for the buck to breed her. A heat is the period during the reproductive cycle when a doe is ready to release one or more eggs from the ovaries. This cycle is similar to a cow and occurs about every 21 days during the breeding season. Standing heat is when she will stand to allow the buck to mount and breed her. This usually last from one to 3 days.
The average length of gestation is 5 months or 150 days. Multiple births in goats is common and our does on average have two kids per year. Unlike cattle sets of twins with both a doe and a buck are usually fertile and free martins are not all that common in goats.
Average length of lactation is 305 days. Does should be given a 60 day dry period for optimum rest and recovery before kidding.
Female goats usually show their first heats by 6-8 months old. Bucks may be able to breed as young as 4 months but generally come into their first breeding season closer to 6-8 months.
Birth of a Dairy Goat
The doe licks and removes the membranes from the kid. This licking dries the kid, stimulates it to breath and want to stand. It is an integral part of the bonding process and is important for the inoculation of rumen bacteria from the dam to her kid. This is not to be confused with the passive immunity that is passed to the kid through the colostrum. It is vital for a kid to be healthy to receive a feeding of colostrum (first milk) within the first two hours of birth. Make sure all kids receive at least 2 to 3 ounces of colostrum shortly after birth. This can be done by feeding it with a bottle. We have found a human baby nipple is readily taken by most young kids and is easily acquired. If the kid is reluctant to suck try dipping the nipple in brown sugar and scratching the tail head area of the kid.
Things to have on hand at kidding time: Clean towels, an infant nasal aspirator to help clean mucus from kids with a lot of fluids in the nose and mouth, 7% iodine wound spray to dip navels, you can use clean clothes pins as navel clamps if there is excessive bleeding from the navel. Hair blow drier and heating pad to quickly dry and warm chilled kids. A clean well bedded area for the doe to deliver in.
After the doe has delivered her kid(s) she will pass the after birth with in a fairly short time. This should be removed so the doe will not eat it as it can cause impaction and make the doe sick. The doe should be offered a nice warm drink of clean water. You can add molasses or electrolytes to this to help jump start the doe. We generally worm her the next day, trim her feet if needed, and give iron, Bo-Se, and B-complex shots at this time
To learn about the basics of raising happy healthy goat kids visit our Nursery Noises page.
Above the 'water bag" is visible and the kid can be seen through the membranes. On the right the doe has laid down and the head and feet are out in a normal presentation.
Having stood up again the kid is gently guided to the ground and then mucus and membranes are cleared from the mouth and nostrils.
How to Hand Milk a Goat
Now that you have freshened or kidded out your doe you may need to know how to milk her by hand. Click here to watch a short video presentation of milking by hand.
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