Better know a Nigerian. Part the second.

(Second part of my conversation with Pygmy/Nigerian Dwarf Goat breeder Tori from Calico Patch Farms. First part here.)

Can you give us an overview of the illness and conditions to which NDG are susceptible (CAE, etc.)? Would you ask a prospective seller to provide proof of testing or inoculations? And would you ask to see milking records?

Honestly, there are as many illnesses that goats can get as there are that dogs can get. The big difference here is that there are a lot more vaccinations for dogs. CAE is viewed differently by every breeder. It is believed that CAE is passed from a mother goat to her kid through her milk, so some breeders raise their kids on CAE prevention. This is done by removing the kid as soon as it is born, bottle raising it, and not allowing any contact between the kid and their dam.

At Calico Patch Farm, we like to raise our kids as Mother Nature intended, so we leave the kids with their dams to be raised. If you are purchasing a goat from someone you don’t know, it absolutely is a good idea to ask for proof of testing, but not all breeders test. The same goes for milk records; it’s always nice to know.

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I will be a first time goat owner next spring, looking to purchase 2 or 3 doelings, to start. Would you have any advice on how closely related the foundation does should/can be? And would you advise a buck for such a small herd, or sending out does on “dates”?

If you are just breeding for milk and not breeding for show, you could have three sisters! If you were breeding to show, variety is always good. As a person that is just looking for a source of milk though, your main goal should be to find does from milk lines that will have good feet and legs so they can continue to produce a lot when they are older. As for owning or leasing bucks, that’s really up to you.

As a breeder, we like to own our own bucks because we breed every year and we don’t have to worry about the possibility of not finding a buck to lease. If you are just breeding for milk, you won’t have to breed every year and might not find the need to own your own buck. If there are a lot of breeders in your area that are willing to lease bucks or provide “dates” for your does, that might be the better option for you.

One thing you have to consider when having a buck is that goats are herd animals. You don’t want to house a buck with your does because you would have no control over breeding. You would have to house them separately, so you would have to have another buck or a wether (neutered male) to keep him company.

What words of wisdom and experience can you offer on the subjects of tattooing, disbudding, and castration?

If you aren’t going to be showing, you shouldn’t have to worry about tattooing. We only tattoo goats and kids that will be shown because it is required. If you purchase from a registered breeder however, all of their goats will be tattooed.

We are big believers in disbudding. Some people prefer the look of horned goats, but we find that most horned goats push around goats that don’t have horns, and accidents involving horns are likely to happen.

As for castration, almost every single male goat born here is castrated. We don’t believe in selling any buck that we wouldn’t be happy to use in our own breeding program, so only the best are kept as bucks. All the rest are castrated and sold as pets. We have found that wethers make the best pets and they seem to be easy to sell around here.

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What method of castration do you use?

We band for a couple of reasons. One, there is a lot smaller chance of infection than there is with cutting. Also, it is super simple! Most times, the boys seem uncomfortable for a little bit, but they get over it pretty fast and go back to being their normal, bouncy selves.

I can’t wait for the bouncy baby part! Kidding is not always happy, though. You must have lost some kids and does in your time. How would you address the birthing fears of someone just getting into goats? And then, to undo your soothing words, would you tell a story of one of your losses?

Yes, we have lost some, but it doesn’t happen too often. A lot of new goat people are worried about birthing problems, but for the many years we have been breeding, we have very rarely had them. What seems to happen more often (but still not very much) are does delivering dead kids or having miscarriages.

My biggest piece of advice is to know when the doe was bred so that you will know the due date (145 days later for miniature breeds) and you can be there when she kids. If something goes wrong, you can be prepared to step in and help, but most times you will just end up watching.

As for a story, I do remember when one of our Pygmy does was delivering a kid about five years ago. We did not know her exact due date, so we were not expecting her to kid when she did. We went down to the barn and found her in a corner in the middle of delivering her first kid. Only the head was out, so we would tell that something was wrong right away (normally the front feet should be first).

After watching for a little bit, we realized that the kid, who was now dead, was stuck. Because I had the smallest hands, I was elected to be the one to go in and see if I could find any either of the kid’s legs to pull them out to help her finish delivering. It was no use though, I could not find them.

We had to call the vet out who tried the same thing with the same result. After that, she tried pushing the kid back in so that she could position it properly, but it was stuck and wouldn’t budge. The only option was to (sorry if you’re squeamish) saw the head off, push the body back in, and pull the kid out by it’s legs. This is what the vet ended up having to do.

The doe only had a single kid. It was so big because it was the only kid she was carrying and that’s why it got stuck. After that we decided not to risk that happening again, so we gave the doe to a friend where she continues to live as a happy pet.

Wow. That’s quite a story. And you were so very young (in my citified eyes) to be dealing with something so traumatic.

I confess, it’s a relief to hear that birthing issues resulting in death are rare; I’ve been concerned about that prospect, and people tend to tell their most dramatic stories on the internet, not the ones of routine births. It’s only in the past year that I’ve had to learn to deal with the deaths of several of my chickens, by various means. I have another friend who raises goats who just lost a treasured doe after delivery, and I can’t even begin to imagine how that must feel.

I’ve read that Nigerian Dwarf does generally have 2-3 kids per freshening, sometimes singles, but also sometimes 4 or even 5. I can see the advantage of multiples from your story, but a lot of babies in one freshening must present its own issues, such as kid presentation. Got any stories in that vein?

Yes, a lot of people have said I was pretty young and they were surprised to hear some of the things I’ve seen, but when you grow up around animals, it just becomes a part of life. For some people, it would be traumatic enough that they would want to stop raising goats altogether, but for me, the benefits of raising goats much outweigh the few tragedies I have seen.

As for the number of kids per birth, yes, 2-3 is pretty average. First fresheners often have singles, but we have had some (Rosalie for example) that had triplets her first time. It really just depends on the doe. Sometimes, when they have multiples, the kids can be positioned incorrectly, but many of the does are still able to deliver without help. The more kids a doe has, obviously the more times she has to deliver, but the kids are generally smaller if they aren’t singles, making each delivery easier.

We find that the biggest problem for us that comes from does having multiples is that sometimes a doe may reject one of the kids and refuse to feed it, or there just might not be enough milk to go around. When this happens, we rely on the milk that we got the previous year that we froze, to bottle feed rejected kids or supplement multiples.

A clever way to feed by bottle when necessary. I’m going to file that away!

Thus endeth Part the Second. Stay tuned for upcoming installments, which include discussions about milking and gender and studs, oh my!

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