Better know a Nigerian. Part the last.

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

So, you must be looking at your kidding season pretty soon. By what criteria do you decide which kids to retain, and is there ever a concern that a kid might “fall apart” (as they say in Great Dane conformation) as it grows?

We are very excited to see this year’s kids! Again, this is a time when it is a handy to know the breed standards so that we can judge them ourselves after they are born. It is very hard to judge a week old kid, though. When they are about 4 weeks old, we narrow the choices down to a more manageable number.

We usually take more kids to the shows than we plan on keeping to get an expert opinion on them, and sell any kids that aren’t up to par as pets. Kids absolutely do change as they grow. We actually have a pair of twin doelings that were born in 2011 (Rumor Has It and Razzle Dazzle). We first showed them when they were four month olds. Rumor placed over Razz in all three shows. Last year, when shown them as one-year olds, Razz placed over Rumor in all three shows! Both are still gorgeous does, but one has to be slightly better than the other.

Some goats change for the worse as they grow and some change for the better as they get older, it just depends. This is what makes deciding a complete gamble. Sometimes you make the right choice, sometimes you don’t. As an individual becomes a better breeder, they are usually able to recognize which kids will turn out to be the champions and which won’t, but it can be really hard to decide at times.

(Below, a newborn pic of Dusk, a Nigerian Dwarf doeling born spring 2012 that Calico Patch Farm retained.)

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So, the showing helps you decide, as you get input from experts. Clever! In that same vein, what makes you decide to keep a buckling for breeding? What makes a buckling exceptional enough to be that 1 in 500?

Exactly! Deciding to keep a buckling as a buck is even harder because we can’t show them (at least not in my area). Every buckling that is born here is automatically assumed to become a wether. Over the six- to eight-week period before they are wethered, we watch them to see if they have what it takes to be a buck. They have to prove to us that they can, we don’t just assume right after they are born that they will be of the right quality.

We actually did keep one of our boys born this year as a buck (a first for us) because he came out of our two best Nigerians. We knew he had good milk lines behind him, so we continued to watch him mature and decided that he was buck material. And the added bonus to his good confirmation; he’s my favorite color and has blue eyes!

Colouring in Nigerian Dwarf Goats is notoriously difficult to predict, I’m learning. Do you really never have any idea what you’re going to get, colour wise? If you were to, for example, breed Rosalie to Apache (below), could you not be reasonably sure of black and white kids? Is it that much of a crap shoot?

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It can be very hard to predict if you aren’t sure about the genetics behind your goats. Sometimes we can guess correctly, and sometimes we are completely wrong. Because I have seen both Rosalie’s and Apache’s parents, and I am reasonably sure their black and white traits are dominant, I can take an educated guess and say that yes, the kids will probably be black and white. Of course a recessive trait for lighter colors could randomly show up, so I can’t be 100% positive. Some breedings are pretty easy to guess about, and some are rather difficult, it really depends on the goats.

So it’s not a complete mystery. That’s reassuring.

Do you linebreed? If not, why not? If so, could please explain the basic principles and practices of linebreeding in language even I can understand?

We do not line breed because we like to bring variety into our herd and we aren’t a big fan of breeding closely-related animals. One way to look at it in smaller terms is to say that if it works, it’s called line breeding; if it doesn’t, it’s called inbreeding. When a breeder has a goat that is pretty much perfect in every category on the score card, breeding that goat (let’s say it’s a buck) to his daughter, would be considered line breeding. This type of breeding really brings out a goat’s good traits, but it can also bring out a goat’s weaknesses. Line breeding can either make or break a herd.

I’m just now reading about this very issues concerning heritage turkeys. Their numbers are so few that line breeding can be lead to unsoundness of legs and infertility.

This might prove to be the most important answer you give in this interview, Tori: What should a goat breeder have in her emergency kit, and, if it’s not self-explanatory, what is it for, and where would one get it? Please include reference books you feel are indispensable.

I could honestly write my own book on everything to include in an emergency kit! Some of the major things to have include syringes and needles, tetanus antitoxin, 7% iodine, thermometer, penicillin, electrolytes, vitamin B, and hydrogen peroxide.

Syringes and needles are pretty self explanatory; for giving vaccinations and any injectable medications. Tetanus antitoxin is helpful to have because you never know when you’ll need it. Iodine is used to dip naval chords when kids are born. A goat’s temperature can tell a lot when they aren’t behaving normally, so a thermometer is a must have! Penicillin is used to treat infection that can be caused by a number of things. Electrolytes and vitamin B can help a goat bounce back after going down.

Most of this stuff comes from stores like Tractor Supply Co. I would have to say that the most useful book I have read would be Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, but there are tons of great books out there!

I have that one! Go, me!

One more question and I’ll stop torturing you, Tori. What will you be studying in college: will you be leaving goats behind or studying them more in depth?

I have actually really been considering going to business school recently. I would love to open my own small business and my dream is to have a herd of beautiful Nigerian dwarf goats to show and raise. I really hope the future works out as planned so that it happens. The goats have had such a positive effect on my life and I want to share that with as many people as possible. They may seem like funny little creature to a lot of people, but I sure do love them!

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Thank you so much for all your time and expertise, Tori. I could keep pestering you with endless questions, believe me, but I’ll contain myself. I’m so looking forward to my goats (out of Rosalie by Apache, perhaps?), and I wish you all the best with college.

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