Glimmercroft - About Goats & Milking

Laura Workman, Glimmercroft, Lynnwood, Washington

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This page is here just to give you an idea about how I do things.  These are questions people have asked me over the years, and while I am certainly not the most knowledgeable person in the world with regard to goats, I will happily share what I have learned.  If you ask different goat keepers how to fence and shelter a goat, what to feed a goat, how to properly handle milk, etc., you're likely to get many different views.  This page reflects what works for me which, by the way, is constantly evolving.

"What should I have ready before my goats arrive?"

Before your goats arrive, you should have:

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"How do you fence goats?"

My favorite fencing for goats is 52-inch combo stock panels with T-posts, but that can be pretty pricey.  Tight field fencing with an electric stand-off strand or two (at about 12 and 20 inches off the ground) is a good happy medium in price, and quite reliable at keeping goats in.  It's just more work than stock panels to do a tight installation.  Field fencing and stock panels work well against predators also.  I like Red Brand field fence.  There are cheaper brands, but they seem to be tied differently and easier to fold down.

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"What do you do for shelter for goats?"

Best, of course, is a nice, draft-free stall, with a door away from the wind, the door being open so the goats can come and go at will.  However, I've also used large dog houses.  Another nice alternative that you can sometimes pick up inexpensively, is a used calf hutch from a dairy or heifer operation.  Or you can build a nice little shelter pretty inexpensively, four or five 2x4s and a couple sheets of 1/2-inch plywood..  My little 3-foot by 6-foot plywood shelter has proven quite sturdy and popular with the goats for the past three years.  I even had one doe choose to kid in there! Unfortunately, the goats so enjoy nibbling on it, that I'll probably have to re-sheathe it in a year or to.  Still, overall, it has been a real boon to have around.

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"What do you use for bedding?"

I prefer a deep bedding system using wood shavings (not cedar).  Deep bedding is like making compost in place, but there usually isnít enough moisture to cook it fully, so it has to be finished in a bin.  The bedding can get around a foot deep between cleanings.  If thereís any ammonia smell, that just means the bedding needs more carbon (sawdust, shavings, straw, corn cob, etc.).

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"What do you feed your goats?"

I feed alfalfa pellets, good quality grass hay, and minerals, all free choice, plus a little grain.  Alfalfa pellets are 1/4-inch pellets.  I feed alfalfa pellets instead of alfalfa hay because even with perfect, tender, third cutting alfalfa, there is too much waste feeding alfalfa hay.  The goats eat the leaves, then the tiny stems.  Then I throw away the rest, which is around 25 percent.  Not only is that wasteful, you have to figure out where to put all that waste.  And if you leave it long enough that the goats get hungry enough to eat the less tender stems, you get thin goats with poor production.  I hated all the waste, so switched to alfalfa pellets.  Even though the pellets are considerably more expensive, thereís no waste, and the goats stay in much better condition.  

The grass hay is to provide roughage to complement the alfalfa pellets.  I prefer orchard grass, second cutting or later.  Orchard grass is palatable and quite uniform Ė an important point when you have animals that will pick out the tender bits and leave the rest while they starve Ė typical goat behavior.

For this area, it's very important that your mineral supplement has a lot of both copper and selenium.  My current mineral choice is Sweetlix Meatmaker mineral for goats. I like it best because it has less salt than other good quality minerals. Salt is what limits intake, that is, a goat will only eat so much salt. If your goats will eat an ounce of minerals that are 50% salt, they will eat two ounces of minerals that are 25% salt. Notice that they wind up with the same amount of salt, but they've consumed twice as much of the other minerals.

For grain, at milking time, my does get a grain mix that is either a good goat feed, or dry COB. Then I add enough Vigor Plus or Calf Manna to bring the protein percentage up to 18 percent in early lactation, and 16 percent in later lactation. They also get a quarter cup of Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS), which is excellent for their skin and coat.  I generally give milkers in heavy lactation around 1.5 pounds of grain a day, and then adjust up or down depending on the doe's condition and production.  Dry, pregnant does get around a cup of grain a day, plus the BOSS.  Kids and adult males don't get any grain unless their condition demands it, but they do get alfalfa pellets, grass, and minerals, free choice.

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"What do I need to prepare for kidding? How clean does the stall need to be? Do I need any type of vaccine? Iodine, cord clamps, etc?"

My does kid in a thoroughly cleaned 4 x 5 foot or 5 x 6 foot kidding stall, with deep straw bedding.  I tried shavings like I use for everyone else, but they really stick to goopy, new kids.  Straw is a LOT better.  The doe may be in the stall for a day or two before kidding, in which case it isnít spanking fresh, but is still plenty nice and clean.  If you just put a lot of clean bedding on top of old bedding, then during her pre-labor ďnesting,Ē the doe will dig through the clean bedding and pull up a bunch of funky bedding.  Thatís why the stall is thoroughly cleaned first.  I make sure the doe has food available in the stall, and thereís a hole in the wall through which she can stick her head to drink from a bucket.  This keeps the water cleaner, and keeps her from dropping a kid into a bucket full of water.  Thatís pretty hard on kids.

After the doe kids, I take the really goopy stuff out of the stall and add a couple more flakes of fresh straw.  Mom and babies stay in the stall, at least part time, for 3 days to a week, depending on the weather.  When the kids seem strong, and I can watch for a while, Iíll let the family out during the day and put them back in at night.  The kids always have a safe, kid-only spot to go to.  You can accomplish this by just putting a small, kid-only door in the kidding stall wall.  The kid-only spot isnít entirely necessary, but itís nice for the kids, and it tends to keep them from lounging (and peeing and pooping) in my hay feeder.

For drying off the new babies, I keep clean towels in the barn.  That way, when a doe starts hollering and Iím dashing out there in the middle of the night, I donít have to remember to stop and gather towels on the way.  I also keep a lubricant on hand, in case I have to go in.  The times I have gone in, however, have been pretty far along in labor, and the doe has provided plenty of lubricant without my adding any more.

Most years, I donít vaccinate until the kids are ready to leave.  Iím kind of on the fence about the pros and cons of vaccination, so am not consistent in application.  Usually, if I vaccinate some, I vaccinate all.  But some years I donít do it at all.  My own, human tetanus vaccine lasts 10 years, so I think an annual tetanus vaccine isnít really needed for a goat.  And the entero seems pretty easy to avoid with decent management, so itís not a big worry for me.  I do offer to vaccinate animals I sell, though.

I donít use iodine.  I did the first few times, but I was uncomfortable covering the babyís belly with iodine, and then watching Mom lick it all off, so I stopped.  I havenít had any problems.  I think iodine is probably good for bottle babies, but not so good for dam raised kids like mine.  Iíve never used cord clamps.  The cords seem to break by themselves for the most part.  If one doesnít, or if I feel itís too long (over 2 inches) I shred apart it with my thumbnail.  Thereís never been any bleeding.

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"How do I disbud a goat kid?"

Click here to go to my page on disbudding.

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"My doe just kidded and her teats are too small for milking easily.  She doesn't seem to have very much milk anyway.  Can I just let her kids handle the milking for a while until her teats get bigger?"

Click here to go to my page on udder development and dam-raising kids.

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"When do I start decreasing the time the kids spend with their dam? Do I do separate them just at night?"

I start separating kids at night as soon as I want to start milking, usually between one and two weeks.  Itís actually important to do that whether or not youíre going to milk the doe, because it give her a chance to fill her udder, which develops udder capacity and teat size.  I usually start out separating for around 10 hours, then progress to 12 by about 2 weeks.  The kids can handle it pretty easily. As they get older and begin eating solid foods, it helps to provide free access to hay and pellets during separation.

I separate kids only at night.  I tried it during the day, but the kids spent the entire day screaming for their mom.  At night, they tend to bed down.  Itís really best if they can see their mom, but not nurse.  That way, everyone knows everyone is fine and close, so they donít stress.

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"At what age are my kids ready to go to their new homes?"

I send kids off at 8 weeks old, sometimes a couple days ahead if the timing works that way.  These are dam-raised kids and theyíve always been quite into eating hay and pellets by 8 weeks.  Iíve never heard of anyone having any problems with them not being able to eat adequately.

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"How do I train my doe to be good on the milkstand?"

Click here to go to my page on Milkstand Manners.  (There are lots of pictures, so please be patient.)

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"What do you use for milking equipment, and how do you handle your milk so it tastes good?"

Click here to go to my page on milking equipment and milk handling.  (There are lots of pictures, so please be patient.)

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"How does progression through generations work for Mini Manchas?"

The MDGA website has an explanation of the progression through the generations, and from Experimental to American to Purebred status.  Itís at the bottom of the registration forms page.

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"How can I figure out ear genetics for Mini Manchas?"

Click here to go to my page on the genetics controlling ear type in Mini Manchas.

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Home | Why Mini-Manchas? | Mini-Mancha Does | Mini-Mancha Bucks | Kids | Kidding Schedule | Sales Page | Reference Animals

This page updated November 11, 2007.
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