Dairy Goats 

Rags on the Fence

Do They Stay or Do They Go?

Posted on April 7, 2016 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (1)

I am often asked questions about how we decide which does are on the sales list each year. I was going through some old files and found one of the original letters I wrote on this topic, and decided it was time to pull it out, dust it off, rewrite, and slap it up on a wall! Every herd should have a plan- why they pick their breed, their does, their bucks, and why each goat stays or goes. The plan is a living document- goals are met, plans fail, things need to be reassessed...


I would like to preface my explanation with a note about where we show our goats. While I like to depend on appraisal scores and DHIR records for improving my herd, my daughters both enjoy showing. I live an hour from Pella's Triple C, 3 hours from Lakeshore, Branicur Farms, Wingwood Farm, and Redwood Hills. At every show we attend in northern California, at least 2 of these National Show quality herds are there with there Nubians. In addition, many of the smaller herds use exclusively those bloodlines. Showing in CA is like attending a mini Nationals at every show!


While we never go to as many shows as we would like (it is expensive), our goats do show well when they are shown against those herds. Usually our girls place 3rd-5th behind those animals. Sometimes our older girls place 1st (the other herds have finished those does by that time) but they are not able to stand up against the younger does for champion. Judges that own dairies and appraisers usually place our does higher.


We freshen about 30+ does each year, but keep 16 or less milkers. In 2016 we are freshening 32 dairy goats and 3 commercial Boers. Not all of the does we list as possible sale milkers will be sold, they are just on the short list until after they freshen. Young does are more likely to be sold, and if a doe gets to 6 she will most likely never leave here.


1- Babies- this is an easiest category aside from poor udders. We almost never keep kids from first fresheners unless it is a very special breeding or we need the kid as a herd replacement. We just don't have space for them! When we first started breeding seriously, we used to freshen every doe kid ourselves or place them in local homes so we could see them freshen, that way we knew quickly what our bucks were doing. This allowed us to improve our quality very quickly.


2- Age- We try VERY hard to limit ourselves to a maximum of 3 does in each age class. Our herd is weighted too much to older does right now (over 5). We will have 10 does in milk in this age group this year and a handful more that are not kept in milk! The oldest that most people want to buy a milker for either milk or breeding purposes is usually 5, so if the doe has already served her place in our breeding program or is not showing well enough in our area, we will try to move her on by the time she is 5.


3- Appraisal scores- We are not as hard on young does in their scores as we are for mature does. We know that our lines are truly slow to mature, and if we see what we like in a young doe, we do not panic. On the other hand, we do not keep does that appraise 80 or below unless there is a really good reason! Penny (one of our foundation does) only appraised 81 +++V as a ff two year old, but the next year she scored 89 EVEV. We do however use the scores we see in a family line to make decisions- for example if a daughter is showing no improvement over the dam in a certain area, then we might sell her, and sometimes the dam also if NONE of her daughters have ever shown improvement. (Especially if it is a trait we are picky about.)


4- Milk- Our focus is breeding animals that will function well for the creamery we hope to someday open. With that in mind, we have focused on maintaining high components in our herd, with a focus toward cheese yields. Someday we do hope to test our does for casein gene type, but for now we just go off of what we get from making cheese. Flavor is important to us- we like sweet, rich milk over volume. We sell milkers that have consistently lower butterfat numbers unless they are milking over 12# a day.


Somatic cell count counts here more now- we may use a doe that has had mastitis as a brood doe, but we are aiming to lower our SCC over the herd. Does need to be able to hold their milk and not leak after 12-14 hours (confession- I am afraid our management is not consistent!)


5- Condition/Personality- We sell does that do not thrive in our management. We do not have the time to baby a doe that is stressed by living with 20 other does, we find her a home in a smaller herd. A favorite story of mine is a doe we used for a year that just didn't do that great as a milker here. She went back to her 'mother' herd (about the same size as ours) and didn't do that great there. At about 2 months fresh, on her 3rd lactation, she moved into a very small herd of Alpines. Believe it or not, she took over as queen, and her milk production jumped to 10-12 lbs a day. She filled out and grew happy. She needed a small herd, and apparently to be in charge!


For several years, I kicked myself about does that didn't grow as well, or keep weight on as well. Then I realized that in the same age group, with the exact same management, I had does that were fat, happy and milking their socks off. It was an 'Aha!' moment! I know now that some does aren't going to perform without extra grain, supplements, smaller herd size, etc. I want ladies that perform well on what I can give them.


We will also sell a trouble maker, especially a noisy one. I know, I know- I raise Nubians, but we actually have an almost silent herd of goats! Most of our ladies are almost silent, like their vocal cords are broken, and we like it that way! If a doe is constantly threatening the status quo, especially our herd queen, they go away.


6- Show- Balanced with our appraisals, milk production, and just what we like to see is the fact that we do aim to have show strings. We sell beautiful, productive does every year that just aren't nice enough to make the cut compared to the competition. In another show circuit, they might be very competitive, but not here. I hear back from customers about how much they love these does- disposition, milking ability, etc., and some of them have gone on to win in the ring away from California.


What is your plan, for your herd? I encourage you to write it down and revisit it in a few months or next year. You will be amazed at what has changed and what has stayed the same!


January Surprises!

Posted on January 9, 2016 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)


When *B Wingwood Farm Lucky Mario came to us for lease last fall, he went into a pen with his former herdmate, *B Tecosa Play It Forward. That turned out to become challenge for both of them to figure out how to jump the fence to get into the doe pen for a couple hours of chaos. (We now have a pen with an 8 ft high fence that my husband calls Jurassic Park for bucks that practice parkour!) We thought that only Temperance and maybe Harmony had been in season that day...how wrong we were!

First Disco started slacking in milk production, but we had not seen her cycle so she hadn't been exposed to a buck (so we thought). On a whim, Rebah put her hand flat on her belly one night and got a good WHAM of a kick! Oops! We dried Disco up immediately, about three weeks from her due date from the Great Buck Break-In! Then in the last couple of weeks we have noticed some interesting behavior in some of our older does. The oldest members of the herd have enough experience under their belts to know when they should start coming out to be lead fed, and the standoffish ones tend to get very friendly as they get close to kidding. About the same time we dried Disco off, Constance came to the gate at milking time and asked to come out for grain, as well as wanting to be scratched.


Constance hasn't kidded since...well, I had to look it up it was so long ago! She hasn't kidded since 2011, and ultrasounds after that year showed a thickened uterus, so our vet believed she would never settle again. Rebah felt her belly and was sure she got a kick- the vet just left from doing ultrasounds today and sure enough, Connie will be kidding in the next week or so! Feeling these kicks really got us casting our eyes at does that we haven't seen cycle this year. We knew that Temperance was bred when she stopped milking fairly early and started looking like a blimp, but who else had succumbed to Rio & Kev's charms?

Azazel Harmony, who hadn't kidded since November of 2012 was thrown in with *B Wingwood Farm AMI Tumult after being exposed to the bucks during the break-in to keep him from also going through the fence is bred (who's your daddy on those!) We have exposed her year after year, even leaving her living with a buck for moths at a time without having her settle, but this year she is back in the routine!


Shalom, who dried herself up and was being called a slacker, but wasn't exposed (on purpose at least!) is BRED.


And the biggest surprise of all- Shangdu! She was very sick with an autoimmune health issue this year, so when she didn't cycle, I thought nothing of it, I figured she had become sterile. I was certainly sad, since I had lost Bruno in the horrible kid deaths in July, and resigned to Dudu just being a big pet for the rest of her life... now I am excited to have at least one more kid coming, be it buck or doe!


By the way- don't expect me to be coherent or available in January- I have never had 9 does kidding in a two day period before! Some were bred on purpose- Rev, Radar, & Bullfince to Kev, but Shalom, Disco, Temperance, Shangdu, Constance, & Harmony are surprises for us!

How We Heat Treat Colostrum

Posted on December 29, 2015 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Almost all of the kids born here are raised on CAE prevention, which means they are taken away from their dam at birth and bottle fed heat treated colostrum and pastuerized milk. They are usually raised apart from adult does until at least weaning, and usually longer. (Exceptions are our Boer herd and occassionally dairy goats whose new owners want them to dam raise.)

We are frequently asked how to heat treat colostrum- this is the method that works best for us. 

    1. Use a good, solid thermos that holds heat well. To test the thermos: fill it with very hot tap water and cap it while you are heating more water to 140 degees. When your water has reached 140 degrees, pour the hot water out of the thermos, pour in the heated water, cap the thermos, wrap in a blanket and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour (set a timer!) At the end of 1 hour, use two thermometers to check the temperature of the water in the thermos- it needs to be over 135 degrees after an hour. I always retest my thermos before the first batch of colostrum every year- I once had a thermos stop holding temperature, so this is a good practice.
    2. Fill your thermos with water and then pour into a measuring cup to figure out how much colostrum you can process at one time. We have done two thermos at one time...but it was hard to pour quickly enough to not lose too much heat. It didn't work for us. 
    3. Measure out the amount of colostrum you will be processing and start it heating in the top of a double boiler. Here is a tip on how to make your own- Homemade Double Boiler In A Pinch
    4. Add hot tap water to your thermos, cap it, and set it next to your sink.
    5. Heat your colostrum to 136-139 degrees, stirring constantly. Colostrum will stick and turn into pudding very quickly, it must be babied!
    6. When your colostrum reaches temperature, remove it from the heat, dump out your thermos and pour the heated colostrum into the preheated thermos. You have to hustle for this step! We have learned that we need to heat the colostrum closer to 140 degrees to have it still over 135 by the time we get this done- especially if one of us is doing the process solo.
    7. Cap & wrap it! We wrap the filled thermos in a blanket and put it on a corner of the couch. Set the timer for an hour...and if you are sleep deprived from kidding watch, I suggest you use a loud timer and put a sticky note on it to tell you why you set the darn thing! 
    8. After an hour, test the temperature, once more with two thermometers, to be sure the colostrum is still over 135 degrees. If it is- congratulations, you have heat treated colostrum! If not...go back and start over again... Sorry!
We store our heat treated colostrum in  serving sized soda bottles in the freezer. Then all we have to do is pop one into a hot water bath to thaw and it is ready to feed to kids once it is heated to 102 degrees. We do use 32 oz botttles also- first feedings for 4 kids. Each of our kids gets 16-20 ounces of colostrum in the first 24 hours- experts recommend at least 10% of body weight. 

There are certainly other ways to heat treat- using a Weck, a home pasteurizer with a low temperature setting, and a rice cooker are three that come to mind, but this method is tried and true here. Happy kiddings!


A Tragic Day

Posted on July 22, 2015 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (10)


On July 2nd, at 3 am, I heard a goat cry. I ran to the back porch with a bright light, trying to pinpoint which pen I would be running for- Bruno was standing in the middle of Moxie's pen, and even at the end of a flashlight beam I could see she was obviously bloated. I ran back into the house to wake Rebah to help me and to grab all of my doctoring supplies. When Rebah reached the pen, less than 3 minutes later, Bruno was already gone.


That was the start of three hours of hell.


Bruno was not the only baby that was in distress- we started triaging like crazy. Therabloat, oil, oral & subQ PenG in case of entero, kaopectate, even charcoal paste. A 330 am phone call to a good goat friend for more ideas. Nothing was working- one by one they died. Bruno was followed by Inda and then Mote (Dust's daughters). We got a trocar into Fusion but the foam was so thick it didn't relieve any pressure at all and she went next. Rebah worked extra hard on Pub, as she was fighting in true La Mancha spirit, but she finally succumbed, Then our long awaited, gentle Essence. Almost at the end I remembered the two buck kids up above- I threw treatment at them but first Noil died and finally Sarge right around dawn. The La Manchas died silent and stoic, the Nubians cried- both breed true to the end. It seemed like there were bodies every where. We were crying, hysterical, covered in medicine and the smell of death.

There were ten lambar babies in Moxie's pen. Six of them died. Princess is the only baby that showed symptoms and lived, and her symptoms were very mild. Ladyhawke never showed any sign of illness. There are two dam raised kids and two weaned kids in that pen, none of those four ever showed a single symptom. The babies that bloated and died all drank from the same cooled pan of pasteurized goat milk from the same lambar buckets. The other two pens of bucket babies were fed from a different pan of milk- none ever showed a symptom.

We couldn't afford a necropsy, but Rebah was right when she sobbed, "We have to know, Mom, we have to know what happened!" So Rebah drove Mote's body to the lab at UC Davis that morning to turn it in for necropsy. I posted about the tragedy on Facebook in hopes that even though I was exposing our herd to whispered ridicule, we might help anyone that encountered a similar problem. (Trust me, breeders lose animals all the time and never breath a word in order to protect their reputations.)

Some of you have been asking about the necropsy results- I was hoping to hear more back from the pathologist before posting, but it seems they have not come up with anymore ideas. The short story:

They don't know.

Eight lovely kids dead but we do not know why. Yes, I guess we have to accept that sometimes we just do not know, but my heart is still broken, so it is still hard.

When we spoke to the pathologist and were able to describe to him the behavior of the kids and how they died, he verbally said he feels the damage to the lungs was from her suffocating to death, not from pneumonia. He said pneumonia didn't kill her. No pneumonia that we have ever heard of causes screaming like we dealt with that night or kills 8 animals almost simultaneously or causes the huge amounts of foam/froth that poured from them when they died. If it was yeast, as we suspect, they are very difficult to isolate and test for, and all of the foam could have dissipated from her stomach by the time we got her to the lab. The small amount of foam/froth in her trachea was not sampled. Here are details:


Gross Observations

"A female kid goat is submitted for necropsy in good body condition with adequate amounts of reserve fat and in good postmortem preservation. The intestines, abomasum, and rumen are markedly distended by abundant amounts of gas. No frothy fluid is observed within the rumen or abomasum. The lungs are diffusely mottled dark red and wet. The trachea contains a moderate amount of tan to white froth. The cecum contains occasional nematodes consistent with whipworms that are embedded within the mucosa. No other significant gross findings are observed."


No evidence of frothy bloat was observed despite the marked distension of the abdominal cavity by gas. The significance of this gas distension is unknown. The lesions in the lungs are suggestive of a pneumonia and may have contributed to or caused the death of this animal. Ancillary tests including histopathologic examination are currently pending.


There was no evidence of gastrointestinal disease. The lesions in the lungs are consistent with an acute mild to moderate pneumonia. No bacteria were isolated from the lungs or liver but a CAE IHC is currently pending to potentially detect an underlying viral etiology. The heavy metal panel is still pending. The marked bloating noted grossly could potentially be a postmortem change.



The CAE IHC was negative. A definitive cause of the pneumonia could not be determined. The pneumonia was the only lesion that was observed in the goat both grossly and histologically. Few parasites were observed grossly and no parasite eggs were identified in the fecal. A definitive cause of death could not be determined but the pneumonia was likely a contributor to disease. All diagnostic tests have been completed.



Lungs: Multifocally alveoli contain moderate amounts of fibrin and proteinaceous fluid. There are occasional alveoli that contain small to moderate numbers of neutrophils and macrophages admixed with necrotic debris. Heart, tongue, skeletal muscle, liver, spleen, rumen, reticulum, abomasum, small intestine, large intestine: No significant histopathologic lesions observed.

Addendum 07/07/2015:

Brain: No significant histopathologic lesions observed.


So the bad news is- we have no idea why the kids died, but some good did come from the experience. Except for a very few whipworms, our parasite prevention program was successful. They found no cocci or scarring at all. That is great news! In addition, her mineral levels in the liver were in the normal range- maybe not quite as high as I like, but not too low, so our mineral program is on track. In addition, but not least, she was very healthy and in good flesh. Basically she was a very healthy dead kid.


This was our first 'real' necropsy. In the past we have had field necropsies done by our vet to determine cause of death, but this is the first time we have had a full necropsy done. It wasn't the experience I had hoped for, but only because we still don't know WHY. The pathologist and staff at the UC Davis CAHFS was wonderful and has been helpful and supportive. The information we gained on our kid management was excellent- we seem to have that dialed in well. I would still recommend to anyone that they have a necropsy done if they need answers. I especially recommend running a mineral panel on the liver of at least one animal a year if possible, to be sure you are on top of mineral supplementation. 

In the end- no news, good news, and hearts that are still broken. We may never listen to that song without sobbing again...

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