Having the right kind of facilities makes goat ownership much easier! Like always, I like to keep our system as portable and cost effective as possible. We made the gates that hang on a hay wagon frame, built the tall frame on a small utility trailer, and placed the purchased chute on a skid. And that's how you work goats anywhere! We also made the cattle chute system under the lean to from gates, posts, and guillotine gates as well as the scales.
Nearly a year later, I am finally wrapping up the kidding data for 2018 just before we begin kidding for 2019. Looking back, I can honestly say that we were successful with our goat herd in 2018. During the year we never de-wormed a doe or lost any to parasites like we have in the past. This will make the second full year that we have not de-wormed any doe and before that it was still quite minimal. As far as management goes, we have prided our herd as forage only. I despise feeding livestock grain let alone goats. However, we have found that it might be easier and more affordable to add grain into our operation for the goats. This is especially true for finishing buck kids so we can attain a premium of #1’s when we send them to market. As an experiment, in 2017, we pulled bucklings at 90 days and finished them on grain as well as all they could eat sorghum sudan. I still wasn’t completely satisfied with the results though. In 2018 we started pulling kids off the does out in the field after they reached 30+ lbs between the age of 60 to 90 days. The kids went into a dry lot setting with water, minerals, hay, and were fed grain twice a day. The kids gained extremely well and a few were well over 100 lbs at 150 days. Consequently, the doelings were part of the experiment so those females in 2018 did receive grain at weaning. I didn’t think the doelings’ gain was very significant in comparison to the bucklings to make the grain worth it, but they have excelled this winter and some are the size of the 2017 does. I am going to assume that the few months they received grain really gave them an advantage. Additionally, we were beyond ecstatic with the check we brought home from selling the bucklings. It was a substantial premium compared to what we had received in the past.
Back to the kidding data! Like I said, keep in mind our does are forage only and our management is quite different than other operations. We try to learn and improve every year based on our kidding results. We ended up with 60 kids from 31 does for an average of 1.94 kidding rate per doe. The birth weight was up to an average of 6.7 lbs compared to the past and I assume that is because of a higher rate of singles. The average age of the does kidding were 3.3 years old. We still have a very young group of does and typically that average is much younger always skewing our data. We had 10 singles, 15 twins, and 7 triplets. The high amount of singles was infuriating, however, I am going to blame this on our management. If I remember correctly, the fall of 2017 was a drought and I know the condition of our does were not up to par the way it should have been. We had even kept doelings on the does for 5+ months which was a strain to them. Furthermore, we do not flush our does, fence line tease, or anything else of that nature. We simply turn the buck loose with no preparation. This is something that needs to change in the future.
As for the kidding, our does are phenomenal! I am always so proud of the mothering ability of every doe and how little assistance we provide beyond management. There are always sour apples in the bunch though, two does did not have enough milk and out of 4 kids, all but one died from starvation (no, I don’t bottle feed kids). The young does simply did not have any milk at all. This was the first for us and something very surprising from what we assume was passed through the dam’s sire’s genetics. Needless to say, those does are no longer with us anymore. For genetic faults we had kids with multiple teats from does with perfect 1x1 udders as well as split scrotums and the ends of the ears being flipped up. These were are culled from the kid crop. Our does are all closely related and when we bring new genetics into our herd with new sires then it is always a tragedy to see what faults they can bring as well. Ultimately, I should not dwell on the bad, but on what good came from our kidding season!
The sires used were PBG Hoosier Ten High, FMF Golden Achilles, FMF Uhtred, and LFK Ramblin Blues. The buck, Ten High, was used on the majority of our does. He was an extremely impressive buck being proven as a Maryland buck test top ten. I saw him the weekend that he came home from the test and was surprised by how good he looked. I was very fortunate to be able to purchase him from Hoosier Hills Kikos. FMF Golden Achilles and FMF Uhtred were both home grown 2017 buck kids that excelled in our program. Achilles was one of our top gaining bucks on forage by weaning and he was from a first freshener doeling. We lost her that fall to meningeal worm so I was glad to keep some of her genetics living on. Uhtred was a buck that wasn’t one of the top gaining bucks but he had a thick, full thigh and plenty of cover over his topline. His twin brother was identical to him in nearly every aspect including weight, but it was a last-minute decision to keep Uhtred and we are glad that we did. His dam is an older doe that has proven herself with no issues so I knew the maternal characteristics were proven. Also, his sire, ZBF Thor was top ten at the Oklahoma buck test. Finally, LFK Ramblin Blues was a buck that we used through artificial insemination. He sired four kids from two does.
The graph displays the average daily gain from kids sired by each buck. Ten High being a performance tested buck is not a surprising pick for top ADG, but I will admit he sired mostly buck kids, whereas, Uhtred sired mostly doelings. Achilles sired the most singles so I wasn’t surprised by the data from him as well. Ramblin Blues had some top notch kids from two of my best does that were born a month before the rest of the herd began kidding.
Also, I believe that the age of the dam is directly related to ADG of the kids. The graph shows the average age of does bred by each buck. Uhtred and Achilles bred a group of does who were younger than Ramblin Blues and Ten High.
The above graph shows the average amount of kids the does had sired by each buck. You can see that Achilles sired more singles than Uhtred which correlates with the below graph on birth weight.
The above graph in green shows how many kids were sired by each buck, the pink shows how many of those were doelings, and the blue shows how many of those were bucklings.
The majority of the herd was born the first part of April and by August 9th averaged 60.5 lbs at an average of 130 days and average ADG of 0.42 lbs a day. This includes both bucklings and doelings. The top buck gained 0.72 lbs a day, but was culled for reasons that didn’t make up for his growth rate. This info was collected from 46 kids. The others were sold elsewhere as pets or breeding stock. From 27 doelings born only 16 were kept back as breeding stock.
Based on that info, what did I change for 2019 kidding? First off, the does had better nutrition before breeding and all doelings were pulled by at least 90 days which will hopefully improve our kidding rate this year. If not, there will be a lot of culling! I did like pulling the large kids from the does earlier than 90 days, especially if they were triplets or a large buck twin. It gave the other siblings a chance to catch up. We will not be feeding the doelings and bucklings together in the same pen this year. Doelings will go elsewhere with good forage if any grain. Bucklings hit rut near the end which affected their gain to finish off because they were so worried about the females. This year we will also be keeping wethers to finish out with the doe herd as grass fed. I’m not sure if we will have interest from consumers in the meat or if we will make any profit from keeping them longer to finish on forage. In addition to the data I already collect, I will be adding a maternal index score to each doe based on her performance.
To conclude, I fully understand that our data is not going to be as high as some producers and we definitely have areas to improve upon. I am still proud of our does that were all (but one) bred and raised on our farm. I know exactly what they are or are not and their strong points might be mothering ability, parasite resistance, and easy keeper; not just the highest producer.