Motherhood-it’s not for everyone

Last week we were lucky enough to find reliable farm-sitters and sneak away to my brother’s wedding near Vancouver. This was not an easy task thanks to the fires in our area. We had planned on driving out but when we got to the bottom of ‘The Hill’ the officials were there just closing the road and bringing the pilot car off the mountain. “I could feel the heat from the fire right through the truck!” exclaimed one of the men, looking thrilled to be out of harm’s way.

Under normal circumstances this would not be a problem. If I lived near a city where there were lots of flights to choose from, and normal sized planes that hold a decent number of people, I would not have begun to panic during the hour long return drive home down the valley. But in Bella Coola getting a last minute seat on a flight is not always guaranteed! Here, when they use the ‘big’ plane it holds 19 passengers. Furthermore, although we have a scheduled flight every day, there is no guarantee the plane will get in. Often it is canceled due to heavy clouds, and in this case, I was worried that the smoke beginning to billow off the mountainsides might make it impossible to land. Nevertheless, I refused to believe that I might not make it to my brother’s wedding.

Thankfully, the stars were aligned, we got seats on the flight to Vancouver and managed to arrive in the nick of time (I was part of the wedding party!). That was the good news. The bad news was I didn’t get to stay long and visit anyone after the wedding: a check-in call to our farm-minders  brought news of evacuation alerts, so we had to get on the plane and come back home right away, thanks to the threat of the fires.

During our three days away our farm-sitters noticed that Shiraz was no longer feeding one of her kids. They were observant enough not only to notice this new behaviour from her but also to take control and hold her while the little one fed–the mark of dependability in a babysitter! Now that we are back, things have gotten worse and she is barely feeding any of them.

Goat breeding: If only I’d read the fine print

While researching the reasons why a doe might reject her kids, I came across this site which describes my experience with Shiraz to a T!

Many new producers do not know what to expect from their stock, and some are very unhappy when they discover that goats are not always the easiest animals to manage.

In light of my experience with her thus far (see Oh what a night), I would say that Shiraz qualifies as having achieved ‘not the easiest to manage’ status. The difference between Shiraz and my other mother Fatty-Fat is extreme, and this is the kind of experience the above article describes. My experience is particularly marked in that I only have the two goats, so I don’t have the 10-15% of my herd with this dysfunctional behaviour as the article suggests may be the case, and what producers should allow for. Instead, I have a 50% problem! Thankfully, this translates to only one goat and three kids to care for–I don’t know what I’d do if it were several goats and a full nursery! Perhaps I should have done some more research before launching into goat breeding! The next paragraph in the article unfolds as if reading my thoughts:

The majority of new producers receive a big reality check when their first kidding season arrives if they have not done their research and adjusted their expectations accordingly.

You don’t say. I’m not really sure what I expected, so I don’t really have many expectation adjustments to work through. I do, however, have to figure out how to get these kids fed! I thought it would be easiest if I could trundle down to the local veterinarian’s office (if I had one, that is!) and get milk replacement and a milker/feeder type thing and take over the job myself. This article doesn’t support my wishful thinking:

Some people bottle feed, but I don’t recommend this… I have also had big problems with the milk replacer actually killing the kids. It causes a high percentage of the kids (over 50% in my experience) to develop ulcers which eventually rupture killing the kid.

As luck would have it the vet was going to come the 458 kilometers into town this weekend and I was considering asking her to bring some milk replacer, but thanks to the fires she’s had to cancel her trip! Now out of options, I’ve taken to holding Shiraz between three and four times per day in order to let the little fellows feed: basically whenever I hear them crying.

The key to maintaining some control over her is to hold her tail, this way she is less likely to sit down to evade her kids.

The key to maintaining some control over her is to hold her tail, this way she is less likely to sit down to evade her kids.

This is not an easy task; as you can see, Shiraz is a strong goat! She is also a smart goat and has all sorts of tricks she pulls in order to evade her milking duties. One of the most effective is to sit down while I’m holding her. This is very effective and difficult for me to oppose. I have found that by grabbing hold of her tail she is far less likely to try this one on. Keeping ahead of her is a monumental task. Not only that; it is taking a huge amount of my time. I hold her for about a 1/2 hour each session in order to let all three feed to their tummies’ contentment.

One satisfied, full bellied kid.

One satisfied, full bellied kid.

I’m hoping she will once again accept her kids, though I’m alarmed at how long the article suggests this may take:

Does that are intent on killing the rejected kid(s) require more drastic measures. I generally put a halter on them a couple of times a day and tie them to the fence so their kids can eat. Usually they will eventually accept the kids, but it may take a month or more before they do. You will have to decide whether the time involved is worth it.

Of course the one kid she is rejecting outright is my favourite, Sinbad. So it’s worth it! Oddly, he is the biggest and was her first born. I have checked her bag to make sure it is soft and pliable and giving milk, and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with any of the kids which can be a reason the doe will reject one or more. When I do hold her and they feed, they do so willingly and with gusto complete with satisfying sound effects, and until satiated. I thought perhaps she feels she doesn’t have enough milk for three. At first I was alarmed with both her and Fatty as they began to lose weight during the first few days after kidding. Again, I checked with my doctor friend who said that this is certainly normal with nursing women. I upped their feed rations and within days brought their weight loss to a halt. Shiraz seems to be holding condition nicely and has a full, heavy bag.

Performing acu-pressure on Shiraz helps her calm down.

Performing acu-pressure on Shiraz helps her calm down.

One of the many things I’ve learned through working with my horse is about horses stress and how to relieve it through acu-pressure points. While I’m holding Shiraz, I use the acu-pressure point just below her nose in order to help calm her down. In horses, this point is the locus of an endorphin release. I have used it on myself and know that it works for humans, therefore, I presume that it will also work for Shiraz. Much to my relief it seems to have some effect.

After some light acu-pressure Shiraz relaxes enough for me to stand up and take only a light grip on her while her kids continue to feed.

After some light acu-pressure Shiraz relaxes enough for me to stand up and take only a light grip on her while her kids continue to feed.

While contemplating my predicament, I have been considering my next year’s breeding program and my diminutive scale farm, and wondering who I should cull. Sundown didn’t get pregnant at all this year so she is on the list of possibles because she may be sterile, though of course this is not for certain. Thanks to Shiraz’s insistence on maintaining the ‘not the easiest to manage’ status, she too has made the list. There is no way I can do all this again with Shiraz if this is the way she’s going to behave each pregnancy, although, much to my chagrin, according to the article this is not usually the case:

In my own operation 10-15% of the does that kid in a year decide to reject at least one of their kids, and the does that did so this year are not the same does that pulled that stunt last year.

My doctor friend and her doctor husband dropped in yesterday to see the farm and I relayed the story to them. He said that he’d had a dog that ate all her pups many years ago and they found out later that it was due to a vitamin deficiency; he suggested this may be the problem with Shiraz. I too had wondered about this but had dismissed the idea because of the conditions in which I’m raising them: she has sweet feed two or three times per day, access to good hay, a mineral lick, free access to a free-form mineral powder suggested to me by the vet, and all the good clean native forest browse she could ever possibly dream of having. These goats are in fact actually quite spoiled.

Upon hearing this, my other doctor friend said that it may be an absorption problem and/or simply a lack of calcium due to the heavy demand that bringing up three kids has on her body, so she suggested that I get some calcium supplements and see what happens. When I asked if I should get liquid calcium she turned to me and laughed: “Just get Tums and crush it in her morning grain.” This doctor friend really should have been a vet! This morning, following my Goat-Doctor’s advice, I got the peppermint flavoured Tums out. Before I had a chance to crush the tablet into her food dish Shiraz snarfed it out of my hand, scoffed it down in seconds flat and immediately snuffled around for more. Either she really likes peppermint flavour or she realizes this is what she is missing. In light of the fact that none of my goats will touch the mint in my garden, I’m suspecting it is the latter!

My guess is that my doctor friend is correct, that having three kids makes her more susceptible to this deficiency than Fatty-Fat who is happy in her new role as mama-goat to twins. I’ll keep up with the calcium tablets, reinstate the morning molasses tea and see if this makes a difference. If anyone has other suggestions, I would welcome them!

…As I write this I reflect that in this whole process I am measuring my own situation. I sympathise with Shiraz. I never wanted children and chose not to have them. When we husband animals we take away their right to choose. After going through this with her I wonder if she too would have chosen not to have kids if she had her druthers!



Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Goats, How to..., Learning to Farm, milking goats

23 responses to “Motherhood-it’s not for everyone

  1. Re: the weight issue, my sows look like coat racks after a couple of weeks of feeding their litters. I obviously give them extra rations based on the number of piglets, but they don’t put the weight back on until after weaning.

    I hope the calcium works and that Shiraz settles down to motherhood, if only for the sake of the kids, and to give you some peace!

  2. Mitch


    I Am seeming to have the exact same problem with the sheep i have noticed that normally if my sheep give birth to triplets or more then they usualy reject one or two of them
    This year however We only had 1 set of twins and only 2 rejections

    I hope things turn out better for you
    Having a set of horns on the goats really does help ehh !!


  3. Lophicastus

    Many years ago (far tooo many now!) I spent entire summers on Anglesey at a small holding owned by family friends.
    They had goats, some of which were downright awkward.
    They never held there goats by the horns as they said the goats would interpret this as aggresion and resist it as hard as they could (If you pushed the horns with your palm they nearly always push back even harder – sometimes even butting your hand.)
    Instead they would fit a collar and hold this, and then lift the back leg so the goat was standing on the remaining three. Once the leg is held up by its belly it couldn’t kick it down and would stand still, nice as pie until it was released.
    I don’t know if this was a ‘Goat Specific’ technique but I was only about 8 or 9 years old at the time and I could hold a goat that was easily my own weight with no trouble.

    • Hello Lophicastus!

      Thanks for sharing your experience and that info/idea. I suspect the goats you worked with were accustomed to the halters. Mine certainly are not! I do plan to train these new babies to halters so in the future I won’t have to hold them by the horns. So far, I haven’t found halters that will fit these guys! I ordered some from Hoegger that were supposed to be for pygmy goats but they are too small. They will be good for training, but I’ll need to figure out something for the full grown pygmies.

      When they lifted the back leg, was it by hand or did they tie it?



      • Lophicastus


        I would stand at the side of the goat – If the goat had no collar then I would curl my right arm round the neck, then with my left, reach over and down, hold the foot, then lift it.

        The feet were never tied in case the goat struggled free (something that never happened to me) because if the fell over with their foot tied they could hurt themselves especially the hip joint of the tied leg.

        Generally once the leg was held up the goat would just stop struggling and could be held like this with very little effort.

        I hope that helps

  4. Thanks again for the description. I tried it this morning with Shiraz but she proved to be too much a fighter for me to hold her! She seemed to struggle even more when I have her leg. I’m not sure you can teach an old goat a new trick! (She is 4 years old.)

    For now it’s back to plan A and the horn/tail holding. I will definitely train these new babies and each successive generation to stand in halter!



  5. EJ

    Noted Lophicastus is talking about a collar while you mention halter. A collar might be easier to find and use.

  6. Pingback: Rejecting the Kids | All Things Goat

  7. Hi HDR,

    Lophicastus is quite right – you should NEVER handle goats by their horns. Looking at the first photo in this post Shiraz is clearly stressed out; & I suspect it’s not neccessarily the kids but the firm grip you have on her horn, which isn’t helping. As living tissue it is very uncomfortable & distressing for any animal to be held by the horns; a bit like restraining a human by pulling on their fingernails! The horn consists of proteins such as keratin surrounding living bone & is rooted in highly-sensitive flesh; thus such firm handling will only exacerbate matters; as Shiraz may increasingly come to associate feeding her kids with prolonged periods of pain & stress so therefore may not only continue to reject her kids but actively become more fearful & aggressive in their (& possibly your) presence.

    Whilst we do find holding the tail a highly effective means of moving a seriously stubborn goat we are always careful to be gentle; as they hate having their tails handled, generally only a light raising of the tail is required. Using it to discourage the goat from squatting & effectively supporting her bodyweight with it, is again painful & stressful for her; & you are in danger of bruising or even breaking her tail.

    We have collars on our goats – dog collars, not headcollars. We generally don’t use halters (we certainly wouldn’t for horned goats – too time-consuming & difficult to take on & off) & only tend to use a headcollar for moving our Stud Males; purely to provide safer, more effective & responsible control (our males are bred & handled for their trustworthy nature; but it’s always sensible to minimise risk!).

    But a leather dog collar is absolutely fine (we prefer leather – & in fact the cheaper the better, ironically; as if a browsing goat gets inadvertently caught up s/he can generally wriggle or snap themselves free; nylon or plastic collars don’t allow that escape unless they have a ‘quick release’ clip).

    As you know we’ve had all sorts of problems such as you are experiencing now. With any kids who are outrightly rejected at birth which are very weak or sickly, we tend to bring them into the house to recuperate & bottle-feed from Day One to ensure they’re getting the colostrum they require.

    Otherwise we struggle on; I have found that a fair proportion of the new mums are so surprised by the whole experience they don’t have a clue what’s going on & may even resent their little ones. Indeed on one occasion I found a tiny kid who had literally ‘slipped out’ in the early hours one morning, had been rejected by her mother when she first attempted to suckle – & so literally slipped out again, this time through the tiny gap between gate & hinge, where she proceeded to thoroughly explore the barn & ended up snuggled in with a group of freshly-weaned kids! It gave me one helluva surprise when I trudged, bleary-eyed, into the barn that morning after being kept awake with a couple of difficult night-time lambings as I couldn’t work out where on earth she’d come from…!

    Anyway that little lass had a very awkward mother who refused outright, to feed her. With Tony away flying at the time I had no option but to put the goat against the wall with her head in the corner; gently lean into her shoulder; & whilst holding her collar with one hand, manoeuvre the kid into position for a feed (much easier said than done, I can tell you – especially when the kid hasn’t quite grasped where/what the udder is yet & Mum is proving particularly ticklish….!).

    Another strategy I’ve occasionally had to employ is using a ‘spare’ goat to nurse others’ kids; & believe me, these “adoptive mums” don’t like it. Simplest solution? Pop your goat on the milkstand & secure her head via the yoke in the normal way; her bodyweight will be naturally supported by the enclosed part of the stand. Gently hold up her rear leg (not so high that she feels imbalanced – a bit like picking out a horse’s rear hoof or trimming a goat’s back feet) & extend the leg a little; then the babies can gain free access to her teats. Put some concentrate in the feed bowl so that Mum can enjoy a meal, meanwhile; that way she will increasingly associate feeding her kids – & milking in general – with pleasure, not pain. She’ll obviously kick out at first (& with some goats I swear their front ends are completely independent from their back ends, as they can be munching quite placidly at the front whilst the rear is doing the Dance of the Whirling Dervish…!) but with time & gentle encouragement she should settle back into a happier routine, to the point she’ll feed them independently again ere long.

    I’d strongly recommend that you hold up her leg rather than attempting to tie it. if you’re not there & she panicks for whatever reason, you could be in for all sorts of angst & potential injury to your goat if she slips & falls. If forced to work alone in difficult circumstances (for example injecting anti-mastitis tubes into an udder) I have on rare occasions carefully used a padded strap to briefly secure a goat’s leg whilst treating her; however I’d never leave her unattended nor apply such a restraint for longer than absolutely necessary – a couple of minutes at most.

    As for un/cooperative mothers…? Some of our ladies have been ‘textbook’ mums, first time around; only to be absolute Harpies, the next. And vice-versa; you might find Fatty-Fat’s matronly instincts vanish altogether next time around whilst Shiraz becomes the virtuous picture of motherhood. In our experience we have found that the first-time kidders are the ones most likely to reject their offspring; next time around though, they’re generally fine. It’s all too easy to put a human’s perspective on things & assume she “doesn’t want” to be a mother (I’m with you on that one, incidentally!); however with goats it is pure instinct, which is also what you have to remind yourself at weaning when kids & mum are hollering – they soon forget. Shiraz does seem to have taken a genuine dislike to her kids though, which is worrying. Ho-hum, only time will tell, I suppose…..

    Regarding Sundown, yes she may be sterile but on the other hand perhaps the male wasn’t in with her for long enough for her to ‘take’. If you saw mating activity then chances are she’s OK but just didn’t get enough opportunities. One of our ladies this year kidded a good couple of months after the main herd; I was beginning to wonder whether hers was a phantom pregnancy….! It might just be worth hiring your stud for a bit longer. You’ll at least be able to use the same male this year as Fatty-Fat’s daughter will be too young to breed (so bear in mind she’ll need separate accommodation & company too – thank goodness for your wethers!); however next year you’ll need to borrow a different male to prevent inbreeding. Did you ring the boys, BTW? If not you’ll need to think about separating boys & girls at around three months of age to be on the absolutely safe side – male kids are sexually precocious & can successfully inseminate a female at only four months of age.

    Interesting stuff about Shiraz not generally liking peppermint but snaffling down the ‘Tums’. Goats are very astute when it comes to self-medication & will seek out just what they need; & in this case it sounds like Shiraz feels she is indeed lacking calcium (which makes sense considering the amount of milk she’s giving). Might be worth getting some Calciject from the vet when she calls over, just in case. If you have it to hand you won’t need it! But it’s always a challenge to keep the weight on them after kidding when they’re producing so much milk – however don’t be tempted to make immediate & drastic changes to the goats’ diet as that will upset their rumens; rather, a gradual but steady increase is required.

    I had three or four simultaneously like Shiraz, this year; there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Thankfully being milkers the kids here come off Mum after around ten days anyway; then it’s on to the endless bottle-feeding….methinks I need an automatic feeder next year! Although we too have had occasional problems with feeding the powdered stuff; nothing beats the real thing. Perhaps a good old Milktrain is the ideal compromise….or staff…..?! Even better!!

    Anyway hope this all helps – & that Shiraz settles down soon, the naughty girl.

  8. Thanks Jo,

    Believe me I have tried restraining her by less aggressive methods (and incidentally, asked hubby to take the photo when she was resisting with all her might, it only lasts a few seconds and then she calms down, burps and begins chewing her cud), but she is totally un-restrainable! She is like a whirling dervish on both ends if I don’t get hold of her horns (even while holding her horns she burps and chews and looks the picture of total contentment; which is all the more frustrating!)

    I suspect it will take some major training to get her to stand in a collar. Plus, when you are not dealing with horns, I suspect the collars are quite safe. Whereas, with the horned animals they could still really hurt you if they wanted to. I did have dog collars on all my goats in the beginning but found it to be too dangerous. Many of them broke them and I found them laying in the paddock. But more seriously, a couple of times they got each other’s horns stuck in underneath another’s collar and nearly strangled the other goat! If I’d not been home on one occasion Sundown would have chocked to death while Gordon held her off the ground by slipping his horn under her collar! So, the collars had to go.

    I am aware of associating good feelings with the milking process and bring a bucket of grain. I’m also bringing the Tums and molasses tea to encourage the Pavlov reaction to this ordeal! I was hoping she would be interested enough to eat and let the kids feed but it is not the case. Like you say, she is placid in the front end happily wolfing down the grain but kicking the kids away and dancing the back end all over the show effectively keeping them away. So, restrain I must. I will definitely be training the little ones to halters (again, I suspect a halter would be a better choice for horned goats). They will give better control of the head/horns and you don’t have to fit the halter over the horn, you just bring it up and over like a horse halter over the ears. No extra time taken.

    I have yet to try her on the stachion…I don’t have a lot of hope at the moment given how much she kicks and struts when feeding her! Will give it a go though and let you know the progress.



  9. Doris

    I agree with your doctor friend that suggests Shiraz is having a vitamin/mineral deficiency. Three kids put a huge demand on her reserves and she is black which means she needs lots of copper. Copper is important for the absorption of calcium. Calcium and copper deficiency can lead to all kinds of difficulties. I learned all of this from Pat Coleby’s book Natural Goat Care ( Utilizing her recommended mineral lick has reduced my vet bills 98%.

    I have not had good experiences with tums and have read that tums can cause problems too. But for her to gobble them up like that does indicate that really she does need more calcium.

    Actually magnesium is really important to the absorption of calcium also, and Pat says you need a 60:40 ratio of calcium/magnesium to promote udder health and general well being in the goat. A good source that I buy from Lowes is Green Acres Dolomite available in the garden department. Sometimes I simply throw some in the drinking water. We have found they prefer the water with the dolomite in it. Anyway it’s a lot cheaper than tums, is less processed and has no additives.

    When I first started with goats I utilized the typical goat minerals available from the feed store and while it smelled good and prolly tasted good, it just wasn’t doing the job. Come to find out that it contained mineral oil, which of course is a petroleum by-product and it prevents the goats from absorbing the minerals they are ingesting. So I will not feed them anything that contains mineral oil. Waste of money.

    • Thanks Doris!

      I’m hopefully headed ‘out’ on Thursday for a week. I’ll be sure to be talking to the Vet and looking for the dolomite you suggest, not to mention the book! Our town is too small to have any of those sorts of items available. If it ain’t in the ‘general store’ it ain’t here. I noticed the molasses has the copper in it, also iron and calcium so this should help at least until I can get some better things for them. When you say that Tums can cause problems, what are you referring to? My vet did warn me that the hard mineral lick was not sufficient which is why I have the other free access powder type recommended by him also available to them. They access both so I’m presuming the hard lick is giving them something they desire. Can’t wait to get my hands on Coleby’s book! Thanks so much for suggesting it.



      • Doris

        That book has been a life saver for me, you can order it at

        I get charley horses (cramps) in my calves when I am cal/mag deficient, so I normally keep some on hand but I forgot to take some on a trip with me once and was having symptoms, so folks had been recommending tums, so I picked some up and shortly after ingesting them began developing ulcers in my mouth which I normally never get. I don’t remember the details of why the tums instigated that, probably some of those unnecessary unpronounceable ingredients that are added. Have not taken them since and have had no recurrences of the sores.

        Pat’s recommended mineral mix is
        25 lbs dolomite (I screen the bigger stuff out)
        4 lbs kelp
        4 lbs copper sulphate
        4 lbs sulfur

        I have found each of these items at farm and garden type stores, but have to go to different stores for each item. You may have to ask for penta-hydrate, they usually sell it for ponds.

        Kelp is an excellent source for a plethora of microminerals, and is invaluable in my opinion. As far as I know and in my experience, the larger variety of plants available to the goats the better off they are. But sometimes even in the wild they can’t always get a good balance of everything they need. So we just do our best.

        I even use this minerals mix for my sheep. The best part is we have no problem with parasites and don’t spend any money on anthelmintics as the copper is a very effective antiparasitical.
        Keeping kelp and baking soda available to the goats free choice is a good idea.
        Well lady, looks like you are doing a great job and also getting lots of good info, is fun to read of your adventures, thanks for sharing!!

        • Hello Doris,

          So, when I get all this stuff, do I have to ask if it is food grade or anything? It sounds odd to be buying/looking for stuff at the garden store.I am getting lots of good info but it is thanks to folks like you who are willing to share it! Thanks for sharing yourself!


          • Doris

            =) So I reckon I am a few years farther down the path than you (got my goats in ’02), and others were kind enough to help me out when I was at a loss, so your adventure brings back lots of memories. I agree about it being odd buying minerals from the garden dept., but I did what I had to and it has paid off.

            I also think you are doing what you have to as far as restraining Shiraz, and I have a hard time imagining that you holding her by her horns is causing her any real pain. We have a ND that we call the Wicked Willow Witch. I have taken to leading her around by her beard as when I hold her by her collar, she leans so hard into it that she has knocked me over more than once and she also will have a seizure when she cuts off her breathing. So again we do what we have to and I am impressed with both your practicality and common sense, I think you have chosen an excellent path for yourself.

  10. Hiya –

    You’d only need to put a collar on whilst working with the goat; she wouldn’t necessarily have to wear it all the time. Mind you, I can appreciate the problems you had with the horns getting caught – & your point that she can still throw her head around & could catch you with a horn; not a happy prospect! I nearly lost an eye that way, even though I was being careful at the time.

    I’d strongly recommend putting her up on the stanchion with the head yoke & holding up her leg – she won’t be able to pull these stunts if restrained thus. Once you’ve got your bucket milker she’s going to have to get used to getting up on there, anyway; so this might be a case of “no time like the present”. And just remember that YOU are the boss; she’s just a stroppy little Madam who can’t be allowed to get away with these cheeky tantrums (sounds like my Shetland ponies…!).

    You really do need to avoid handling your goats by the horns though, I can’t stress enough how uncomfortable & in fact painful it is for them. If Goat Guru Dreda saw me doing that, she’d whup my hide from here & into the middle of next week….!!! 😉

    • Good thing Goat Guru’s arms don’t reach across the oceans! Believe me, I’m going to work on the standing in halter/collar training forthwith! I’m hesitating with the stanchion only because it is a home-made-by-hubby-device and I’m a little worried it will only hold the ‘well behaved’ (but don’t tell him that I think this!). We are so terribly amateur an operation compared to yours I’m afraid.

      PS. about the castration…Ritchy Nippers are in the mail.



  11. P.S. I think you’re doing a great job – the first kiddings are always the hardest & as for the learning curve – what curve…?! It’s a meteoric rocket-ride straight up!!

    BTW glad that someone is talking good sense ref copper. I’ve read some utter rubbish which states emphatically that, like sheep, goats shouldn’t be fed copper (& this from a supposed ‘authority’ on caprines). As you say, your goat needs it – & a good dose of minerals makes such a difference. Apparently you can tell if a black goat is suffering from copper deficiency as the tips of her coat discolour, especially around the tail area for some reason.

    We’ve recently had a trace element analysis carried out on our land; basically it needs a complete rebalance not to mention a good undersow with certain grasses & more red clover to stabilise those valuable nutrients. This will lead to better pasture & hay next year; ergo healthier & more efficient rumens thus naturally higher milk yields from our ladies & overall, happier goats. Sadly the majority of mineral licks are actually in the main made up of salt (although I notice you also feed powdered minerals too – good on you) but as the UK’s all-engulphing, greedy supermarket Tesco’s hackneyed phrase suggests, “Every Little Helps…” better owt than nowt, I reckon.

  12. Thanks Jo,

    You know, she does have some ‘highlights’ on the tips of her hair on her flanks. Good to know what the cause is. Here’s hoping I can actually get ‘out’ on Thursday and get to some decent supplements! I was going to ask, what sort of ratio do you use with the molasses tea. I’m using about 1 tbsp per cup of water, more or less. Is this sufficient?

    PS. Since we have almost ‘wild/natural’ conditions for our goats, very akin in some ways to their wild cousins who live her in ‘them thar’ hills that surround us, I would have thought they’d not need much of the ‘extra’ cares. I guess those wild and woolies know how to take care of themselves. And, actually, I know they have favourite salt licks scattered throughout the granite cliffs. So, they do get access to some very different minerals (but don’t tell my goats that). No, I am not going to go hiking in search of special salts; there is a limit to the lengths I will go to!



  13. LittleFfarm Dairy

    Yo matie, how are the kids & Shiraz getting on? or how is Shiraz getting on with the kids?? Or how are they all getting on together….?! Have you tried the stanchion, yet?

    If you’re intending to use the bucket milker then you’re going to have to, as she’ll need to be effectively restrained. We’re flattered that you call our oufit ‘professional’ – & I suppose we have come a long, long way in a very short time – however don’t forget that Tony handbuilt our milkstands, only a couple of years ago; & had never even seen one ‘in the raw wood’, beforehand! He learned through trial & error & the second one he constructed was improved following the ‘teething trials’ of the first (especially the width of the yoke – goats are such escapologists). However, we’ve never had any real problems using them, regarding restraining goats for milking, foot trimming, or for medical treatment – even with the most powerful stud male (& ours are full-size dairy goats, a couple of whom are quite big boys….!).

    Meanwhile it’s interesting that Doris mentions handling the goats via their beards. We occasionally do this – as it’s one of the restraint techniques Dreda does recommend – so long as you gently-but-firmly hold the full beard, not just a few strands or a tuft. But it does quieten even the most unruly goat – although as with so many things should only be practised sparingly. And again; whilst Dreda has explained the efficacy of beard handling she still emphasises, NEVER to handle the horns; as it has been proven in veterinary-controlled stress testing to be FAR MORE painful & uncomfortable than the aforementioned method.

    As for how to brew the perfect molasses tea? Hmm, I find that just like with us, it depends on the individual goat: some prefer it stronger/weaker/warmer/cooler than others; you get to know individual preference. And to be honest our drum of molasses is so darn heavy & unwieldy, that more often than not they get whatever gloop abruptly sloshes into the bucket, rather than a controlled dose…!

    Incidentally don’t worry too much about Shiraz’s highlights; it occurred to me they may be in part simply a result of the lovely, sunny weather you’ve had. We have a piebald Shetland pony whose ‘black bits’ do get a slightly lighter colouration during hot, sunny weather; much as dark hair in humans obtains a similar coppery tint (not that we’ve had any of that here lately, pah). However, it’d be worth ensuring Shiraz & co are getting some ‘extras’, just to make sure.

    Can’t believe it’s August; the rain is driving past the window in miserably obfuscating sheets this afternoon, & it’s as dark as a winter’s eve. And still no sign of a break in the weather to rescue our precious hay….eugh.

    • Ah Matie,

      Shiraz is still being a ‘cow’ and not feeding her kids. It’s getting a bit tiring I must say and I’m starting to think her skull might look nice on the barn!

      As for the ‘highlights’ it seems you were right. Since adding the molasses tea to her daily diet they have all disappeared. She really is in perfect condition now which makes her behaviour all the more frustrating. We’re getting there some days with not having to hold her horns but some days she acts up so much I just have to or risk losing an eye. She doesn’t have enough of a beard to use for restraining purposes unfortunately.

      I haven’t tried the stanchion yet. She’s been soooooooooo uncooperative I haven’t had the gumption/patience to try it. I might get to that one of these days soon. I’ve been too busy with other things to really get out of my routine and focus on that yet.

      As for August, I can’t believe it’s almost Sept! We’ve had a change in night time temperatures; always happens round the 15th of Aug. Crikey, we’ll be into snow in no time now. Ugh.

  14. JB

    I just found your blog and had to comment when I noticed you in these pics wearing flip-flops for shoes! Most days I run out to do farm chores wearing my flip-flops, and figure “real” farmers would frown on it, but they are my normal summer foot wear. If the hogs step on my foot, it’s my fault, not theirs. 🙂

    Love your blog!

  15. Pat Colby’s mineral mix is available at he mixes it to her specs and will add extra selenium if you need that. Mixing it yourself is likely cheaper but he’s got it if you need it.

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