Monday, September 9, 2013

The Goats, and a chicken

Posted by Jon
Meet the goats, and .......a chicken.
We'll start with the goats. Every year, we try to add a little bit to our farm. The first year we were here, we got too ambitious and tried to do too much all at once. Lesson learned!  We decided to take a step back and slow down a bit, adding just a few items at a time.  This allowed us to be better, by giving us more time to adjust to the new tasks, while still managing the old ones. So this spring we decided to get goats.  Originally, I wanted to get meat goats, so we went to a local meat shop who just so happened to have goat chops for sale. We tried it and liked it. (I would say it tastes and looks like pork, with the texture and consistency of beef.) But reality hit me when I realized that, with the small size of the farm, I really couldn't keep a decent sized herd. I would not only have to keep the breeding stock, but I would need more room for raising the kids to butcher size as well. 
Now I know many of you are saying ewwwww, you would eat a goat? .....Ummm, you betcha. Goat meat is the most consumed red meat on the planet. 70% in fact. The united states and Canada are the only 2 countries which eat this much beef. Goats were being slaughtered way before the first cow was ever butchered.  And it's the kids which are eaten when they reach about 5 months (rough estimate) of age, not the adults. A typical meat goat will provide about the same amount of meat as a small yearling whitetail does. So you would need quite a few to last you throughout the year. 
We decided to go the dairy route, and here's why.  I was considering a couple of different breeds, all of which were miniature breeds. This would allow me to keep a breeding stock, and still have room for the kids to grow up on momma's milk. I ended my search with a couple of Nigerian Dwarf does Ginger and Jersey.  Although I have no papers for them, they are purebreed Nigerians. We then searched craigslist and other classifieds for a sire.  I originally purchased a buck which was half Nigerian and half Nubian (my wife likes the floppy ears), but after my vet friend talked to me about the possibility of the kids being too big to birth naturally just because of the nubian genes, I quickly banded the buck and sold him as a wether. Later, we found a purebreed Nigerian Dwarf buck (again, no papers), Smokey,  and he fits right in with my girls. 
The plan is.....we will be dividing the enclosure and placing smokey by himself so we can space the pregnancies apart, maximizing the milk collection throughout the year. Ginger and Jersey will get a new shed, with a special walled off section for momma and the young kids to relax until they are strong enough to venture out on their own. We will allow the kids to feed naturally from momma until they are able to eat solid food, at which time they will be sold (mostly as pets i'm sure). The money I raise from the kids will be used for more feed, and more goats.   More goats?  I plan to buy a few meat goats which are already at butcher weight. I will consider raising them for the last couple of months if needed.  I can process them myself, as I have butchered so many deer already. 

The Milk
Along with the kids, we will also enjoy the milk. We will drink some, and use the rest for making cheese, soap, butter, and maybe even some yogurt. Mmmmmm

This is the goat family. Jersey is the black and white doe to the left. Ginger is the brown and white doe in the front. Smokey is the little black and white buck to the right. The little chicken on Ginger's back is the only chicken we have named. It's name is........wait for it.......Goat Chicken!

Jersey is our goat dog. She loves being petted and scratched behind the ears. She will race to the gate of the enclosure just as soon as she hears the latch open. She is going to be my little worker bee (since I made her the pack. She also has a small cart that she can pull the kids around in. In the future, I want to make an additional cart which she can use to help pull firewood and such. Goats can pull quite a load, but cannot carry too much on their back. So as long as the cart is balanced, she will be able to help quite a bit. Furthermore, if I make it so that Ginger and Jersey could pull side by side, then I can double the load. Oldschool baby!.  Like the Amish Paradise.

Ginger is my prissy princess girl. She is very picky about what she eats and typically has good food stolen from her by the other goats, as she must first smell it for 10 seconds before she will attempt to take a bite.  The only thing she will eat without smelling first, is animal crackers. She will allow us to pet her too, but usually only for a minute or two before she gets bored with us and wanders off.

Smokey was purchased as a "disbudded" goat. Ummmm, ya, didn't work. I wanted horns on all of my goats, but Cris didn't. So when the original owner asked us if we wanted him disbudded professionally, we said yes, and paid extra for it too.  Smokey and his brothers and sisters were all taken to a local vet and disbudded.  You can clearly see that the job the vet did sucked. Smokey's horns are now about 3 inches long and solid as can be. At first I worried about him tearing up his ladies, but boy do they hold their own. I have seen the girls gang up on him when he is being pushy. They will head butt him from both sides at the same time and ring his bell good.  Usually he backs off pretty quick. So far no bloody battles!!!

This was the day we brought Ginger and Jersey home.  Meatball loved going into the temporary pen we had set up in the garage for them while I finished the enclosure. They only stayed in the garage for about a week, if that!

This is Goat Chicken. He is an Araucana Bantam rooster who absolutely refuses to converse with, live with, or mingle with the rest of the chickens. He thinks he is a goat.  He takes turns roosting on all of the goats backs at night (but prefers Jersey's). He is pretty much useless, but he is fun to watch so I guess we'll keep him around.

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