Shopping for Goats

We went shopping for goats today, came home empty handed, and wanted to share the reasons why. Our trip was about 170 miles round trip and took about four hours. When the gentleman asked what we thought and Frank told him we were going to pass, he told us he was sorry we had wasted a trip. Frank told him it was not wasted, we got to visit the whole way. Isn’t that neat? There is not much Frank and I would rather do than spend the day with each other whether we are home or on the road, so today has been another day well spent.

A few days ago I found an ad on Craigslist that had the potential for adding some new blood into our herd. We called and set up a time to make the trip. The gentleman wasn’t much of a phone talker, and just recommended we come look. I should have tried to ask a few more questions. 

One Stripe

We went to look at a Nubian doe that had black and tan quadruplets. I have always liked black and tan goats, but we have only had one, and she was an excellent specimen of a milk goat. She had a nice thick, long body, she was big and had great babies. Even though my favorite goat at that time was more of a big belly kind of goat, just because she was friendly, kind of like One Stripe. All of this leads to the confirmation of the animal, the type of body structure they have which will add to a herd and not bring some unwanted traits.

Google Images

The first thing we noticed about this doe was her udder. Now that I have learned more about milking and udders, I have realized that there are many subtleties that can add or detract from the performance of an udder over the short and long run. Although this doe’s udder was nice and full, and she was able to feed all four of her babies, it wasn’t well attached. By this I mean that the ligaments that attach the udder to the body wall were more narrowly spaced allowing the udder to swing or sway side to side when she walked. This is not a desirable characteristic for an udder at our farm. Over time it will break down more quickly allowing the udder to sag, sometimes all the way to the ground.

Copper a week before she gave birth

A well attached udder should be widely spaced between the legs and up to the belly area. It’s hard to describe in words. Frank described it to one of his friends using a paper sack analogy. A well attached udder would be like an open paper sack that is wide open. A poorly attached udder would be like a paper sack that is squeezed closed at the top, like you were going to blow it up and pop it. The actual area of attachment to the body is much smaller.

The second thing we found out about this doe is that she is a polled animal. Polled meaning that she was born without horns. There are folks that will tell you that some goats are just ‘naturally’ polled, but we are of the opinion that any goat that is natural will have horns. Another problem that occurs among polled goats is that if you breed two of them together you may end up with a hermaphrodite. A hermaphrodite is a goat that has “both sex organs and sterile“. The gentleman had bought this doe from a lady that had all polled goats.

The next issue we noticed is the way the kids were disbudded, or dehorned. The gentleman’s disbudding iron did not have the right tip and he had burned all the way across the top of the kids’ heads. Even so, the horns were still growing out.

Copper’s ear before we fixed it.

And the last thing was the ears. The doe’s ears were turned over sideways, similar to this picture. This can be corrected when the goat is very young, just like we fixed Copper’s ear. One of this doe’s kids had one ear that was the same way.

We wouldn’t have bought the doe because of her udder alone. A pendulous udder is not a trait we want in our herd. We had a doe named Red that was born here and was a great milker. I milked her for two years, then one day as she was walking out of the barn I realized that her udder was swinging from side to side much more than any other doe. As I

Red taught us why we don’t want horns & about pendulous udders.

watched and really looked at her, I realized that her udder was not widely attached like the other does. Then I really looked at her. Sometimes when you are used to something you don’t always ‘see’ what is really there. Another instance of that was the first goat we had born with parrot mouth. I always knew this goat looked a little different, but it took a number of months for me to realize what it was that was creating that difference. These are the ‘ah-ha!’ moments of learning, and I am grateful for them even when they lead to an undesirable decision. The goat with the pendulous udder we sold, pointing out this deficit to the buyers. The goat with the parrot mouth we butchered, not wanting to pass on a deformity in our herd or to anyone else. The doe today, we did not buy, even though I would really like to have some black and tan goats. 

This gentleman also had a billy goat today that we wanted to look at. He was solid black, which is unusual, a solid, nice looking animal. His draw back? He had horns. That was an instant decision. No horns at our place, so no nice big, black buck. Then as we stood and visited for a minute, the buck started backing up and putting his head down in a stance that indicated he would like to butt something or someone. The owner indicated the buck liked to ‘play’, not a behavior we care to have in a buck when that ‘play’ can

Teddy was a great looking animal with some bad behaviors.

hurt someone. The buck was separated in an area by himself. The owner said he put a couple of the baby goats in there with the billy for company, but he just chased them and chased them around, so he had to take them out. The only time this billy was allowed around other goats was during breeding time. All in all, what I saw in this goat was one that was not socially adapted to being with other goats or people. So, even if he had not had horns, his behavior would have prevented us from buying him. We learned a lot about unwanted buck behavior from Teddy, who was a very nice big billy and the father of Cricket, Lady Bug and Penny.

It takes time to ‘learn’ an animal, whether it is a chicken, dog, cat, goat, or any other animal. Time is a good teacher. Having friends, neighbors, or other folks with the same type of animals can help a tremendous amount. Observing and studying your own animals can teach you a lot. Over the years we have made our fair share of mistakes with animals. Buying some on impulse. Trying to ignore bad traits, or think somehow we can overcome them by some magic. It never works out. We just end up dealing with someone else’s problem, and it’s never worth it in the long run. 

If you are starting out or looking for new animals, research all you can, talk to everyone you can, don’t overlook flaws that will cause you troubles and listen to your instinct. Then you still may end up with an unforeseen problem. But if you do, learn from that as well, and in time, you will end up with the herd or flock you want. Healthy, productive and content. We have been blessed with stewardship of this small spot of earth in southeastern Oklahoma, and we give thanks for that every single day. Even when we didn’t get to bring home a few more goats.

Until next time – Fern

14 thoughts on “Shopping for Goats

  1. We've made our fair share of mistakes with goats, SFG, no doubt about that. But we did learn a lot in the process. Sounds like you're in that same boat. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  2. AFTER we bought our goats, we learned what we wanted. But, by that time, I had become attached to our goats. lol. Luckly we learned more as we went an didn't make the mistake again. I think you made the right choice too.

  3. Studying and understanding the animals in our care is an ongoing process, Fiona. You just never know what you're going to get to learn next. Some lessons take years, and others are rather sudden. But they're all interesting, and provide skills and information that can be applied improve future situations. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  4. You understand breeding animals to get what you want in a herd as well as understanding not all animal behavior is play! We were taught as children not to make pets of breeding males….they are driven by natural urges at breeding time and are naturally more aggressive. If they are not taught respect then your headed for trouble, and yes, respect works both ways!I bred both polled and horned cattle, I found I preferred dehorned cattle over all, the horned genetics were more my type of individuals. Dehorning is not my favorite thing but it is something you can do with care and proper attention to detail.

  5. It's very difficult to find dairy goats around here too, Tewshooz. There isn't even any at the fair, they are all meat goats as well. I pray I am never too old to learn, or unable to learn. That would be a truly sad day. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  6. Kimberly, I find your information to be very interesting. Like I told, Leigh, everything I have read indicates trouble with polled animals. We once went to look at some goats that had some very serious issues. Most of them were polled, several of them were deformed and some were sterile. I don't know if this came from being polled or too much line breeding or what, but these were not animals you would want to add to your herd. Thank you for your comment, it gives us much to think about and research.Fern

  7. I agree wholeheartedly, Hobo. Animals with bad behavior are not worth the time, trouble and possible injury. I'm glad you are finding some useful goat information here. I could probably talk about gardens and goats all day long, but most people would get bored pretty quick. (-: Thank you for sharing.Fern

  8. Now I will have to do more research on polled goats, Leigh. Everything I have read indicates that polled goats are more apt to produce offspring that are sterile, or hermaphrodite, if they are bred with another polled goat. Thank you for another reason to learn some more.Fern

  9. Interesting story, Bellen. If at all possible, we prefer to see the parents of any animal we buy. And sometimes it really pays off by preventing us from acquiring that animal. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  10. Very informative post. Goats are getting to be very popular around here. I see many large herds of them, but they are all meat goats. At the fair I always look at the dairy goats, and this year I will look for the points that you mention. I always figured that there were polled goats like there are polled breeds of sheep. Never too old to learn new things, eh?

  11. I have to chime in on the polled topic, since we have a polled buck and are breeding for polled goats. Our polled buck is out of a polled buck that came from a herd a lady was raising for polled animals. The lady bought all polled goats and bred them together for 6 generations trying to see how many generations they had to be bred purely polled/polled to create a hermaphrodite. She never got a single hermaphrodite.We bought 8 doelings out of a dairy of very well bred horned goat. All there goats were naturally horned (but had been dis-budded of course). Out of the 8 doelings we bought 2 turned out to be hermaphrodites. I spent many hours online searching for information on hermaphroditism (is that a word? spell check is lighting up) in goats. Every person I found that had a hermaphrodite goat show up in their herd had a full horned pedigree. The conclusions I found are that the study that was done was very poor, and that the gene that causes hermaphrodites is carried similarly as the gene that causes polled. So if a person has both genes in their herd, they are going to probably pop up at the same time. Also Dairies feed large amounts of GMO soy, cottonseed, and canola that have all been linked to fertility issues in lab rats along with many other problems. So I was thinking that if these goats are being fed this stuff when pregnant, it most likely is causing sex issues in the developing fetuses.Lots of people had polled goats in their herds when that study came out and it caused a lot of people to destroy their polled goats for fear of getting a bad reputation for having polled goats. Now that people are figuring out that it isn't the cause of this problem, they are starting to breed for polled again.Kimberly

  12. Great information, Fern. I have been learning a lot about dairy goats from your posts. And I agree on the temperament of animals. If they have a bad temperament or are aggressive, they won't change. No reason to keep such an animal on your place cause you, or someone else, will only get hurt.

  13. Great post Fern. I was under the impression that the polled goats > hermaphrodite was largely anecdotal. Still, even small things are a good way of discerning good additions to the herd. Sounds like you made very wise choices.

  14. Great post even though we will never have goats or any other animal except maybe a dog. Seeing an animal in it's home environment, watching it's behavior, knowing what traits you're looking for will all make acquiring an animal that is best suited for your particular wants and needs.Reminds me of a neighbor who bought a dog from a breeder – had to meet him at the end of a long driveway so never saw the dog with the rest of the litter, parents or it's breeding area. They fell in love with the cute little bundle of fur. Needless to say the dog had a list of problems both physical and behavioral that could probably have been avoided if they used your criteria.

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