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.
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.
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