Monday, March 17, 2008

The makings of a Nubian herd

As I mentioned a few days ago, we came home with 4 new Nubian goats. They are so precious. But, before I go into detail about ours, I'll give you a little primer in goat facts.

Baby goats are called kids. Females are does, "intact" males are bucks, and castrated males are wethers. When referring to babies, people often call them doelings, bucklings or wethers (wethers are wethers no matter how old). Goats are social creatures and therefore really need to be housed at least in pairs. A single goat will be a very unhappy goat. However, bucks really need to be kept away from does in order to prevent the does from being bred too young or at the wrong time of the year. (It is much easier to deal with newborns in March than in January, weather-wise!) So, in order to keep a buck happy, they are often housed with another buck or a wether. Does can be housed with wethers as well, as there is no chance of breeding, obviously. Bucks can be quite a handful. As they mature, they can become quite aggressive and have the interesting habit of urinating on their heads in order to attract the does. Bucks are not recommended for new goat owners. In our case, we will wait on a buck until at least next year. This coming fall, we will breed our does with our neighbors' buck. So, there you have it. You can say you learned something today. Unless, of course, you already knew all that. If that is the case, I'm sorry you had to suffer through that!

So, we bought 2 does and 2 wethers. Caleb is the owner of the 2 younger ones, a doe and a wether, and Don and I have the 2 older ones.

The first one I'll show you is Honey. She was 2 weeks old when we brought her home. She is 3/4 Nubian, 1/4 Saanen. She's a cutie. The other 3 act like complete maniacs with their bottles, but she is much more dainty than that. Meagan usually asks to be the one to feed Honey, but we all enjoy her sweet disposition.

Up next is Benjamin, Honey's brother. He is chocolate colored with a cute little star on his head and one little white spot on his side. He is named for Nicholas Cage's character on National Treasure. Although the same age as Honey (duh!), he is much more aggressive with his food. We love his little flippy ears.

The last 2 are Cocoa and Buckwheat. Cocoa is the black doe in front and Buckwheat is the brown wether that is getting some love from Caleb in the picture. I apologize that the picture isn't better. It has gotten cold again, so we stayed in the barn, which is quite dark. Also, since it was feeding time, they were all a little, well, insane. When it warms back up, I'll try to get some cute pictures of goats frolicking in the sunshine. Until then, this will have to do.

Anyway, Cocoa and Buckwheat were both 4 weeks old when we brought them home. Cocoa is 3/4 Nubian and 1/4 Alpine. Buckwheat is fully Nubian. So far, Cocoa has proven herself time and again as the champion bottle finisher. She finishes first every time, even when she starts after the others.

All of them were disbudded, which means that their horn nubs were burned off right away so that horns would not grow. It may sound cruel, but it really is better for everyone. Goats with horns have been known to really injure each other while playing, and also could injure their human caretakers. They have little scabs now, which will fall off and be much less noticeable later on.

They will be bottlefed for several more weeks. Goats are often bottlefed for a variety of reasons, but we don't have much choice as we don't have a mama goat for them. I simply cannot feed them alone, as they are much too insistent on all getting fed right away. I'd be mauled! Instead, I always take a helper with me. During the day, both Caleb and Meagan do it with me, but for their last night feeding, the kids are in bed already. So, they take turns and each night, I wake one of them up to help me. They've been great sports about it. In fact, one morning they were both still sleeping and Don was home so I took him out instead. Caleb was so incredibly disappointed that he had missed that feeding! He asked me to never do that again!

So, those are our new cuties. We have plans to get 2 older does from the same place later this month. They were not bred last fall, so they are not going to be giving milk right away. But, they are both full Nubians and will be a great addition to the starting herd. With 4 does bred this fall, we'll be swimming in milk next Spring!

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