Ok so first of all I would like to say that we are complete homesteading noobs. (noob: a person who is inexperienced in a particular sphere or activity. A slang term used particularly in computer gaming.) We have found that sometimes we can read and read about something on the internet and make what we think are educated decisions, and still fall flat on our faces. Experience is an awesome teacher and we have learned some tough lessons along the way.
We have been talking about getting goats for some time now. I know that people own animals for all kinds of different reasons. We want goats for pets. I’m just being honest with you all. Selfishly we want to have them for our own enjoyment. I don’t want aloof animals running around our property who we feed every day. I just spent 7 years straight being pregnant, nursing, caring for newborns, and surviving toddlers. Can anyone say “black hole of energy”? I mean in a season like that you pour out and pour out and pour out sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, being a Mom is also one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. I just don’t want to pour out with no return when it comes to homesteadin’ it up. Everyone still with me? Second to goats as pets, we want goats to eat weeds. If you are just joining us in this blogging journey you can read about our adventures in weeding here.
After much internet research we decided to get Mini Nubian Goats. They are a nice size, docile in temperament, have sweet creamy milk and a decent output. If we ever decide to get into milking this will be a plus.
I found a lady through a facebook group who lives about an hour and a half from us who had a pregnant doe about to kid. When the twins were born she sent pictures and we arranged a visit. The girls were instantly in love. During our visit we found out that the new babies weren’t really going to be socialized so we decided to bottle feed. Yes I know kids are better off with their Mamas. Mama milk is best. There was some miscommunication where my lack of knowledge and her lack of supplying information didn’t exactly line up. But in the end we chose selfishly to go pick them up as soon as we made this decision so we could start bottle feeding. I wasn’t prepared for this as I hadn’t even thought to read up on all the ins and outs of bottle feeding goats. I also wasn’t prepared for the part where there was a chance they would never take to the bottle. This possibility caused a HUGE amount of stress and worry on my part heaped on to an already large amount of guilt. Apparently mama goats won’t take their babies back if they are separated.
So anyway, I picked up the week-and-a-half old boy and girl and brought them home along with a half-gallon of their Mom’s milk. Then I spent 24 hours trouble-shooting bottle feeding. I tried everything I knew to try and kept reading online in-between feedings about different peoples’ approaches. Did I mention that it has been rainy, windy, and chilly here? The trips to the barn at 2am were not my favorite. I read somewhere that goats won’t nurse when they are cold. The girl seemed to be doing ok and making progress but the boy was really struggling. I crocheted him a little sweater and went out to feed him. (If anyone needs a really fast free goat sweater pattern here is the one I used: http://thefamilyhomestead.com/crochetgoatsweater.htm ) He was mostly chewing on the bottle, and swallowing once in awhile. He had almost no sucking response. His heart was beating really fast and he just seemed scared and confused. I put a sweater on him and said a bunch of prayers. (I know a sweater on a goat sounds ridiculous but you weren’t there. :D) 3 hours later when I went out to feed them again I was greeted by 2 bouncing baby goats happy to see me. The girl took in over 5oz and the little boy took in 4!! I was SO RELIEVED. Ever since then they have accepted me as their Mom and head butt me when they are hungry. It’s the cutest. We used a feeding schedule for small goats we found on a forum and made a few adjustments along the way. There are so many varying opinions online its unreal. I think we are going to wean around 12 weeks. We are getting close to being done. My eldest has really taken over the responsibility of caring for them and I love watching them with her. She gets up every morning by alarm and feeds them. They absolutely adore her and climb into her lap and snuggle her and want attention. They also love to climb up on top of her back and shoulders when she is crouched down. It’s quite a spectacle. The girls decided to name them Cia-Lana and Rupee. (They play a lot of the video game Zelda)
What did we learn? Ideally I would have bought a pregnant goat mama or a goat mom that already had little babies and just bonded with everyone by being present every day when the kids were born. If for some reason we were going to bottle feed kids (orphaned or something) we would want to start right after the kids get colostrum from Mom. But I am so very thankful and relieved that our new babies took to the bottle in less than 2 days.
For anyone getting into the homesteading thing I highly recommend goats. They are practical, fairly inexpensive to keep, and a ton of fun. My kids love their kids. 😀
For those of you who like learning as much as I do here is a fun Glossary of Terms:
Kidding: When a pregnant Does give birth
Kids: baby goats
Doe: A female goat over the age of one year
Doeling: Female goat less than a year old
Buck: An intact male goat over the age of one. They typically need to be kept separate from the females
Buckling: An intact male goat under the age of 1
Wether: A male goat that was castrated at a young age.
Mini Nubian: Cross between Nubian dairy goat and a Nigerian dairy goat. Size is dependent on the generation level of the goat
Disbudding: Tiny horns of a young goat are removed thus preventing the horns from growing