Monday, December 16, 2013

December Topic of the Month: Ethical Considerations When Breeding Goats

Something to consider when deciding which goats to breed this time of year is the question of: Is it ethical to breed these animals? When considering ethics in farming, you have to think about the components, and the products. The components are the buck and the doe that will be mated together. The products are any kids produced from the breeding. 

The components should be chosen carefully. You should not simply breed a doe just because she is of age for breeding and available. Almost every doe will come into heat and be fertile, but those should NOT be the only deciding factors in your breeding strategy. Other factors, like her potential to carry kids to term, her udder and milking potential, her temperament, her health and her genetics should all be considered carefully. If the goat gets bred but dies or aborts before the kids are born due to avoidable reasons, then the breeding should have not proceeded in the first place. If she kids but has a useless udder that can’t produce milk, or the kids can’t nurse, or she is known to be prone to mastitis, then breeding should not be considered unless you are prepared to deal with those complications. If the goat can produce kids but she has a terrible personality, the choice of breeding her should be weighed against the potential for the kids having terrible personalities too. Health at the time of breeding is a huge consideration. Even sick does will come into heat and get bred. There are some common diseases that does can carry during gestation and pass easily on to the kids at birth. Creating a new generation of unhealthy kids is not ethical. Genetics of the doe should be considered highly in the choice to breed her. Crossing a poor quality, ugly doe to a high quality handsome buck will only produce kids that are ½ as valuable because you can only clean up bad genetics with good breeding to a limited extent. The doe will have the potential to pass on her broken pasterns, turned out toes, lumpy back, fat head, and small udder to any kids she creates. 

The buck must also come under these same considerations. He is, after all, ½ of your herd. Bucks of all qualities are easily available during breeding season, so just using whoever happens to be easiest to get is not a good idea. The buck should be carefully inspected and his family tree should be evaluated closely for its good and bad qualities. If every doe in a family line has poor udder attachment, then using a buck from that line is a good way to have doe kids with poor udder attachment.

The products from any breeding must also be carefully considered. You have to evaluate what you are going to do with the kids even before they are a twinkle in the buck’s eye. When deciding on your breedings for the year, you must have a plan in place for the kids. Take time to think about how many kids you need, what you will do with them, what you hope to keep, what you hope to sell, what you may have to cull, what to do with the bucklings,  and what to do with the doelings. Unless you are independently wealthy and have lots of time to dedicate to your goat herd, you will probably not be able to keep every single kid that is produced. So if you have to sell some, be sure to evaluate the kid market in your area. Find out what breeds people are buying, what the average price is, and what level of quality is selling. It does you no good to breed expensive, high quality, specialty breed goats in an area where no one is interested in paying for them. The same goes for low quality, ugly, mutt goats. Be sure to plan on what to do about their horns. Most people buying dairy goats do not want them to have horns. If you are not prepared to disbud kids to stop horn growth, then you might want to reconsider breeding animals that will produce kids that require disbudding. Keep in mind that butchering is a viable and humane option for many excess goat kids. Think about the market in your area for goat meat and decide if you plan on selling kids for butchering or butchering them yourself. If you have moral issues with butchering goats, then it’s best to be careful about producing kids who may be sold to people who will be butchering them. Not producing those kids in the first place is the best way to ensure that they will not be butchered in the future. As the saying goes, “Abstinence is the best prevention”!

In conclusion, to be ethical in your breeding strategy, you should breed only the best animals to each other. They should embody good qualities that are an advantage to the goat species. Their kids should be positive additions to the future of goat farming and not contain qualities that detract from the species as a whole. We also have an ethical responsibility to provide care for the product of the breedings. Overproduction of kids that will not be raised humanely or treated with respect is not ethical. It is our ethical obligation as farmers to understand that since we are making the choices to breed these animals, then we are responsible for the future of the goat species. The creation of life should be taken seriously and all of the implications of that should be weighed carefully.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

NNY Sheep & Goat Week Programs December 3-5 in Watertown, Canton, Malone and Plattsburgh

The results of research conducted on three Northern New York farms to evaluate parasite control treatments for sheep and goats will be shared at programs organized by Cornell Cooperative Extension for December 3-5 in Watertown, Canton, Malone and Plattsburgh.

The research funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program and conducted on NNY farms evaluated alternative methods for controlling barber pole worm, a widespread internal parasite of sheep and goats.

Seventy-three percent of 273 sheep and goat farmers responding to a Cornell survey indicated problems with barber pole worm. Infestation can lead to livestock death.

Dr. tatiana Stanton of the Cornell University Sheep and Goat Program will present the results of treatment protocols tested on two regional sheep farms and one goat farm. The protocol involved the use of copper oxide wire particles, a treatment used with success by small livestock producers in the southeastern U.S.

The NNY Fall Sheep and Goat Week meeting in Plattsburgh will be held on December 5, 7pm, Cornell Cooperative Extension Clinton County office, Plattsburgh, Please call 561-7450 to register or email to let us know you will be attending.

The meeting presentations will also include discussion of deer worm controls and the use of evasive grazing techniques for parasite management.

Learn more about small livestock and other NNY agricultural sectors at  or contact Cornell Cooperation Extension in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, or St. Lawrence County.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November Topic: Is my goat in heat?

If you have to ask that question, then your goat is NOT in heat! Most goats are very blatant about their heat cycles. Around the middle of August you will notice your does getting noisy and obnoxious. They will scream their heads off and drive you nuts even though they are fed, watered, and out to pasture for the day. You may or may not see reddening of the vulva or mucous discharge. If you have a buck on your property, the doe may become very interested in him and even escape from her pen to go visit him. Watch your buck! He will be driven mad by the smell of a doe in heat and may escape to go courting. 

If you don’t have a buck, then it may be harder to tell when your goat is in heat. The absence of a buck to trigger the doe’s hormones can make her less likely to come into heat or she may come into a “silent heat” where she doesn’t show obvious signs of heat. If you want to breed your doe and you don’t have a buck, you can help her come into heat by getting a buck rag from someone that has a buck. A buck rag is simply a rag that is rubbed on the buck to obtain his smell. Take the rag to your doe and rub it on her and leave it in her pen where she can smell it. She should start coming into heat after exposure to the buck rag. 

If you do have a buck and you do not see your does come into heat, then the most likely reason is because your does are already pregnant! This is true if your does are allowed to run unsupervised with your buck. Bucks are quick and many goats are shy about getting caught in the act so you may never see mating occur. Also be super vigilant about escapees during mating season. Bucks will get crazy and can hop a 5’ tall fence to get to a doe in heat. I have heard about some bucks who hop out of their pen, mate all the does they can find, and then hop back in their pen without the farmer knowing! One good rule to follow is to castrate any male goats that you don’t want to use for mating. It’s usually the one buck that you aren’t interested in using for mating who gets loose and breeds all the does.  

A doe will come into heat for 24-48 hours every 19-21 days. The egg is ready for fertilization when a doe is in a “standing heat” and she will stand for a buck’s mounting attempts. Trying to force mating by holding an unreceptive doe or by putting a doe and buck together when she isn’t in heat, will not result in pregnancy because the egg is not in the right spot for proper fertilization. You can bring a doe into heat artificially by using uterine implants. This method is commonly used in preparation for artificial insemination in order to make sure the doe is at the proper stage of ovulation for the procedure. 

If you notice any change in your doe’s personality during the fall, mark it on a calendar and then wait 19-21 days to see if she acts weird again. The calendar is your best tool for this time of year because you can track changes and trends to help pinpoint when your doe is ready to breed and when she is pregnant. If you breed your doe, wait three weeks and see if she comes back into heat. Some goats need a few attempts with a buck before they get pregnant. A doe not coming into heat is a good way to know that she is pregnant.

Hopefully your mating season will be uneventful and you will have a good crop of kids in the spring. Happy goating!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Asgaard Farm Meeting Summary

 The Fall Meeting of the Adirondack Goat Club was at Asgaard Farm and Dairy on Sunday, October 27, 2013. The meeting was well attended by goat farmers from Peru to Saratoga. We lucked out and missed the rainy weather. The meeting included a tour of the farm and dairy. The milking herd was out enjoying the lush pastures. 

We toured the milk room and got to see the multi-goat milking stanchion set up. 12 goats at a time can be milked in the parlor. The stanchions are set up so the goats can load themselves and minimal handling is required to get them in their spots for milking. Milking is done with a pipeline system that has a clean in place sterilization set up. The sucker units, pipes, and tubes do not need to be disassembled to be sanitized before and after milking. The milk goes into storage room where it is prepped for use to make many types of farmstead goat cheeses.


The farm and dairy have many beautiful pasture areas that boast views of the Adirondack Mountains. The goats at Asgaard Farm and Dairy are pretty spoiled!! 

A special thanks to the staff at Asgaard for hosting the meeting. Also a special thanks to them for the delicious goat cheeses, goat roast, goat milk mac'n'cheese, and goat milk ice cream for lunch!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Next Meeting: 10/27 at Asgaard Farm

The Adirondack Goat Club will hold its Fall Meeting at Asgaard Farm in Ausable Forks, NY on Sunday, October 27, 2013 from 11:30am - 2pm.

Asgaard Farm and Dairy is a small farmstead creamery with a herd of approximately 50 productive and healthy dairy goats, primarily Alpine with some Nubian and Saanen purebreds and crosses. They produce artisan goat cheeses and also sell pasture-raised pork, beef, chicken, eggs, and goat meat. Check it out at
The meeting will include lunch and a farm tour.
Please RSVP to Rose Bartiss at by October 20, 2013.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

ADK Rural Skills and Homesteading Festival

The Adirondack Rural Skills and Homesteading Festival will be at the Paul Smiths VIC on Saturday, September 28 from 10am - 4pm. It will be a day full of workshops and demonstrations on everything from using horses for logging to making goat milk soap. You can learn how to make butter, cider, how to butcher a chicken, and much more!

The Adirondack Goat Club will be there. Rose Bartiss will be doing a goat milking demo at 11:30am. Gail Huston from Asgaard Farms will be doing a cheesemaking demo at 12:30pm. And Rose will be doing a goat milk soap making demo at 3:30pm.
For more details, see

Friday, September 13, 2013

September Topic: Are they stunted?

By September, most of you are evaluating your spring kids for their growth and breeding potential. When evaluating your kids, it’s important to be able to determine if their growth is on track with where they should be. Most full-sized dairy breed kids (Saanen, Lamancha, Nubian, Oberhasli, Toggenburg, and Alpine) should put on about 10 lbs of body weight per month in their first 8 months. If not gaining 10 lbs per month, they should at least be consistently gaining weight each month. Watch out if they stop gaining weight or if they lose weight.  If your kids are not hitting their growth curve, then it’s time to look at them closely and determine why they are stunted.

1.       Is it their genetics? I hesitate to blame genetics for poor growth unless the kid comes from a miniature breed or combination of full-sized and mini-breeds. It is true that some breeds grow slower and are generally smaller than others but blaming genetics can cause you to overlook obvious management and health issues. Be very cautious of buying "mini" goats from people if they can not directly point to the goat's ancestor who came from an actual miniature breed (Nigerian Dwarf or African Pygmy). These goats are probably just stunted and won't ever live up to their full production potential.

2.       Do they have parasites? This is the number one reason why kids can be stunted. The digestive system of the kid goat is not mature enough to handle repeated onslaughts of damage done by internal parasites. The two main culprits of kid stunting are coccidiosis and tapeworms.

Coccidia are a single-celled parasite that naturally occurs in the soil. Most species have their own type of coccidia and it can’t spread between species. Most adult goats are immune to coccidia infestations and do not suffer from coccidiosis unless stressed or ill for other reasons. Kid goats, however, are EXTREMELY prone to damage by coccidia. The coccidia parasite has a three-week life cycle (21 days). It usually infects the kids at birth when they are exposed to the soil and bedding in the barn. It travels into their intestines and begins its reproduction and feeding cycle. Three weeks later the kid may have smelly, brown diarrhea due to the coccidia bursting from the cells of the intestinal lining in order to spread to other goats. This bursting and subsequent diarrhea is called “coccidiosis” because the kid is sick from coccidia infestation. Once the kid has diarrhea, the damage to the intestinal lining is already done and it is too late. The kid will always be prone to malnutrition and will be stunted. The symptoms of coccidiosis are brown, smelly diarrhea between 22 and 28 days old, followed by lethargy, anorexia and death. Coccidia show up very easily on a fecal sample so it is highly recommended to have a fecal sample done if you suspect coccidiosis.

It is very important to prevent coccidiosis by putting your kids on a preventative treatment plan. The best way to do this is to treat all of your kids at exactly 21 days old with a 5-day round of either Di-Methox, Sulmet, or Corid. All three of these broad-spectrum antibiotics will kill the adult forms of coccidia and stop the reproduction cycle. Repeat this treatment every 21 days until the kids are 4 months old or more in order to keep coccidiosis from stunting your kids. Be sure to start on exactly day 21 because the coccidia will be in the adult phase and waiting even until day 22 can cause intestinal damage.

Be very wary of relying on grain blends that contain Rumensin or Decoquinate for coccidiosis prevention. Most kids are not eating enough grain at 21 days old for this to have a preventative effect. Once the kids are older and consuming grain at a steady pace, then these preventative treatments are helpful.

The second parasite that causes stunting in kids is the tapeworm. Like coccidia, most adult goats are somewhat immune to tapeworm damage. Kids rarely die from tapeworm infection but they can be stunted by the worms robbing nutrients from them. Tapeworms not only cause damage to the goat’s growth, but they cause damage to your pocket-book. Why would you spend so much money on goat feed just to feed the worms and not the goats? The symptoms of tapeworm infection are slow growth, pot-bellies (not caused by bloat or fatness), rough hair, tapeworm segments found in feces, and tapeworm eggs found in fecal samples under a microscope.

Tapeworms should also be preventatively treated for in you kid goats. Starting at 28 days old, give each kid a dose of Valbazen dewormer or Safeguard dewormer. Both of these medicines are effective against tapeworms. Repeat the deworming every 28 days until the kids are 4 months old or older.

3.       Do baby goats need minerals? YES! Baby goats should be put on the same mineral supplementation schedule as your adult goats. This should mean that they have loose minerals available at all times, and that they are supplemented with copper boluses and extra selenium at regular intervals. Weaned kids need a supplemental calcium source so they should be fed alfalfa hay, silage, or pellets with their grain ration. Alfalfa is high in calcium and essential for keeping goats healthy.

4.       Are they getting enough milk? Kid goats are fast growing and need to have enough nutrients and calories in their daily diets to accommodate this. Kids are born on a pure milk diet. Their stomachs are designed to digest only milk for the first few weeks. Slowly, they change and are able to digest grain and hay. How do you know your kids are getting enough? If your kids are dam-raised, you should weigh them every week to make sure they are gaining weight consistently. Check mom’s udder daily to make sure that it is producing milk, that the teats are not blocked and the milk is coming out, and that the kids are evenly consuming milk from BOTH sides of the udder. A kid who is getting enough to drink will be energetic, bright-eyed, and gaining weight. 

If you are bottle feeding, then you will know how much milk your kids are getting. Here is a feeding schedule for your full-sized dairy kids:
    Day one- 6 oz. (per feeding) colostrum, every 4 hours.
    Day two- 8 oz. (per feeding) colostrum/whole milk, 4 times a day
    Day three- 10 oz. (per feeding) colostrum/whole milk, 4 times a day
    Day four- 10-12 oz. (per feeding) colostrum/whole milk, 4 times a day.
    For the next week- 12-16 oz. (per feeding) 4 times a day.
    For the next 2 months- 20-32 oz. (per feeding) 3 times a day.
    For the next 1 month- 24-32 oz. (per feeding) 2 times a day.
    10-12 oz. (per feeding) once a day for two weeks.

Be extremely careful when increasing amounts of milk per feeding because baby goats can’t spit up, like human babies, when they drink too much so they will get screaming yellow diarrhea or bloat. It can be fatal to suddenly overfeed a baby goat too much milk.

5.       When do I wean them? Most people recommend weaning between 8-12 weeks of age. Feeding a kid milk after 12 weeks will not generally increase their weight gain. Most people coincide weaning time with the time that their buck kids need to be separated from their doe kids. It is recommended that bucks and does be separated at 10 weeks old and definitely by 12 weeks old. Some bucks are precocious and can be fertile at a very young age. Doe kids can be fertile very young but they are not mature enough to be bred at this time.

Dam-raised kids will not normally self-wean so you should separate mom from kids for at least one month to get the kids to stop nursing.

6.       How much grain do I feed them?  Like I said, kids are fast growing and have high nutrient and calorie demands. Grain helps to give them a boost in both of those categories. Grain and hay should be introduced at 3 days old. Kids won’t be able to digest much of it at this age, but the exposure to it will help them “prime” their digestive tracts for future digestion. The amount of grain offered should be slowly increased to a maximum amount at weaning time. The maximum amount can vary, depending on the type and mix of grain, but most full-sized dairy kids should be eating about 4-8 cups of grain a day. Watch their consumption and lower the amount of grain offered if they are not eating it within 1 hour of feeding time. Be careful not to increase grain too much at once because this can cause sudden bloat and death.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cornell Goat and Sheep Health Day

Dear Goat and Sheep Enthusiasts,
We are having to cancel both Caprine Outing (scheduled for September) and the Cornell Sheep and Goat Symposium (scheduled for November) this year.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause folks.
The good news is that we (the Cornell Department of Animal Science) will be hosting a Goat and Sheep Health Day on the same weekend that Caprine Outing was scheduled to take place.  The event will take place primarily on Saturday, September 21st, 2013 at Morrison Hall and the Livestock Pavilion on the Cornell University Campus in Ithaca, New York. 
We will also have some activities on Friday evening, September 20th, 2013 such as 1) a cheese making workshop taught by Holly Phillips of Straitgate Farm, 2) Goat/Sheep Bowl led by Jo Ellen Roehrig,  and 3) “Basic Health Management for Goats and Sheep” taught by Dr. Michael Thonney.
Saturday’s activities will include tracks geared towards 1) the 12 yrs. old and under crowd, 2) the teen crowd, and 3) adults. All youth 16 years and younger must be accompanied by adults.  Adults can opt to attend the youth workshops with their children or attend the adult activities. We will also have a recreational goat track ( Mark and Janet Collier) with limited space where youth can make a pack saddle frame and learn about managing and handling pack goats, etc.  There will also be a workshop on pack goats in the adult track.
The 12 and under crowd will get to work on crafts such as leather making, fiber arts - felt making, dyeing, etc., cooking with lamb and goat (fudge making and lamb burgers?), and a hands-on workshop led by Dr. Susan Kerr DVM on making sure your animal and their products are top notch in quality. They will also have hands-on activities on how to tell if your goat is sick, handling lambing and kidding, and management skills such as hoof trimming, eartagging, etc.
The teen track will have workshops on evaluating breeding stock animals for show and commercial use, quality assurance (where they will do hands-on necropsies looking for human caused damage- taught be Dr. Susan Kerr, DVM), and on possible careers in livestock health (moderated by Dana Palmer). They and the adults  will have hands-on practicals on dealing with dystocia and weak kids, management skills and emergency health care.  
Dr. Mary Smith DVM will lead a field necropsy workshop (space limited) geared primarily at adults and young adults.  She will also teach a lambing and kidding workshop for all ages and a workshop on “Highlights of the International Sheep Veterinary Congress in New Zealand” which is geared towards adults and will focus on innovative programs to control or eradicate specific contagious diseases in sheep and goats. The adult track will also include a sheep and goat parasite workshop series for those adults and older teens wanting to obtain FAMACHA certification. This series will include a lab on fecal worm egg evaluations. There will also be a lecture geared towards adults on “new innovations in goat and sheep parasite control” which will include the preliminary results of our copper oxide wire particle studies as well as the results of other recent research in the U.S.
For those of you who want to spend either Friday and/ or Saturday night in the Ithaca area there are some options.  We have blocked rooms at some hotels in Ithaca and Cortland. Prices are relatively high because it is also Homecoming Weekend.  In addition we have rented 4-H Acres in Ithaca, NY for Friday and Saturday night for 4-H families and 4-H clubs.  All adults who stay at the camp must be screened as approved chaperones by their respective counties.  There will be both a girls/women dorm and a boys/men dorm. You will need to provide a cot or air/foam mattress and sleeping bag for each of your participants.  We will provide an extra chaperone of each gender in the event that you are bringing youth that are a different gender than your chaperones. A limited amount of tent camping is also permitted. Again, this facility is limited only to enrolled 4-H families or clubs.
I am hoping to send out the schedule and registration form for our September 21st Cornell Goat and Sheep Day by this Friday, August 23rd. Some of the workshops will be limited in space and we will be very serious about registration deadlines. We will also be posting it on-line at , and . Stay tuned! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Upcoming Events

Saturday, August 24, 2013 -- "Truly Wild" wild edibles workshop led by Pat Banker at Heaven Hills Farm in Lake Placid in coordination with the Cornell Cooperative Extension and Franklin County 4H. Take a walk with her and learn about all the late summer edible plants in the Adirondacks. Also learn about which ones are good or bad for our goats. Starts at 1pm. The “Truly Wild” workshop cost will be a one-time $10 per participant fee with a special rate for families not to exceed $30 for the entire 4-part series.  Pre-registration is required. Register by calling the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office, 518-483-7403 or by calling Pat Banker, 518-327-3457.

Saturday, August 31, 2013 -- "Farm 2 Fork Festival" at Riverside Park in Saranac Lake. From 9 am - 2pm. A celebration of local food and local farmers. There will be tasting tables with food prepared from the local farmer's markets, as well as other food vendors. Farm stands and craft vendor booths will be there. Several workshops will go on throughout the day, including one on goats and goat care. Goat milking demos will also be part of the day. Come on down to Saranac Lake for a great day of food and farming fun!! Free to walk around, bring money for the great local food and crafts.

 Saturday, September 28, 2013 -- "Rural Skills and Homesteading Festival" at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC). From 10am - 4pm. Workshops presented throughout the day on everything from mushroom farming to butchering chickens. The Goat Club will be there to do a milking demo at 11:30am. There will be a Farmer's Market and crafter booths. $5 per person or $10 per carload. For more information see :

Friday, August 2, 2013

Evaluating your dairy kids for their good qualities

Here is a checklist of things to look at when evaluating which dairy kids to keep and breed, and which kids to get rid of. This works for adult goats too. I pulled this off of the “Caprine Conformation Clinic” group on Facebook.

FIRST- depth in the heart girth- when viewed straight on from the side the chest floor should be below the elbows, the deeper the better. Related to this- you should see chest/brisket in front of the point of shoulder & front of the front legs. The elbows should be snug to the barrel.

SECOND- Width in the chest floor- This can be hard on fuzzy babies. Put your hand under their chest from the front- feel how wide the flat base of the chest is. Also feel for fullness in the crops- put your hand from side to side across the back, right behind the withers- feel the spring of rib? You want width in the crops- it corresponds to the chest floor (usually).

THIRD- Width in the head- who has the wider muzzle from the front and deeper jaw from the side?

FOURTH- Cannon bone- Look at them straight on from the side, standing normally. Draw an imaginary line parallel to the ground from the knees towards the back of the goat- are the hocks higher than that line? Then the doe is short in the cannon bone. Level is good, sometimes you will have a little more length in the cannon than the hock. A doe that is level from knees to hocks may have short cannon bones- but in that case she isn't short in the cannon bone, she is just short! If the doe is shorter in the front, she will likely be high in the rump or low in the front end.

FIFTH- Length/width of rump- Use a ruler if you need to. Measure from the hip to the pins- who has the longer rump? Sink an imaginary plumb line down from the point of hip to the ground- remember the fore udder will seldom be further forward than this imaginary line. Watch from the rear- whose rump is wider, who walks with more openness into the escutcheon, when they stop naturally, who stands with more width between the hocks?

SIXTH- Legs & topline- watch them walk straight at you from the front- do they track straight? Toes pointed forward? Are the pasterns upright? Are they short and strong looking? When in motion, from the side, does the body look long? Do they level out over the topline and rump in motion, or do they reach far enough under the body with the hind legs that the withers appear to be uphill (that is good)?

SEVENTH- Feel the ribs for bone pattern. The ribs should feel flat, be widely spaced, point towards the rear (flank), and the last rib should be as long as possible. The rear cannon bone, from the rear, should look flat on the sides, not round like a Boer leg.