Yes, we are going to talk about you Leta. In fact, she is going to be the naughty example. Don't you mind the look of complaint on her face and her mumblings about the whole thing. If she wasn't so difficult I wouldn't be talking about her. If you've been reading this blog you know I've had an estreus problem with the two older does. Chicory, the two year old, seems to have taken on the first trip to the buck and has a lovely glistening black coat. Today, she gets to be the goat on a pedestal held up as a shining example. Ornery, cantankerous Pudge will be the goat in the middle of the pack. I'm hoping the sourness is due to the fact that she is ten and pregnant. I don't know that. The part about her being pregnant anyway but I'm hoping.
Always the curious one, I looked up the maximum age longevity of a goat and it was 15. I'm guessing it is a weather or a buck. They have the easier lives where as a does milk for 9 to 10 months a year and typically has twins. That's enough to wear anybody out. Of course the chart also said that horses live a maximum of 40 years old. How many 40 year old horses have you met? Me, a few 30 year old ones but not 40.
With that in mind, I think the 15 year old goat is a real rarity.
But wait a minute I can almost hear you say. Yes, this is Leta and the picture above is Leta. I took a photograph of Leta's from a few months ago and cropped a section of it so you could see how her condition has deteriorated. This is what she has begun to do the past couple years when ever she is pregnant. Her hair will deteriorate even further as she gets closer to kidding. When spring weather takes hold, she may loose clumps of hair and leave somewhat bald patches. That is why this is going to be her last year. Her body can't utilize feed efficiently and so she gives everything to the kids. Leaving kids on her to nurse pulls her down even further and if she's milking heavy, she isn't real pretty either but picks up from her haggard look of pregnancy. With consideration given to her age plus worsening health issues she will be culled sometime this year. This picture is a recent comparison of coat conditions. Pudge is the goat standing at the bottom of the picture and Leta is above her. This shot is a good comparison of a coarse, dry, rough coat and a smooth soft one.
You may have noticed that in the last two pictures I'm touching behind the front leg on the ribs. The spine should not be sticking up noticeably and there should be only a slight depression visible in the loin area. The ribs should be well covered. You can use an old rule of thumb we learned when showing sheep and beef. Feel the back of your hand. The ridges right before the fingers where the metacarpal bones meet the Phalanges. Yeah, the joint right there. Okay, I looked that up. I know what phalanges are but I wasn't sure where the metacarpal was on the hand.
The goat's ribs should feel like that spot on your hand when it's open.When your making a fist the ends of you metacarpal stick up and are bony. That is what the ribs should not feel like. Go ahead and run you fingers over your other hand. If your goat feels like the first picture with your hand open it is in good body condition. Poor is when your fist is closed. Emaciated is of course when you can count the ribs. If you can't find the ribs then cut back on the feed - the goats too... fat.
An older does will be slightly sharper in the hip bones due to age - slightly sharper not a lot sharper.
I see many does, way too many, with too little cover over their hip bones and ribs because their belly hangs down and the owner is using that to gauge how fat they are. We have a few things that begin to go south too as we age.
Your does will naturally change during their different stages but I learned a few interesting things I didn't know from a Washington State University site.
During late lactation goats should have recovered fully and be at the peek of conditioning.
At this point 40% to 50% of the nutrients consumed is going toward milk production. The rest of the nutrients are for the fetal growth and recovery of fat reserves lost during early lactation. (Remember that a couple months or so after the kids are born the doe peeks in production of milk.) Body fat is put on 38% more efficiently during the late lactation period than when she is dry. Let me rephrase that. When a doe is in her late lactation it takes less feed to put her in excellent body condition than when she is dry. Monitor your doe to make sure she gains her condition back at this period and doesn't become too fat as it will hinder kidding and cause metabolic diseases.
During the dry period you are maintaining body condition. It is imparative that a doe be dryed off at least 60 days prior to kidding so that her udder has a chance to regenerate. If she isn't given this period of time her milk production in her next cycle will drop.
Overconditioning increases the chances of metabolic diseases by 43%. These diseases include detosis, milk fever, displaced abomasum and fat doe syndrome. All of these can cause incidences of retained placenta, mastitis, lower milk production and kidding difficulties.
Don't change a doe's condition too rapidly or she will also have metabolic problems as will she also if she is too thin. Basically you have to get it right or your asking for problems. We obviously did when we didn't pay attention to our goats age and their changing feed requirements.
Also it talked about feeding too little grain which lowers energy levels and lowers milk production and if you feed too much grain it lowers the pH in the rumen and it becomes more acidic killing the microrganisms that help the goat to digest fiber which also lowers milk production.
"Feeding more concentrates will not substitute for forage quality and will not satisfy fiber requirements. By feeding high quality forage, the doe's fiber requirements can be fufilled, her need for protein and energy can be met, and you can use a lower percentage of concentrates in the feed ration. Feeding high quality feeds saves you money in your rations and in your herd health. Forages should contain a maximum amount of protein and/or enery allowed for that particular feed." Washington State University. http://smallfarms.wsu.edu/animals/goatfeeding.html
I'd like to add that I too have found that you feed significantly less hay if you have the best quality available. We travel six hours to get one load because of its quality. This time the rancher put up in small square bales in second cutting alfalfa which he usually does a orchard grass second cutting alfalfa mix that our goats thrive on. We will have to cut back a bit further on the grain strength with straight high quality alfalfa hay. We learned the hard way when we bought Leta and she gained weight too quickly ont the straight second cutting alfalfa hay of high quality.
Her first year with us she had a bad case of milk fever. What a wake up call as before that we had always raised our own does and had no problem. They were use to the rich feed program. Here again we are in new territory with old does. We've never kept them this long before. When the kids grew up and there was no more 4-H projects needing young animals, we began breeding our Saanens to Boer bucks and selling the kids. They were easier to get rid of than the fully dairy kids. There's a very small market for dairy goats around here. Actually goats of any kind.
The years passed and our does grew old and once again their feed requirements have changed. Here we go learning and changing once again. I hope this post helps in understanding goat conditioning and how important it is to our goats we love and our pocketbooks for we will either pay in feed or in vet supplies if we get it wrong. I'll talk soon about setting up your exercise pen. Yes, it's the one the goats live in. We learned the hard way what happens if pregnant sheep don't get enough exercise. Believe me, they won't exercise if you don't have a built in system that makes them and that includes most goats.
Congradulations once again to Goat Lady for winning one of my favorite gardening books.