Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When Grain Is Important For Goats

Why oh why do I grain my does and the borrowed buck during breeding season? Less can me more. Let me explain. Bucks lose a great deal of weight typically when it is breeding season. All those heightened emotions, calories burned, and adrenaline being the culprits. The does can loose weight also as they are emotional and the buck chases them about the pen.

For the first time this year I simply put a buck in with the does. He is a well experienced guy and not as huge as my last buck, Touch. What a sweet heart he is. I wouldn't mind owning this guy. I'm not worried that he might hurt one of the does by accident. And with all that has been going on, I just haven't been spending as much time at the corrals and I've not noticed when my girls have come into heat. They have been more subtle than usual or I more blind and distracted which is probably the real reason I haven't notice. Without a buck next to them to flash their tails at it is far more subtle. Not so with my Saanens but these Nubians are another breed. No flashy tails have been notice let alone the unmistakeable wide eyed screaming that my Saanen girls performed each year. 

Nope no hand breeding this year, which I'm sure I'll curse come kidding time. Hand breeding gives me a time zone within the day and a few hours time of which they are most likely to kid. That saves fifty trips to the pen to check. A biggy when your pens are miles away from the house like they are now. Not quite as imperative with the girls soon to be housed just beyond the house.  I can check day and night with just a short walk. I do love a moonlight stroll. This year as I'm so slow in getting a buck in with the girls it will be a nice warm midnight stroll. I'm kind of looking forward to it. I like walking in the dark. When I was a kid my best friend and I had full moon rides each month of the summer. Just a halter horse ridden bareback, a bright full moon, and a country road was all we needed.

Besides I have to grain. I just can't send home a buck who is skinner than when he came. I have this philosophy of when you borrow, you send it back at least in the same condition, if not better. People don't mind lending when you do that as long as it isn't often. The advantage of feeding grain just before and during breeding season is you up their nutrition just when the eggs attach to the uterus. That means more eggs are likely to attach because of the rich nutritional environment. It's a fact.  More viable sperm, more eggs, more babies and that is one of the mysteries solved as to why my goats typically have twins and triplets every year. By three years of age it is mostly triplets. Yes, genetics are involved but the same girls that gave me triplets each year have gone to other owners and produced singles there after.

In sheep they call this feeding of grain shortly before and during breeding - flushing. Of course a doe and buck need to genetically have the disposition for twins and triplets in their bloodlines but that is pretty common. If the doe has twins or triplets she will produce more milk. More babies to sell and more milk is a win, win situations most times. Fewer feet to trim, less feed, less housing needs for more milk and kids. More for less -- always a bargain.

Now after breeding season the story changes.  I cut down on the grain or out completely and give some beet pulp, sunflower seeds, and occasional beef pellets which has a little grain it but is high in protein. High protein is what is needed in the cold winter months to achieve peak body condition. This is maybe twice a week depending on the weather and the goats conditioning. Next week it is to be bitter cold so supplements and lots and lots of hay will be given.

Too much grain, too early in the pregnancy produces too much fat which complicates birthing. It also messes with the digestive system and lowers milk production later on. Timing, timing, timing is the key. Grain comes in once more a couple to a week, to a week and a half before kidding. Just small amounts depending on the individual goat and how she looks, belly excluded. Your paying attention to the fat levels cross the backbone, hips, and ribs.  A doe looses a great deal of weight in the first week after kidding. Of course after kidding you increase the supplements once more.

I hear goats have a phytic acid problem too. Oh the things I will change at the new place. This problem of digestion is partly why I feed beet pulp. It aids in digestion as well as being a nutrition supplement.

Another time we will discuss the types of grain you should use and when.

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