Oak Hill goat videos


Monday, August 25, 2014

Preparing for goat breeding season

A bit of planning ahead and preparing your goat herd can make breeding and later kidding much easier on you and your goats.  At Oak Hill, my planning usually starts no later than Labor Day.

Here at Oak Hill, I prepare for breeding season by first looking ahead to spring and kids on the ground.   I pull up the Farmers Almanac and check the National Weather Service and NOAA for the long-range winter forecasts.   Bitter cold, lots of snow or a late spring all affect my decisions about when the first kids should hit the ground.

Once I know my ideal earliest first kidding date, I start to work backwards.  Gestation is about 5 months.  My does typically conceive on their first or second breeding cycle.  So I work backwards on the calendar 5 months plus 21 days plus 21 days.  That tells me when I need to have my bucks and does ready to enter the breeding pen aka The Love Shack.  I also like to do a fall detox (which also addresses parasites), which takes about 14 days.  So I count back another 14 days.  Finally, I like to give my does a month on prenatal vitamins and extra nutrient-dense feed (called flushing) to improve the odds of multiple births.  So I add another month to my count backwards.  If my ideal first kid date is April 1, I start the preparation process in September of the previous year.

So this year's schedule looks like:
September - do 14 days of Dynamite Herbal Tonic and at the same time start increasing the quality of browse and give a bit more feed.  I save my best browse areas and best hay for this time period, and increase their fats slightly also.
When the Herbal Tonic is finished, I start topdressing a pinch of regular Horse Dynamite in their feed OR I switch from the Dynamite Vitamin/Mineral Mix for Browsers and Grazers to the Dynamite V/M Mix for Horses with Dynamite Izmine blended in.  (5 lbs Izmine for 25 lbs of V/M Mix).
At the same time that I am making these feeding and supplement changes, I am tracking the start date of each doe's heat cycle and entering it into a spreadsheet.  This will let me easily predict the doe's cycles when it is time to start the "dating".  I like the kidding spreadsheet offered by Fias Co Farm.

I like my does to go into breeding well-fleshed but not fat, with a body score of about 4-5 before starting the flushing and 5-6 coming to the end of flushing.  This article explains the scoring on a scale of 1-9.

Around the middle of October, it is time to start the first breedings.  I like to have no more than 3 does due to kid the same week, so I can get some sleep and have enough kidding stalls to shelter all the new families.  Each farm can decide what a sane number of births per week is for them.  Hopefully, the heat cycles cooperate and offer me only 2 or 3 does per week for dates.  If more than 3 does cycle that week, some will wait until the next cycle.

Remember, a typical heat lasts 2-3 days.  Heat cycles repeat about every 21 days.  Ovulation occurs at the end of heat.

Now is where the fun starts!  You can actually change the odds in favor of doelings or bucklings, depending on what you prefer to get.
Here's how to select for doelings (if you want bucklings, do the opposite):
breed before ovulation.  Breed on the first day of heat only, and do not repeat the breeding the next day. Female sperm swim slower and live longer, and will still be around when the doe ovulates. The males will have already made their swim and died before ovulation occurs.
feed apple cider vinegar with the meals.  Flush with grains as well as fats (grains are acidifying)
Do not repeat breedings later in the same heat cycle.  Remember, male sperm die fast and swim fast.  If you breed close to ovulation, males are more likely to make it to the egg first.
Face the doe south.  Yup, really.  No idea why it works, probably has to do with polarity.  The doe has to face some direction anyway, so why not south.
If you really want to skew the odds, douche with vinegar (3 oz vinegar in 1 pint water, 2 days prior)  Do not douche a full quart, this is the dilution ratio only.

For bucklings:
Breed as close to ovulation as you can.  This means breeding on day 2 or even better day 3 of the heat.
Avoid flushing does with grain.  Flush with fats and browse/hay only.  Offer plenty of minerals. The more alkaline the body the better.
Face the doe north.
Douche the doe with baking soda (2 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart water the day of breeding)  Do not douche a full quart of liquid - this is the dilution ratio only.

Pregnancy care and kidding are the topics for another post.  Meanwhile, happy fall breeding prep!

Carrie and the goat gang

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Feeding time at Oak Hill

For folks with smaller herds, I thought I'd share how I feed here.
I use individual tie stations so I can control the feed and supplements for each goat, plus have a chance to go over each goat daily.
Hay feeders help save the hay, and keep it up off the ground to reduce parasite exposure.  You can find hay feeder designs at http://www.pinterest.com/oakhillfainters/hay-feeders/   Please comment if you have a favorite feeder design I haven't pinned.
Water is in hard plastic troughs, low enough that babies can stand up and be above the water and climb out easily.  (Babies can easily tip headfirst into buckets and drown)
I have found that dishing out each meal individually back at the barn into labeled buckets, then carrying the stack out and feeding is the fastest for me to do.  Restacking the buckets in the same order as the tie stations makes setup for the next feeding a breeze.

Of course, the goats have access to free choice minerals and loose salt at all times also.  I use Fortiflex Jeffers mineral feeders for this.  Even the kids enjoy the minerals.

To see the details of the feeding program, please visit the Goat page of my wellness website.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Prebiotics, Probiotics and Gut Health

Both healthy and unhealthy bacteria are always present in the digestive tract of ruminants. Bacteria are able to go dormant when conditions are not right for them to flourish (this is how bacteria evade antibiotics). In a healthy goat, the helpful bacteria are active and multiplying, and the harmful bacteria are in dormancy.
A healthy gut has the correct pH, food for the bacteria to eat, minimal adrenaline stress, and the goat is not in fight/flight mode. pH has been addressed in a separate thread. Food for bacteria is the "soup" of plant matter making it's way through the gut. Adrenaline stress and fight/flight mode is something we don't hear discussed as much, so I'll expand on that a bit.
In a prey animal, such as a goat, the animal must be able to react instantly to perceived danger or be a meal. So the body has the fight or flight response. When frightened, the hypothalamus activates two systems: the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system. A flood of hormones enters the bloodstream to set the body up for fast action. Two key points to remember are that once these hormones are in the bloodstream, they must be burned off or used up AND one function of the hormones is to shut down digestion.
When the gut becomes stressed and gut conditions become less than ideal, the healthy bacteria go into dormancy and the harmful bacteria come out to play. Of the three tactics I see used when the harmful bacteria become dominant, two are not very effective.
The three approaches to a harmful bacteria overgrowth are antibiotics to kill the harmful bacteria, probiotics to repopulate the gut, and prebiotics to change the gut conditions.
Research has proven that bacteria can go dormant when gut conditions are not favorable. Antibiotics are unable to kill bacteria in a dormant state. Research has also proven that when an antibiotic is used, some of the harmful bacteria go dormant and evade the antibiotic. So antibiotics will drive the harmful bacteria into dormancy, but will not prevent them from coming back, and will do nothing for new harmful bacteria introduced from outside the body.
Probiotics also have a drawback. Most probiotics work on the theory that the bacteria in the gut need to be repopulated. However, the bacteria are always there, both the healthy bacteria and the nasty ones. So using probiotics on an unhealthy gut will not rebalance the bacterial population of the gut. The healthy bacteria from the probiotic will just go dormant right along with the bacteria already in dormancy.
The third approach is using a prebiotic. A good prebiotic is designed to provide the ideal "soup" the healthy bacteria live in. A good prebiotic also balances the gut pH, and contains ingredients that reduce mental and emotional stress, calm the animal, and relax the muscles. When the gut is restored to ideal conditions, the good bacteria will leave dormancy and begin the repopulate and the harmful bacteria will enter dormancy or die off. Using a good probiotic to boost the healthy gut bacteria along with the prebiotic can be useful, although it is not necessary.
How and when you use your prebiotic is just as important as your choice of prebiotic. Remember, the stress hormones from fight flight response must be burned off or used up from the bloodstream after they are released. The best time to use a prebiotic is BEFORE the stress occurs and before the hormones are released, shutting down digestion. If you know you will be rounding up goats, trimming hooves, hauling to a show, have a goat about to kid, or any other stress you can control the timing of, give the prebiotic in the feed before the stress occurs. For stresses you cannot control, the frequency of the dose is as important as the amount. Give small amounts of prebiotic every few minutes, and continue for a couple hours after the stress occurred.
I use Dynamite DynaPro prebiotic.  www.dynamitemarketing.com/carrieeastman