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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Husband and I finally retired this year to our dream farm in southern Alabama. So far, we've got chickens and guineas and the garden is fenced in and well along. The frame of the new pole barn is standing and soon to finish for dairy goats, and in the spring we'll be looking for excellent Nigerian Dwarf goats to begin our new herd. I want to breed and raise them for cheesemaking, soaps, and also for our own milk needs (and also just the fun of raising them), and I've been reading about goats and visiting a few goat farms to learn as much as I can.

But I'm honestly scared of making mistakes in my choice of these first goats. I want our initial goats to be outstanding, with excellent ADGA milking records and a great pedigree. As a result, I'm thinking of starting with a couple of second or third fresheners with a few of their does, if possible. I'm willing to pay extra for very good milkers, but I don't want to travel too far to get them (has to be in the southeastern US). Then, when we need to have them impregnated, I am hoping to have an established relationship with the sellers so we can pay a stud fee. We hope to grow our own herd and learn with only a half dozen or so goats for the first couple of years before getting our own herd sire(s).

I don't feel like I know enough about how to evaluate good milkers from their stats and appearance, and I'd like to know more please. I don't want to make expensive mistakes.

Can you advise me, or direct me to helpful resources? Thank you!
 

· hillbilly farmgirl
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You want the taller goats of the breed, although they are all short. Hips should be wide enough to accommodate easy kidding
Rump should not be too steep. Udder should be fairly large and look even, DO NOT settle for small teats!! No udders that look droopy or that approach the ground, you want good udder attachments. Be warned, with the highest production animals come the highest risk of mastitis and other udder issues. If you can get polled (naturally horn-less) genetics it will save you a lot of headache down the road. Consider artificial insemination instead of live cover-- mitigates disease risk while giving you better genetics.

It would be so much easier to evaluate individual animals you are considering, though. Easier than trying to explain this to a newbie, no offense meant. Can you post pics of goats you are thinking about buying when the time comes?
 

· hillbilly farmgirl
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Here's my milking doe. Her udder is decent, but not perfect. You are looking at an udder that produces about 3/4 gallon a day on this doe. She is not purebred Nigerian dwarf, but crossed to another dairy breed. You want to be able to fit a container under the udder for milking, low hanging udders are an inconvenient, muddy mess.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You want the taller goats of the breed, although they are all short. Hips should be wide enough to accommodate easy kidding
Rump should not be too steep. Udder should be fairly large and look even, DO NOT settle for small teats!! No udders that look droopy or that approach the ground, you want good udder attachments. Be warned, with the highest production animals come the highest risk of mastitis and other udder issues. If you can get polled (naturally horn-less) genetics it will save you a lot of headache down the road. Consider artificial insemination instead of live cover-- mitigates disease risk while giving you better genetics.

It would be so much easier to evaluate individual animals you are considering, though. Easier than trying to explain this to a newbie, no offense meant. Can you post pics of goats you are thinking about buying when the time comes?
Thanks, Shannon, that is a great suggestion (pics of goats, along with the rest of your comment) and I will take you up on it. I did join the ADGA and have looked at some data (intimidating!) and I know I need to learn more about milking stats. I would not be out of line, would I, to request and discuss records of an animal from a breeder of registered goats? If I posted photos and/or stats anonymously (not identifying specific animal by name, location, or breeder), is that acceptable?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Re your doe, Shannon, I see good attachment and pretty good teat size, for a Nigerian Dwarf (you said she is a cross though). However, her udder does look a little lopsided to me, or is that the photo angle. What would you wish for, to improve it?
 

· hillbilly farmgirl
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Thanks, Shannon, that is a great suggestion (pics of goats, along with the rest of your comment) and I will take you up on it. I did join the ADGA and have looked at some data (intimidating!) and I know I need to learn more about milking stats. I would not be out of line, would I, to request and discuss records of an animal from a breeder of registered goats? If I posted photos and/or stats anonymously (not identifying specific animal by name, location, or breeder), is that acceptable?
It is absolutely acceptable. And when buying animals, ask about the milk lines on BOTH sides of the family. Ask for udder pics, always. Serious dairy folks will be happy to show off the udder of the doe for sale, along with the doe's dam and the sire's dam. Udders are a point of pride in dairy production.
 

· hillbilly farmgirl
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Re your doe, Shannon, I see good attachment and pretty good teat size, for a Nigerian Dwarf (you said she is a cross though). However, her udder does look a little lopsided to me, or is that the photo angle. What would you wish for, to improve it?
Her off side does produce slightly less milk, but the photo is definitely lopsided also. It is a small enough variance that I am okay with it. She isn't perfect, for sure. As far as improvement goes, while she has good teats for hand milking, they could certainly be a little bigger so I can get more milk out faster.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Also, what about buying kids from a breeder's online kidding schedule? Do you think that would be a mistake for me (honestly, I think that would be a mistake for me, too, since I don't have any real experience). But oh so tempting!!! Like buying exotic vegetable seeds in a catalog, from photos of perfect specimens... Go ahead, tell me that would be a mistake.
 

· hillbilly farmgirl
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Also, what about buying kids from a breeder's online kidding schedule? Do you think that would be a mistake for me (honestly, I think that would be a mistake for me, too, since I don't have any real experience). But oh so tempting!!! Like buying exotic vegetable seeds in a catalog, from photos of perfect specimens... Go ahead, tell me that would be a mistake.
Do you mean like, pre-ordering kids off a specific doe, sight unseen? Or choosing from kids who are already on the ground?

Here's what I think. Adult animals are always easier to evaluate. And then there is the first kidding to get through. I liked your first idea better, where you buy more easily evaluated, proven breeder does with decent pedigrees to back them up. You won't be getting udder pics of does who haven't freshened, for sure. Leave the potential problem animals to the breeder, is what I think.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Do you mean like, pre-ordering kids off a specific doe, sight unseen? Or choosing from kids who are already on the ground?

Here's what I think. Adult animals are always easier to evaluate. And then there is the first kidding to get through. I liked your first idea better, where you buy more easily evaluated, proven breeder does with decent pedigrees to back them up. You won't be getting udder pics of does who haven't freshened, for sure. Leave the potential problem animals to the breeder, is what I think.
Yes, that is what I've been thinking too; thanks for validation. But there is the risk of getting the breeder's reject animals, instead of taking the chance with the new kid from good lines, if that makes sense.
 

· hillbilly farmgirl
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I hope I don't sound like a goat snob or something lol. I will probably fall madly in love with any/every goat I own. Probably I am stressing too much about getting the best goats I can find. Thank you all for comments to the thread, and I look forward to reading more in the coming days.
Anytime, and enjoy the goat journey!
 

· hillbilly farmgirl
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Yes, that is what I've been thinking too; thanks for validation. But there is the risk of getting the breeder's reject animals, instead of taking the chance with the new kid from good lines, if that makes sense.
I do see what you are getting at with the reject animals, and going forward buying kids might be a better option for you. I do still suggest starting out with adults and at least learning what to look for before rolling the dice with kids, though. You don't want a $400 doeling going belly up on you because of a difficult first kidding, or any number of other numerous issues that might happen.
 

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I'd personally try to get my hands on a bred doe or two. Moving a doe in milk is a good way to seriously hurt her lactation as her entire life and management changes in one day - they're biological animals, not machines, and that often delivers a big punch to a lactation. Too many buyers complain about poor milk production after the sale and then blame the seller for lying - so I don't sell them as does in milk hardly ever. I think buying a doe bred (confirmed if possible), allowing her to adjust in the last few months of pregnancy to your mangement, and then having her kid at her new home sets her up for success the best.

Many herds have realized they kept too many doelings that will be FF'ers because they're nice - then realize before kidding they're going to have too many milkers. Or, a more mature doe matures out of usefullness in a herd when you have several sons and daughters out of her and you have lots of interesting prospects up and coming. Many herds have a size limit and will sell outstanding does worthy of being a herd foundation for this reason.

Of course doe kids are the most economical and you can always get them straight out of phenominal animals for a reasonable price. But, the won't be producing milk for you for about a year and there are some kid management issues I see time and again that leads to problems - #1 being coccidiosis stunting, followed by a close #2 of nutrition failure.

Finally, MANAGEMENT makes all the difference. The first few years are huge learning curves, usually only done when things go wrong. You can't know what you aren't aware of, but that's where forums like these allow you to read about the problems of others and how to prevent them. Not to scare you, but poor management can ruin whatever genetics you bring home. IMO, if you're going to feed them, I think buying the best you can afford is a good idea so they have the most chance of giving back what you want out of them. But, they are also a bigger investment possibly lost in times of mismanagement.

One thing MORE THAN ANYTHING I would like to stress to all new goat owners is PARASITE MANAGEMENT. It is not as simple as deworming them willy nilly. Dewormers are only a small facet (and a WEAK one at that!) of parasite management. And, coccidia are very different from stomach worms. All of these parasites ABSOLUTELY REQUIRE adequate management - again, of which only a small facet is deworming. If you improperly deworm or overzealously deworm, resistant parasites will rear their ugly head on YOUR farm faster than you could ever imagine, and animals will die after an extended illness and unthriftiness. Hate to be so melodramatic but as a vet, every sheep and goat call I've seen in my young career has been... parasites. Before I was a fully accredited vet, this was also the case as a mentor to new herds. DO NOT let your new 'clean' ground and ungrazed pastures lull you into a false sense of security - I don't know how many new herds have fallen into the trap of 'we don't have parasites' because their first year or two see few issues simply because herd size is small and pastures are pristine. No goats are clear of parasites and unless your pastures are incidentally set up perfectly, you keep herd numbers small, and you end up with highly resistant stock (unlikely) you will see parasite troubles if you're not diligent.

I implore you, do some reading on wormx.info - which is a research based, producer oriented literal goldmine of information from around the globe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I do see what you are getting at with the reject animals, and going forward buying kids might be a better option for you. I do still suggest starting out with adults and at least learning what to look for before rolling the dice with kids, though. You don't want a $400 doeling going belly up on you because of a difficult first kidding, or any number of other numerous issues that might happen.
I also think it is a good idea to have at LEAST one adult goat to help the babies along. And though I might be projecting my feelings to the goats, it seems only right to keep mamas with their babies... I know, I can't make up my mind.
 

· hillbilly farmgirl
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I also think it is a good idea to have at LEAST one adult goat to help the babies along. And though I might be projecting my feelings to the goats, it seems only right to keep mamas with their babies... I know, I can't make up my mind.
Woah, I thought you wanted to milk them? It isn't really like the fairy tales or Mother earth News magazines where you can just leave the kids on Mama and milk them also. In fact... you asked about the uneven udder on my own doe. I tried leaving the kids on, and that's what happens. The kids ruin good udders. The mom's won't let their milk down when you go to milk them if feeding kids, either.

Personal experience speaking here. I have tried about every possible arrangement to keep kids on does AND milk, to save myself the headache of bottle feeding kids. It's sort of a no-go.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I'd personally try to get my hands on a bred doe or two. Moving a doe in milk is a good way to seriously hurt her lactation as her entire life and management changes in one day - they're biological animals, not machines, and that often delivers a big punch to a lactation. Too many buyers complain about poor milk production after the sale and then blame the seller for lying - so I don't sell them as does in milk hardly ever. I think buying a doe bred (confirmed if possible), allowing her to adjust in the last few months of pregnancy to your mangement, and then having her kid at her new home sets her up for success the best.

Many herds have realized they kept too many doelings that will be FF'ers because they're nice - then realize before kidding they're going to have too many milkers. Or, a more mature doe matures out of usefullness in a herd when you have several sons and daughters out of her and you have lots of interesting prospects up and coming. Many herds have a size limit and will sell outstanding does worthy of being a herd foundation for this reason.

Of course doe kids are the most economical and you can always get them straight out of phenominal animals for a reasonable price. But, the won't be producing milk for you for about a year and there are some kid management issues I see time and again that leads to problems - #1 being coccidiosis stunting, followed by a close #2 of nutrition failure.

Finally, MANAGEMENT makes all the difference. The first few years are huge learning curves, usually only done when things go wrong. You can't know what you aren't aware of, but that's where forums like these allow you to read about the problems of others and how to prevent them. Not to scare you, but poor management can ruin whatever genetics you bring home. IMO, if you're going to feed them, I think buying the best you can afford is a good idea so they have the most chance of giving back what you want out of them. But, they are also a bigger investment possibly lost in times of mismanagement.

One thing MORE THAN ANYTHING I would like to stress to all new goat owners is PARASITE MANAGEMENT. It is not as simple as deworming them willy nilly. Dewormers are only a small facet (and a WEAK one at that!) of parasite management. And, coccidia are very different from stomach worms. All of these parasites ABSOLUTELY REQUIRE adequate management - again, of which only a small facet is deworming. If you improperly deworm or overzealously deworm, resistant parasites will rear their ugly head on YOUR farm faster than you could ever imagine, and animals will die after an extended illness and unthriftiness. Hate to be so melodramatic but as a vet, every sheep and goat call I've seen in my young career has been... parasites. Before I was a fully accredited vet, this was also the case as a mentor to new herds. DO NOT let your new 'clean' ground and ungrazed pastures lull you into a false sense of security - I don't know how many new herds have fallen into the trap of 'we don't have parasites' because their first year or two see few issues simply because herd size is small and pastures are pristine. No goats are clear of parasites and unless your pastures are incidentally set up perfectly, you keep herd numbers small, and you end up with highly resistant stock (unlikely) you will see parasite troubles if you're not diligent.

I implore you, do some reading on wormx.info - which is a research based, producer oriented literal goldmine of information from around the globe.
Thank you, Dona, I hadn't really considered buying a bred doe, but that idea appeals very much for the same reasons you mention and because I'm eager to help some new kids into the world, lol. Is that weird? Probably. Whatever. I have a few ND breeders in mind who are within several hundred miles of here. Perhaps I will contact them, explain what I am looking for, and feel them out about the possibility of buying a bred ND milking doe. Good suggestion.

Re worms. A few weeks ago, I took our new border collie puppy to a local "livestock vet" for her first shots/deworming, and he mentioned to me in the conversation that worms are the big issue for goats in this area (probably because in very southern Alabama, we don't get many hard freezes). So I'm definitely alert to that issue, and I will do everything I can to minimize the threat to my goats, I assure you! The pasture and forage area that is fenced for the goats is about 2 acres and has not been grazed by livestock for at least 10 years. We do plan to divide it into two sections with an electric portable fence, and we were going to alternate the grazing every couple of months. However, maybe we should further divide it into four sections, or maybe there is a better schedule for moving them? Also, the chickens will not be grazing in the same pasture as the goats (they have their own area); I hope that minimizes risk of coccidiosis. I like this vet, who says he will help set me up for the goats when I have them. Still, my next stop will be wormx.info, and thanks for that resource.

Question for you: the vet mentioned there is a snake vaccine available to dogs, which I plan to start our border collie on in the spring. We killed a copperhead on the property last summer; it's southern Alabama and there is a wetland area bordering our property. Would that vaccine work for goats, too?
 
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