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"Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, And look well to thy herds;" Proverbs 27:23







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Understanding DHI




Yeah, I definately could have used a book like that!

With does being bred this time of year, the thought of Spring kidding is forefront in a lot of folk's minds...and invariably with kidding, there's thought toward the milk.

Have you considered putting your does on test then found yourself in the next instant thinking, "Oh my...where to EVEN begin."?

Well, you're not the first to feel that way. But I want to let you know, it's absolutley NOT as hard as it seems. Not even close.

If you're involved with ADGA you know there are several programs that you and your goats can be involved in...DHI milk testing being one. And whether you dam raise or have your kids on the bottle, DHI is completely do-able. (Link to DHI while Dam-Raising.)

Before we begin, let me share a few important definitions and acronyms you will see and (subsequently) use. Then I'll follow that with a few links to other explainations of DHI...hoping the assemblage will fill in any gaps I may leave.



DEFINITIONS


The DHI Program is a system of measuring a 240 or 305 day lactation by obtaining monthly (or recurrent) milk weights and samples, from each fresh doe on your farm, and having it tested/recorded for milk volume and components (ie. butter fat, protein). Does (and their progeny) meeting set standards are awarded for those accomplishments. To give you a little bit of an idea of possible goals, here is a chart showing DHIR Requirements for Advanced Registry. And as symbols and letters can be confusing on stat sheets and pedigrees, here's help in understanding Milk Production & Show Pedigree Abbreviations for ADGA & AGS and Reading an ADGA Performance Pedigree.

DHI stands for Dairy Herd Improvement and though most generally associated with milk production and testing, DHI encompasses many programs designed to help you (the breeder) improve your dairy herd...whether they be cattle, sheep, or goats.

DHIR stands for Dairy Herd Improvement Registry. These registries are ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association), AGS (American Goat Society), and NDGA (Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association). They are the registry side of DHI, and they're a nationally recognized system for evaluating dairy records. My DHIR is ADGA.

Note: In milk testing some folks are not registered with any particular Association, they milk test because they want to know what a particular animal in their herd is producing. Information is used for themselves and there's nothing wrong with that. (All milk is tested/recorded the same.) Being registered with an Association does however bring an added value to your efforts. Registries not only keep your records, but they award animals for pounds, fat, and protein produced and that's an added selling feature (for the Dam and any progeny). We highly recommend milk testing within a DHIR.

DHIA stands for Diary Herd Improvement Association. These Associations are non-profit. For those involved in milk testing, there is a yearly fee for this help and data/record keeping. These are the people that you'll work most closely with in getting your milk test numbers recorded and getting questions answered. My DHIA is Meadowlark Testing Association.

DRPC stands for Dairy Records Processing Center. They process the data collected on test day and return reports to you as well as forwards them to USDA which in turn, forwards completed lactation information to ADGA. My DRPC is DHI Provo.



Okay, with that all out of the way, let's open up our DHI for Dummies and take a look at milk testing in layman's terms.

As with anything, I like to do all my research and planning before jumping in. I carefully read all I could trying to get a handle on, not only what it is, but all it requires. For me, this reader-friendly explanation was the best help.

I started off reading ADGA's 10 Basic Steps and DHIR Frequently Asked Questions along with several other information pages they have, but in using words I didn't know/understand (as a beginner) they left me confused and with the feeling that having your herd "on test" was a rather colossal ordeal.

Since then I have found a few other good posts on the subject. They can be found here at Feather and Scale Farm, CalDairyGoats, American Goat Society, and The Miniature Goat Registry.

After research, my next top consideration is...capability. Financially (because we're a one-income home), geographically (since we live a long ways out), and physically (as I'm over 50 and have to deal with some age-acquired limitations). Once the dust settled in my mind on all that, I moved forward.

So what are the main necessary items to do DHI? You'll need a milk bucket, 1 oz stainless steel dipper, and a scale (that has been checked/certified for accuracy).

Note: You can send your scale in to your DHIA and have it checked/calibrated (for a small fee) and they mail it back to you. Another option is to take it to a Scale Calibration Service (usually a much higher fee). Or, if you have a local Post Office that is willing to test and fill out a Scale Calibration Verification Form to send to your DHIA, that'll work just as well...and they do it for FREE.

Milk bucket, dipper, and scale. Check!



Oh...and this.



Once you have the supplies and expectation of a doe in milk, then you're ready to choose what kind of DHIR Plan is right for you.

Here's a list, along with a brief explaintion and what that will require and look like at your farm.


After choosing a plan, you're ready to select a DHIA to work with. Most folks choose one that is near them. Here's a list.

Your DHIA will be the one to issue you a "herd number" and "tester number", and will be the one to keep records and submit an annual report to ADGA Qualtiy Assurance Program Director for you.

I see them as my advocate (they stand in my stead, they're my go-between). I send them a certain amount of monies and they make sure everything is correct, papers get sent where they need to be, and that everyone that needs to be paid...gets paid. (No trying to figure out who needs what/when, no sending a check here, and another there...they take care of it all.)

They are also the ones that will train you on how to fill out your Cow Barn Sheet and Herd Barn Sheet, and how to conduct your monthly Milk Test and yearly Verification Test (if your plan requires one). If you have question/concerns they are the folks to help you. They want you to succeed and are a tremendous asset in doing that.

After choosing a Plan and DHIA, a great first step is calling them and letting them know your desire to be involved in DHI milk production testing. They'll share pricing with you, send your training material, get the ball rolling with the DRPC they use, and contact the Lab you'll be sending your milk samples to. They'll also give helpful suggestions on what to do next and (most importantly) answer any questions you may still have.

With those things in order...choosing a Plan, selecting/calling your DHIA...now is a good time to fill out a herd DHIR Application with ADGA and contact them. At this early stage of enrollment you probably will not have your Herd and Tester Number to give them...don't worry, after you take your test you'll be assigned those and can simply call them back with that information.

Your training materials will come in the mail shortly and (depending on which plan you choose) you and your Supervisor or Verification Tester can start studying them to prepare for your short (open book) test. (Mine was about 10 questions long.) Once the test is completed, you'll be assigned your Herd and Tester Number.

It's a good place to note this here. The test is NOT "graded", they're simply wanting to see how much you understood of the booklet and video, and if you miss something it'll show them where you might need further explaination.

Shortly after, your DRPC (Dairy Records Processing Center) will send you your first Cow Barn and Herd Barn sheets.

This is what they look like from DHI Provo. If you use another DRPC they may have sheets that look a little different, however the information to be recorded and filled in will be the same. (For Langston DHIA you can see record sheets and an explaination on Dairy Goat DHI - how we do our milk testing with Langston or watch Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 video training on YouTube.)



You can take a look at those and fill portions out according to the step-by-step recommendations/instructions you received in your training material. (After initial filing, they'll then come to you already filled in, as you can see in the above photo of mine.)



The Lab will send you your first box of vials. The vials are just small 2 oz size plastic bottles with a preservative tablet in them.

With everything in order and paperwork ready to go, you're just waiting for kids to be born and milk to start coming in.



Or maybe your little darlings have already arrived...

If that's the case, let's move onto your first test day. (And don't worry, the hardest part was waiting for them to be born...it's all easy from there.)



In your milking parlor you'll need some way of telling time, either a watch or clock as you'll need to know your (milking) start and ending times.

Test day milking is done at a 12 hour interval. So if you milk at 6:00 a.m. you'll have your second milking at 6:00 p.m. If you are a OAD (once a day) milker, you can either milk twice on test day, or keep with your OAD schedule and record that weight. (Here is more information on DHI for OAD milkers and their Verification Test.)

Note: To ensure milk weight accuracy, strip each doe out the evening before (12 hours prior), so each test starts with an empty udder.



After milking, you'll find some folks do all their weighing, sampling, and filling out paperwork in the barn or milking parlor. I head to the house to do mine.

Here's what my table looks like on Test Day.

Two milk buckets from separating each does' milk. Weight scale and jar for weighing milk. My one ounce stainless steel dipper. Notebook and pen for recording a.m. and p.m. weights along with any notes that would explain that milkings' weight (weather, in heat, bred, etc.). Milk vials with each does' control number wrote on top. And finally, I have my icebox milk pitcher ready for straining afterwards.

On test days it's a good idea to have everything ready to go so it's handy and weighing/sampling runs smoothly.



First order of business is to take weights of each does' milk and record it in a notebook or on a preliminary barn sheet.



Take the lid off your vials so they're ready.



After weighing your milk, you'll take a 1 oz milk sample. (Samplng directions recommend dumping the milk back and forth between two containers to mix thoroughly, and then stiring it well before taking sample.)



You'll repeat this step with each does' milk. Taking a 1 oz sample of the morning's milk (which will fill the vial half way), and then after you milk in the evening, take another 1 oz sample with that evening's milking (which will then just about fill the vial).

With both morning and evening samples inside...

YOUR MILK SAMPLING IS DONE!

Give them a gentle shake or swirl to help encorporate the preservative throughout. (Milk will turn a different color...that's totally normal.)



From here you're just filling out your record sheets and getting things ready for shipping.

Our lids do not snap down so I tape the lid on each vial as an added safety precaution.



With vials filled and ready to go, let's take a look at the paperwork part of your milk test. (These shown are DHI Provo, and depending on which DHIA you go with and the DRPC they use, they may look a little different.)

Here's the Cow Barn and Herd Barn Sheets you'll be dating, transfering your milking time and milk weights to, and signing. As you can see it's all filled out except for those parts you'll fill in on Test Day. And of that, there are basically only 4 sections on each sheet you will need to fill in.



We'll take a look at the Cow Barn Sheet first.

As you can see it's all pretty self-explainatory. The four sections you'll fill out here are Signature, Date, Sample No, and Milk Weights.



Let's take a close-up look at the Sample No and Milk Weights section.

The Sample No column is for recording each does' corresponding vial number (written on top of each lid). Doe 1's milk will be in vial 1. Doe 2's milk will go in vial 2, and so on.

For the Milk Weights section you'll write in the weight of their morning (AM) and evening (PM) milking.

Note: I do my Milk Test all on one day (as most people do), and don't know why they put 1st (PM) in the box most people use for their morning milk weight, and 2nd (AM) in the box most use for their evening milk weight. Please know, whichever way you decide to fill it out (morning in the 2nd (AM) box and evening in the 1st (PM), or vise-versa), it will not matter...your total will be the same.

Since most people only milk twice a day, for the 3rd or Total box you'll write a squiggly line through the "3rd or" and circle the word Total. (These instructions are found in your training material.)



With all the information in place, make sure it's signed and dated.



YOUR COW BARN SHEET IS DONE!

Here now is a close-up of the Herd Barn Sheet.

Lots of stuff on there, but don't let that freak you out. Again, there's just 4 sections you'll fill out and it's ready to go.

On this sheet, all the information you'll be entering will be in the section there to the right.

Date it, first thing.



Next move down to the Herd Test Day Information section.

The 1, 2, and 3 are the milkings. Again, if you milk only twice a day, you'll be filling out only rows 1 and 2.

The WGH and SAM columns are for recording how many milkings were weighed (WGH), and how many milkings were sampled (SAM).

Here's an example, if you have 5 does in milk and everything goes well (no one knocks over the bucket, kids don't get to Mama on Test Day and drink the tank dry, milk doesn't accidently get dumped, etc.) and you come up to the house with five does' milk, you can write in after weighing/sampling that you have 5 that you weighed (WGH), and 5 that you took samples (SAM) from.

The Milking section is where you'll record (in Military Time) your start and stop times. I hand milk two does and start at 6:00 a.m. (06:00), and finish 15 minutes later at 06:15. The evening milking takes 15 minutes as well so I mark my time at 18:00 and end time as 18:15.

If you have just a small herd and don't have a Milk Tank that next collumn will remain empty.

Milk Shipped is for recording the total weight (all does combined) of your morning milking (row 1), and evening milking (row 2). You can get these weights from your Cow Barn sheet's Milk Weight section and total them up.

Not Shipped is for recording those does' whose milk you weren't able to weigh and sample.



Just to the right of the Herd Test Day Information section is the VER TEST box. This is where you note if it's a (R) Regular Test or (V) Verification Test.

Note: I'm explaining a (R) regular milk test but if your plan requires (or you choose to do a VT), you can find instructions in your training materials that were sent to you, or here also is ADGA's Verification Test Form along with their Verification Test Instructions. (And, if your DHIR is American Goat Society, here is AGS DHI Rules and Procedures.)



At the bottom of this sheet you'll note a New Cow Identification and Corrections section. This area will be left blank unless you have added a new goat to your herd, or need to make any corrections known on your DHI record.



With all your milk test information filled in (and any new goats/corrections declared), your last step for this sheet is to sign it.



HERD SHEET IS DONE!

You can tear along perferated edges and put white, blue, and yellow sheets together so they're ready for mailing off in each respective envelope or box.

The below photo shows everything ready to package up for the Lab.

I make my own box so it's never bigger than what I need, or more expensive (to ship) than necessary. A small box like this (containing two milk samples, packing material, and blue sheets), runs just over $3.00 in shipping.

It's a good idea to put your milk vials and Lab paperwork in their own baggy (to protect in case of spilage). Then it's just adding packing material to keep things from banging around while making it's way to it's destination. We use peanuts and bubble wrap but have also used crumpled up newspaper and that works just fine too.



With the Lab's blue copy of my Herd and Cow Barn Sheets on top, it's ready to tape shut and mail off at the Post Office.



The white and yellow sheets will be mailed in envelopes to my DRPC (white sheets), and my DHIA (yellow sheets).



And...that's it! You've officially got your first test done for the books.

In a week (or so), you'll get printed sheets back from your DRPC showing test day and milk component information and that's always fun to look through.

With that, your girls and their offspring, are on their way to * (stars) and + (pluses). That's quite an accomplishment!

Know your DHI milk testing efforts will be appreciated for generations to come.

Yep...



To make your own FOR DUMMIES book/poster you can use a Meme Generator and/or follow YouTube video instructions.



Fecal Egg Count Pictorial




FECs can show you a lot more than just host parasite numbers. They're also a helpful tool in determining genetic differences in your herd, efficacy of commercial and alternative treatments, and they can be a supportive aid in monitoring pasure contamination.

Here are step-by-step (pictorial) instructions for doing your own FECs.

Above photo shows the 10 items you'll need. Microscope (with 4x and 10x objectives). McMaster egg slide. Gram scale. Two cups. Flotation solution. Tea strainer. Spoon. Syringes. Gloves (if you prefer them). Goat pellets/poop.

Now for easy instructions.



Weigh out 2 grams of feces.



Draw up 28 mL of flotation solution in large syringe.



Mix feces and flotation solution together.



Strain mixture through tea strainer into second cup.



When straining is done...



Stir well.



Draw up mixture in small syringe (or pipette).



Fill each chamber of the McMaster FEC slide.



Let sit at least 5 minutes (to allow eggs to rise).



Focus under lens (using 10x objective).



Count eggs. Begin at a line, working your way up and down each row of each chamber.



Calculate.



The best time to do FECs is in the Summer months.

Though tempting to use results as means of identifying goats that need to be wormed, Maryland Small Ruminants Program recommendation is to use FECs as only one part of your deworming identification need protocol. It's important results are considered alongside the animal's clinical condition (if they are showing disease), by checking their FAMACHA© score, Five Point Check©, and Happy Factor™.

For more in-depth information, here is a PDF and a couple of good YouTube videos. First one is Microscope Crash Course for Fecal Egg Counting and the second is the Why and How to do Sheep and Goat Fecal Egg Counting.




Garlic Lemon Pepper Goat Cheese




Fall weather brings on thoughts of sitting around a cracklin' fire eating delicious crackers and cheese. One of our favorites is Garlic Lemon Pepper Cheese. It's super easy to make, loaded with flavor, and doesn't require a drop of rennet.

As with all good cheeses, it takes a little time (from measuring milk to slicing up cheese), but the steps are easy.

Dump (in milk). Stir (until bubbly). Pour-in (coagulant). Let sit. Strain. Drain. Mix-in (flavors). Press. Chill. Eat.

That's it! And the only thing requiring any "effort", is the stiring.

For great tasting cheese, you can't hardly get any easier.

Here's an ingredients list, and then I'll follow that by a quick pictorial.



You'll find things will go quicker and more smoothly if you get everything out and ready to go. Pan, utensils, etc.

Here I'm using white vinegar as my coagulant as I'm all out of my Santa Cruz Lemon Juice.



Clear an area (if you need to) on your table and gets things laid out there and all ready to go.



I want to note, I use Butter Muslin for my soft cheeses as it does a better job keeping the cheese from filtering through.



Over medium low heat, dump in the milk and start stirring.



Temperature should reach 180° (if you use a thermometer), or that foaming/bubbly stage just before it starts boiling.

Lots of foamy bubbles will indicate desired temperature.



Once temperature has been acheived, remove from heat.



Pour in vinegar. (You can see almost immediately the vinegar start to curdle the casein in the milk.)

Stir, and then let sit for 15 minutes.



Here's a short video of that curdling effect.



Curding. Whey and cheese curds separating.



Pour into your muslin/strainer/bowl set-up to drain whey.



Squeeze out as much of the whey as you can and then hang in a safe place.

I do mine over a clean kitchen sink with the strainer below (just in case it should drop).



Whey. There's lots of good in there! You can keep it for yourself (using it in other recipes), or give it to your animals.



Your cheese curds should be done draining in an hour or so. You can check by giving it a good squeeze to see if any more whey comes out. (You want it pretty dry as it holds together better.)

And here's the exciting part, one gallon of (Nigerian Dwarf) milk produces a whopping 2˝ lb cheese.

When it's done draining, it's ready for the mixing bowl.



After adding the necessary salt, you can add whatever flavored ingredient(s) appeals to you.

This recipe calls for garlic, dried basil (which I didn't have), and lemon pepper...but you can add any combination of flavors you want. Fresh chopped jalapenos, crumbled bacon, chives, red pepper flakes, parsley, green onions, chipotle peppers, liquid smoke, dehydrated mushrooms/tomatoes (even fruits), herbs, olives, etc.

The possibilities are endless!



After flavor ingredients are in, mix thoroughly.



From here you can kind of do what you what. You can press it down firmly in the bowl and let it chill there. Use a regular cheese press mold, a form you have around the house like a coffee cup or even your corn bread pan (which makes a nice cheese wedge shape).



Or simply lay it onto a sheet of plastic wrap to form into a ball or log for slicing.



After pressing into the desired form, then just slip it in the icebox to chill a couple of hours. (That wait-time leaves you plenty a chance to get things cleaned up and your dishes done.)



When chilled, it's cracker-snackin'-ready.

Oh YUM!!



Or (if you're a little more patient) add a thick slice to your Supper...it melts nicely.



Yeah, it's get-in-my-belly good.



Enjoy!!




Linear Appraisal Checklist




I appreciate the benefits of organization. As such, I like to plan ahead and make needed lists. With that fore-thought into play with Linear Appraisals it can enhance both your own, and the Host Herd's, overall LA experience.

I'll share a few things (including this link). Realize, some items on this list you may not have need of or even use. The point behind each item is that...when you find yourself a guest at another's farm you be as self-reliant and self-sufficient as you possibly can be.

And...before the items' list, a few important things to think of prior to your arrival at your host herd's farm.

1. When inquiring of herd participation, send along a scan of that year's CAE/Johnne's herd test results. That knocks off a question the host herd farm will want to ask, and that'll help put everyone at ease.

2. Be mindful of Bio-Security. You aren't visiting a zoo, so don't take it upon yourself to walk around their farm, petting their animals, checking out their barn/parlor set-up, etc. Diseases/pathogens/viruses are very real, and despite the great kindness they have afforded you in being a Host Herd (and thus extended to you in allowing you to have your animals appraised there), bio-security is on the fore-front of each goat breeders mind. Be most respectful and considerate of that.

3. Be ready upon arrival. Have everything in order and easy to grab (paperwork, collars/leashes). And remember to make a pit-stop before arriving at their farm. Taking care of necessary things (using the restroom and washing up) gives you the ability (if scheduling allows) to have your goats immediately appraised after you arrive. No one will have to wait on you and you'll be more comfortable and mindful of your goat's appraisal and needs and what's being said.

Now, with that out of the way...I'll take a few minutes and write about a few of the items I took, and then share a check-off list below for your convenience.

Bring your ADGA Linear Appraisal paperwork and Herd Notebook. The Appraiser will be using the LA Report Sheet for each goat's appraisal, and your Herd Notebook may be needed for the records you have inside (goat registration papers being the main item of importance). Having other records at hand can be useful as well. (Extended pedigree information, breeding/kidding records, proof of recent herd test results, etc.)

Bring a helper. That one extra person can save a lot of time and effort on you and the Appraisals part. They can bring goats to and from the stock trailer while you are working with the Appraiser. And make sure they're good help, that they can handle the long trip and stress of the day, and are good/familiar with your goats. See to it that they are aware of, and follow, your protocol and own personal rules of etiquette.

Stock trailers with a middle partition are nice, but if you find yourself in need of extra holding "cells", or have a doe/buck that would benefit security and comfort-wise in having their "own space", bring additional crates with straw/pine chip bedding inside. In stressful situations goats that may normally get along well may find themselves upset at others or themselves being rammed by a fellow herd mate. Added crates can relieve the personal space/stress issue that comes from finding themselves spending their day not how they planned and in a small enclosed, unfamilar, jostling space.

Birng everything you might need to milk...teat wipes, milk pail, jars to store the milk in until you get home, cooler with ice, portable milk stand, etc. Keep in mind, if they are over-uddered you may be asked to milk them out there (to better tell udder texture). Or, for your goat's sake, if they've had a long day and many hours since the last milking...you may want to give your girls some relief before heading home.

The right goats. Yeah, don't laugh...it's happened more than you might think.

Choke-collars, leashes. Extras are nice, and come in hand.

If LAs are during the Summer months and heat will be an issue that day, maybe consider taking portable goat enclosures so they can be got out of the stock trailer (which parked in the sun can turn stifeling hot). Even wire dog crates can be used.

Items to take care of your goats' eating/drinking needs for the day. Hay/Grain and water, along with the feeders and buckets needed to offer them in.

Goat treats are nice to have as well. A little baggie full of raisins, carrots, animal cookies, etc. can help gain the attention of goats being handled/photographed/walked. And with the stress of the day it nice to have a little something extra special for putting up with your ideals.

Clippers, hoof trimmers are nice to have on hand. Your goats usually will have that all done but you never know when you might want a touch-up.

Flash light and approved measuring stick will be provided by the Appraiser. Nice to have another on hand though.

Wipes and a couple of wash clothes can be handy for a quick wipe down of your goat's coat, or washing a dirty face/bottom/udder.

Ramp, for the older girls and also just for the ease in loading/unloading goats from the tall height of a stock trailer or pickup bed.

Appropriate clothing and shoes for the day. This includes weather-wise (jacket/umbrella), but also with fore-thought in mind of all the bending and walking around you'll be doing that day. Modesty is important, as is comfort.

Don't forget your camera! This might be the best time for you to get those updated website photos. And if not, it's nice to have a fun record of the day's events and how your goat's looked. Make sure it's fully charged.

Personal items you'll want for yourself. Bottles of water, bug spray, sun-block, hand sanitizer, snacks, headache medicine, note pad and pencil (for taking notes), etc.

You may have a wait after you arrive or you simply may want to spend the day with your peers visiting/enjoying their company and doing what you all love...watching goats. Bring a fold-up chair to ease your comfort. Maybe even toss in a few more so you can offer a seat to others.

Trash bag for trash.

Finally, if you'll permit me. Come with a gentle, peaceful demeanor/attitude that day (toward your host family, the Appraiser, your peers, and your goats). With all the stress and preparation gone on before-hand, Linear Appraisals are a perfect time to just be kind and thankful to all those around you. Makes for a pleasant day.

Okey-doke, here (as promised) is the check-off list. Feel free to use the snipping tool on your computer to capture the image and print it out.


Now with everything marked off your "all but the kitchen sink" list...have FUN!!




Making Tough Herd Decisions




In amongst the joy and satisfaction of raising, milking, and showing goats, there's tough decisions to be made on each herd member...and you know, some of them are just gonna stink.

As I write this, I'm waiting for a doe to kid-out. In breeding for color as well as type, udder and production improvement, this little girl is one I've been most excited to see bred this year as she's my only red and white doe.

Big hopes, yep. But I'm old enough though to know that despite how admirable any plans are...they aren't always seen to fruition. "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

There is great joy and good in that promise because I know, how ever things come to be, God only wants for my best. I know too, that even with dashed hopes and pain, He can make good come from it. That's how He is. That's what He does.

I know all that, but I'll have to tell you...even with knowing, often my first response to failed-plans...is disappointment.

These last couple of months I've struggled over my plans/hopes for this doe as I have watched them slowly dissipate.

You see, one morning (two months into her pregnancy) I sat out in the yard with my little herd and as she turned her backend toward me...I saw what made my heart fall.

The unmistakable split (scur) of one of her teats.



Supernumerary teats (SNT or polythelia) is what they're called.

Yeah, a somewhat technical name for this uncommon (but) impeding dairy goat trait. All I knew, was when I saw it my heart flooded with disappointment.

Hard to grasp stuff like that. I think part of it comes from just not wanting to accept, what is.

I had checked her teats several times before. With kids you always do. (It's important in bucklings as well as doelings.) But there was several times that I'd see her from the backend and wonder on the one, so...I'd check it again. Nope, it was fine.

I don't know if it was her maturing in age or pregnancy that helped split it off, but there it was...and there would be no more wondering about it.

Disheartened, I still had some immediate decisions to make.

With a due date coming up and subsequent hand-milking I wanted to get her to our Vet and have it removed in plenty of time for good healing to take place before she freshened.

Got that done and it looked good.



My next concern was in regards to my herd involvement in DHIR and Liner Appraisals and where her place in those programs would now be. For those answers, calls were made to ADGA and my Testing Association.

Easy enough.

Finally, with this being an inheritable trait/gene (and records needing to be made of it's occurrence in lines), I then contacted the breeder and let them know (which they kindly followed by offering/refunding part of her purchase price).

Not fun, but done.

What followed after has been the tough, long drawn-out, hard part of it. Not only in regards to the doe...but to the question, "Do I keep any progeny?".

Scur-teats (or, as some call them, "fish-teats") aren't a dominate trait and thus don't show up very often. Additionally, they also carry with them the suspicion of being an environmentaly produced phenotype. Because of those reasons you'll find good breeders on both sides of the fence in the use of them in their breeding program.

Some culling decisions are more cut-and-dry than others and each of us has to decide individually what is best for them and their farm.

In all my turning over and pondering...this thought came to me.

With every decision you make, in regards to your goats and the people they involve, you are deciding the direction of your herd, and (subsequently your) testimony (reputation).

Twenty-five words, with big ramifications.

Encouragement...to choose well.

The verdict it still somewhat out for up-coming kids...but for the doe that exhibited the split-teat I don't want to repeat any such disappointment, and will not breed her again.



Here follows are some of the thoughts I turned over in coming to that decision.

I'm not breeding for pet homes.

My goals here ARE to improve the breed. To keep with the Nigerian Dwarf Breed Standard already set-forth.

Though some of my goats may go to pet homes, my goal is to produce beautifully correct animals that can go from the milkstand to the show ring/LAs with equally pleasing results.

The goat doesn't meet up with the hopes I have for my herd.

It's good, when you are considering to go into breeding, to write out your goals. Create a Mission Statement. An admirable direction. Or develop your own personal Breeder Code of Ethics.



When you have it wrote out and finished, visit it often. In such things you cannot be reminded too frequently.

Always leave room for higher goals, and give not an inch to those things that are shameful and compromising.

Personal conviction of disqualifying faults/traits being reason to consider culling.

With Nigerian Dwarf, exceptional genetics are widely available. So in our pursuit to build a herd, we can (and should) cull those that don't meet or offer anything to our breed standard. Particurlarly those that would be disqualified in showing or linear appraisals.

Goat/genetics are not something I would be proud of, or would want to share with my peers.

I don't want to sell something that requires a "full disclosure". Or be found having to do that, because I chose to use poor genes.

I want to be a part of genetics that I'm proud of. I want to have a reputation of not only doing right by the breed, but to my fellow peers and buyers. "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold." Proverbs 22:1

Do what is right.

Genes are something that are generally hidden, and we often don't know of some until they display themselves.

It's what we do with that showing that says a lot about us as breeders/individuals.

Having "fixed" my doe's fault, it can't be seen now that she even carries that trait.

But it is seen, and it is known...by Him who calls all into account.

May I encourage you to care more about the breed, your peers, reputation, and what God thinks than what monies could be recouped through any deceit. Keep your dealings unadulterated and transparent.

Always be found doing what is right.



So were some of the thoughts I turned over.

I think a good bit of my struggle came from not having a goat to replace that dream with. (When you have a small herd, culling decisions are greatly felt.)

It can be the same with large herds.

When you find yourself faced with things other than what you hoped for and invisioned...it's hard. Maybe there's titles involved, milk production numbers, a lot of hard-earned money spent, or maybe you're in the middle of certain goals/acheivements/recognitions. Culling decisions are often tough.

I've taken time to share here of scur teats, but there are many traits to remove a goat from your breeding program for.

In Nigerian Dwarf we have height restrictions. Over-height is a good reason to cull. Or traits that are considered disqualifying-faults in ADGA's Dairy Herd Improvement Programs. Poor/dangerous temperament. Reproduction problems. Does that habitually have kids that fail to thrive. Goats that are chronically susceptable to worms, or struggle with disease/mastitis. Production issues. Structural problems. Injury. Etc.

We've chose to keep our (ever so sweet) little doe here after she kids and just let her be a companion pet/herd mate.

This is our decision, but if that's not something you can afford (whether numerically or financially) then sell the animal with full disclosure either to a peer willing to take on the (small) risk factor...or to a pet home or homesteading family that doesn't mind owning a goat that would come without papers.

If none of those are options (and it's a safe choice), maybe that goat's greatest contribution will come from what they can bring to your (or another) family's table.

There's nothing wrong or shameful in that.

I may have made a different decision had she been the last of an exceptional line, or had something really spectacular to offer her progeny and thus the Nigerian Dwarf breed. Or if the Nigerian Dwarf gene pool was small and there would be more to gain from her lines than forfeited.

But that doesn't describe her, or our breed.

Toilsome decisions are sure to come. I hope that despite what is going on all around you...you be encouraged to do the brave, hard thing.



I don't know how this all fits into God's good plan for me. What I DO know is...because of Who He is, it somehow is best for me...and with that, I can surely trust Him.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5&6




Checking for Balance




Though not exact for Nigerian Dwarf, incorporating lines (of equal length) to the various points of your dairy goat can be a useful tool in helping reveal your goat's over-all balance.

Structural correctness/balance not only adds length, strength, dairyness, capacity, and depth...but in the dairy goat world, helps them hold up better to the rigors of kidding and milk production.

And beyond those desired traits, length-correctness is truly beautiful to behold.

I like looking at a goat and it be a "feast for the eyes". That every where you look, at every point...you thrill with what you see. Balance can do that for a goat.

Correct balance can also help set-up a goat naturally...whether in the show ring, Linear Appraisal, or standing out in the pasture.

What I like about this method is that you can apply it to any goat...those in your own herd, or one you're considering to purchase. This simple tool can also be implemented to show what areas can be improved upon in any future Sire/Dam breeding.

Here are the steps and what you'll need.

First, a general knowledge in regards to the various parts of a goat.

Second, you will need a (full) straight-on side view photo of your goat set-up. Here's a beautiful example.

Finally, you will need a set (ruled) measurement. You can use any paint or photo editing program to create a straight line. (I colored mine so I could better differentiate the section and points.)

From there you'll simply position the lines to the corresponding points on the goat (or as close as you can) to see balance. Wither/Chine in the first section, loin in the next, hip to pin bone, and so on.

It's not a set-in-stone method, but it is a helpful (revealing) tool in bringing balance/correctness into perspective.

Nigerian Dwarf are given allowances in the leg region as they have a shorter "Dewclaw to Knee/Hock" and "Knee to Point of Elbow" ratio. But other than that, we like to see length be the same throughout.

Here's a handy-dandy poster.




Disbudding with Dehorning Paste




For a lot of reasons I am pro-dehorning, but I'll tell you on the back-side of that...disbudding (for me) is one of the more difficult animal husbandry jobs required in dairy goat ownership.

As a college student and then farmer/rancher's wife, I've worked for a couple of Veterinarians so I've helped and done all sorts of procedures...but disbudding, that is still one I dislike.



I'm so thankful, in God's creation of the world for us, that He included animals in it. With all the pleasure and satisfaction (in life) they give us...the world is a much nicer place for it. My belief and conviction (in response to that gift), is that we ought to intently care for them. This verse, "Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, And look well to thy herds;" Proverbs 27:23 is a favorite one referencing that kind of stewardship care.

I suspect some of my dread for disbudding has to do with the species...the gentle nature and temperament in which God created goats. I love them...goodness I do...and when you love and enjoy them like that it brings a rolling wave of repulsion when taking a 1000° hot iron to a tiny little round head. It pricks, and goes against your innate conviction to "do them no harm".

All February, March, and April kids were polled, so we enjoyed the (disbudding) reprieve. May rolled around though, and broke that spree with horned triplets.

Disbudding is most successfully done that first week. Wondering of a gentler way in doing that I had thought to try the dehorning paste. Raising bottle-calves, we have experience in it's use and it always does such a beautiful nice/clean job. If it could produce that same result in goats...I sure wanted to try.

My main concern with caprine (paste) use, is pain management. I have accidently got the dehorning paste on my own skin in the past and liken it to the stinging/burning sensation you get when splashing Clorox on yourself. Though only moderately painful, I know stress (in being restrained and away from Mama/littermates) can exacerbate any discomfort. I want to aleviate that as much as I can.

Wanting to test out the efficacy of the anesthetic numbing spray beforehand, I sprayed an area on the heel of my hand and (after it dried) put a daub of dehorning paste there. Pleased with its effectiveness we chose to try the paste on our little group of (4 day old) kids.

I won't bore you with a whole bunch of chemical information on the product (I'll let you read that from other sites). I will share, in regards to paste disbudding/dehorning, you can find a lot of good information on dehorning.com. Though Dr. Howard Naylor's dehorning paste seems to be the most contraversal, as a Veterinarian he produced Udder Balm, Blu-Kote, Hoof 'N Heel, and Mastitis Indicators among other trusted products.

How dehorning pastes works is by way of the two caustic substances contained therein (Calcium Hydroxide - Ca(OH)2 and Sodium Hydroxide - NaOH). When applied to the horn bud, the paste destroys the horn-producing cells and horns simply don't grow. With that said, very little paste need be applied. (For Nigerian Dwarf doelings, only a dime's worth...in height and circumfrance...is necessary. Bucklings do better with a nickle's worth.)

I realize many have very strong opinions and feelings on it's use, so it's with a little trepidation that I share this as a blog post. My hope is to acquaint with my peers, that paste (when done right and combined with pain control) can still, very well be, a viable choice in disbudding. Then also perhaps correspondingly, through the sharing of my own personal experience with it, demit the (no-personal-experience) fearmongering that often comes with the subject of it's use...and gently educate.

I hope what follows, is met with interest. Please understand, that irregardless of what is shared below, we encourage you to do your own research and make a disbudding implementing decision that is right for you. Though goat-raising methods differ, in the end what we all want is happy, healthy goats. I want it for myself, and want it for you. On that alone, we can enjoy comradery.

Now, with the long commentary out of the way...and if you're ready...we'll pull our sleeves up and get started.



Our first photo here shows a layout of the items we used.




Not shown is Petroleum Jelly (or Udder Balm) which is suggested for placing as an outer ring around the horn bud area (to prevent the paste from going places you don't intend it to).

Beyond supplies, two kid containment items are beneficial.

First is a disbudding box.




The second is a holding pen.

If you have access to neither, and you have plenty of help you can enlist the assistance of another. (My son and daughter both helped this day.)




Here follows are the steps we took in disbudding.

Clip hair away from horn buds.

We clipped an area the size of a dime, then used the face trimmers to make a clean, extra close shave.




Apply anesthetic numbing spray and let set the recommended time to dry and acheive topical numbing relief. (Although paste disbudding has been shown to be less painful than hot-iron disbudding, it is still uncomfortable and I highly recommend pain relief measures.)

We used GiGi's (which does well for ear tattooing) but will be using something stronger for any subsequent disbuddings as we didn't feel the topical numbing/pain relief was adequate for what we wanted to provide them with. (A transdermal has been recommended by our Vet so we'll check into that.)

Note: Sedative and anesthetic injections are also options. We did not do this. (Both anesthetic choices will require the experience and training of your Vet if you so choose to go that direction.)




Package directions.


LAMBS & KID GOATS: Apply Dehorning Paste as soon as possible after birth if animal is in good physical condition. Minimum discomfort is experienced and application is facilitated. Application of the paste on lambs and kids over 2 weeks old is generally too late to prevent future horn growth as horns are too large, especially in males. Buck kids (males) usually have palpable horn buttons (buds) at birth. Doe kids (females) are a little slower in developing horns. Clip the hair over and around horn buds. Apply a thin even film of Dehorning Paste over buds and a narrow ring of skin at the base of the horn bud. This ring of skin grows the horn. Too thick an application may result in deeper penetration and activity with discomfort. Dehorn dairy bucks at 3 to 4 days, dairy does at 4 days and always before 10 days. Pygmy bucks should be dehorned at 7 days, pygmy does at 7 to 10 days. Twenty to thirty minutes after paste application, scrape off paste and neutralize treated area by carefully flooding with water, then vinegar. Wash water and vinegar must not come in contact with animal's eyes. Kids and lambs may be wrapped in a blanket for a short period to prevent rubbing treated area with their hooves.


We weren't able to get photos of the application process, but video often tells more than still shots. Here are a couple we did with the doelings.

Part 1 shows the application process itself. Though attempts were made for added comfort (in the bottom of the disbudding box and neck area), she was not happy with the restraint (as you'll see/hear with her crying). Once out of the box, she was fine.

I'll also add that none were very happy with the cotton balls and tape applied to their head afterward (which was done to protect them and their littermates). Part 2 shows where we ended up with removing the tape and just holding them for the duration of the recommended treatment time.

The below photo (with paste removed and hair/skin cleaned up) shows the attained aftereffect.




Though not a perfect first attempt (as we DO want a better pain inhibitor), we are pleased with the results.

Gone, is the unsightly burnt hair, skin, and bone. With no bleeding or open sore to worry about with flies or infection. And when the hair is all dry and fluffed back up, a mark (the size of a pea) is all that is seen.

I like that a lot.




Here shows the two sisters together. Both sporting a nice/neat disbudding job.




We have yet to see how well of a job we did. The following months will be telling (in regards to any horn growth). We feel confident with the doelings but will see with our buck kid as their horn growth pattern is different.

Pros and Cons we found with Dehorning Paste.


Pros
Cons
less trauma (to goat and farmer) 20 - 30 minute treatment time
clean appearance subsequent holding time
only a peas size aftereffect adequate pain management needed
no burnt hair, skin, or bone
no bleeding/open sore
no risk of penetrating nasal cavity
no swelling or high temp trauma
quickness in healing
little, to no risk of infection

Our assessed opinion.


With Pain Relief
Without It
Would we recommend dehorning paste with kid goats?
Yes
No

Think that's about it. We'll follow-up with a six month picture when it becomes available.

Should note, that though we have shared of our positive experience with paste and subsequent plans to use it again, we are not forgoing the use of the hot iron here on our farm (for despite its drawbacks, it continues to be a quick and effect means to bisbudding). Also, I have spoke here of two modes, but there are lots of ways to disbud/dehorn (ie. clove oil injections, banding, hot iron (with anesthetic and without), sawing (hand and electric), obstetrical wire, barnes dehorning pliers, keystone dehorner, etc.). Understand with any means, all come with different degrees of pain and success in regards to horn (re)growth.

For several (forum) pages of information from actual users of Dr. Naylor Dehorning Paste, you can read those here.

We hope to have shown dehorning paste (done correctly and with anesthetic), as yet a possible alternative to disbudding dairy goat kids. If unable to use a hot iron on your kids (whether it's that you don't have one, it's broke, or just cannot mentally bring yourself to do it, etc.), be encouraged that you can still humanely disbud with paste.

And now I'll close this off.

As a fellow peer and journeyman in a life "for the love of goats"...I wish you the best in your disbudding endeavors.



UPDATE


Overall I am very pleased with the results of our dehorning paste trial.

Our buckling does have some small edges (scurs). They aren't noticialble in his hair but can be felt. I wondered of this, and results prove doing a larger (nickle-size) application IS needed for bucklings.

On the doelings, it has done a beautiful job. I absolutely could not ask for anything better. Smooth, flat, and visually appealing.

Below I have shared a couple photos (two months) post-paste. The first one shows it's normal appearance. In the second one, I shaved the treated areas to show how it looks underneath all the hair at skin level.


(Two month follow-up photo.)

(Two month follow-up shaved photo.)


(Six month follow-up photo.)



What's Behind Great Tasting Milk?




Nothing's better than a tall cold glass of milk! And raw milk is rich in both nutrients and flavor. So when you pour yourself a glass and bring that delicious, wholesome goodness to your lips you don't want to find any surprises or off-tastes.

We've all seen posts from people unhappy with the flavor of their milk (or it "turning" sooner than it should). I read such and always feel bad because I know it's discouraging (for them). It's a lot of loss, and waste.

Though sometimes there can be other contributing factors, generally off-tasting milk is attributed to poor handleling. And that's a positive, because that's something that can (mindfully) be worked on.

Being that as it is, I thought I might share our milking and product-handeling protocol here at Narrow Gate. (Not as a step-by-step "have-to", but for ideas you can try if you're looking to improve milk quality.)

What follows are basic procedures for the home-dairy. (Business production would require more stringent and meticulous practices.)



One of the most contributing factors in great tasting milk is the health of the doe. If you have that, you have a good start.

After health is good nutrition.

Besides pasture and having alfalfa and native grass hay bales available to our girls at all times, we also provide them with a good grain mixture.

With lactating does we try and keep their protein percent at 14 and above, with fat around 5%.




After that...it's up to you and your doe. How she produces it, and how you handle that product.

Two key factors in having great tasting milk is seeing to it that you have clean milk, and then getting that fresh milk chilled down as quickly as possible. This not only affords you flavor, but product longevity as well.

A good first step (when your girl is fresh) is to keep her in a "dairy clip"...even if it's a moderate one. We trim from the tail down. Udder, teats, and tummy. The below photo shows a moderate clip with a #10 blade. Here's an excellent video on Shaving a Goat's Udder for Show that you can gain some shaving tips from.



The next good step is in keeping a tidy work space.

It doesn't take but a minute to brush your stand off. And then with a clean surface, try as best as you can to keep the area orderly and uncluttered.

Yes I know, when you're out there milking things can happen and it gets a little messy and haphazzard looking...not to worry, just plan on taking a few minutes to tidy it up before leaving.

With the importance of keeping milk clean, it's crutial to have as clean a work surface as you can. As we all know, there's an awful lot of unwanted flavors on the milk stand that can get into your pail. The key is removing them before milking.




After a tidy work space...is a "tidy doe". (Well, as much as can be.) *wink*

Give your doe a good over-all brushing. It's preferable to do this before she gets on the stand, but if that's too difficult, then just sweep debris away after.

That simple act of brushing removes a lot of things that taint and dirty the milk (hair, dirt, dry skin, manure, vegetation, pollen from walking in the pasture, etc.).




Follow that by using a good antibacterial wipe (or warm soapy rag) and do a thorough job cleaning udder and teats.

I use one side to wipe the whole udder down including the high-up hidden area between udder and leg. Then, depending on how dirty that is, I'll either get another wipe or flip that one over and clean each teat with a clean half.

*Note: Saving money is good, but not at the expense of cleanliness.*




Now for milking.

First thing to be mindful of is to use only those pails (or dishes) that have no chips, cracks, or seams as they only harbor bacteria. That not only affects milk quality but is unsafe for you.




We don't always do this, but if you're trying to rule out flaws in your milk handling steps, adding another filter to your milking process will help you weed out weaknesses in your procedure.

A good one is those that fit directly over the top of your milk pail. You can use a fine wire mesh (like this one offered by Bob-White Systems), a piece of cheesecloth, or paper filter. We sometimes use a coffee filter held in place by a rubberband.

Pail filters are also a good idea for those situations where your girls might possibly come to the stand extra wet/dirty or with other foreign matter clinging to their coat.




Final pre-milking step, is use a strip cup for checking milk quality.

It doesn't have to be anything fancy as all you're doing is looking for any changes in your does' milk that day (clumps, clots, flakes, etc.). A couple of squirts not only clean out the teat beforehand, but give you an idea of what to expect the rest of her milk to look like that milking.



After that, and with everything (hopefully) looking good, proceed on with milking your sweet doe.

When finished stripping, teat dipping (if you do that), and tidying up...head back to the house for final steps in processing your product.

(Note: We recommend doing this immediately after you've finished milking. First, because it adds to the over all quality/longevity of your product, but also because if you haven't used a pail filter any contaminates left resting in your milk, will taint it. So no finishing up chores, letting out the chickens, drinking a cup of coffee, etc...see to it that you promptly process your milk.)

Once there, and in good light, you can see the job your added filter did for you.

Most folks don't realize how much falls from the doe until they use a pail filter.

That additional step keeps your milk not only clean but also helps you see if you're doing an adequate job brushing and washing beforehand.




After you remove the filter you should see a nice clean product in your bucket.




The next step in the care of your milk, is straining.

We double strain here, using a wire mesh filter along with paper filter.

There are filters made specifically for straining milk and they can be purchased at most any retailer selling milking equipment. We've found coffee filters do a good job here for us and pricing is hard to beat.




For straining, simply pour your milk in and let gravity do the rest. Try to keep hands/fingers from touching the milk as even freshly washed hands can introduce tastes.

We strain into three cup, quart, or half-gallon jars. Smaller volume containers speed chilling and that factors into the longevity and flavor of your milk. (We do not recommend storing in plastic.)




With straining done, get your milk chilling as quickly as you can. We like these handy half-gallon pouring pitchers.

If you have good temps in your icebox that often can do a good enough job in cooling it down.

If you're finding it's not lasting as long as you like or you want to improve flavoring, sometimes folks will put their jars of milk into ice baths for quicker temperature drops.

And, you can put it in the freezer for a bit...just set a timer to go off so you don't forget it's in there. *wink*




With your milk processing complete we'll move into clean-up (as it's important too).

Use warm soapy water for washing and make sure to do a thorough job. Taking care to wash not only the inside, but outside as well...including handle.

For extra disinfectant cleaning a little Clorox can go a long way.




Rinse in hot water...then let them drain and air dry.




And that's it, you're done!

When that delicious (great-tasting) goodness is chilled through...go ahead and pour yourself a tall one!




"And there will be goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household;" Proverbs 27:27




DHI while Dam-Raising?



Well SURE you can do those two things together. And with a little forethought...they can even be hospitably compatible.

I like dam-raising. I like it for the kids, for their health and temperament (because there's lots to be learned from a Mama and the herd). And I like it for the doe, in getting to enjoy and raise those sweet babies herself. Besides, have you ever watched a Mama with her little ones? Everything about her demeanor shows she finds contentment and satisfaction in feeding and raising those little babies.

Let me start out to say (and hopefully you'll find it encouraging), there's LOTS of ways to do dam-raising while on DHI. (Here's 1, 2, 3, 4 pages of FB comments from others and how they do it.) For us, I felt that if I was going to be able to make it work here, I needed it to be as EASY on us, the kids, and the does as I possibly could make it. With DHI testing, two samples are needed. A morning milk sample and evening milk sample (done 12 hours apart). This requires 24 hours of "milk-hoarding" from the kids. I didn't want to have to pull babies for that 24 hours and when I learned there was a simple easy solution to keeping them together on test day, I happily went with that.

If you want to tag along with me, I'll share what our DHI test day looks like.

We have chose 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. for our milking times. We start our "day" the evening before. That first 6:00 p.m. milking will find us getting every last drop we can so our test starts with an "empty" udder. (This is kind of the prep-work for the test the next day.) After we've done a good job stripping...here follows the big reveal...we tape teats. Yep, that is our simple/easy plan to doing DHI while dam-raising. Want to know what that looks like? Here's the best video on how to apply teat tape. We don't do the anti-chew spray but for the taping itself it only adds 2 - 3 minutes (per doe) onto our normal milking routine. And with just that little bit of taping, Mama and kids can be left together through the whole test. So no stress...no crying...no sick (worried/ill) Mamas and babies. We go to bed and all have a good night's sleep.

Twelve hours later (6:00 a.m.) we remove teat tape and milk as usual. Making sure once again to strip the doe well. We apply teat tape for the second (and last time) and then head to the house to do all our weighing, recording, and sample taking. When that's all squared-away we can then share the milk with the kids. We've found that regardless of ever having had a bottle or not, they're often happy to take it anyway they can get it.

In the evening, we'll go out once again just before milking and offer another bottle...that way when Mamas come off the stand (un-taped) kids aren't agressively bumping empty udders on our sweet does.

Our final milking will be done at 6:00 p.m. When finished, the doe/kid's part is done. Though they've not had to endure any separation, they both seem happy to discover that nursing is once again a gratifying option. All that's left now is doing your last weighing, recording, and sample taking. The following day you can mail off the paperwork and samples to the appropriate people. (For us, test results are back within the week.)

Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy!

So. Okay. Yeah. I do say that now. I don't mind (too much) telling you, when I first started doing my research into DHI it seemed almost mind-boggling. There were countless times I wished I could be a fly on someone's parlor wall and quietly watch the beginning to end procedure. All the unfamiliar terms. Different steps. Then not finding anything written in simple terms to understand the whole process. And while my brain was trying to wrap itself around the dynamics of DHI I had the added component of dam-raising which needed to be added onto my mind's (already) muddled-mess. Turns out, working that detail would be the easiest part. *big grin*

Do want to share (before I wrap this up), that we started our year out with a delay. As it was, I ended up sending our first test in when kids were 4 weeks old. Little later then what I had planned but it really worked out to be great timing! Kids had by that time started nibbling on solids and that one factor has made me rethink my early protocol/timing of that first test. Especially in regards to the kids. (Because when the milk-bar is closed, nibbling grain and hay can entertain and tie you over until either the bottle shows up or the buffet is back open.) I'm planning to keep with that 3 - 4 week delay in future freshening tests.

Well, there you have it. I thank you for sticking with me in reading all this. I want to note that I've done a lot of writing on something that is really very simple. Please don't take the abundance of words as an explanation of an insurmountable task. It is not! My hope in writing it all out is to give you an accurate picture/description of what it looks like, and that for most anyone dam-raising...it's completely doable.

I want to REALLY encourage you to be involved in DHI. Read what you can, join a few FB groups (for support, learning, and asking questions). Then be brave with the knowledge that you really can easily combine dam-raising and DHI...and jump right in.


"Skinny" Version of DHI while Dam-Raising
(without all the blabbing)

Do prep-work the evening prior. Milk, strip, tape.

Milk 12 hours later the following morning. Tape teats. Weigh, record, take milk samples.

Bottle-feed babies twice on test day.

Milk 12 hours after morning milking. Weigh, record, and take milk samples.

Box up Lab paperwork/samples. Address/stamp envelopes for copies to Testing Assoc. and DRPC.

Following morning, mail everything off. You're done!

Kids (and you) all breathe a sigh of relief. And well you should, you got that first daunting test under your belt and you did AWESOME!!


"And there will be goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household;" Proverbs 27:27




How to Figure Protein/Fat/Fiber Percentages




Yeah, this is what my paper looked like the first time I ran numbers. Lots of erasing, crossing out, redoing...one big confusing mess.

Well let me tell you, running protein/fat/fiber figures doesn't have to be. I had a sweet lady teach me, and if you got a sit-down-minute, I'll share in "layman's terms (because those are the only ones I understand), the short easy steps to finding your feed percentages.

We'll figure protein but the steps are all the same for figuring (your ration's) fat and fiber percentages. I'll let you go gather up a few things we'll need and then we'll get with it. Here's a list.

1. Morning feed ingredients measured and seperated out into plastic baggies.

2. Kitchen scale that measures pounds and ounces.

3. Calculator, pencil, paper, and (if you're far-sighted like me) glasses.

First step is checking the weight of an empty baggie so you'll know how much to deduct from your grain weights. My quart size baggies weigh .2 ozs, gallons are .4 ozs.

Next, weigh each bag of grain. Convert any pound figures, to ounces. For example, my COB weighed 1 lb. 4.3 ozs. Converting that brought it to 20.3 ozs. (Don't forget to deduct the .2 oz baggie weight from each of your grain weights. So if your COB total is 20.5 ozs the actual weight is 20.3 with the baggie weight deducted.)


Weight
COB 20.3 oz
Peas 8 oz
BOSS 4.6 oz
CM 6.3 oz
Alfalfa 6.5 oz

The next numbers you'll need to know are those on your feed bag tags. For my feeds, COB is 8% protein, Field Peas vary but the bag I got had protein at 17%. BOSS is 17%, Calf Manna is 25%, and Alfalfa pellets are 16%.


Protein
COB 8%
Peas 17%
BOSS 17%
CM 25%
Alfalfa 16%

Final needed number (before figuring) is the total weight of all your grains mixed together, so dump everything in a gallon baggie and weigh it (once again converting pounds to ounces). My total weight was 2 lbs 13.3 oz (with .4 oz gallon size baggie weight deducted), or 45.5 ozs.




Now, for a little multiplying and tallying up.

Take the weight of each feed and multiply that with the protein percentage.


Multiply
COB 20.3 x 8 = 162.4
Peas 8 x 17 = 136
BOSS 4.6 x 17 = 78.2
CM 6.3 x 25 = 157.5
Alfalfa 6.5 x 16 = 104

Add all those totals up.




Final step. Use your handy-dandy calculator and divide that number (638.1) by your total grain weight (45.5) and that'll give you your Protein Percentage, which is this case is 14%.




Walla! You did it! *wild clapping*

Figuring (your feed's) fat and fiber will be the exact same steps. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy!




Mixing Your Own Feed




Looks yummy, huh? Okay, well maybe not. Anyway, if you find yourself in need of mixing your own feed...I'll list some quick guidelines and then share the what and why of what we feed.

Here goes...!

1. Make sure it's safe for goats. Especially if your feeding a pellet that isn't specifically made for goats. In the mixture above we have two different kinds of pellets...Calf Manna and Alfalfa pellets. Though not specifially made for goats, both of these are great feeds to add to your mixed rations.

2. Check grain percentages and make sure it's balanced to meet their needs. No feed is a scoop-n-pour "one size fits all". At different stages of life and seasons of the year, amounts will vary just as needs will vary. Be mindful of the condition of your goats and feed accordingly.

3. Watch for calcium to phosphorus amounts. Especially in thought of your bucks/wethers (in regards to urinary calculi). Calcium to phosphorus ratio needs to be 2:1 in feed and minerals. Your location (in regards to soil composition), type of hay (and where it was grown), along with the kind of water you have, will all play into C/P ratios.

Here is a look at our (morning and evening) Winter rations (with everything listed in amounts and weights). This feeds 5 does, currently with two being in milk and the other three bred. Totals come to 14% Protein, 4% Fat, and 12% Fiber.

1 quart COB (1 lb 4.3 oz)
1 cup Peas (8 oz)
1 cup BOSS (4.6 oz)
1 cup Calf Manna (6.3 oz)
1 cup Alfalfa Pellets (6.5 oz)
2 Tbsp Yeast (1/8 cup)
1/8 cup ACV

(They also have full access to both native grass and (straight) alfalfa hay bales.)

Our bunch does good on this. Nice weights for those bred, and good condition is maintained for those in milk.

Now to break it down and share information on each.

COB is Corn, Oats, Barley. The oats and barley are whole but the corn has been steamed and crimped for ease of eating and digestability. COB is a good carbohydrate that adds a quick (easily broke down) energy fuel. Plus they love it!!

Field Peas (or sometimes known as Cow Peas). Peas are a good protein source, and there's lots of goodies inside it. I recommend buying split as that eases in chewing. Good peas can have protein as high as 25.3%. They're low in fat (.9%) and have a fair fiber amount of 5.6%. Here's a write-up of Feeding Field Peas to Livestock.

BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds). Lots of good things about this seed. It's high in protein, fat, and fiber...a little bit goes a long way. There's lots of good information to be had out there (online) about this single feed ingredient. I'll share a few. Here's Sunflower is a Good Source of Animal Feed, along with Sunflower as a Feed. And though written for another ruminant species there's lots of good information in Sunflower Seeds For Lactating Dairy Cows and Growing Heifers.

Calf Manna is a good all-round feed ingredient. Loaded with protein but also good numbers/source for added copper (which goats need more of). Here is MannaPro's goat information page.

Alfalfa pellets, they taste yummy and being from the alfalfa plant they're loaded with good vitamins and minerals.

Diamond V Yeast. With goats having a similar digestive system as cattle they can greatly benefit from yeast in their diet. Here's a group of good articles on the subject of it as a feed/ration additive. Yeast Products in Feed: What, Why, Where and When? Yeast Products Can Have Positive Effect on Cattle Perforance and Yeast Usuage Can Possitively Affect Feeding and Supplementation.

Finally, raw ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar). The Vinegar Guys have a lot of good information on their site, here's a write-up on it's benefits. Also information on it's use and suggested dosage. Lots of folks add it to their water, we put it in their grain so we know they're getting it.

Pshew! Think that's it. I may add information later, but this is the basics of our feeding rations here at Narrow Gate Nigerian Dwarf. Thanks for having a sit-with-me to share about it.




Correctly Measuring Your Nigerian Dwarf




Measuring height is a lot more than parking a goat in the yard and whipping out a tape measure.

Unlike the majority of goat breeds, the Nigerian Dwarf has height restrictions as part of their Breed Standard. As breeders we want to be mindful of these constraints and choose decisively the Sires and Dams that will produce offspring well within our height standards. And these limitations are a good thing. For those of us that love them, we happily admit that their diminutive size is one of their endearing qualities.

Whether for LA, DHI, or your own personal herd management and breeding records...accurate height measurements are important in the Nigerian Dwarf breed. With that, let's talk first on the things you'll need come measuring day.

First, a flat level surface. That can be cement, table top, work bench, or solid milk stand. You can use dirt but it has to be packed tight (with no give) and level. You'll then need a measuring stick, and those that have a foot and leveling-arm are the best. (See here for one offered through NDGA.) Then, if you're memory's like mine, a pen and paper are in order. The next important item is someone to help, and if this is your first time you'll quickly see why. And finally, a goat. One with nicely trimmed hooves please. The place you will be measuring to, is the highest point of their withers. And if you want things easy to see...a clipped coat is mighty fine.

Here are the steps to getting an accurate measurement. As you'll see, set-up is very important.


Make sure front legs are set squarely under the withers.

The rear legs need to be set to that the pin bone is directly over the hock.

The head should be held in a relaxed upright position.

Place the measuring stick parallel to the goat's front leg.

The "arm" will be in a horizontal level-position over (and lightly resting on) highest point of the withers.

Record height.


Note: ADGA's rules description say that (when measuring) the handler is only allowed to use one hand and it must only touch the collar of the goat.

Here are the Nigerian Dwarf Breed Height Standards from the (main) three registries. Each height is given under the wording that Bucks/Does be "no more than".


ADGA
AGS
NDGA
Does
22˝"
22˝"
21"
(with ideal being 17" - 19")
Bucks
23˝"
23˝"
23"
(with ideal being 19" - 21")

And there you have it! Not too many things to remember and that's good, because if you've spent any time around NDs you know the hardest part of measuring is going to be getting them to stand still long enough to read the numbers. (And for that my only suggestion is...raisins...and doling them babies out like you would quarters in a slot machine.)

To my fellow Nigerian Dwarf people and peers...HAPPY MEASURING!!