April 10, 2015

On Goat Mothering

It's been interesting to watch our goats over the years. One would think that the mothering instinct is a consistently predictable quality. Not so. 

Daphne's twins first outing


The very first doe to kid here was CryBaby. Does anybody remember her? She was a first freshener and a good little mom. She took her little buckling with her everywhere from day one. Trouble is, he'd fall asleep somewhere out in the pasture and she wouldn't remember where he was. She'd run around in a panic trying to find him. I'd have to go find him and show her where he was.

Our second doe to kid was Surprise. She was the opposite of CryBaby in that she would hide her kids in a corner in the goat shed. One time I got them out to show to friends. Surprise immediately came over, rounded them up, and took them back.

Mother goats recognize their kids by tail end smell.

This little gal has the happiest face!

Lily seemed to have the least mothering instinct of all my goats. Her first freshening was touch-and-go for awhile because she didn't know where those little goats came from, what they were for, and what they wanted from her. She accepted them after a little coaxing, but she would let anybody and their brother butt her kids all over the place.

What is this stuff?

The one doing the butting was usually Ziggy, who would flatten anybody and everybody who came anywhere near her kids. But it wasn't just to set boundaries, it was ongoing even after everyone got the message. I later saw Lily and one of her nearly grown girls gang up on Ziggy almost a year later, as though in pay-back.

Surprise was herd queen and so bossed everybody around, but she had a mean streak. She would sneak up on Ziggy's or Lily's kids just to give them a swift, unnecessary butt. If anyone came near her without permission, look out. I saw her butt one of her own kids away, only to sniff afterward to figure out who it was.

The twins with Helen's girl in the middle. The quads are almost 4
weeks older but not that much bigger. It's all a matter of womb room!

Even so, the twins aren't very big. Chicken included for size comparison.

This was Helen's first freshening and she has been a good and natural mom. However, we were initially alarmed right after kidding because she kept pawing at her babies. Was she trying to kill them? Turned out she was trying to turn them over to give their bellies a good cleaning. When I held each squalling kid tummy up for her, she washed it thoroughly until she was satisfied and that was that.

Heading out for today's new adventures

Daphne's twins (foreground) are 3 days old here. The quads are 4 weeks.

It took a couple of days before I could get photos of both Helen's and Daphne's kids together because Daphne is a pretty strict mom. For example, her kids are not allowed to nurse while she's eating her morning and evening ration from her feeder. She is also very firm about keeping the others away from her girls.

Dan moved the steps from our torn down coal barn for the kids to play on.

She is gentle, however, even in butting the others away. If her younguns get too far ahead of her, she calls them back.

Helen's girl leaping onto the stump under Daphne's watchful eye.

Then there's Bunny. She's not quite a year old and never been pregnant. Yet.

Bunny and 3 of Helen's quads

She still has quite a bit of kid-play in her. She was on the bottom of the pecking order for so long that I think she's enjoying having underlings around. Thankfully she isn't rough with the little ones, but she always wins the goat games.



All kid play is under Daphne's supervision. 

I'd be interested in your observations about goat mothering as well. Those of you who keep goats, what have you experienced? Do your goats have good mothering instincts? Any fun stories to share?

11 comments:

  1. I have not kidded goats but I have calved cows and foaled mares. The range of mothering is unreal but the consistency of mothering starts right away. A good mother always seems to be a good mother right from the start. Your kids are just wonderful and I cannot believe your huge rotundity, Dadhne,only had two:)

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  2. Our Brown Sugar kidded one week ago tonight. She is an amazingly good mom. She was never affectionate with us but she really is with her kids. She is also better with us.
    It is cute because she will even lift her leg a little, standing on three legs, to give them a little more room when they nurse. She is very protective. They were out in the upper pasture today and she was butting any other goat that would come near them.
    Just for a split moment, right after they were born, she almost head butted them....like she thought they were just another one of those annoying baby goats she has been living with. She didn't actually do it but it seemed like instinct. I am very pleased with how good of a mom she is.

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  3. No goat mommas here yet; so far, been able to hold out until we get some uber secure fencing up. Are you finding the parenting to be totally dependent upon the individual, or are you seeing traits that seem more breed specific?

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  4. Fiona, Daphne is still pretty hefty! Helen, OTOH, is having trouble keeping weight on herself, making milk for four. Interesting observation about mothering. In subsequent kiddings my goats pretty much remained the same in their attitude toward their kids.

    Karen, sounds like you've got an excellent mom in Brown Sugar. I've seen that almost butting with some of my goats too. Most of them check them out first, thankfully!

    JW, yes, you'll definitely need good fences! Very good question, although I have mostly only goats and chickens to compare. So far no one has rejected their kids, but I wonder if how the mom was raised makes a difference. Some folks pull their kids immediately and bottle feed them, and I can't help but wonder if such a goat has a harder tme being a good mother.

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  5. Like you, our goats seem to have different mothering styles. Unfortunately it seems that the best mothers are either 1. Retired because of injury or 2. Have lost their kids this year. We also have the mean mother who runs EVERYONE off and butts everyone at the drop of a hat. I'm calling her buckling Prince Pissy Pants after his mother. Unfortunately, our low-goat-on-the-totem-pole gets chased away even from her babies and won't come to their rescue. They haven't been seriously hurt (thankfully) but they are definitely going to be more skittish as it seems everyone is out to get them, poor things.

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  6. no goats here, just love hearing all your stories about them though.

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  7. Interesting! I love seeing the yearling with the babies. It gives a sense of scale. How tall is Bunny at the shoulder? My Eeny Beanies are 15" and 17" respectively. I can't put a size on yours in my head.

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  8. We never had goats but we had pigs and they too had a wide range of mothering styles.

    On occasion I hear someone watching a particularly horrible display of parenting on the news channels wonder how mothers/fathers can do such things. Having known other species of animals can have such different styles of parenting among their own kind, I always understand how our own kind can do similar things. The one big difference is that when we had a pig who turned out to be a bad mother, we never let her have any more offspring. Not so with human kind.

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  9. Carolyn, it's tough to have goats like that. Happily, I've gotten rid of all my bullies! Here's hoping you can tame some of those kids down.

    Gill, thanks!

    Barb, Bunny is 19" at the shoulder. The little frosted ear black buckling is 14". Daphne measure 23" at the withers and Helen 24". The breed standard for Kinders is 20 - 26" for does, and up to 28" for bucks.

    Ed, good point about the different species including humans. I always think humans probably simply repeat their own experience of growing up. I wonder if animals do the same.

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  10. I think humans can opt to do things like their parents did or the opposite and sometimes a combination.
    I know there were quite a few things that I did not agree with my parents on and did differently. Funny how they take that personally.

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  11. Renee, I agree. I know I've tried to do some things the same as my folks, and some things very differently. I reckon doing it differently is mistaken as being told they were doing something wrong, but I know what you mean about parents taking such things personally!

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