July 5, 2012

Goats, Goals, And The Prime Directive

Trying to decide what to do about our goat situation has taken some time and thought. Initially my goal had been to breed Kinders. I hoped this would be a step toward becoming more self-supporting. If we'd had Kinder kids this year, I wouldn't have given this goal a second thought. But with no kids and first losing one of my Pygmy bucks, and later one of my Nubian does, it was necessary to step back and evaluate.

When we first bought our homestead, we had a little savings to invest in it. Among other things, we bought 2 registered Nubian does and 2 registered Pygmy bucks as our "Kinder Starter Kit." That money is gone now, but if I wanted to continue with this goal, I'd need more starter stock because a good breeding plan requires genetic diversity. With no Kinders in the area, we'd either have to buy more registered Pygmies and Nubians, or import Kinders from cross country. Between that and the realization of how costly this venture would be in terms of time, energy, and money, I needed to rethink.

Another thing I'd figured out, is that while we love the Pygmy goat personality, we definitely do not care for the Nubian personality. Like all divas, they are high maintenance on every level. Of course, these were never our goal, but considering our situation, I wasn't sure I wanted to put up with more Nubians while trying to establish a Kinder herd.

On an immediate, practical level, having only one buck and one doe wasn't working very well. Goats are herd animals and need companions, but it's usually better to keep the boys and the girls separate. Milk too, was another need, but I'd dried up the does in preparation for the kiddings that never occurred.

The bottom line however, was how did all this fit into our primary goal of working toward self-sufficiency? Kinders could meet our needs for food, manure, and something to trade or sell, but other types of goats could too. And at less initial expense. So while not looking for anything in particular, I found Ziggy on craigslist...

Ziggy, a friendly, sweet Nigerian Dwarf doe.
She is polled, i.e. naturally hornless.

Ziggy is a 2 & 1/2 year old purebred Nigerian Dwarf doe. I honestly had not considered Nigerian Dwarfs, but her price and being in milk made me stop to take a look. After a little research on the breed, I decided to see if she was still available. She was.

Ziggy and Surprise

I bought her from a breeder who had high hopes for her. She took a Junior Doe Championship, but once she'd kidded her udder was a disappointment. For those interested, she has no rear attachments, which disqualifies her from the show ring. In addition, there is the likelihood that she will pass this trait on to her offspring, another problem for a serious breeder.

Surprise is not very happy with the new addition.

Since her owner was primarily interested in raising goats for show, this flaw made Ziggy a cull. That meant I got her for about half price, but with no papers. Since I'm not interesting in breeding registered Nigerian Dwarf goats anyway, this was a plus for me, not a problem.

Ziggy & Gruffy. I'll breed her to him when the time comes.

She's giving me 3 cups of milk a day and it's the sweetest I've ever tasted. That's enough for coffee cream, yogurt, and a little mozzarella.

As a companion for Gruffy, my Pygmy buck, I got Buddy...


He's a 6 month old Nigerian Dwarf buckling. I had the option of papers or not. I chose not because it was cheaper.

"Pet me! Scratch me! Don't leave me!
Can I ride around in your pocket?"

This little guy was bottle raised and thinks he's a pet. So much so that he comes running whenever he sees me and is always underfoot.

"Don't believe what they told you. I'm really a lap goat."

Neither Surprise nor Gruffy have been very receptive to their new companions, though Gruffy was quite interested in Ziggy. Adjustments are still being made however. I have to say it seems these went better when we had more goats. With more goats, changes in population, either additions or subtractions, seem to make smaller waves.

Buddy. Gruffy in the background.

Honestly, decision making is so much easier when I have a goal, and when I take the time to figure out how things fit into that goal. Oftentimes I've made decisions on impulse or feelings, and even carefully thought out decisions may not turn out as expected. Having our prime directive is a relief to fall back on. In this case it takes the pressure off of having to "succeed" at Kinders, and refocuses it in terms of the larger framework of our lives.

While I'd still love to have Kinders, I'm also considering getting another Nigerian doe and selling Surprise. I get tired of her continual belly aching and stubbornness. Still, I've already got her and am open to trying to breed her again this fall. We'll just have to see what happens.


Theresa said...

Leigh, I always enjoyed my little Pygora goats, don't know which side their nice personalities came from but all goats are more work than you would think. Your new little Ziggy is adorable though and it seems to me if smaller does the job, they might be easier all around.
Best of luck in the new direction.

Farmer Barb said...

I am very interested to see how this all works out. In my area, people are always trying to offload goats for cheap because there are a number of dairies in New England so there are always goats that don't "fit the profile". I will learn from your experiences on many levels.

I too need to stop and think about the goal. In our crazy lives, it can be very difficult to look down the road. I appreciate how difficult it has been for you and am pleased to see that you don't have to drink your coffee black any more!

Woolly Bits said...

the thought of a lap goat never occured to me:)) the last pic of Buddy is funny, he looks just like a gremlin:) I hope your new set works out in time, but even though I don't know much about goats - it might be just like humans, who need to learn to accept each other?:) I did read that pet sheep and goats can be nerve-wrecking, when they are not the pet anymore, though! if all else fails maybe you should open a pet zoo for the neighbouring kids?

Mama Pea said...

I really admire your open-mindedness in thinking/rethinking a situation. It's a quality I'm a little weak on. Fortunately, my hubby is strong in that department and although sometimes the "changes" we go through are hard on me, I know it's for the best.

Animal personalities are much like people personalities we sometimes have to live with. The good thing is we can sell, trade or otherwise get rid of animals that don't fit in. (Hee-hee.)

Leigh said...

Theresa, Dan thought the same thing about the smaller breed of goat. That was part of the attraction with Kinders, though they produce a lot of milk. Really though, I don't need a gallon or more per day. I figure if I had several smaller size milkers I could get what I needed as the needs changed. We're enjoying the Nigerians so far!

Barb, it's funny how goats are the main dairy and meat animal in most of the world, except here. Cows are great for large families or say a home cheese business if one has the land. With our small family and small acreage, goats truly fit the bill. I can manage the amount of milk plus the feed. Goats need a whole lot less than cows do.

Bettina, me neither! They're gradually getting used to being "goats," Buddy in particular. Still, all our animals love attention.

Mama Pea, if we didn't have primary goals and sub-goals supporting those, I think I'd have more trouble. The emotions are the last to follow, but they're only temporary anyway. :)

DebbieB said...

I'm so happy that you have your own fresh milk again - you can't get much more "local" than your own pasture!

Nina said...

It really does happen when one door closes another opens. I guess it's being receptive to that other open door. I've found that many of the smaller breeds have great personalities and workability. It's awesome that they are also decent dairy providers.

Michelle said...

How ironic! I am in the midst of selling my ND's to get Nubians! I wish we were closer, I'd be trying to work out a trade with you. :-D I love the ND's, but want the volume of milk produced by standard sized goats.

Renee Nefe said...

Glad that you were able to find some new goats...especially one who is lactating.
I can't wait for the next kidding season.
When my mom was looking for her cats she managed to find a breeder who would sell off her retired stock (usually because they weren't throwing off the qualities she was looking for) really cheap...no papers and we weren't allowed to breed them, but we got some wonderful pets that way. It got so that the breeder would call my mom first when she wanted to get rid of a cat.
Perhaps your Ziggy breeder might do the same for you? If you decide that's the way you're going.

Tombstone Livestock said...

Nubians really have a "breed" personality, of the dairy breeds they are my favorite, but then I like the "basset hound" ears on the Nubians, Boers and Angoras. Right now I have Nubian/Boer Cross does and one registered Boer doe. Am thinking about just getting 2 Nubians forget the Boers and when I want does to freshen breed the Nubians to Angora Billies, eliminating the need for another breed of billy and then would still have a meat goat or two for the freezer. Funny 30 years ago by having several breeds of goats I had a Kinder and Pygora before I had ever heard a name for them, I just called them cross breds, kinda like Mutts in dogs, now there are Labradoodles, Chiweenies, etc. LOL

Unknown said...

Good thinking and being flexible! Sometimes an unusual opportunity comes along and things work out fine. Your little is SO CUTE!

Lynda said...

I think you will fall in love with your Nigies...nice, friendly little goats. I had a show-string of Nubians years ago...you are so right: they are divas! I've wanted to add Nigerians to the "homestead" for a couple of years...still have not done it.

Leigh said...

Debbie, thanks! And I have to say, this is exactly the kind of local we want. :)

Nina, so true. I think this is a good fit for us. We can have more than a standard breed, plus the can be bred year around, which means milk year around. A win-win situation.

Michelle, I only wish we could! You will get a lot more milk with a Nubian, that's for sure. And if you milk through, you can have it year round. They're awfully noisy though, LOL

Renee, that is so neat about your mom. Actually, it's not uncommon for breeders to sell "flawed" goats at a discount with no papers. No restrictions on breeding in this case though. Without her papers I couldn't really do anything anyway, but I really don't want to go that route. I just want good quality goats and milk.

TL, how funny. Both Kinders and Pygoras were just cross breeds at one time. I think it took a lot of hard work to develop each into a respectable breed. I still think the Kinders would be perfect for us, but it just didn't work out that way.

Nancy, sometimes you just have to be! She is a cutie, isn't she? They both are actually.

Lynda, it's funny but while we had Jasmine, Surprise wanted so badly to be Queen. Now she has her chance and she's still a grump, LOL.

Ngo Family Farm said...

I think your new additions are wonderful!! And how great to have your own milk again. I'm seriously considering breeding our two Pygmy does to our neighbor's Pygmy buck this Fall. It's just a big step for us, so I've been a little afraid to do it! I've heard that Pygmy goat milk is super creamy though :)

Susan said...

I think that Nigerians are the perfect homestead goat - as long as you don't have a family of five, that is. They are great milkers, give sweet milk and have nice little personalities. Of course, they ARE goats, so there is that mischief-y streak. Your buckling is adorable.

trump said...

Hi Leigh I have a question do you also use your goats for milk, I'm pretty sure that you do but I had to ask. And compared to milk does it taste somewhat like milk from a cow, I've not seen any of our local markets selling goats milk except some farms in my area. Richard

Leigh said...

Jaime, I've heard that about Pygmy milk as well. The biggest problem with milking them is their short legs!

Susan, I said that about Kinders, LOL. But here we are with our first Nigerians. We'll have to see what happens. So far I prefer them to Nubians. :)

Richard, I think goats' milk is better than cows milk. It's sweeter, creamier, and easier to digest. Some grocery stores carry goats milk, but if there isn't a demand, you may have to a farm. You need to at least try it once in your life!

Sherri B. said...

Even though I really don't have anything to add to your homestead info, like all of the other lovely comments, I still love to stop by. I so enjoy hearing about all of the latest goings on at your place.

All of the goats are just so very adorable! xo

Linda said...

Nigerian's are the BEST!!! LOL (I'm partial!)

Cat Eye Cottage said...

I knew you would get back on track; it may be a different track from before, but at least you are on it. I'm sure you're enjoying the fresh milk again.

SmithGang said...

Leigh love the new ones !! how did you learn to milk ? I have a LaMancha but don't know where to start.she had her first kid which is 4 months now. Has never been milked.any advice would be helpful:)

famousthecat said...

Oh man, it can be SO HARD to make logical decisions when facing cute faces/not quite knowing the next step. It sounds like, with your goals in mind, you were really able to make smart choices moving forward (i.e. save money on papers, don't worry about show-worthiness, just go for what YOU want in the end).

Oh, and Buddy is KILLING me. Hi, cutie!

Leigh said...

Sherri, I always appreciate your comments, and yes, they do add quite a bit. :)

Linda, glad you approve, ;) LOL

Candace, I reckon the point is to stay flexible enough to take advantage of whatever presents itself. Kind of a pleasant surprise though. Who would have known?

SmithGang, I learned how to milk a goat so long ago I don't even remember how I did it. My advice would be to check YouTube!

Christie, that's why I can't live without goals! Too many unexpected things pop up, so they are a life saver in the decision making department. :)

Sue said...

Sometimes the universe offers us solutions if we are only open to receiving them. Congrats on your new goats. I've paid enough attention in the fair barns to know that Nubians were not the right goats for me, lol. So far my new Alpines are fitting in, though Clara is turning into a bit of an escape artist. We'll work through it I'm sure. She is sweet though!

Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

I think everybody needs a 'Buddy'!
I understand the release from pressure to success from breeding registered livestock. I nice just to be able to enjoy the animals and their products.

Leigh said...

Sue thanks. There were times when I thought I'd pull my hair out with all the bellowing and hollering when they thought they wanted something, LOL. Glad your new girls are doing so well. I've never had a goat persistent in getting out, but I know it's not uncommon!

Norma, that's exactly the conclusion I'm coming too. I've noticed that no other Kinder breeders seem to be trying to homestead too. They just love the breed and have the time and resources to devote to it. I think we're better off as you said, just enjoying our animals and what they offer.

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Once upon a time, I had 2 Pygora goats and loved them.
It's always easier making decisions when one has goals...making goals is difficult, time consuming and, I've found, I need to be flexible. I'm in that position now...needing to line up all areas of my life and, somehow someway, gain some control.
Man plans, God laughs but I'm gonna try anyway -smile.

Anonymous said...

Don't give up on Kinders! We are in a very similar situation to you, and after a couple years of trouble, and loosing my nubians and pygmies I finally got a Kinder herd! I love my Kinders, and several years later I have a herd 30 strong. Best goats I've ever had! They are hardy, and smart, and gentle. Plus meaty and make great milk.

In my opinion and experience, It is a whole lot easier to just find Kinders and drive the distance to get them. I've had Nubians and Pygmies for years to start Kinders with and have yet to get a single baby from them. Also as you have found, Nubians especially aren't very hardy and they are loud, annoying and not too bright.

The Kinders are way different though, and I wouldn't trade mine for the world.

If your truly interested in Kinders, I may be able to help you locate some. The Kinders folks are a very tight knit and friendly group. And many times they will do a "wagon train" or split distance driving to get Kinders to people. I'm not sure where you are located, but for some reason I was thinking that you weren't too far from me. I'm from the MO / IL border.

Just throwing options out there. I'd hate for you to miss out on this special breed because they are harder to find.

Doug Pitcher said...

I always chuckle when I meet up with a goat milker and they find out how much milk a cow gives. Three cups a day wouldn't even make it through opening prayer at breakfast at our house.

We are milking once a day on one side of the cow as we have a calf in with the cow and I get about 1.5 to 2 gallons off of that one side once a day.

Michelle said...

Doug, Exactly! We "goat milkers" would be drowning in milk!!! A goat gives just the right quantity for a small family. :-D (My ND's give a quart a day apiece.)

Okay Everyone, Y'all are really starting to make me rethink my decision to pursue getting Nubians. Are they really that bad?! I've had Nigerian Dwarfs for three years, and while I love them, I think THEY can be a bit overdramatic! I have one LaMancha doe who is sweet as pie. She was really loud for a long time when she first came here, but finally settled down and is quite mellow now. I want Nubians because they are gorgeous and give the highest butterfat of all the standard breeds. However, I have an extremely low tolerance for drama. What would you do?

Leigh said...

Anonymous, I appreciate your comment. No, I haven't given up on Kinders, I just don't have the resources right now to pursue it. I'm a member of KGBA and the Yahoo KinderGoat group, so I have to agree that Kinder folk are the best. I'm in South Carolina, so anything over several states away is a far piece especially since driving would have to be done between chore time. :) I have been in contact with a Kinder breeder in Alabama, in fact we were going to trade bucklings if I had any this year. She sells her Kinders to out of state buyers for $300 each. A bit pricey for me but that's to cover the testing required for crossing state lines.

Doug, having milked a cow before, I know what you mean! Really, it all boils down to need. When I was getting a gallon a day from my Nubians, it was a lot to deal with. I still have plenty of cheese! Now I would feed extra to the dogs and chickens, but we're at least getting enough to meet our basic milk needs.

Michelle, well, Nubians are over the top when it comes to drama. Very melodramatic. And loud. They sound like you're murdering somebody when they get to hollering, LOL. I used to worry that the neighbors would call the police out to investigate a crime scene. And they never "get it" that you want them to be quiet. They do give rich milk though, but that was also why I was interested in Kinders and now the Nigies. You need to find someone who has Nubians and go visit a couple of times to experience their full effect. :)

Leigh said...

OK, here's an example. We don't have much in terms of winter pasture, so the goats get what they can plus hay. Grain is at milking, twice a day. Evening milking was around 5:30. Well, they would get hungry around 2 for their grain and start hollering. And hollering. At the time I have 4 Nubians so they'd all belly ache until milking time!

Another example (if you can stand it :). During winter I would go back into the woods to cut forage for them. As soon as they saw me heading to the back gate they would run over and start yelling. They'd pace and holler until I brought them something to eat. Really got on my nerves after awhile.

Kinders are supposed to have sweeter temperaments, so I've been willing to put up with it. I still think Kinders would be ideal for us. Like I said we'll just have to see what happens.

Michelle said...

Oh My! Leigh, I would go insane! I've only visited one Nubian farm. They actually advertise that they keep a relatively quiet herd, and they were. However, these people had been breeding for 20 years and their goats weren't particularly friendly, either. They would let you walk up to them, but they wouldn't come to you. I want my milk animals friendlier than that. I wonder if the Nubian temperament requires that amount of detachment in order for them to stay quiet. I need to get in a few visits with out Nubian folks, for sure!

Mama Pea said...

Leigh and Michelle - My 2¢ for what it's worth . . . when we had our small dairy goat herd, we had a mix of Saanens, Toggs and Nubians, the Nubians for their high butter fat content. (We separated their milk in a separater that was originally used for cows.) I loved the Nubian breed. They weren't noisy or demanding but perhaps the dynamics within our herd had something to do with that? Debra, our best Nubian milker, was a very laid-back goat. We originally got our Nubians from a huge dairy goat operation so perhaps they never got the opportunity to become spoiled or demanding? I don't really know except we had a very good experience with the Nubian breed and I'd have them again.

Leigh said...

Michelle, happily Mama Pea has had a better experience! Thank you Mama Pea for sharing that.

I have to say that Jasmine had a very sweet personality. Everybody loved her and by everybody I mean humans and animals. Surprise has been the demanding instigator, but she could rile Jasmine up to make a lot of noise as well. I do think individual personality is important. The breeder of Nubians near you may very well have a quieter breed. If you got them as kids, you could develop friendliness I should think. Ours are too friendly I think. Anytime we need to work out in the pasture they're right there, following us around and getting in the way, LOL.

Kelsee said...

Hmm. Either I am picking up a goat or someone is bringing a goat to me from South Carolina in the next couple months. So getting Kinders to you isn't out of the question, when you choose to pursue it again.

And I have to agree. My Nubians are sweet, but I would never choose to breed them or raise them if I wasn't using them for Kinders. Way too dramatic.

Pygmies are adorable though, and I love my little buck.

Michelle said...

Momma Pea,
Thank you for weighing in. Aren't herd dynamics something else? I'm a teacher and I see the same thing happen in the classroom setting. It's amazing what a difference one child can make in the climate of the whole classroom. I'm glad you spoke up. I definitely need to go visit several different Nubian herds before I make a final decision.

Rosalyn said...

I'm glad that the shift in priorities with goats has left you a little less burdened, and I am interested in seeing how this all works out for you. I have never had goat's milk, and I am unfortunately not really a huge fan of goat cheese although I dearly long to be because I have thought for a while that having Nigerians would be wonderful. Compact, sweet, and they give milk! They sound perfect. :) For now, my someday plans include a cow for milk, but I'm keeping open the possibility of switching to goat's milk. It's more the flavour of the cheese that has me hesitating. I'd love to try goats milk mozzarella, as that is one of the types I want to make.

Leigh said...

Kelsee, well, I still have my registered Nubian doe and my registered Pygmy buck. :) And I have our herd name. Who knows?

We love our Pygmy buck too, what a sweetheart!

Michelle, so true about group dynamics. I think if you have a chance to observe some Nubians (especially around feeding time), you'll get a better idea of the breed personality.

Roslayn, goats milk can vary some in flavor, by breed. Toggenburgs have a stronger tasting milk (in general because it's traditionally used for cheese making.) Goats milk cheese does have a distinctive quality, though my goat milk mozzarella just tastes really good. Not goaty. It's taken me awhile with my hard cheeses and I'm still learning. I'm anxious to try both types with Ziggy's milk. If you need a lot of milk, a cow is perfect. :)

Bridget said...

Good luck with your goaty adventures. Great fencing!

jean said...

Oh my, I love your goats. Goats are so much fun. We love having the goat's milk from ours. Hope you get your goals figured out.

Leigh said...

Bridget, thanks!

Jean, having goals makes decision making so much easier. They help us set our priorities too.