June 4, 2014

Goat Decisions: Who Stays & Who Goes

2014 has been a prolific goat year for us. Kidding went well with nothing devastating and only two birthing problems, both happily resolved. We expanded our herd by ten! On our five acres, however, 19 goats are too many. I can report that our summer pasture and forage areas can handle them (no signs of overgrazing), but eventually winter will arrive and I want to be down to a more manageable number for that. The question has been, who stays and who goes? This is not an easy decision! I love them all, but realistically, some are better suited to our homestead goals than others.

Two of my Kikobians. I call them "Zoey's Littles."
They are a Kiko, Nubian, Nigerian cross. 

With only five acres, we want to be careful to steward our land so that everything on it (plants, animals, and people) benefits and thrives. Because we do raise much of our own meat, it seemed a dual purpose goat made more sense than keeping both dairy and meat goat breeds. For that reason I originally had my heart set on raising Kinders. But when neither of my Nubians cared for their Pygmy suitor I switched tactics. I set about cross breeding Nubians, Kikos, and Nigerian Dwarfs to develop my own dual purpose breed, the Kikobian. I've been working on that for several seasons, but this year something unexpected happened. My one, unregistered Nubian doe, Lily, took a liking to my remaining Pygmy buck, Gruffy. The result was triplet Nubian/Pygmy kids, in other words, Kinders!

Dottie, doeling

Sissy, doeling

Splash, buckling

These guys really made me stop to rethink my goals, because this is what I wanted in the first place. Kinders are the best of two breeds: dual purpose, mid-sized, good milk producers, good personalities, and easy keepers, i.e. good at keeping weight on even when in milk. My Kikobians, on the other hand, are an unknown in terms of predictable qualities. It will take a rather large population and a number of years before I could generalize as to specific breed characteristics. And as much fun as it is to work on my Kikobian project, our small acreage doesn't allow for a very large genetic population with which to experiment. I thought about all this carefully, and finally told Dan that if I could find a Kinder buck, that's the direction I'd take.

A couple days later I was looking at craigslist. Lo and behold, I found a Pygmy/Nubian buck for sale! Meet Caleb.

Caleb is a 15 month old half Pygmy, half Nubian buck. He almost earned him-
self the nickname "Tarzan" because of the way he hollered his 1st week here.
He is about the same age as Aphie, but not as large & has a milder personality.

Finding and buying Caleb really made the rest of my decision making easy. I've already sold Ziggy and her triplets, also Alphie, Hooper, and Daisy. Later this summer, when their kids are old enough to be weaned, I'll sell Surprise and Zoey, also Zoey's Little Girl. The keepers? Lily's Kinder kids of course. Also

Zoey's Little Red. Kikobian (about half Kiko, quarter Nubian, and
quarter Nigerian. It's looking like he'll be polled and he has 2 teats)

He will be mated to

Surprise's Miracle - Kikobian

Surprise's Grace - Kikobian

Also I'll keep Lily. At this point I'm planning to breed her to Gruffy again, plus look for a Kinder or Pygmy/Nubian doe for Splash. I'll breed Caleb to Dottie and Sissy, and Little Red to Grace and Miracle. That's still a lot of goats, but we'll just see where it goes from there.

For those who asked, there it is! I'm still keeping a finger in both pies, waiting to see how things turn out.


Su Ba said...

Your goats are gorgeous! What a nice assortment of colors and markings.

Lynda said...

Your goats are beautiful! It would be so hard for me to choose which ones to keep...glad it you and not me! Your new buck is a handsome fellow...bet he makes some nice babies.

Dawn said...

Not an easy descision to make but at least you are being sensible and not letting your heart rule your head, have you any earmarked for the freezer this year, and how do you choose which is for meat.
I hope your Kinder project comes off.

jewlz said...

Exciting stuff for sure! I'm not sure whether to go towards kinder line or try Nigerian dwarfs, so I'll be particularly interested in
watching your herd develop.

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Normally, as a smallholder, I wouldn't bother with dwarf stock, which I see more as petting animals. However, your dwarfs seem larger than those we breed over here in Blighty, so maybe it makes more sense. I notice on other American blogs that dwarf goats are popular too. Over here there is quite a lot of pygmy pig breeding too (for pets) which is a worry as some non-farming folk don't always stick to our strict animal-movement code for cloven-hooved stock, thus making a mockery of the hoops farmers go through and putting animals at risk of another foot and mouth epidemic.
I went a bit off subject there didn't I?sorry!
Another post methinks.

Leigh said...

Su Ba, thanks! We do have nice color this year.

Lynda, I love our new buck. He's a looker and has a much nicer personality than previous bucks. I think that is characteristic of Kinders, a trait inherited from their Pygmy side.

Dawn, choosing is the hard part, which is why having goals helps! I'd want to keep them all without a specific plan. :)

None are specifically earmarked for the freezer as we still have chevon and not enough room for much extra. In the past that's been goats we've been unable to sell. From experience, however, I'd say it's best to choose and neuter young bucks that don't have the makings of becoming herd sires. That's ideal.

JW, thanks! Those are two good breed choices, although I'm more experienced with Nigerian Dwarfs than Kinders. I eventually decided against the Nigerians because they are too small. I found milking them difficult because of udder size. Plus they don't make a great quantity of milk. They do have wonderful personalities, however, and they are very popular around here and so much easier to come-by than Kinders.

Gill, that's very true about dwarf stock. Interesting about the dwarf pigs; they are exceeding popular over here too, along with miniature donkeys and horses (not to mention the miniature goats). Of course they are all looked at as "pet quality!" Most ads state they will not sell for meat, pets only! So I guess the appeal is derived from their "cute" factor. For us, the smaller (mid-sized rather than mini) is a good fit for our acreage.

tpals said...

It's fascinating how you keep track of all the lineages and plan out the next generations ahead of time.

Farmer Barb said...

Yet another post showing me that I made the right decision to only have a She Farm. Since my own children are in the house and needing me to be the mom, I think that just having enough animals to eat the scrub is enough! I am not much of a record keeper.

Sandra said...

An interesting group of goats :) I like their mid size, great idea for limited acreage.
Good luck :)

Carolyn said...

Glad you ended up with surprise kinders this year. But no reason to not have fingers in two pies! At least as long as it's not a strain on you or the land. How's the goat market by you? It's terrible here right now. I can't hardly give away a Nubian/Boer doe in milk....it's killing me!!

Mama Pea said...

In typical fashion, sounds as though you have everything figured out and under control! I'm sure it wasn't easy and took a bit of your time (plus probably paper and a pencil with an eraser!). The right goat herd for your homestead sure doesn't happen in one or two years, does it? You've got some mighty fine looking goats including the new fella Caleb who looks like he'll be a good addition.

Frank and Fern said...

It's always a tough decision to determine who stays and who goes. I'm glad you found a buck that suited your needs. We have ended up with too many goats in the past and it affects how you deal with all of them. Discovering just the right size herd for your land and temperament is an important aspect of success at becoming more self-reliant. Thank you for sharing how you do it.


Renee Nefe said...

I feel as if I need a chart to keep it all straight, but then really it isn't me who has to figure this all out. :D Glad you were able to get your goal breed and try things out.

My daughter & I are just enjoying the cuteness.

Unknown said...

Congratz on finally having some Kinders! I have a herd of close to 50, and I LOVE mine!

Leigh said...

Tpals, it's kinda fun, actually, although at this stage there aren't that many generations to keep track of. :)

Barb, mental records at least! As long as you have a good source for disease free sires, you've got a good thing going.

Sandra, thanks!

Carolyn, goats are selling better than they did last fall! Of course, I don't price mine real high; I price them according to what I'd like to pay. :)

Mama Pea, it only looks under control when I blog about it, LOL. And you're right that it takes awhile to establish what you want.

Fern, that's so true, but it doesn take some experience to figure out the balance, doesn't it?

Renee, I almost shared my charts but figured that would be a bit much! I only had an Elvis line and a Hooper line, and Hooper didn't give me more does that bucks. Not a bad problem to have(!).

Kelsee, thank you!

Rosalyn said...

Leigh, I love these posts. We still are a little way off from getting goats, since we still live in a subdivision and I am the weird chicken woman as the only chicken permit holder in our small city. Our house will be going on the market on the 15th, and goats are on the hopeful list for next spring (I'm having a baby in September so I'll have to be realistic, but I'm still optimistic about getting started next year). All along I've been thinking Nigerian dwarf but some of the things I've been reading lately make me wonder. I am on a waiting list for two doelings from a breeder in Ontario for next year, but I also wonder about mini-Nubians. I know they're a bit bigger, but they sound like they're still manageable and give more milk. I wonder if it is as sweet as the Nigerian milk, and if their personalities are as nice? Nubians are beautiful but I've certainly read a few things about them being loud and emotional divas...

Mark said...

Hi, Leigh! I love hearing about the goats. I'm used to beef cattle and the decisions about which cows and heifers to keep, which little bulls become steers and which are sold as bulls, and when it's time replace the bull with some fresh stock.

One difference is only a few of the 30-40 cows had names: Misery (A Holstein-cross household milk provider named for her attitude when hand milking), Red, Red-eye (A cow with a rare red ring around her eye who excelled at being difficult to handle, the instigator of troubles, and a general pain in the pattooti). The rest had numbers and, while we loved the herd, our relationship to most of the cows was a bit more business-like. I can see where a small number of very familiar animals would make culling a much harder chore. I suspect your goats have more personality than our quite docile polled Hereford's had.

I hope one day to have a few goats for milk and maybe meat, but it will probably have to wait 'til retirement. Whenever it happens I'll need to be way smarter on goats and have MUCH better fences before I give it a try. Posts like this with their comments help with the 'way smarter' part. As for the fences, I suspect I'm on my own....

Chris said...

I love Surprise's coloration. Beautiful. Though I must say, I'm sad to hear most of the original mama's are leaving.

I'm sad I won't hear stories about them again. Having said that, I know if certain numbers aren't removed when new generations are planned, resources get stretched and it impacts on the entire herds health.

I had plans once to have a few heritage breed chickens, but even with two large coops, I was always stretched for housing and feed. I noticed early the stress it was putting on my flocks, and then it made it easier to on-sell what didn't fit my (now reduced) plans.

I eventually moved on to utility chickens, because I was just happy for the eggs. Keeping roosters was the hard part. Some neighbours liked the crowing in the morning, others mentioned it was waking them up. It was just easier to go with utility hens I could purchase ready to lay at a reasonable price.

Maybe when I don't have my kids at home, I'll take on the heritage breed chickens again, because they are really rather wonderful. :)

Nina said...

I can see the appeal with the Kinders. Not only are they multi-use, but they are very pretty little goats! Gotta love something that is both useful and eye candy :)

Leigh said...

Rosalyn, congratulations on the expected baby! That's wonderful news. I'm not familiar with the mini-Nubians except knowing they are a Nubian - Nigerian Dwarf cross. I have to agree about the Nubian personality, they are opinionated and quite melodramatic! Nigerian milk is the sweetest we've ever had, although Nubian milk is tasty as well. I'm guessing you'd have excellent milk quality with the minis, and a better chance at sweet personalities too.

Mark, how funny about your cow names. I've only had experience with one cow, a Jersey for whom I did the evening milking. I agree on good fencing for goats, although I've only had one jump over. The little ones look for places to crawl under, but mostly they love to lean into them for a nice body rub, LOL

Chris, one thing I should have mentioned (about selling the mamas) is I've realized that if I don't plan to keep a goat for the rest of it's life (and deal with old age, death, and burial), it's better to sell them while they still have a good productive years left in them.

We like the heritage chickens too, but keep changing our mind on the breed, LOL

Nina, and great personalities too!

Sandy Livesay said...


A very hard decision to have to make. I know we all get attached to our animals.

Love the pictures of your goats, they are gorgeous.

Farmer Barb said...

If you had itty bitty Nigerians, would you ever breed them to a Kinder or would the resulting babies be too big for her to handle? I know you would not want to breed her to a Nubian. The ones I have seen are ENORMOUS. Just wondering. I might want to get into milk next.

Leigh said...

Sandy, having those specific goals makes all the difference in decision making. It helps a whole lot.

Barb, the year my Nigerian doe was "accidentally" bred to a Kiko was worrisome for me because I feared the kids would be too big. It turned out just fine (they were half mini after all) and I bred her to another Kiko the following year. Again, no problem. (I sold my itty-bitty NDs because their udders were itty-bitty too!)

The Kinders are truly a mid-size goat. Caleb is like the middle stair step between one of the Nubian does and our Pygmy buck. Still, I'd rather deal with pure Kinders. Smaller but with high milk yield.

If you want to keep females only, then you'll probably do best to go with a breed that is locally available to you. That said, I do think the crossbreeds are hardier.

Quinn said...

Hi Leigh - I'm trying to catch up on blog-reading, and just read several of your posts all in a row. Hard to pick one to add a comment on, but the goat post seemed logical ;)
Congrats on your book sales - I am thrilled for you! And you must be very proud to be able to point to important additions on your farm and say, at least in your head,"My book paid for that!"

I loved your post about the cats. I have had the "songbird" discussion with several biologists (I used to work with biologists, being one myself), and have made all the points you mention. I also point out that, especially *as* biologists, one might consider the scale in question...the cats vs. the songbirds in your backyard? your town? your watershed? your ecoregion? I told one wildlife biologist that I had birdfeeder in an area that was fenced off from all ground-based predators (not hawks or owls, though!) in a sort of trade-off for any birds taken by cats on the rest of my property. He was quite struck by this concept, and immediately ceased debating. Sometimes, it's just a matter of reaching people in the way they think :)

Leigh said...

Quinn, good to hear from you! I confess to being terribly behind in blog reading myself. Thank you for your kind words about my book. I'm thrilled to say the least.

You make some really excellent points about cats, songbirds, and biologists. Even experts can become emotionally attached to their opinion, can't they? I so agree about reaching folks in a way that makes them think, not in a way that makes them defensive.