In college, I had a friend who was, admittedly, a stereotypical city kid. As an agricultural economics major, a good deal of my homework involved issues or problems that would arise in production agriculture – so when my homework involved planning calving to achieve maximum milk production in dairy cows, my friend was shocked to learn dairy cows gave birth annually. I believe the direct quote was “wait…you have to make a whole new cow to get milk?”. This story always makes me smile because it was such a funny moment, but I can definitely see how this could be a revelation for someone who doesn’t come from an agricultural background. I mean, how the milk got there in the first place isn’t really something that comes to mind when you grab a gallon out of the fridge at the grocery store. But yes, you do have to make a new cow to get milk…and the same is true of goats!
In order for our girls to produce the wonderful milk that makes up our products, they need to bring some new little goats into the world. Kidding, as it is technically called, plays an important role here on The Hill! This is not just a means to an end and how we get our milk – but a process in which we aim to improve the genetics of our herd and raise new babies that will be the future of Madd House Hill. And as spring approaches, we are quickly moving towards the culmination of our hard work, when we will welcome new kids to the herd! So today, we want to introduce you to the planning and processes that we use on our farm to make kidding a success. Hopefully, this will give you some background for all the adorable goats in pajamas photos we hope to share in the coming weeks 😊
It all starts in the fall, when we begin to consider kidding and when we want that to happen. When we first began raising goats, we let our girls go on “dates” at the first signs they were interested, which didn’t necessarily lead to a wonderful experience five months later. After a few January kiddings in the bitter cold, we started planning around our schedule instead of the goats. Now, we plan to begin kidding no earlier than mid-March, when we hope the weather will be warmer and easier for new babies to thrive in. Because our herd has grown so much in size, we also plan (as much as we can) to have all our babies born within the same four-week window. This makes for a hectic month, but also limits the amount of time we are checking the barn multiple times a night and keeps all our babies at a similar age and size. It can be tough having kids that are just days old playing with rowdy two-month-olds!
This is also the time that we plan for what genetic improvements we would like to try to make for the next generation! We do all the matchmaking in advance to ensure the best possible genetic matches for each generation. For instance, if we notice one of our girls is a little short, we will match her up with a taller buck. The focus of all of this planning is to ensure not just improved milking genetics in the next generation, but also future milkers who have desirable dispositions, maternal instincts, and physical characteristics. Our goal is always to improve our herd and the breed, because it isn’t just important to us that we raise great kids for ourselves – it’s important to us that we raise great kids for all the new families who bring home a Madd House Hill kid! Babies that leave our herd go on to be pets, 4-H projects, and milk producers for other herds, and we want them to be their very best in their new homes.
With all the planning behind us, there is a lot of “hurry up and wait” during the five months our girls are pregnant. About two months in, we do a quick and easy blood test on each of the girls to make sure they are pregnant, but otherwise, things are pretty low key until due dates draw closer. About a month out from due dates, each of our pregnant does receives a tetanus booster and a nice fresh udder clip. The tetanus booster helps prevent disease through the kidding process, and the udder clip keeps things nice and neat for the new babies, since it is important the kids begin to eat very quickly after birth. After all that, we wait some more…waiting for due dates to approach and keeping an eye on our girls. This is also when we start to make guesses about how many kids each doe may have. Unlike larger livestock, it is not uncommon for goats to have multiples. Twins and triplets are most common, but in the last few years, our girls have surprised us again and again. First, in 2020, with two sets of quads…then in 2021 with one sets of quintuplets, and THREE more sets of quads. They keep us on our toes! So, it is always a fun guessing game for the family to try and make predictions about who might have what.
Finally, we get to set up kidding pens and break out our “kidding kit” for when the little ones arrive. While we would love to go into that today, that makes for a blog post longer than you’d want to read – trust us! So, stay tuned for next month’s post, when we will go into detail on all our kidding essentials and the excitement of having new kids on The Hill! With some of our 14 expecting girls due this month, rest assured that next month’s post will come complete with plenty of pictures of the new babies!
Until Next Time,
Madd House Hill