Archive for 2010

Caprine Terminology: Common Goat Words

When I started reading up on goats, I quickly realized there are many terms other than “goat” and “kid” that are important to know.

I was reminded of this by Dianne of La Bella Lingua yesterday in the comments, so especially for those of you new to this goat thing, here are some common goat words you’re likely to come across:

  • Kid: a goat from birth to six months of age
  • Doeling: sexually immature female goat (kind of like a pre-teen)
  • Buckling: sexually immature male goat
  • Doe: sexually mature female goat
  • Dam: a female goat who has kidded a.k.a. Mamma Goat
  • Buck: sexually mature male goat (also sometimes called a “billy”)
  • Wether: castrated male goat
  • Yearling: one-year-old goat

You may also see the term “chevron,” which is, no not the energy company, but the technical term for goat meat.

Another interesting term I’ve come across is “freshen,” which is what happens when the doe gives birth and begins producing milk. Isn’t that quaint? Our does freshened up a storm a couple weeks ago! Hah!

In the coming days, I’ll write more about the basic facts of breeding/kidding, feeding, behavior, etc., but if you have any burning goat questions along the way, please do ask in the comments!


Two Weeks and Counting

All of the kids are now two weeks old. Whoa.

It’s strange to think back to a time when we had no idea what they’d look like, how many of them were in the girls’ bellies, or even whether they’d make it through the birth OK. What a huge relief that all the births went well. I can’t stress that enough. I was *so* nervous and anxious reading all the horror stories on the Internet.

I hear pregnant women say things like that all the time–how reading information on pregnancy tends to scare you because it’s all the bad stuff that gets written about. Well, goat birth stories definitely did the same for me. Of course it’s nice to be prepared for the possibilities of complications, same as with human births, but still…it can really get your imagination working overtime. I had lots of really scary thoughts about having to deal with a breech birth or worse….

Anyway, can you do me a favor and tell me whether you think they’re growing?

It’s so hard to see the changes when you’re with them every day, but every now and again, you get a good glimpse like in this photo with Nina’s baby hooves up on the gate. Doesn’t she look enormous?!

One of the coolest things in the past two weeks has been seeing the difference in their confidence levels.

They used to stand on my lap with these shaky, wobbly legs. Now they love to use me as a springboard as they jump up and off my lap — sort of like mini-skateboarders with the way they’re starting to kick out their legs off to the side on the jump.

They also rather enjoy just boinging around the pen, off the walls, off whoever might be standing there videoing the whole thing. etc. YouTube wasn’t so kind on the quality of this video, but you can still get the point, I think.

It’s *so* easy to spend hours in there with them.


In the Pen with Pinta and Me

If you’ve missed me around some social networking sites and/or email lately, it’s because I’m using mornings to work hard and spending afternoons with the kids, just letting them get used to me.

I’m going to take a few days off now from everything but the kids to enjoy some of the Easter Holy Week activities around here, but before I go, here’s a sweet photo I snapped of Pinta and me this afternoon.

Please feel free to click through to Flickr to see the photo with a little more vibrant color.

Hope all is well in your pens!


You Want Fries with that Wattle?

One of the cutest things about our dam Pasqualina, who is already pretty darn cute if you ask me, is the fact that she’s the only one of our goats with a wattle — that dangly flap of skin that sometimes hangs from goats’ necks.

I say “sometimes” because not all goats have them, and the ones that do can have one or two. Pasqualina has just one.

Consensus is that wattles are something leftover from evolution that no longer serve any real purpose, and that kids, no matter the State of the Wattle in their parents, have a 50/50 chance of being born with a wattle or two. I’ve read that some people who show their goats lop off any wattles just after birth because conventional wisdom says that goats without wattles show better.

Whatev. We think wattles are adorable — and so very goaty — so there was actually much glee when we noticed that little Pinta has not one, but two wattles!

By the way, in Italian, the wattle is called an “orecchino,” which means “earring,” so I tend to refer to them as earrings in English too. So much more sophisticated than a wattle!


Giggling for Goats

Do you want to know how much happiness these kids have brought me?

The other morning, Paolo told me I was smiling and giggling in my sleep. Indeed, I remembered dreaming about the kids that night, their little faces looking up at me with their big eyes and adorable smiles as they hopped around on my lap and jumped up on the gate, looking for love in all the right places.

So yeah, pretty darn happy.

If I wasn’t before, I’m officially a goat lady now — indeed, Paolo has taken to calling me La Donna delle Capre, and I take that as a huge compliment.

Or do I prefer the Goat Whisperer? Hmm….


Goats, Kids, and Imprint Training

In the comments, Karen of Via Martina asked me about whether imprint training was as important for goats as it is for horses. I had no idea what imprint training even was, so I googled, of course. I soon learned that basically it’s getting the animal used to being around and handled by humans.

As it turns out, I apparently instinctively “imprinted” Pasqualina as a kid because I held her and caressed her from an early age — although not as early as you’d start with imprint training as she was already about a month old when she came to us. Still, she’s quite docile and cooperative whenever it’s time to trim her nails or give her a shot. Of course, so are the other two goats, and to my knowledge, they weren’t handled very much until they came to us (both already several months old), so who knows?

That said, Pasqualina is definitely the most affectionate of the three, and the most attached to us.

I did find information on goat imprinting, in particular, at the Howling Duck Ranch (great blog!), and as it turns out, I did a lot of those things with these kids naturally, except I waited until they were all dry after birth to begin touching them. Many people encourage drying off the kids with towels to help the dam, but the weather wasn’t cold, and the dams seemed to be getting the job done, so I just let them be. The kids also ate right away without intervention.

After that, I started entering the pen and just letting the kids come to me. Goats are naturally curious animals, so it doesn’t take much to get them interested. Your presence is plenty. Sitting on the ground is the equivalent of an engraved invitation.

Within minutes they started crawling all over me, and I just let them, giving them some petties now and again and talking to them in Goat Baby-ese (why yes, it *is* it’s own language!). After a little while, usually after they slipped on my leg, they’d just lay down for a while, and I’d pet, being sure to touch all parts from the tips of the ears to the tips of the hooves — just getting them used to my touch. We’ve been doing this for a few days, and it’s going well.

Now when I enter, it barely takes a squat to get at least one of them to come over — in this instance, Nina.

And of course, where there’s Nina, there’s Carmelina — always wondering what I’m doing with her baby.

Regarding petting the kids, my instinct told me that as the human, I should let the goat mother come and see what I’m doing while bonding with the little one; aside from it reassuring Mom that I’m helping her take care of the kid and not doing any harm, it’s really just the polite thing to do. I mean, she *did* do all the work.

And the pseudo-imprint training continues in the other pen as well; Pinta is still getting used to us (she’s a day and a half younger than Nina), and she doesn’t mind being held at all.

What you can’t see here is that Pasqualina was in between my legs as I held her baby.

Off-topic from the imprinting, but I just have to say: We’re lucky that all three of the dams are uber-attentive and are really taking excellent care of the kids. In fact, they’re so good, they deserve some special love themselves.

So, I suppose I was kind of imprint training the kids the whole time without even knowing it, and also, obviously, without following any kind of set schedule or checklist. My personal theory, based on our experience with Pasqualina and now with how these kids are responding, is that generally being there with the kid physically, petting, caressing, etc. from a young age will get that imprinting accomplished.

That, and a lot of love, of course.

Buon weekend!

(Colombo, by the way, was sleeping during the photo shoot, but Margherita and he are doing just fine as well.)

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