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Raising Goats from the Teeth Up

People who aren’t familiar with goats are sometimes afraid they’re going to bite them, which is a rather baseless fear not only because goats are generally some of the least aggressive animals around (headbutting aside) but also because they have no top front teeth.

Goats have no top front teeth

Even Pinta's dental pad is adorable.

See those gorgeous gums? That’s all they have up there — just a dental pad.

They do have bottom teeth in the front, however.

Goats only have front teeth on the bottom

How sweet of Pasqualina to model her teeth!

When a goat is full grown, he or she will have eight incisors (biting or cutting teeth), all permanent teeth. Just like humans, though, they start out with baby teeth, so to speak. A kid has all small, sharp teeth for about a year. When the kid is about a year old, the center two teeth go bye-bye and are replaced by two permanent teeth. Then about every year or so after that, two teeth moving away from the center teeth on either side are replaced with permanent teeth until the goat has all eight permanent incisors by about four or five years old.

At that point, the teeth start to space apart, and you can begin to tell the age of the goat by the wear and tear on the teeth as opposed to the number of permanent versus baby teeth.

So does all this mean you can’t really be harmed by a goat’s teeth? Not exactly.

They *do* have 24 molars for chewing their cud in the back of their mouths — six on each side, upper and lower. And they are sharp as all get out, so you don’t want to be sticking your fingers toward the back of a goat’s mouth.

In other words, although it’s quite cute to see and feel the lil’ baby goats gnawing on the tip of your finger between their incisors and dental pad, once they start shifting that head to get your finger to the back of their mouth, you *must* get out of there, lest you become the cud.

Just trust me on that one, mkay?


How to Choose the Best Goat Milk Breed for You

Friend and faithful reader Salena, the beautiful, glamorous truck driver behind one of my favorite reads The Daily Rant, recently sent me an email entitled “Goat Crazy.” She explained how she can’t even look through magazines anymore without checking out things that mention goats.

Pasqualina and Pinta take that as a huge compliment!

Pinta and her favorite part of the hay

Pinta and her favorite part of the hay

Salena sent along this page from the October 2010 edition of Country Living:

Country Living "Ask a Country Vet" October 2010

October 2010 Country Living

A reader had asked what the best goat breed for milk is, and the answer is, of course, the lovely Saanen (pictured above). You know, like Millie over at Eden Hills?

Toggenburgs are also mentioned as great, but to be honest, I’ve never heard of them, so how great can they be? Just kidding. Hah! Get it? Kidding! Ahem. They’re actually one of the oldest, most reliable dairy breeds around, but I don’t hear of many people who actually have them.

La Manchas are good for milk too, according to the article, especially to double as pets because they have such “sweet dispositions,” and Nubians are excellent cheese producers because their milk has lots of butterfat; La Manchas also have high butterfat content, whereas Saanens tend to have low butterfat — but again, Saanens produce lots and lots of milk, so if you’re not particularly keen on cheesemaking, you might not care about butterfat.

Regarding size, Saanens and Nubians are large while La Manchas are medium-sized; and remember you can also consider a small dairy goat breed like the Nigerian Dwarf — adorable, great milk producers, and queens of the butterfat competition to boot.

So, if you’re looking for a dairy goat (well, at least two because you know the goaties don’t like to be alone), it really depends on your specific needs. Some things to consider include but are not limited to the following:

  • What you intend to do with the milk;
  • Whether you want the goats for companionship as well as for production;
  • How big you want your goats;
  • How much time, space, and money you have to care for the goats.

Of course, you can keep a dairy goat as a pet and never breed her for milk at all — in which case your list of considerations will be shorter.

If you just want a pet goat as a companion, though, you might consider getting a wether, a castrated male. Well, two! Not only are they friendly, fun, and not smelly like uncastrated males (sorry, bucks, it’s the truth), but you also may be saving them from being butchered, the fate of many male kids.

What else should potential dairy goat caretakers think about?

If you have dairy goats, what breed do you have and why?


Goatlightenment: Can You Shave Goats for Their Hair?

Faithful reader and goat lover, the lovely 8-year-old LuccaBella in Italy has written to me to ask:

Can you shave goats hair? Because lambs you can shave hair & you can make clothes & cotton. Can you do that with goats?

This is an *excellent* question, and something I bet many people don’t know about . . . because cashmere (that oh-so-soft, wonderfully warm sweater and sock material) actually comes for goats. The cashmere goat, in fact.

Yes, cashmere wool comes from the soft, fluffy, fine-haired undercoat of these gorgeous goats:

Cashmere Goats by Paul Esson on Flickr

Cashmere Goats by Paul Esson on Flickr

As many of you probably know, cashmere wool products will keep you super warm and cozy throughout the winter, which is exactly why these goats have their coats. Cashmere goats tend to live in cold, often mountainous climates and begin moulting (losing their hair) in the spring as they’ll no longer need that undercoat to keep warm throughout the summer.

And that’s where cashmere producers come in.

The cashmere from goats may be gathered by combing through or shearing the hair. In order to collect what will become cashmere for clothes and other fabrics, the fine hair of the undercoat must be separated from the coarser hair of the outer coating (called guard hair). The guard hair may be used for brushes and other non-clothing items.

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In fact, LuccaBella, you and your Mamma might be interested to learn more about Chianti Cashmere run by American expat Nora Kravis (who has given me great advice on finding goat minerals) — not too far from where you live. Nora offers handwoven products, and her farm prides itself in leaving “no carbon hoofprint” with its Sustainable Cashmere® movement.

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Now, if you’re wondering whether Pasqualina and Pinta produce wool for clothes, the answer is no. They just aren’t that type of goat, and in fact, they both have quite fine hair. Here in Calabria, our dairy goats (like Pasqualina) don’t tend to have very thick hair because they don’t need it as temperatures don’t drop below freezing very often in the winter. That said, some of the other breeds of goats around here do have thicker hair (you may remember Carmelina for instance), but even they are not shaved for wool — they just aren’t that kind of goat either.

Two goats sharing a moment

Carmelina (in front) and Pasqualina sharing a moment in July 2009

Thanks so much for the question — I hope my answer helped clear it up!

By the way, for answers to many goat questions, check out The Maaaaa of Pricilla’s excellent “goatucation” series.


Goat Shelters: How Good are PolyDomes?

The other day I got a message from Goat Berries readers Heidi and Paul, who have just started keeping goats. Check out how cute their Nubian and La Mancha are!

 

Heidi and Paul have purchased a PolyDome for shelter because they had heard how great they were for warmth and ventilation, and this is where their question comes in:

“However, since it was delivered (we ordered it over the internet), we have had someone tell us that it is horrible to keep the girls in. They said it won’t keep them warm. Now that we can see it firsthand, we are confused about how to keep good ventilation and yet keep them free from drafts. Any thoughts on this issue?”

I personally don’t know very much about PolyDomes as I don’t think they’re popular in Italy (at least I’ve never seen them used or for sale), but I did some quick Google searching, and came up with some examples of people using PolyDomes for goats without problems (one person wrote he put plastic flap doors on the front). I also found that one particular PolyDome for calves comes with a ventilation system that you can adjust with the weather.

PolyDome Calf Nursery

PolyDome Calf Nursery

But I’m not sure this helps Heidi and Paul very much, so I’m looking to you, experienced goat caretakers — do you know anything about PolyDomes and how good they are for keeping goats warm? Please feel free to pass around the question among goat circles you know . . . inquiring minds want to know!

Any and all information is greatly appreciated!


Goat Information from Heifer International

Heifer International is a wonderful organization that strives to end world hunger with charity gifts for for sustainability and self-reliance.

Read on...

Check out the Goat Cam at Goats Live!

No, Pasqualina and Pinta aren’t the latest goat film stars — I just wanted to let you know about a 24/7 goat cam over at Goats Live.

There you can check out Nick and Molly, two mini-Saanens, who have been viewed over 50,000 times from 87 countries around the world. There are actually two cameras on them, so you’re sure to capture all the action.

Nick and Molly when they were just wee kids courtesy of Goats Live

Nick and Molly when they were just wee kids courtesy of Goats Live

You may also catch a glimpse of humans Debbie, a former TV personality in the Tampa Bay area; her husband Sparrow, a former broadcast engineer now retired because of multiple sclerosis; and their adult son Hilary who has autism. Debbie and Sparrow are both retired, and aside from their goat hobby, also dabble in ham radio.

Anyone who has watched goats for even five minutes knows just how much fun it can be to see them in action, so this is especially great for those of you who don’t have goats of your own — yet.

Yes, yet. I firmly believe there are two kinds of people in this world: goat caretakers and future goat caretakers. Their powers are just too strong to resist forever.

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