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Keeping weight on your goats

Goat family

I suspect one of the reason women love goats is because the caprine herd has the exact opposite problem we have. As a goatkeeper, one of your primary goals is to keep the weight on your goats. Between intestinal parasites (usually present at low levels but sometimes veering way out of control) and the energetic expense of creating baby goats and milk out of grass, dairy goats have a bad tendency to waste away to skin and bones. Enter my weekly bout with the measuring tape to reassure myself that our goats are in fine form.

Goat weightsLamb Chop has never given me any worries on the weight front, though. The most I've been concerned about is that our buckling will get bigger than his mother before his date with the butcher, making it impossible to carry the lad across the creek to his doom. Barring that issue, he seems bound to surpass his 11-month-old herdmate's size in short order. As of this week, Lamb Chop has officially caught up with Artemesia; in fact, I think he now stands a little taller at the shoulder.

Abigail and Artemesia, on the other hand, worried me a bit in April, although I now think that their weight "losses" then were merely an artifact of shedding their winter fur. Less fur for the tape to wrap Goats in the greenaround simulates the loss of fat. Regardless, I dosed the whole herd with daily helpings of chopped garlic, which they all ate happily whether or not they needed the herbal dewormer. Now both are well above their winter weights, even without the furry padding.

I'm glad that I seem to be able to keep the weight on Abigail without adding grain to her diet, but I'll admit that I'd probably get more milk if I fed our doe more concentrates. As she started gaining weight on grass, I started easing off the carrots, alfalfa pellets, and sunflower seeds I was offering...with the result that milk production slowed down a bit (from about 3 cups a day to about 2.5 cups a day). Bringing those concentrates back up to previous levels (plus locking Lamb Chop away an hour earlier in the evening) quickly increased milk back to normal, then all the way up to a quart at my morning milking.

I suspect one of the dicey issues with dairy goats is deciding when we're being greedy humans and pushing our goats too hard, and when it's worth feeding a little more for a little more milk. Since I want to experiment a bit more with cheese, I think I'll be greedy just a little longer.

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