Thursday, September 19, 2013

Naomi Joins the Herd

One of the services Sean and I provide is that of a "goat school" for some of our neighbors, newer to keeping goats and full of the same questions Sean and I had when we began. For a flat fee (based on the number of goats in the herd) Sean and I call on our students at their homesteads at the beginning of each month. During our visit, we show our students how to check over their goats for potential issues. We look at the goat's weight, posture, postern, hooves, eyelid color, coat, etc. We discuss things like; how much and what kind of feed to provide, how often to worm, and how and when to trim hooves. We help our students to get used to keeping good records about the health of their herd. Depending on what topic is of interest during the visit, we print out reference sheets from reputable internet sources for our students to add to their "farm binder".
Our goal is for our students to feel more comfortable in providing routine care for their herd, which can mean a healthier herd. Of course, since neither Sean nor I are veterinary doctors and do not pretend to know everything there is to know about goats, we always refer our students to a licensed, reputable Vet if a medical need arises. But, the reality is many homesteaders and hobby farmers treat routine issues without calling on the services of their Vet: things like, worming, trimming hooves, treating mild cases of scouring, kidding, and the like. We learned from trial and error, asking advice from other goat keepers, and lots and lots of research when things cropped up over the years. I remember vividly the panic I felt the first time Leah began scouring and I didn't know what to do. Scouring is still a serious concern to be addressed, but how much more comfortable I am in my knowledge of how to treat it now!

It was on such a visit earlier this month that we met the little Nigerian Dwarf doe that would come home with us for Zacchaeus (when he gets bigger). Originally, our only plan for Zacchaeus was to employ him as our farm's embassador, as cute, good-natured and small as he is. But, after looking over our student's newly acquired (and soon to be sold) herd of 6 Nigerian Dwarf goats, I had an epiphany: the lovely red doe was 2 years old and was supposed to be about 2 1/2 months pregnant. Neither she nor any potential doelings would be related to Zacchaeus. Best case scenario, little red would have at least one doe kid which would give us two Nigerian Dwarf does available for breeding in coming years. Worst case scenario, little red was not pregnant, but she could be bred to Zacchaeus next year and we'd have additional milk and kids to sell. With these thoughts in mind, we made an offer for her.

Now, you may be wondering why someone would acquire goats and then immediately sell them. Basically, our student had it in mind to keep Nigerian Dwarfs. The breed is popular for many reasons, among them: they remain small, eat less than full sized breeds, have delicious milk, and are often good tempered. This group of Nigerians were lovely, small, and probably would have delicious milk, but they were not friendly with other goats. In fact, though nearly half the size of their full-sized compatriots, these Nigerian Dwarfs had no problem violently ramming the others often and without provocation. After a week of this and in fear of damage to their other goats, our student found them a new home without any other goats to bother. 

And now, you may be wondering, why on Earth would you want one of these goats in our herd of docile and loveable goats. Well, here was my thinking on that. Adding a single goat to a herd is not usually recommended. Herds have a dominance order, like most animals and they establish this order with verbal cues and by feigning head butting and if that doesn't get the message across, actual ramming. It is usually better to add new goats in pairs because many people (us included) believe that the newer goats get accepted better into the herd that way. No one goat is being picked on overmuch when there are two new ones added and the new goats have each other to hang with and snuggle at night. Adding a single goat who thinks she is dominant into a herd of goats who have a differing opinion can go one of two ways. Either the dominant thinking goat is right and she shows all the other goats that immediately and they usually settle in. Or, the dominant thinking goat is wrong and she finds out that the rest of the herd won't stand for the bad behavior. In either of these cases, the new doe is accepted into the herd within a little time. Now, sometimes, the dominant goat never learns and actual fighting breaks out within the herd. In cases like this, we feel it is best to remove the aggressive doe for everyone's safety. Since our student was not selling the other Nigerians until the end of the week, we took the red home on a trial basis, hopeful that she would settle in.
And, that is what happened. We named little red, "Naomi."

Naomi (2 years old and full grown) with Keren (born March 2013)
They are very nearly the same size.

The first night, we decided to introduce Naomi to the doe kids because they were currently the same size and in our experience kids seem to be more accepting of new additions and changes to their routine. A little sniffing of each other, a feigned head butting from Naomi and everyone went back to their resting places to chew their cud and/or sleep. It was quite uneventful, really.

In the morning, after we milked the does and fed everyone, we let the kids and Miss Naomi into the main pasture. The older does nosed about the new addition. Some of them went on alert with their tails straight up, but within a few minutes, it was business as usual in the yard. Sean left for work and I kept watch on the does for a while, but other than their normal romping, eating, and playing, there was nothing to be concerned about.

Naomi sunning herself in the front pasture. The fencing to the wooded back
pasture is open, but the goats generally remain in the front in the morning and
then, in the heat of the afternoon, retire to browse the shrubs and trees.
And, so Naomi has joined us at the farm. It is difficult for us to tell if she is pregnant or not, but we'll start looking for the signs of kidding in November. I prefer to kid in the spring, but I am not entirely displeased at the thought of a new 2 pound baby to love. ♥

Thanks for visiting today, Friends. I am sure glad you came.
Sonja ♥


  1. Naomi is very cute! I'm glad she has settled in nicely without too much trouble :)

  2. She is precious! I am so glad she is getting along with everyone.