Looking After Goats

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Goats don’t like wet weather

goats - buffy & biscuit

Do you really expect us to go out when it’s wet?   Buffy (on left) and Biscuit didn’t like the weather today, it was too wet and muddy underfoot and they hate the rain.   They picked their way through the grass and wanted to stay close to their shed, even though the forage is lush and tempting  in these almost tropical conditions.

These Anglo-Nubian goats are of desert origin and their perfect day is when it’s dry and hot.   The past summer has suited them.  Most of all they like to keep their hooves dry and can be seen picking their way to stony ground.  Goats left out in the rain may get chilled and develop pneumonia, they are nesh creatures and need to have shelter that is warm and dry.

It’s difficult weather for goats because lush grass can cause problems for their digestion.   They have to have a gut full of hay before they can be offered the opportunity to go outside.   Otherwise they will almost certainly get a tummy upset.   Hay is the most important feeding stuff for goats and it has to be good quality or they won’t eat it at all.   At the same time, a rack full of crisp oat straw is well liked.  They won’t eat it all but will pick through it and it has the same ‘bulking’ action as hay.

If we can’t get good hay for the goats we substitute with Alfa-A – which is lucerne and very palatable to goats.  It’s also high in protein and fibre so it’s good for them.   Another bought in feed is Molichop, which is hay and straw cut up fine, the goats don’t like it as much but they will eat it and it has the same fibrous benefits as hay.

You might think goats are tough creatures who eat anything.   Nothing could be further from the truth!

Don’t forget that it’s still legal in the U.K. to ritually slaughter goats – hal-al meat is from goats killed in this way.   Please sign our petition to make labelling of animals killed by ritual slaughter compulsory.  Then everyone has a choice.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/compulsorylabelling-rituallyslaughteredmeat/

Thanks for the windfalls

goats - windfalls 2

Buffy, the goat on the left, may be bigger but when it comes to windfall apples, Biscuit is the boss-goat.  She’s trying to keep them all for herself so we had to settle matters by getting another feed dish and chopping some more apples up.

Buffy is younger and a bit shy, Biscuit is older and is edging up to be herd leader.  There is a pecking order in goats just as there is in hens (and people!).

Thanks to everyone who has taken the trouble to pick their fallen apples (pears too) and bring them in, they are a real treat for the goats and the ponies who also love eating them.   Apples and pears are an excellent food for goats – there’s a saying that if a goat doesn’t want to eat an apple then she’s not feeling very well.

If you have any more windfalls please bring along, the goats will love you forever!

(If we’re not around when you arrive please put donations of food, apples, clothes, bedding etc. in the Reception which is open 10.0 am to 4.0pm.   It’s the blue/grey wooden cabin on the right in the top yard – if you press the bell it lets us know you’re here.  Many thanks)

Goats are good for you

goats - biscuit 20

This is Biscuit who is one of our rescued goats.   She came originally from a meat market and there are many such places where animals are sold for meat and to the highest bidder.   Biscuit would have gone for ritual slaughter if we hadn’t bought her.   She is one of our long term residents now and is used to a leisurely life here with us.  In the morning there’s a bit of breakfast, usually oats and a handful of pony nuts.  Out for a saunter round, a spot of grazing and then back in for a siesta till mid afternoon.   Our goats are let out again then for a couple of hours, then it’s a rack of hay, some apples, carrots and a small scoop of corn and they’re bedded down for the night.

Looking after goats is a pleasant thing to do It’s relaxing (unless they escape of course!) and goats are good companions, they are affectionate and it’s not just because they want food.  Goats will follow you around whether you feed them or not. They like to browse, eat a few branches or herbs and then have a sit down, after half an hour or so, they’ll be ready to move on.   They have four stomachs and chew the cud just like cows.   They are herd animals and family groups are important to them, if you keep only one or two goats, then you are their ‘herd’!

Biscuits doesn’t need a rich diet at the moment because she isn’t in kid or milking, so she’s building up her reserves and getting in to good shape after rearing two kids a couple of years ago.   We don’t let the goats have kids every year as it wears them down, providing milk for them is a big strain on the body.   Biscuit is about ready for motherhood again though and she loves to have a family so we may mate her again this winter.

goats - biscuit 21

Goats cme in to season every three weeks during the winter months.  The timing is so that they have their kids in the Spring or summer months.  Anglo-Nubian goats are slightly different, they come on heat all year round probably because they are desert goats and don’t have to worry about snow and ice.  As always our environment shapes us.   Goats are in kid for five months and can have anything from one to four kids when they give birth.  Two is most usual and to be preferred, mum has two teats and so anything more than that number presents a problem.   We once had a goat who gave birth to quads, she reared two naturally by suckling them and we bottle fed the other two – all did well.

Why is this goat called Biscuit?   It’s because of her passion for biscuits – she’ll follow you anywhere for a custard cream!

Kitten Milk Bar

kitten milk bar

How is this for an enterprising kitten!   This picture of kittens who help themselves to milk was sent in to us by goat breeders who put the ‘milk bar’ out for the goat kids to have a drink whenever they like.  It’s a useful way to rear goat kids when there are more than one to feed.   When goats milk is fed adlib the kids are less likely to drink too much.  No one expected that the kittens would be helping themselves too!

Whilst cows milk is not good for cats or kittens (they can’t tolerate it and it makes them ill), goats milk is fine and they love it.   Adult cats benefit from a saucer of goats milk now and then and goats yoghurt is also beneficial.

Anglo-Nubian Goat breeders, Margaret and Ray Edginton are the people to contact if you would like to know more about the goats or if you are thinking of buying a goat.   The website is anglonubiangoatsociety.com and is full of interesting goat info, help and advice.

Goats like to go out browsing

 

 

Goats are creatures who feel the cold and hate the wet, so it has to be a fine, dry day for them to have a walk outside.    The leaves are dry and crackly now and this is just how they like them, there is still plenty of browsing.   They are foraging on the long grass, the nettles and especially the blackberries, which are their all time favourite food.

Shown here is Belinda, in the front and Biscuit is in the background.  These two are very good friends and have been in the sanctuary for several years.   Both were rescued from the meat market.  Many goats are still being sold for ritual slaughter which is legal in the U.K.  We’ve been campaigning against this for many years.

 

 

 

 

 

Both Belinda and Biscuit will be mated later this year.  They haven’t had any kids since last year.   We do breed the goats every other year as they are prone to develop hormonal problems and cystic ovaries if they don’t have kids from time to time.   When our goats do have kids we allow them to suckle and stay with their mommies till they are grown up.

We have a new male goat kid called Odi, and he will be the stud goat from now on.  Odi is a pedigree Anglo-Nubian (desert goat originating in Biblical times).   We are keeping him away from the girls for the time being as we don’t want kids too early.   Goats are pregnant for five months so if they are mated too soon they’ll be having their little ones when the weather is still bad.   Spring is a good time for goat kids, so Odi will have to wait a little while!

Goats with horns

Why do some goats have horns and others don’t have any?   Is it alright to keep them together?    The goatkeeper who sent in this query was right to be concerned.   She has been offered a horned goat as a companion to her existing female Saanen and our advice would be to say ‘thanks’ but ‘no thanks’.

Horned goats are fine kept together so long as they have plenty of room.   Goats without horns get on well together also but when they are mixed the horned goats tend to dominate the rest with sometimes disastrous results.   A butt in the stomach from a pair of strong horns can spell death to any kids the female goat is carrying and bruised ribs at the very least.

Goats have a ‘pecking order’ just like most animals, they have the occasional squabble over who sits where and who gets the choicest food.   In a hornless goat it’s just a half-hearted ‘dutt’ on the head but the horned goats know they have weapons!   They are always dominant and will often give any goat who gets in their way some real aggro.

When it’s summertime and the goats can go out and there’s lots of browsing, there isn’t so much rivalry.  It’s a different ball game in winter when goats are penned.   Horns and no-horns are an unequal match and have to be separated.

Goats are very companiable creatures and need a herd environment so don’t keep just the one goat unless you have a great deal of time to spend with her.    Both male and female goats have horns but most goatkeepers have them removed shortly after the kids are born.   It is illegal to do this without an anaesthetic so the vet will carry out the operation as soon as the little horn buds start showing through the skin.

Always let your vet know when your goat has kids and take his advice on when he wants to disbud them.  Different vets sometimes vary slightly in their timing on removing horns.   The vet will cauterize the horn buds with a hot iron, the kid, so long as properly anaesthetised, won’t feel a thing.   In the bad old days kids used to be dis-budded without anaesthetic and it was a cruel procedure.   Thankfully, the law doesn’t allow this now.

Ponies share their hay with goats

We put big round bales of hay out for the ponies every week and as soon as the goats are let out they run down to eat it with them.   The ponies don’t mind, there is plenty for everyone and they are happy to see their goat friends.  The goats have only recently started going out in the fields again, they are Anglo-Nubians and obviously remember that they originated in a hot country.   These are the biblical goats you can see in old pictures and they like to be warm and dry.    Mud, rain, wind, snow, wet – no thank you!    It’s not that the goats need to eat the ponies’ hay, they have racks of hay in their indoor pens.   Other people’s food always tastes nicer though doesn’t it?

The young goats are inquisitive and always want to know what’s going.   As soon as they see me they leave the adults to come and see if I have anything especially good to give them – Apples?   Carrotts?   Biscuits?   They like these better than anything else although I’m not sure that they are good for them except as an occasional titbit.  Goats are curious creatures and, combined with their intelligence and ability to think quickly, this gets them into all sorts of mischief.  The ponies are Sundance on the left and Pixie is the woolly brown blur, practically buried in the hay, on the right.

Any help caring for the goats and ponies and helping us to rescue them would be very much appreciated.   It’s still legal in the U.K. to ritually slaughter goats.   Hard to believe in this so-called civilised world isn’t it?    There is no justification for this barbaric method of slaughter.    Please help us in our rescues and our campaigns if you can.   Even a small amount makes a big difference.   We have a direct debit form (£2.00 a month?) and would be delighted to send it to you if you let us have your name and address.   Many thanks.  [donate]

 

Are goats factory farmed?

A few years ago and we’d have said ‘no’, this is an impossible concept – goats are animals that above all love freedom and to be able to wander about – goats do roam!   There’s even a red wine with this name.   The demand for goat’s milk which is now sold in supermarkets has led to the rise in commercial goat production, even though it’s over £1.30 a pint, it sells out every day.

Still, we imagined that goats would be farmed in a similar way to cows (better fencing perhaps) and would be out grazing most days and running in to the barns at night.   We’ve recently discovered that this isn’t so.  In some commercial goat farms they are kept indoors for the whole of their lives, only leaving the shed to go into the milking parlour and then it’s back again.

These are very large buildings where hundreds of goats live together under intensively farmed conditions.  There are central feeding areas where the goats poke their heads through bars to eat a maintenance ration.   Above all, goats are intelligent, inquisitive creatures with strong family ties.   Although they looked well cared for they are still always inside and with no chance of a natural life.  What happens to these thousands of goats when they don’t milk so well?   It’s a disturbing question.

All the goats have their horns burned off when they are a few days old, there is no place for horns in intensive farming, it’s said it would make the goats too difficult to handle and that they would injure each other.   Kept hundreds to a shed this is likely.   There is a risk of extreme pain and even death during the disbudding process.  Goats have thin skulls and this is a mutilation after all.   Goats kept naturally and with plenty of room do not need to have their horns removed.

However, we’ve been told that in New Zealand, where goats are also farmed for milk production, they do not burn the horns away and that they still manage their herds perfectly well.   We’re aiming to find out more about this.

In the commercial herds kids are taken away from the goats soon after birth and reared communally.   That’s the female kids only, the male kids are slaughtered as it is deemed too expensive to rear them.    They can’t have their mothers milk because it goes to be sold.  This has to be distressing for the mothers, goats are very maternal.   Eventually they may become numb to what’s happening to them.

So this is something to think about when you go to buy a pint of goat’s milk.   I imagined that the goats would be ambling around in meadows, gazing at the sky, picking on thistles, grasses and browsing.    As so much in our modern lives, the reality is quite different.

Is this a natural or kind way to keep a goat?   Is it in accordance with her natural life?   Human’s don’t need dairy  at all once we’ve become adult.   We may like but it isn’t good for us.   We don’t like any animal to be kept intensively.   The proposed factory farms for cows are something we oppose absolutely.   Traditional farming may not be perfect but it does let cows have their freedom.

Belinda with Buffy and Bafta.  She loves her kids and they love their mum.

What is halhal?

Goats are gentle and non-aggressive creatures, they are intelligent and inquisitive and vegetarian.  Their diet consists of herbs, leaves, grasses, twigs and grain.   They make wonderful companion friends and will follow you about and always want to be with you.   A mother goat is devoted to her kids and will maintain ties with them for all of her life.   The goat is a social animal and goat friendships and family groupings are lifelong.

We have been rescuing goats for over 35 years.   Our ongoing aim is to provide information about these amazing creatures on whom many people depend, especially in the third world.  Goats milk is easy to digest and is a lifesaver when there is no other sustenance or cow’s milk cannot be tolerated.

A goat can subsist and provide milk in a habitat that many other domestic animals are unable to thrive in.   She will, if sufficient food is available, make enough milk to rear her kids and some to spare for the household.

What has all this to do with halhal meat?    Most people don’t know that halhal describes ritually slaughtered meat.  It’s a prescribed method (under Islam Law) of slaughtering all animals excluding fish and most sea-life per Islamic law. This method of slaughtering animals consists of using a well sharpened knife to make a swift, deep incision that cuts the front of the throat, the carotid artery, wind pipe and jugular veins but leaves the spinal cord intact.   The animal isn’t stunned first.

Many thousands of goats are killed in this way every week in this country.   They are sold at markets and go to be ritually slaughtered.   It is legal to do this in the U.K.

Halhal meat products are sold in supermarkets, at Meadowhall even.   Some baby food is halhal and described as such in the ingredient list.

Many people don’t know what halhal means.   What about asking your supermarkets if  the meat on the meat counter and in the freezers is guaranteed not to be halhal?  Is the meat they sell from a humanely slaughtered (not halhal) source?   It would be nice to know and we’d be interested to know their response.

Better still – go vegetarian!  Apart from ensuring that no animal will suffer, it’s the healthy option.

Goat kids are growing up

Biscuit continues to be a devoted mother and watches carefully over her kids.   Here she is with Pippin, who is the darker coloured of the two.  His brother Tog (he has one toggle under his chin!) is not far away.   The kids are eating well now and prefer rough grazing with lots of nettles, shrubs and branches.   They have breakfast before they go out and this consists of goat mix and rolled oats with a handful or two of bran.   Goats are very choosy about what they eat and the bucket has to be clean, they are fastidious animals – the fact that they will relish eating a rose bush or a straw hat has given them an unwarranted reputation for eating anything.  Nothing could be further from the truth.   They like fibrous plants best though and thrive on tree bark and anything that is crisp and crackly.   They don’t like any food that is soggy, perhaps this is because of their desert origins.

Here is Biscuit with Pippin and Tog, these little brothers are inseparable.   The goats only go outside on days that are fine, they don’t like wet weather and would get chilled and probably become ill if they were wet.    When it’s rainy they stay inside and have a rack of hay to eat and a bowl of Alfafa which  you can buy chopped up and ready bagged from the feed merchant.   Goats love this and it is high in the nutrients they need.    If it’s a fine day and they do go outside, they will always have a nice supper feed to come in to, mostly the same as their morning meal but a bit bigger ration.   We give them a variety of food, who wants to eat the same all the time?    Sometimes they have sugar beet pulp which has to be soaked first and never in a metal bucket which would make the beet become toxic.   Always soak the beet pulp in plastic.   There are two sorts of beet – easy beet, which only needs a short time of soaking and traditional which needs about 12 hours, the instructions are on the packet.   Beet is soaked because it swells up in the animal’s stomach and can cause colic if it’s eaten dry.

Goats also love apples, carrots and most vegetables.   They need a hay rack securely fixed to the wall at goat height and it should be kept racked up with hay at all times.  Goats are very prone to digestive upsets – the four stomachs maybe?    If they have hay to nibble whenever they want to, things rarely go wrong.   An armful of branches or rosebay willow herb is a real treat too.