Noelle and Lucia are 4 day old Alpine dairy goats, both females. They are an unexpected addition to our little farm, but a welcome one.
On Christmas Eve I got a call from our neighbor who works on a local goat dairy farm. In the past week, almost all of their breeder stock had given birth a little earlier then expected to a plethora of goat kids.The farm keeps some of their kids, but often sells the rest. Due to the time of the year, they couldn't seem to sell any of the kids and were overwhelmed with the bottle feeding (the pull their kids right away because they need the milk for cheese) and the herd of tiny bleating babies. They wanted to know if we had any interest in a couple of well bred goats for our little operation. The initial answer was - no.
Kim reasonably reminded me that we have horses coming in just a few weeks, and the goats will just be eating hay and adding to the chores for a good long while before they become productive members of the farm. I agreed with her, sort of. I'm always up for trying new livestock, and have long wanted to try my hand at some small dairy just for our household. I like the idea of raising the girls from this small and building a good relationship with them. Plus, caring for them is pretty minor given I have to do chores for the rabbits and hens twice a day anyway. And who doesn't love tiny baby animals? We finally agreed to serve as a last resort, if the farm really got in a jam we would take two does.
A couple hours later, while we were at a family party we got another message that two does were on their way to our farm. We were a little surprised, but once we commit to something- we're all in. Our neighbor was happy enough to let himself into the barn and set up a little spot for the girls in one of the chicken brooding pens. When we finally did get home, there were two cat-sized kids nestled up in a bed of shavings and straw, sleeping away. I set up a heat lamp and added some extra hay when we got home to make sure they were comfortable. They are absolutely a delight. Sweet, docile and knock-kneed I already can tell I'm going to love having them around. They will stay in the barn until they are big enough to be out in the pasture with the sheep- there is plenty of room up in the run in for them. Though to contain them I will definitely have to add some electric line to the sheep fencing.
It's been a crash course in goat care here, I've been going through all of the websites and recommendations from friends and books to make sure we are doing our best to raise good strong does. We've had sheep for years, and there are some similarities but goats seem to have a much different character. I think we'll get along just fine. Sometimes things like this happen- where you take a good opportunity even if it's a little unexpected. We have hay, we have room in the barn, I have a bit more time then usual to brush up and add a twice daily bottle feeding. It's pleasant to get a little variation in the routine- and stretch my skills a bit. Plus, with the costs of raising poultry being so sky-high I never know if I will need to change the enterprises around here. I'd rather have the skills to switch it up if need be then be caught with no way to keep the farm going.
Oh, who am I kidding- I'm just a sucker for a baby animal. Big-tough farmer who can split wood and plow a field both by hand- turned to mush by small critters. Sheesh.