Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First goat babies.

Well, that's a surprise. Celtic went first. I think the breeder switched Celtic and Physion's due dates accidentally. I wasn't watching Celtic as closely as I was Physion, so she gave birth outside instead of in the shed. No big deal since it was dry. She picked a well-protected place to give birth and bonded well with them.

Two females.

This one has a large underbite. Not "affects how she eats" large, I don't think, but definitely "don't want to breed that back in" large.

I was able to be out there only a few minutes after the birth so I got to do the Imprint Training that I wanted to try on my babies this year.

Imprint training is supposed to work wonders for precocial species like horses, zebras, llamas, and, I'm hoping, goats.

Since my momma goats raise their own babies, I don't get "bottle babies" - goats that will run you over when you come in their pen because they're so happy to see you, their "mom". Last year I had two different experiences with these non-bottle babies. My first goat whose babies were handled by me every day and my second goat (my current goat) who I bought back from a friend who didn't have the time for a goat.

My first goat's babies were friendly enough, had to be coaxed in every night, and worried me when it came to training for the milk stand later. One was a male, so that wasn't an issue, and one was a female that I didn't end up keeping because my second goat produced not only more milk but, more importantly, a better flavored milk so I was hoping to keep her baby girl.

My second goat was one that I'd sold to a friend right before she gave birth. She had twins, a male and a female. My friend kept the male and I took momma and baby girl. Unfortunately, by the time my friend realized she didn't have the time or inclination to milk the goat, the baby was a big ball of three month old crazy. I worked with her every day and never was able to get her to calm. After a month of daily handling she was as crazy as the day I got her. If you attached a lead rope to her collar, she would run and hit the end of it hard enough to throw her to the ground. And she'd do that until you took the rope off.

Because of these two experiences - friendly-but-needing-to-be-coaxed and completely-batshit-crazy - I wanted to try the imprint training that I'd heard of with horses. I wasn't willing to give up momma-raising.

So I got the book and read up on it. A few minutes after birth, long enough for her to have bonded with her babies, but not long enough for them to have gotten steady on their feet, I started the training.

The idea is to work with the babies soon enough after birth that they imprint on you as they would on another member of their herd - they trust you. I worked with one before she got up and the other after she'd been up for about thirty minutes (while I worked on the first). The first one was definitely easier. The second one fought a bit more.

Imprint training is pretty simple, just time consuming. You touch the babies all over and if the baby struggles with a certain portion (like the legs), you keep the touching going until the struggling stops. This way you don't teach them to struggle and get away. With horses you do a lot more, working with things like their mouth (for a bit), their ears (for the halter/bridle), their back (for the saddle), etc. With my goats I worked with their face (for general handling), their legs and feet (for hoof care), and their udder area (for milking).

I left them out in the field for a few hours with their mom. She's a first time mom and I didn't want to put any undue strain on bonding by moving them around - Celtic was momma raised and is definitely a need-to-be-coaxed goat. After a few hours I went out to bring them in. Celtic moved away from me immediately, as expected, and seemed confused when - to my serious delight - the babies didn't move with her but looked at me like "Hi there! Good to see you again". I was worried for a bit because I want them to move away when they should - like from dogs.

I had to get Dan (my border collie) to stand about twenty feet behind Celtic to encourage her to move forward with me towards the shed. When the babies saw the dog they immediately went to their mother. When the sheep and horses came near them, they went to their mother. So we were on track. I was simply another goat to them. Not momma, but not danger either. Good enough.

I hope it holds.


Christy said...

Interesting idea. We are currently trying to halter train a lamb that is being mamma raised and it is a chore! The bottle baby on the other hand is such a pest, we can't get her to leave us alone. I wonder if it would work with sheep, I'll have to try when we have our own babies.

The baby goats are cute!

Twinville said...

Yeh, now that you mention it, tat is quite an underbite. Still cute, but probably best as pet quality, not breeding. I noticed the chain on Celtic...is that plastic or metal? It seems so big! Is she a 'puller' and really strong?

I'm currently bottle-feeding a Nigerian wether to get him used to handling and future 4H, parades and PR.
It's amazing that he wasn't given a bottle until he was 6 weeks old and before that was shy and skittish around people.

You'd never know that now! In just two weeks of bottle-feeding/training he is a pure love bug, follows us everywhere, wants to be anywhere we are, wonderfully leash trained, but doesn't even need that, and adores being petted and held in laps.

The previous owner is even surpised at how fast he adjusted from being with his Mama full-time to being with us AND being bottle-fed and handled every day.

We just adore him. As I'm sure you do your goats, too.

Pichinde said...

Twin, we're not set up in this area for pet goats. Around here the females you sell get bred to death and the wethers you sell live out their lonely lives tethered to fences eating weeds, many of them getting killed by neighborhood dogs. To live with myself, I won't put them through the auction and, in this area, won't sell anything but breeding quality private treaty. My husband has some co-workers who want some goats, but when they say "Our last goat got torn apart by dogs, we need another one", I'm not real inclined to oblige, you know?

That chain on celtic is plastic. It came on her from the breeder we bought her from. She's also got the collar I put on her. I've left the chain on this long because she's been the most skittish of the lot and since it's longer than the collar I had more of a chance of getting ahold of her. Now that she's calmed down I think I'll take it off. She's not real strong and not much of a puller either.

Twinville said...

That's interesting as well as tragic how goats are managed and farmed in your area. I'm guessing that yours is not the only area like that either.

In our area it seems that most livestock are treasured pets with lots of attention and posh living arrangements.
Even those animals meant to be killed for food are treated with respect, compassion and dignity.

4H is pretty heavy in our area, too, so kids and their chickens, goats, sheep, pigs and cows together are a common sight.
And they all seem to be treated gently and cared for.

Celtic is a pretty girl. I'm glad that she has lost some of her timidness and is settling in now.
Of course, it's more than likely due to the care you've given her to help build up her trust in humans. Good job.