I recently had a super fun and awesome opportunity to be featured on the Learn Laugh Leap podcast alongside our yoga instructor, Mazie Gengler. We cover a whole lotta fun facts about our background, Nigerian Dwarf goats, how they do yoga and why their milk is nutritious and delicious!
DOB: Tuesday, April 30
Peanut had a smooth delivery. Everything seemed to be going just perfect. Something I always pay attention to is how the mama is cleaning up her kids and I noticed Peanut was spending a lot of her energy and time on the buckling instead of the doeling. I milked colostrum out of Peanut and syringe-fed it to the doeling, as she seemed too weak to stand. After 20 minutes, I noticed this doeling looked like she couldn’t stay awake and seemed to be getting weaker. A simple way to know if their temperature is ok, is sticking a finger in the mouth, her mouth was cold so I took her temp and it was too low for my thermometer to read. She was dying. Peanut knew it and didn’t want much to do with her.
If a baby goat is dropping in temp or is weak, this is my protocol
Bring her inside the house, snuggled her in electric blanket next to the fire place.
I use a hair blow dryer to help warm her up, creating a tent like shape out of the blankets.
BoSe injection (selenium) for a boost of strength.
Milk the dam’s colostrum, if you are able, and feed baby.
Rub cayenne pepper inside her gums.
It took about 45 minutes but I did get her temperature up to 98.5. And slowly… finally… reached 101.3. I brought her back out to Peanut and she accepted her back. All seemed to be going well.
We noticed the following day she looked like she was nursing but was becoming too weak to suck normal and Peanut was starting to avoid her again. I tube-fed the doeling a little under an ounce of colostrum. Within a couple hours, she approached her dam and Peanut took her back again.
Now, she is out of the woods! I am so proud of myself actually. I have researched and felt so prepared to help her which wasn’t the case last year.
This poor buckling hasn’t gotten nearly as much of my attention, but that’s ok, because his mama is obsessed with him. She’s so in love. The buckling was double the weight as the doeling at birth, he looks and acts like our 3-week old kids already. Very strong, healthy and correct posture. We love this little guy.
DOB: Wednesday, April 10
Dolly delivered buck doe twins, we have come to love both kids. The buckling had trouble learning to nurse so he became a bottle baby. The doeling took on to nursing and is raised by Dolly. We have been milking Dolly morning and night to keep her milk supply up so that we can feed it to the buckling.
The labor and delivery was pretty uneventful (which is good!). However, Dolly was definitely exhausted by the end. We have a blog post with our kidding list - as a lot of lists I have seen online don’t take the dam into consideration. Supplementing her with CMPK and Probiotics helped energize her so she not only could take care of her kids, but also so that she is healthy. Making sure she has a boost during and after labor also helps improve her milk supply for milking.
Both kids are super friendly. They say bottle babies are more friendly. However, even though one is dam-raised and the other bottle fed, they are both equally friendly with us. This doeling will crawl up in my lap on a warm sunny day and take a nap. Out of the eight babies we’ve had this year, I go out to the barn to visit her to get my fill of baby goat love.
Caribou, the Bottle Babe
Along with homesteading, we work. Bottle feeding baby goats is last resort with our schedule. Luckily, we have AMAZING people in our lives (some in our own neighborhood!) to step in and help when needed!
Thank you, Mazie for taking Caribou for an entire week to get him through the newborn stage!
And thank you to Ruth, Becky and Britta for stopping by to feed him the occasional bottle, keeping his belly full during our work shifts.
DOB: Monday, April 8
Diamond has a very special place here at Wildroot Cove, she was the very first goat we picked out and what a perfect introduction to goats she is. She taught me how to help deliver, she taught me how to milk, she taught me how goats sneak out of a pen to try to get into the food… And now her labor has taught me how to intervene during a labor and assist when there might be complications. I always joke that I wish I saw Diamond as a mama before I had Kenley because I would try to be more like her and a little less like me (that’s how good of a mama she is!).
DOELING - Retained
Brown chamoisee, blue eyes
Buckling - $300
Cream buckskin with white overlay
She is a tough goat for baby watch because she doesn’t complain and doesn’t seem too bothered until she’s getting heavy contractions. We monitored her and knew she started contractions around 10 p.m. At 3:30 a.m. she started pushing. I ran out to the barn and a healthy blue-eyed doeling was born before I got to her. We started to get a little concerned that it was taking a while for the second baby and we later learned that it was born with its neck back, which can be problematic but Diamond did awesome and he is a cute, healthy buckling. There was a third buckling that was DOA (stillborn) and it was very tough for her to deliver him. I assisted but I must say, Diamond truly did great with delivering these babies in a not so ideal situation.
We love the two healthy kids she gave us! Kenley’s favorite kid so far is the buckling because he’s so pretty!
DOB: Friday, March 29, 2019
Frenchy kidded two doelings. They were about two pounds at birth and in 48 hours had doubled in weight. Go Frenchy!
Doeling 1 – $425
Tan and white buckskin, brown eyes.
We will be selling babies we would love to keep, but the space we have in our barn says otherwise. So our plan is to keep 1-4 kids this spring which sadly means doeling 1 is available for purchase. Her coloring is unique – a grayish tan similar to our Sunday.
All of our goats are ADGA registered. Doeling will be disbudded and tattooed. She will be ready to be weaned and picked up the last week of May.
Doeling 2 – Retained
Tri-colored (just like Frenchy) with blue eyes.
She was exactly what I was hoping to get out of breeding Harvey and Frenchy together.
Frenchy is a first-time mama. We haven’t put her up on the milk stand since kidding a few days ago, but her pre-fresh udder was so impressive! One of the many reasons we brought Frenchy into our herd was her sire is quite impressive and has many kids that went on to appraise and show well.
She had a little trouble understanding how and why to nurse her babies at first but now she has it down and has proven to be a natural. It’s such a beautiful transition to watch any creature step into this motherly role. I know “they’re just goats” but we could see the confusion, stress and hesitation all over Frenchy’s face when her kids were first born. The next morning, she was obviously just so in love with these two girls, talking to them non-stop and never wanting to leave their side. We let her stretch her legs in the pasture and when she heard one of the babies cry, she came running back to the barn. So sweet.
Frenchy’s Pedigree (Dam)
We purchased Frenchy from Bear Park Bluff Goats – who says of Frenchy’s sire, “This little guy is jam packed with heavy milkers, champions, and extremely beautiful animals!” I was already 95% in love with Frenchy and I looked into her sire and SOLD. She’s mine. And again, going by her pre-fresh, first-freshening udder… this was a great choice for Wildroot Cove.
Harvey’s Pedigree (Sire)
They say to invest the most in a quality herdsire... so we did.
Harvey has a stellar sire that scored EVE FS90 @ 02-02. His dam is a 4* milker. We were hoping to rent a buck when we reached out to Renegade North, who was in the process of moving out of state so we impulsively bought two of their quality bucklings to improve the genetics in our herd. See more of Harvey’s sire and dam.
Spring is near, the babies are going to start arriving in a couple weeks!
Around this time of year, we start getting requests from people wanting to come visit the baby goats. When we started Wildroot Cove, we intended to share it with others, it was not meant to be kept to ourselves.
With that being said, I respond to these requests optimistically. We are grateful to have something unique to connect us to others.
In all reality, as much as we would love to meet every single one of these requests, some will go unmet and these are the reasons why.
Our nieces and nephews come first. They will grow up knowing that Wildroot Cove is practically their own. Even if they visit frequently, they still get the first-in-line perks.
We have safety precautions - Many people don’t realize this, but the bacteria you bring in on the bottom of your shoes could potentially do a lot of damage to a herd of goats. We have safety measures that we take and part of that includes minimizing traffic in and out of the barn. As some of the goats will be re-homed to other farms, we still take care of those animals as if they are our own. This may lead to a decision of not taking in any farm visits while they are in our care.
We underestimated how much work baby goats can be! We joke it is like having a herd of newborn human babies. The stress of nursing an animal back to health last year lead us to the decision of no more farm visits for that season.
Life is busy. We never want to spread ourselves so thin that we just maintain what we have. We want our animals to receive our best care possible and we also want to grow in other ways toward a sustainable life.
If you do visit Wildroot Cove…
We request farm visits are kept to a 45-minute duration. This way, we can go about our daily chores without skipping a beat.
If you have visited another farm or zoo in the last six months, please refrain from wearing that pair of shoes.
Please watch your kids. Children are not allowed to hold the baby goats and we will not force interaction. If a child is failing to respect these rules, they will be asked to leave the pen. We learned some lessons the hard way and even though kids mean well, accidents happen.
Options to see goats or other animals…
If you really want to come visit, signing up for goat yoga has been a great opportunity for us to be able to share all of this with others! We even offer goat yoga for kids as well! This way you are also supporting us! All our proceeds from goat yoga go right to the animals to provide food and hay, supplements, vet bills, shelter, etc.
If you are looking for a petting zoo, we are actually not a petting zoo. But a wonderful petting zoo called Fawn-Doe-Rosa is well worth the drive! They have deer that will walk up to you and eat out of your hand, along with baby goats, bunnies, miniature pony rides, etc.
We homestead because we love it, not for the source of income. The purpose of running a business from Wildroot Cove is to help sustain what we have. At the size we are currently at, the cost of goat and chicken husbandry exceeds the amount of money we make from these animals. That could possibly change in the future as we grow.
Kidding can be a little intimidating, but if you are prepared, you’re off to a great start of being able to enjoy it! There are many great resources online with lists similar to this, however we added a few items below that has made kidding go smoothly for us and the goats! Particularly, the supplements will help the goats recover from labor and also will help boost their milk supply.
A goat’s gestation is 145-155 days. There are definite signs of goats going into labor. If you’re anything like me, you will convince yourself they are in labor several times before they actually are. I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised since I went in for false labor twice before actually delivering my own human child. With my nerves all wound up over what kidding will bring, one thing that I could be assured of is that I had the supply list on-hand, ready to go.
This is not an absolute must, it is modern farming at its finest. But if you’re like me and you work out of the home, being able to spy on your goats is so helpful. This will reduce barn checks throughout the night as well.
Towels & Hair Blow Dryer
We kid in late winter/early spring in Minnesota and need to dry off the kids as quickly as possible. In colder temps, it is so important that the babies are dried off immediately, or they would be in danger of frostbite or freezing. In warmer climates, you may not need as many towels as the dam will clean her babies off pretty good. But still have at least a couple on-hand to help with clearing the noses and air passages.
Along with birth, comes a lot of messy, hormonal goop. Wear gloves to protect yourself. In case you need to go in and check on the baby’s position, a pair of clean gloves will also protect your dam.
If your dam is showing any signs of stress or illness, check her temp. A goat’s temp should be between 101.3 and 105.1. If it is high, it could mean there is an infection. If it is low, it could indicate milk fever which means the goat is deficient in calcium. The Life of Heritage has a great article that you can read to learn more.
We have a very hands-off approach to kidding. If you need to help with pulling the baby, be sure to only pull during a contraction. If you need to go in and reposition the baby, apply lube generously.
If the baby is having trouble breathing, use a bulb syringe to suck the airways clean.
If the umbilical cord is longer than an inch, you can use floss to tie it off. The dam will most likely help with this, but you still don’t want it dragging on soiled hay or straw.
7% Iodine Tincture & Small Container
Once the baby is out and clean, put the Iodine in a small container. Dip the umbilical cord in the iodine (you can flip the baby over to saturate the area).
During and after labor, boost mama’s energy by treating her to a molasses tea (pour it in her water and stir, when it look like tea, that should be enough).
Have the batteries charged and ready to go, especially if you do not have electricity out in the barn.
You’re going to want video of these little squirts hopping around within minutes of being born!
Medications / Supplements
We supplement and load the babies up with colostrum. It will help them gain energy quickly. If you have more than one goat in labor, milk some colostrum and freeze it for the future births in case you need it. Baby goats need colostrum within two hours of birth.
Goats’ immune systems are suppressed after kidding, making them more prone to parasites. ProBiotics strengthens their immune system.
Goats should always have access to free-choice minerals. Because labor and nursing babies is a lot of work, they should have a bowl of vitamins at their disposal.
This is a vet prescription that is worth the time to get. In selenium deficient areas, goats can be prone to white muscle disease. If babies are born weaker, they may need a shot of BoSe. We did have a couple small doelings last year that couldn’t keep their legs under them. However, they did not need BoSe. As we monitored them, they gained their strength within six hours of birth just from the colostrum.
Yeast, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium. Gives mama a boost of nutrition after she kids. If you have trouble finding this product at your local farm store, you can purchase it online.
This is an electrolyte drink to encourage the dam to stay hydrated, also replenishes nutrition. This will help the dam’s milk supply.
Spoil this new mama with fresh, foraged food! Chaffhaye will provide a boost of nutrition that will provide her more energy and help increase her milk supply. You can visit www.chaffhaye.com to find a supplier near you.
The babies are born, now it’s time to milk.
Of course I went into the first spring and summer of milking goats with dreams of drinking milk, selling milk, making goat cheese and goat milk soaps, even ice cream (supposedly, Nigerian Dwarfs is the BEST for ice cream). And while I was able to do some of this, my primary goal was to learn how to milk and how to safely prepare it so we could drink it.
There was yelling…
I researched how to milk a goat prior to putting my doe up on that milk stand. I was as prepared as I could possibly be. For any beginners out there, let me tell you Tyson could hear me yell from the front yard (I promise no goats were injured in the process, in fact, I’m fairly certain they were laughing). The YouTube how-to videos were helpful, but I still had to learn how to pinch and squeeze the teats just right. Goats also need to be trained or reminded what it feels like to be on that milking stand with someone pulling on their bits and pieces. They will kick and dance and step into the bucket. I remember feeling so accomplished for getting a substantial amount and then the goat would kick it all over. After a few days, the dust settled and I found my time milking goats to be therapeutic.
Looking back at last summer, I am very proud that I was able to stock our fridge and freezer with milk. It tasted great! And it was safe to drink.
Everyone says it takes a week or two to get the hang of it, this is true.
I am a believer in when you feel anxious, your animals do as well. So head out to the barn with a relaxed mindset and low expectations.
To keep the milk clean from bacteria, be sure to keep the milking stand and the area around it clean, milk into a stainless steel container (unlike this photo of Kenley below). I keep the udders shaved.
Danelle with Weed ‘Em And Reap has a recipe for udder wipes using essential oils. I wash the udder and the belly of the goat.
Get your kids involved! Kenley is on her way to being able to milk a goat on her own. But for now, I first milk the goat out and then she sits down to get the last couple ounces.
On average, 65% of the world’s population drinks goat milk! Yes, more than cow milk.
Why? Because it is easier to digest – goat milk takes 30 minutes to digest whereas cow milk takes two hours. Goat milk has less lactose than cow milk and is an alkaline-forming food which helps keep your pH levels at the proper level.
Source: Lindsey Proctor wrote an interesting article on Why We Drink Raw Goats Milk for Nourishing Gourmet.
Today marks one year of our first two Nigerian Dwarf goats moving in. They were both pregnant and had their babies the same day on Feb. 25. Diamond had four kids, Peanut had three. We retained a couple of the kids for ourselves and introduced a few new bloodlines and went into this next breeding season with nine goats total. All along, our plan was to have up to eight. Whatever your plan is for animals living on your land, double that. This was the advice that we were given and it’s also the advice we would pass along. If I could sum up the last year into one feeling and one photograph, this is it.
Farm to Furballs
It brings a huge smile to my face as one year into this journey, I received this photo from StoneRidge Doodles. These brand new puppies are drinking a blend of raw goat milk mixed with one of Kenley’s eggs along with yogurt and karo syrup. Golden Doodles are all the rage for good reason - they make the perfect family pet. If you are considering getting a puppy, be sure to check out StoneRidge Doodles, I have seen the work and care care they dedicate to these puppies in the weeks before they go home to their new families.
Our last Minnesota winter was long. We had our two bred Nigerian Dwarfs were due to have kids at the end of February. They both kidded on Feb. 25 and it so happened to be about 10 degrees. Tyson, Kenley and I (Tara) were all there for the births with towels and a hair blow dryer to get the babies cleaned off and dry before they could get frostbite, or even worse, freeze to death. Once the babies were safely born, I had many sleepless nights worrying about the heat lamps keeping the kids warm.
Thankfully, we feel way more prepared for this coming winter, but we still kept it to the basics.
Electricity out in the barn - a much safer solution than using extension chords.
Hot water - twice a day (or more), we bring hot buckets of water out to the barn. The goats love the hot water and it helps warm them up. For in between those hot refills, we keep their water in these heated buckets to keep the water from freezing. I have heard of these buckets being a fire hazard if they do not have water in them, so keep them from running dry.
Free-choice hay - Goats are warmer when their bellies are full.
Heat lamp barrels - Tyson made a couple of these heat lamp barrels for when our next batch of kids arrive. Click here for some basic instructions on how to make one. We would definitely advise using Prima Heat Lamps. They are designed well to keep hay away from the bulb and also weighted so that if the lamp falls, the cage will be higher up. By attaching the lamp inside the barrel, you will have a much safer warm space than clipping it to the wall in the barn.
Elevated Surfaces - Goats love to jump around and will always appreciate a goat playground. We have a concrete floor in our barn so they especially appreciate giving those hooves a break from the chilled floor during winter month
Deep bedding - in the summer months, we clean all they hay and manure out of the barn weekly. However in the winter, we will use the deep bedding method if it drops below 10 degrees. We let the hay and waste build up to provide them warmth out in the barn. The barn typically won’t smell in the winter, but if it does, we take the ammonia smell out by sprinkling Horse Fresh to neutralize the odor.
Some parents teach their kids money management… I took this egg-selling business opportunity to teach Kenley marketing and homesteading. Money management is a sweet little bonus.
First, a Logo
Kenley was three years old when she drew a picture of a chicken. We didn’t have chickens nor were we intending to ever have them, none of her TV shows were about chickens… I have no idea where her inspiration came from but I fell in love with this little character she sketched so I saved it.
Second, the Branding
Now at the age of 5, Kenley is operating her own little business. As of right now she wants to be a “Designer Mommy Princess” when she grows up. She already has two of those titles down with this perfect first lesson for her on logo/branding design and marketing. Kenley’s happy customers enjoy her 3-year-old chicken sketch and 5-year-old handwriting which can be found on the cartons, thank you notes and the eggs.
Quality Product and Service
With a little help from her mama, Kenley takes great care of her flock and educates others on the different breeds and how she cares for them. Supplements like “probiotics” and “nutri-drench” are a regular part of her conversations. She gets home from school and collects the eggs, lets the chickens free-range all day and takes out the table scraps as treats. Once she completes all her fun stamping, she delivers. She makes sure her customers know how long these eggs are good out on the counter and how to clean them before consuming them. Before you think it’s cute and agree to be a customer, just be warned - she’s got the hustlin’ part of the business down, too.
Being this is a smaller breed, Nigerian Dwarfs take up less space and are more cost efficient with feed.
Again, with their smaller size, they are a bit easier for our 5-year old to handle. It is important to us to have a friendly breed with all the kids we have over frequently.
Nigerian Dwarfs are funny! They have puppy-like personalities. A little mischievous at times, but they always give us something to smile or laugh about.
Nigerian Dwarfs have heat cycles every 21 to 28 days year-round whereas other breeds of goats have one season of heat cycle in the fall. This gives us more flexibility with our breeding plans.
Quality over quantity - We have converted the biggest skeptics of goat milk with giving them a sample of our Nigerian’s milk. I myself, took my first drink apprehensively and was shocked that it tasted better than cows milk. Nigerian Dwarfs don’t milk as much of a volume, averaging about one-quart per day for each goat. But their butterfat is the highest percentage making their milk creamy and delicious. Perfect for cream in your coffee or homemade ice cream. Below is an infographic from Chaffhaye that shows the different breeds of dairy goats.
Are you thinking about getting yourself some goats? We started with two Nigerian Dwarf goats and this is everything that we had built and the lessons we learned along the way. If you intend to breed goats, kidding supplies is not included in this post but that is on my list for the future.
We hired a company to build a 22x24 ft. pole barn. I had hoped for a turnkey homestead but on the other hand, it’s great to be able to build everything exactly how you want it. At the bare minimum, goats need shelter from the wind. I have seen a lot of successful set-ups of simple 3-wall structures or animal igloos. I would encourage to get a guardian dog if the barn does not close up to keep your goats safe from predators.
Since our goats moved to WRC in the winter, at the bare minimum, we needed the sacrifice area fenced in. The sacrifice area is not where any animals are killed, it is called that because we sacrifice the grass in that area. Our sacrifice area is a 36x36 ft. area and the fence is 5 ft. tall. We used 4x4 posts 8 feet apart and drilled in 16 ft. 1x6 boards horizontally along the top and about 12-18 inches from the ground. The boards close to the ground are the perfect height for Nigerian Dwarfs, as they will lean on that board to scratch their backs. Then, horse fencing (2x4 in. mesh) was stapled from the inside. Because goats are happy foraging pasture, we built them a 1-acre pasture later in the summer months. The pasture is similar to the sacrifice area but to save money, we did a 4 1/2 ft. tall fence and we used sheep fencing (4x4 in. mesh). We close the gates in the summer months to protect specifically from coyotes that can easily jump a 4 1/2 ft. fence.
You may have heard that goats are escape artists - we have never had an issue with them wanting out. Perhaps out of the nine goats we have owned so far, maybe we haven’t had the personality to want to escape. We are very attentive to the goats, they have free-choice hay and they seem happy and content staying in the area we built for them. Keeping them in is not a challenge for us, however we do what we can to keep predators out.
Living in Minnesota, we needed to stock up on hay for the first two goats that moved in to WRC in December, 2017. We picked up 20 2-string square bales, they were out of hay in April. Because our winter lasted longer than usual, we had to pick up a couple month’s supply from Tractor Supply Co. which is about 5 times the cost as getting it from our local farmer.
Supplements, Medications and Supplies
It didn’t take long to have to stock up on supplements and medications since our two goats were pregnant. At the bare minimum, I would suggest always keeping these items on-hand.
Hoof clippers - goats need their hooves trimmed every couple months
Apple cider vinegar - great for adding probiotics to their water
Probiotics - when goats move and are stressed, always give them probiotics to boost their immune system
Thermometer - if a goat seems ill, start with taking their temperature, rectal temp works best.
Black oil sunflower seeds - not necessary but helpful with providing Vitamin E and keeping the goats fur looking healthy
Free-choice minerals - we use Manna Pro Goat Minerals. We are constantly re-filling their tray. Goats will consume minerals when they need to.
Free-choice baking soda - goats can get bloated easily, especially if they are fed grain. Having baking soda out for them helps them with bloat.
Copper Bolus - Goats will show a copper deficiency in their coats, most goats are deficient so it is important to regularly bolus (copper is also in the loose minerals). Instead of using a bolus gun, we opt to pouring the capsule in an apple sauce pouch. The goats usually suck it right down and if they don’t, it’s easy to squeeze it in their mouths.
We created a PDF downloadable guide to caring for goats - this guide breaks down common supplements, medications and dosages to have on-hand.
How much work are they?
A question I get asked a lot! Goats are pretty low maintenance unless there is a health issue, and unfortunately, it happens. I highly suggest joining the Nigerian Dwarfs Group on facebook. If something out of the ordinary comes up, it is easy to search the group and find what worked and didn’t work for other people. It is also important to educate yourself on parasites and checking a goat’s famacha score regularly. Goats are great at hiding symptoms so when there are signs of them being ill, I have found that it is often close to being too late to help them.