We’ve just had another successful kidding. Kidding is always a stressful time, but this season was so much easier for us all, thanks to our repurposed shed and refined management systems.
The new shed has a concrete floor – its thick layer of straw bedding can be quickly and easily cleaned out and replaced. Twelve separate pens means everyone gets individual attention and space. A big whiteboard lets us keep a daily track of health issues for each goat and the kidding herd more generally. One of the biggest pluses is that the shed is literally at the centre of the farm. We can easily move does and kids and keep a regular eye on them at this critical time.
But before that comes the kidding. Dairyfarming by its nature is an intensive farming activity, but we try to minimise interventions and provide the herd with what nature intended (given that goats have been domesticated for some 10,000 years, it’s more about working with their hormones, physiology and innate behaviour in the context of our farm). Our does kid out in the paddock. They choose their own location; a sheltering tree or a preferred patch in the lee of a hill. We leave them to it until they’ve cleaned up their young and eaten the afterbirth. After that we bring doe and kid/s into the shed.
By having a dedicated nursery that’s set up just for them, the kids stay warm, well and connected to their mothers. The kids develop greater immunity and their mothers benefit too. There’s more time with their offspring to bond. Time for us to bond with them too, which is crucial to herd management. Spending time with the goats now means easier, calmer stock management when we need to trim feet or carry out treatments, at milking and when moving the herd. We also get to know the goats as individuals.
Our first-time mothers go on the line for the morning milking – another new experience – and then the kids have them for the rest of the day. Having the time with their mothers not only benefits the kids. As the kids constantly drink, butt and suckle, any hard spots in the udder are worked out and there’s less chance of secondary problems like milk fever or mastitis. Milk flow and oxytocin release are also triggered by the attention on the udder, so the kids soon put on condition. The kids manage the health of their first-time mothers just as much as the mothers do their kids. We’re setting up conditions for both kids and does to thrive.
The Holy Goat lineage is now well into it’s fifth generation. Vision was one of our original goats and you can see her genes carried on through into this latest crop of kids. Her line is the strong Nordic one: Vision begat Lilith, who begat Hilde, who begat Erda, who begat Freya, who begat Olga – the mother of Nordic and Viking. Winona and Blanchett are the offspring of Hath and Anne, whose mother was Anne Hathaway. Likewise our Chinese line: fifth generation Tibet is by China, who’s mother was Ming, and hers Dynasty. It really is a royal lineage.
We couldn’t manage kidding without the help of our interns Eloise, Lydia and Caitlin. Each kidding we have an intern (or two) who’s sole focus is the nursery. This season it’s Eloise, a 19 year old French Agricultural Engineering student. Eloise is the latest in a line of exceptional interns that have come to the farm from France. The interns, alongside our permanent staff, ensure the mothers and kids get all the care they need and a good start in life.
The new kids always provide us with a sense of joy. Not just because there is new (and let’s face it, very gorgeous) life on the farm, but the fact that this cohort of kids will be the next in line – and on the milking line – to continue on the dynasty and legacy that is Holy Goat.