Friday, March 2, 2012

Sue Weaver: Raising Milo, Part Four

Milo Is Here!
Milo samples a piece of dry weed.
Milo was born in the wee hours of February 14, Valentine's Day, the son of Amberwood Twister's Trade Wind and a first-time mom called Ozark Jewels Time Will Tell. Like most of our other goats, he's a Nubian, brown with roaning (white hairs) on his face and a white splash on his right side.

We picked Milo up on February 20 when he was almost one week old. The reason for the delay was that he had to be disbudded, and since Emily's farm is 80 miles away, picking him up and taking him back 6 days later wasn't in the cards.

Milo kisses John.
Disbudding is the process of destroying a young goat's horn buds by burning them with a specialized tool called a disbudding iron. If done correctly, the baby's forehead will be absolutely smooth as he matures; used incorrectly, a disbudding iron doesn't fully destroy horn buds, and small, misshapen horns called scurs occur. Worse, bad disbudding technique can cause permanent brain damage, so the person who disbuds kids must be precise.

Most goat raisers disbud their own kids. I don't. Though I know it's necessary and I've watched it done, I couldn't do it myself. Not only does Milo's breeder, Emily Dixon, disbud her own kids but people bring their kids to her for disbudding from miles around. She disbuds all of our kids. It's well worth the drive and the more than modest fee she charges.

Horns are beautiful, and they serve a function; the rich blood system inside mature horns helps with thermoregulation, which is why most working pack goats have horns. However, horns give an aggressive goat the ability to seriously injure her herd mates (a gored dairy goat udder is a gruesome mess); horned goats tend to get their heads stuck in fences (a stuck goat is a sitting duck for predators such as coyotes and free-roaming dogs); and horned heads don't fit neatly into most dairy stanchions the way disbudded heads do. The American Dairy Goat Association bars horned goats from approved shows, and in most cases 4-H goats must be disbudded. In addition, a goat can break a horn, causing massive blood loss and pain; this happens more often than you might think.

Some goats are born without horns; these are called polled goats (our Morgan is a naturally polled Sable wether). It initially stands to reason that breeding polled goats to polled goats could quickly eliminate horns and the nastiness of disbudding. Unfortunately, a percentage of kids born to polled-to-polled matings are intersexed, meaning they're born with both male and female sexual apparatus. Intersexed goats are infertile.

Mature horned goats can be dehorned, but it's a nasty, bloody operation that must be performed by a veterinarian under anesthetic and leaves open holes in the goat's skull. It takes months of diligent packing and care before those holes heal over. No goat should be subjected to dehorning.

So we waited until Milo was old enough for disbudding and picked him up the day after the deed was done. He rode home quietly in my arms and settled into his new home in the kitchen without fuss. He ate like a champion, immediately adapting to a new type of nipple — some kids are reluctant to switch and require a lot of coaxing — and milk. Since we're out of frozen goat milk, we're raising him on an old proven recipe of four parts of whole cow milk from the grocery store to one part half and half with a heaping tablespoon of yogurt added to one meal every day.

Milo says, “This is good!” 
Milo shows off his milk mustache.
He liked his beanbag sheep friend and cuddled with her his first few days. Then he began chewing her “wool” off, so now he has a toy armadillo in her place.

Milo runs . . .
and runs.

He isn't the cuddly baby I envisioned. Milo doesn't cuddle when he can run! So he and I take long walks down the ridge and through the woods at least twice a day. It's good early pack-goat training. We've just started housetraining and leading lessons, so I'll talk about that next time. He's a smart little guy. I love this little goat!

Sue Weaver sold her first freelance article in 1969. Since then her work has appeared in major horse periodicals, including the Western Horseman, Horse Illustrated, Chronicle of the Horse, Flying Changes, Horseman’s Market, Arabian Horse Times, the Appaloosa News, the Quarter Horse Journal, Horse’N Around, and the Brayer. She has written, among other books, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, The Donkey Companion, and The Backyard Goat. Sue is based in the southern Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.

1 comment:

Los Angeles Goldendoodle Puppies said...

Great description of the debudding process. Nice to see an article where someone actually did their research and can identify it as a humane procedure that is necessary. Such a cute little goat to- I love the name Milo. :)