Weaning. Thatís a word that makes even the strongest of goat breeders shake in their
boots. Itís a word spoken with dread and only whispered when you are out in the goat
herd. How such cute little kids can put such fear, such apprehension in adult humans, is
beyond understanding to the non-goat breeder. So, let me put a little light on this dread of
Two weeks ago Lee and I decided it was time to wean 26 kids at one time. We had wussed
out (another word for chickened out) and had sold several kids off their mothers and let the
buyers take these kids home where they would have to wean them, not us. I know, a
cowardly deed. Wished I could have done all of them that way, but several had to stay with
us for replacement breeding stock. And, several buyers were chickens like us and said they
would pick out their kids AFTER weaning. Wished I could have done that.
Anyway, we usually wean at two months of age. Some time back, by picking up a pencil
and paper, sticking my tongue part way out of the corner of my mouth and holding it there;
I was able to financially figure out that it was cheaper to take a kid off at that age. Feed it
the grain and hay, then to try and pour a lot more feed into the larger doe so she could feed
By two months of age the kids are usually shoveling the grain down I give them twice a
day, eating a great deal of free choice alfalfa hay, and draining mom dry, leaving some does
looking like walking skeletons. To us, thatís a great time to wean. Especially since most of
them had Boer blood in them and by two months of age they weighed 35 -- 55 lbs.,
depending on male or female. Instead of hearing cute little tap, tap, tap sounds running
through the barn as the kids played, youíd hear thud, thud, thud sounds of thunder babies.
You would swear you had miniature horses running through your barn.
I know. I know. Some of you say since weaning is so hard on us, why not leave the kids
on and let mom wean them slowly and completely. Dreamer. All of my does are
marshmallows. They are too soft. They would never wean those kids. They would keep
them on for years, especially if they are boys. How many of you have tried to sell a buck
kid off so his little sister (who is going to be one of your replacement does) can have more
milk and grow up super big and strong? What happened? The mom counts the little hineys
diving under her to nurse, counts one instead of two, particularly noticing that the boy is
not there, and says, NOPE. No way. No one is going to nurse if I donít have two kids and
particularly if my boy isnít here. That is about the only time my does will wean anything.
So, and I repeat, Lee and I decided to wean 26 kids two weeks ago. We waited longer than
usual because the weather was so cold. We didnít want to add any more stress on these
kids (or us) then was needed. These kids were now 10-11 weeks old. The weather had
warmed up to thirty degrees Fahrenheit and we were only having rain, sleet, and snow. It
was a very fair day. An added plus, the wind was only gusting to 20 miles as hour.
Lee and I have a problem in that we still think we are husky young things. We donít have
our operation set up in that it would be considered work efficient. Itís based on brawn
(muscle) efficient. And, lately our brawn has been feeling less brawny.
We have a hill farm with barns and sheds set up on hills or at the base of hills. Not much
flat land. We donít have neat little corrals and pens that we can run animals through to
move from one place to another. One of these days we are going to do that, as soon as we
donít think we are husky young things. I think this summer would be a good time to start
getting those pens.
So, usually we go out in the herd, swoop up a kid in our arms and take off fast to his
weaning pen. Which is usually at the bottom of a hill (if youíre lucky) or at the top of a hill
(if youíre not so lucky). We like to put the kids out of sight of mom and keep good food in
front of them, while we cut back the grain on moms to dry them up.
Now remember, these kids can weigh from 35-55 lbs. Usually I pretend I canít catch the
heavier kids and leave them for Lee to carry. Though, sometimes itís hard to tell Lee I
canít catch one of the big ones when the kid is following me around and stepping on my
heels. So far he has believed me.
Even if you are carrying one of these kids downhill, itís still a far piece before you get to
his weaning pen. I was hearing so much huffing and wheezing and rattling in my ears, I
thought for sure a bear was roaring behind me. Much to my relief, it was just me breathing.
Each soon-to-be-weaned kid acts different when you carry him or her. Some lay quietly in
your arms, some kick and buck in your arms the whole trip, and some think itís the
grandest tour they have been on in ages and chew on your hair, your coat, your nose, your
After I had dropped my kid in his weaning pen and huffed and puffed my way back up the
hill to catch another, Lee told me my face was really really red. I told him it was just a glow
from seeing him. He didnít believe me for a minute.
Okay, we have all the kids and moms separated now. The kids have been hollering since
they left, but the moms have been busy eating hay and thinking that it was just the usual
kid yelling thing going on. Suddenly, it hits them. There are no kids around! A beller sets up
that an opera star would envy. Each and every mom starts yelling, then running to check
under buildings, around trees, behind the hay feeder, under the hay feeder, all the time
screaming at the top of her lungs.
This just causes the kids to really turn the volume up. Which in turn causes the moms to
increase their decibels. Soon, you canít hear to see where you are going. The kidsí weaning
pens are aimed towards the neighbors. Honest, we didnít plan it that way. Just because
their dogs tend to bark all night and no one even tries to shut them up, that doesnít mean
we would intentionally aim the kids that way. Thatís the way the buildings were pointed
before we seriously got into raising goats. Amazing how things work out that way.
A day and a half later, things are usually much quieter. Just little pleasant squeaks can be
heard every now and then. Most the kids and the moms have lost their voices and this is
the best holler they can get out. With our kids and moms these squeaks usually occur
between big mouthfuls of hay, so they are really muffled squeaks. Strange sounding, but
much better than the all out bellers of adult goats and upset kids. Weaning has begun.