Itís Time to Wean the Animals
Itís going to be tough going for the next few weeks around the old rancho. Thereís going to be a lot of whining and crying and gnashing of teeth and all of that other sorrowful stuff that goes on when animals are weaned. Yes, Gwen and I are removing all of the protein supplements such as feeds and likkum buckets and other such stuff and accoutrements. Yes, the herd is going on forage and minerals only. The humans are going to have to deal with the does losing some of their bloom and plumpness (and more pesos in their pocket), and the nannies are going to have to deal with eating more of the forage that is available.
Recent correspondence with Dr. Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, Meat Goat and Forage Specialist at North Carolina State University, in regards as to the amount of whole cottonseed we should feed the lactating nannies, has convinced Gwen and I to limit the amount of feed and protein supplements we give to ALL of the goats. After talking it over and evaluating our herd and pasture resources, we figure that we can keep our goats in good shape with the forage available and by using a good rotational grazing program. Yes, we are all getting weaned off of feed and supplements.
This is the next and final step that we need to take in implementing a true forage based feeding system. Itís time to realize that denial ainít no river in Africa! The does will come into the pens in the evening searching for that likkum bucket that they have relied upon to give them the comfort food that they think they need, and Gwen and I will fret over the weight loss that will ensue. You all know how it is with big folks (meaning pleasingly plump); they canít stand to see a skinny animal! The only problem is that all of those pleasingly plump does are starting to have breeding and pregnancy problems that we have been puzzling over. Dr. Jean-Marie was not afraid to say the O word (obese) in his e-mails, and after taking a good, hard look at our herd and opening our eyes, we stopped being in denial.
The biggest thing that I realized when reading Dr. Luginbuhlís e-mails was that many goat ranchers have been relying on supplemental feeding and protein supplements for years and now that feed prices have gone through the roof, many breeders are scrambling to care for their herds. While feed was dirt cheap, they could afford to overstock their operations and maintain a decent profit margin with the monies they earned at sales. Now that the meat goat market has taken a downturn, with market stock not showing an appreciable increase in profit and the breeding stock market trending to extreme selectiveness in purchases, with folks looking for the finest stock at low prices, then any feeding that is done cannot be cost effective.
Whatís a goat rancher to do? The first thing we did at the rancho several years ago was to section off all of the pastures and woodlands into 5-10 acre paddocks and implement a rotational grazing program. It may take 2-3 years but that old bare ground that the cows scratched raw will rejuvenate and the forage will come back with a vengeance. We have a good forage base even though we are in a mild drought.
The second thing would be to start seeding forages that are goat friendly. If you can tolerate a few years of planting Bahia grass, lespedeza, chicory, and clovers, then with patience, your pastures will heal and improve themselves. Even though we at the rancho couldnít afford to lime and fertilize our pastures much, by using selective plantings of clovers and Bahia grasses we were able to bring the pastures up to snuff. You can help your ground heal itself through proper grazing and strategic seeding and fertilizing.
The third thing would be to take a good hard look at your herd and evaluate your needs as opposed to what you have in stock. Do you have too many animals for the acreage you have? Are you spending all of your profits on feed instead of enjoying the monies that you can bring in? Do you have a lot of $35 nannies sucking up feed and giving you a scrawny kid on occasion? Did you spend $500 on a fancy bred full blood Boer goat that looks like death warmed over? Iím a big phenotype kind of guy, meaning that if I see a goat that looks good, then theyíre sold. I donít care if a goatís sire was the fireball son of the 33rd cousin-in-law of Moo Moo Magjick, if they look like something that you need to wipe off of your shoe, then all of those blood lines donít mean nothing! Take a real hard and realistic look at your herd and cull the worthless goats, and donít buy anything that wonít improve your herd, no matter what the blood lines.
Folks, Iím not trying to tell you how to tend to your bidnez, but with the way things are going for the goat rancher today, with feed dealers doing everything they can humanely do to show a decent profit, and livestock order buyers trying to keep prices low to keep their customers happy, then you all must try to cut cost however you can. There are many professional folks to contact for help that would be happy to assist you in any way they can. As I stated previously, many of the universities have veterinary programs that you can contact for help. I reached out to Dr. Luginbuhl for help after reading his papers on feeding of cottonseed to goats and he readily gave me help. There are many web sites that offer assistance with goats and other livestock that can offer the information needed. If you go to www.cals.ncsu.edu/an_sci/extension/animal/meatgoat then this page has many informative articles that can help you to plan your operation to make a profit. Google Goats to get the latest info on goat management and selection. For you oldsters out there, donít be afraid to ask the youngsters in your life to help you research this computer stuff, they can show you how itís done! Before long, you experienced folk will show them young whippersnappers a thing or two!
Bye, for now.