Whooda Thunk It!!! For the first time in the history of modern economics the caprine industry is out performing the stock market! Let me take time to light my cigar with a 10 Peso bill and go out and survey my assets. Surveying equipment and supplies can be easily done and maintenance, upkeep, and resupply are some thing that most goat ranchers do as an almost automatic reflex. Most of us have lists and check them thrice and know to keep medications, feeds, and supplements on hand and ready to use as needed.
Surveying your goats from day to day is something that requires a little more diligence. Gwen and I have turned the goats out to pasture in the morning, and let them into the pens at night for so long that it has become second nature to do it and it gives us a chance to put our good eye on each animal to see if they are okay. Some breeders out there may choose to check their goats less frequently, sometimes when the goat is napping on their back with all four legs sticking up in the air, and thatís their choice, but we like to see if any of the goats may be limping or lagging behind the rest of the mob, or if itís the right time of the year, have been visiting with the bucks. Plus it gives us a chance to run them through the chutes for a FAMACHA check.
During breeding season we have the herd split up into different groups depending on their age or whether they are December or June breeders, or if they have kids at their side. Some are even in late gestation and are about to kid. Each group has their own nutritional and mineral/medical needs and should be evaluated differently. The ďteenagersĒ who are a bunch of yearlings who are breeding with a young buck are penned up in a 4 acre plot and have free choice access to hay and likkum buckets do not need to be fed as much as the non-breeder/momma/doeling group. The old doe group has access to 30 acres of pasture/woodland, plus hay and mineral all day, so they arenít being fed at all. They come in at night and get access to the likkum bucket and thatís all they get.
How do we determine what group gets fed? By using body condition scoring as an evaluation tool. Cattle ranchers have been using BCS for years (at least the progressive oneís have) to determine their management practices. Itís really simple, if your stock starts to look a little boney and drawn, then give them something to eat! By utilizing BCS we have been able to hold off haying our herd until the second week in December, and I know of breeders that have been putting out hay since Nov. 1st!
How do you give a Body Condition Score to a meat goat? There are numerous web pages that can offer guidelines to determine the BCS of your goats.
A web site that can offer an informative look into meat goat management and BCS is the one offered by North Carolina State Universityís College of Agriculture & Life Science. The page offered by Extension meat goat specialist, Dr. Jean-Marie Luginbuhl is a comprehensive guide to meat goat management. Go to www.cals.ncsu.edu/an_sci/extension/animal/meatgoat/ahgoats_index.html, and then click on MONITORING THE BODY CONDITION OF MEAT GOATS: A key to successful management to read all about BCS. While youíre on the site be sure to check out the informative stuff that Dr. Jean-Marie has compiled, its well worth your time. To see a very informative video about body condition scores for goats, go to http://www2.luresext.edu/goats/index.htm for the Langston University goat web site. Scroll down and click on the NEW VIDEO- how to conduct body condition scores on goats and watch the video and click on the highlighted stuff to learn more. I have used both sites extensively to teach both Gwen and I about BCS and how to use it as a management tool to save money and keep our herd healthy.
You want to keep your goats at a 2.5 to 4 BCS as determined by the Langston scale to stay healthy. Anything less is sickness or starvation, anything more is obesity. If they score high, then reduce the amount of feed you put out or feed less frequently. If they score low, then get on the net and the phone and devise a feeding plan that you can afford to live with. During the warm seasons itís pretty easy to keep your herd healthy by using FAMACHA and a good rotational grazing program, but during the winter you should be more watchful for a lowering of BCS in your herd and adjust the herdís feeding accordingly. Remember that itís cheaper to keep a goat fat than is to try to get them that way, so donít try to starve a dollar out of your herd!
Bye, for now.