Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Are You Smarter Than A Second Grader? (The Scoop on Goats)

        In preparation for tomorrow's talk to hundreds of second graders for Farm Week, the following are pointers on raising dairy goats. (Mine are pygmies, which you can milk... you just won't get as much milk. I keep mine around for pets, as well as for garden fertilizing purposes.) The preferred breed for milking is the Nubian. Let's see if you're smarter than a second grader when it comes to goats. Did you know:

     --There are 8 different breeds of dairy goats?
     --Nubians make a very distinctive sound – (i.e. screaming).  These are the ones you most often see in the You Tube videos, as they are the most popular breed in the U.S.
     --Female goats are called does or nannies.
     --Male goats are called bucks or billies.
     --Baby goats are called kids.
     --Twins are common, but single births or triplets do occur.
     --Their eyes are rectangular and they see very well in the dark.
     --Goats only have bottom teeth except for a large molar in the back on the upper jaw.
     --Goats are browsers.  They like to eat leaves and branches – They prefer things up higher off the ground; they only eat grass when they have too.
     --Despite what you've probably heard about goats eating everything, this is not true. Goats are very picky eaters and insist their food be very clean (which is why I spend so much time washing their bowls).  They will not eat it if it dirty or tastes bad.  They do not eat tin cans! (But mine do love crackers, and are especially fond of Triscuits!)
     --They drink 3 to 5 gallons of water a day.
     --Goats are ruminants (which means they chew their cuds) – They have a four chamber stomach just like a cow.  This allows them to eat quickly so they can watch for predators. 
     --They are social animals; they travel in herds; they are happiest/feel safest when with other goats.
     --Goat milk can be used to make cheese, butter, ice cream, soap and candy.  It is also used to make lotion and lip balm.
     --Goat's milk is absorbable by every mammal on the planet, so when you see a critter being nursed back to health (like a beached whale or an orphaned lion cub) it is most likely goat's milk they are feeding it.
     --Most Nubians will produce 6 to 8 pounds of milk in a day.
     --When kids are born they weigh between 15 to 25 lbs. depending on breed and when they are grown they will weigh between 120 to 140 lbs.
     --The Nubian lifespan is typically 10 to 15 years. 
     --Shelter is very important for goats.  They hate it when it rains; they do not like storms. They have very sensitive nervous systems, so the shelter of a barn or covered area is a must.

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