Over the twenty-five plus years that the Saada herd has been in existence we have developed our own management methods and style. We will try to explain to you how we grow the big milky does that we like. But please keep in mind that we live in a specific climate with the facilities and feeds that are here. Each individual herd needs to look at the specifics of their own circumstances and develope management that is appropriate to them. We offer our suggestions to assist and to provide food for thought - not as the "only" way to manage dairy goats.
The first step in producing healthy, rapidly-growning kids is to have healthy does and bucks. Adults should be kept is proper flesh - not too fat and certainly not too thin. We keep minerals, iodized salt and baking power available free-choice for all of our animals. We offer kelp and brewer yeast and beet pulp at certain times of the year (the last six weeks of gestation, early lactation and during the breeding season, for example). Clean fresh water is a must at all times. We prefer to use buckets for water, because they are easier for us to keep clean.
All births are attended and navels and hooves are dipped in 7% iodine. We feed newborns either heat-treated goat or cow colostrum - 2 to 4 oz. (depending on the size of the kid) for one or two feedings. After that kids are fed up to six times a day for the first week, then four times a day for a month, then three times a day for a month, then two times a day for one to two more months, and finally once a day until they are weaned at between five and seven months old. Most people wean them younger than we do, but this works for us and we prefer the results to those obtained from heavy grain feeding.
We gradually increase the amount of milk fed from 2 to 4 oz per feeding to 8 oz. over the first week or so. The amount continues to increase until they are getting a little over a half gallon in total per day. Kids continue with that amount per day until they go to once a day feedings, when we only give them a quart.
We begin offering a little grass hay and alfalfa hay after the first week. This too in increased as they begin to eat more of it. Initially you may have to remove old hay and offer fresh, as they won't finish it, but eventually you'll need to increase the quanity to around 2 or 3 lbs per kid per day. We have pasture for our kids, so after the pasture greens, we cut back on the hay as we feel the grazing is better for them. But there is always some being offered.
We don't feed grain until a couple of weeks before we go to once- a-day milk feedings. We believe the protein and calcium in milk is better utilized and less likely to lead to fat babies. Then we begin offering a very little bit of grain (usually a high protein pelleted form). By the time they are weaned ours are usually eating around a pound each per day.
We usually divide kids up into groups not larger than around eight head. We try to keep thinner or less aggressive eaters together and may hold them on more feedings and/or more milk if needed. We may include grain or sunflower seeds for the poorer doers at times, as well. We don't keep bucks or wethers with doelings for longer than a couple of months as a rule, as they're too hard on them and tend to hog the food.
Doelings aren't bred until they are seven months of age or more than 80 lbs . Most of ours can easily freshen at 12 to 16 months of age without any problem. In turn most of our bucklings here can settle does by the time they are five to seven months old.
We will add more to this article in the future.