The First Step Toward Goats
As many of our regular readers know, adding a small herd of dairy goats is next on our list to expand our growing farm. To this end, we’ve put ourselves on the list for two does and a wether (neutered male) from a local Nigerian Dwarf goat farm.
Sunflower Farm is a dairy in Cumberland Maine that specializes in Nigerian Dwarfs and boasts a lengthy waitlist for their adorable kids every spring. The owners are committed to a no cull herd, and they not only find loving homes for all of their does but for their male goats as well. Their love of the goats is clear in the happy bleats and friendly nature of every animal on their farm, and they’ve been very helpful through the steps of our goat-getting experience. I was able to ask Hope, the goatherd of the farm, a few questions about the father of our future goat kids and the process of keeping her herd healthy and happy.
The farm is using Rosasharn Welk, a buck bred by Rosasharn Farm in Rehoboth, MA, for the second year. It’s the first time they’ve used the same buck twice. Their herd is a mixed group of does and they will breed them all to a single buck every season, allowing for genetic diversity among their goats.
Rosasharn Welk was selected for the farm because of his good temperament and lineage of strong milk production. “Right now people are liking short and wider in the dairy ring at shows,” Hope explained, “So a goat with Welk’s conformation is also good for people in 4H who want to show.” Welk’s dam, Rosasharn Kujira, was milked for 276 days a year for a total production of 1,465lbs of milk. That’s an average of 5.3lbs a day, or over 10 cups. The average for a Nigerian Dwarf doe is between 3-4lbs a day, making Kujira an excellent producer. Hope continues, “He also has a very sweet disposition, and a quiet voice, so he made great kids last year and we are excited to use him again this year.”
The mother goats will gestate for approximately 145 days, and in the spring Sunflower Farm will have a live webcam in the barn where visitors to their website can watch the kids being born. The buck will leave the farm around Christmas time, once the does have gone through two heat cycles with him and are likely all bred. Later on, the farm will do ultrasounds on the does to ensure their pregnancy and have a good idea of the due dates.
Once the kids are born, they stay with their mothers until about eight weeks old, at which point they are picked up by their new owners. While many dairy farms pull the kids as soon as they are born, Sunflower Farm has defined itself in opposition to many factory farm practices. Believing it to be better for the kids’ overall health and emotional development, Hope says, “It makes us so happy to see this that we cannot imagine doing it any other way.”
Rosasharn Welk had been at Sunflower Farm for a few days when we visited. Already several of the does had been bred, and it looks like kidding will start at the beginning of April. All things going well, we’ll be bringing home our kids in June, shortly after moving to the new farm. We are looking forward to having goats as part of our farm and sharing all we learn along the way.
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