Spring is one of my favorite times of year. Babies of many species are being born, and as the sun warms the earth, plants begin to emerge to soak up the sun.
This last month has been full of working with babies. The goats have been growing at a rapid pace, and will soon be heading to their new homes. To prepare them, they need to be worked with and handled, so that they are friendly for their new owners, 4-H and FFA showmen from around the state.
When working with young goats, one must have patience: a lot of patience. They don’t like to cooperate, and certainly don’t want to do what you want them to. Teaching them to brace and not pull away from you takes time, and several days of work.
To teach a goat to walk and brace, you first have to teach them to trust you, and to follow. Then, you work with them on a collar and teach them to walk. To teach them to brace, there are two methods that I use, depending on the goat.
The first method is to back the goat into a fence, which teaches them to push against you. The other method is to put the goat on a raised surface, such as a stand, and gently push the goat to the back of the stand. When they get the feeling they will fall off the back, they begin to push back.
Goats need to be worked every day, in order to build muscle and learn to be shown. With four market kids for sale this year, it takes quite a bit of time to work them all. However, it’s essential to their start as a show goat.
I have also begun to work with the does that I will be keeping, and teaching them to lead as well as stand. Breeding does are shown differently than market goats, and must be trained differently. With breeding does, you want them to stand square when stopped, but not brace. The biggest challenge is leading them on a collar.
Thankfully the pigs are much less work. The biggest event they had this last month was castration. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it is with goats. It’s more of a surgery, and takes some time. I use local anesthesia during the procedure, and the piglets are given pain medication after to help them. While they are usually sore for about 12 hours, after that they bounce back and are fine.
They usually take about two weeks to completely heal, at which point they are ready to go to their new homes. The piglets are ready to be picked out now, and some of them have already been taken by their new owners.
The first four piglets that I sold were to repeat customers, which always makes me happy. I develop friendships with the families who purchase animals from me, and I like seeing them every year. If they are local, I always attend the county fair they are showing in. These two times of the year are often the only times that I get to see them, and my two favorite moments.
When they first pick up their livestock, the excitement for the season is evident on their face. The students can’t wait to spend time with their new show animals, and teach them to show.
The end of the season is my other favorite moment because it is the culmination of all their hard work and determination. I look forward to both of these moments each year.
In addition to prepping these animals for sale, I am also prepping my own animals for the show season. The first show will be held at the end of this month, and I have a large group of both dairy and Boer goats that will be going to the show.
The dairy show is a fuzzy show, so I will not have to worry about clipping the dairy goats, except for a dairy clip, which is just around the back legs, udder and tail. However, the Boer goats will need to be fitted and clipped, and that will likely take me the next several weekends.
I did purchase one additional Boer doe, named Two Black Cadillacs. She was raised by a friend of mine, and when I saw her photo, I knew I wanted to have her. She has been adjusting nicely into the herd, and I’m extremely excited for where this young doeling can go.
I also had one dairy goat give birth, and that was my recorded grade Alpine, Cleopatra, who I showed at the National Show last year. She delivered two gorgeous bucklings, and is doing great nursing them. Some new mothers struggle, but she has been wonderful.
The next few weeks will be filled with prepping goats, and sending the market animals to their new homes. I look forward to seeing their progress throughout the summer, and their success at the fair. ❖