Monday, January 17, 2011

The Breeding Question

We bred our doe today. Good news! As a dairy goat, B.G. has an obligation to the family beyond baaing beautifully and entertaining us with her doglike adoration of human company. If luck and fertility is with us, she will kid in five months. She will feed her kids (we abstain from the bottle, choosing instead to honor motherhood and the natural bond) and us.

The question, whenever one breeds an animal, should be whether and how the offspring will be guaranteed a good home. Being a vegetarian, I cannot morally embrace the "male offspring as a byproduct" mentality of commercial dairymen. I can neither accept that older and nonproductive animals should be culled, and for that reason we have young Jasper Jules and his physically imperfect mother here as lifelong pets.

When it comes to placing goats in pet homes, it can be done. I think that with advanced planning, a small-scale dairy breeder like myself can produce enjoyable goats of both genders that are easy to place.

In our family, goat kids are raised by their dams. Like a foal or a puppy, they are handled lovingly and often by their human keepers. They learn to trust, to lead, to tie, and to allow handling of hooves, udders, and faces. Neutered male goats can be strengthened mentally and physically by going hiking, taking car-trips into town, and learning to carry an empty dogpack as an adolescent. They can be prepared for a possible future as a companion to an equine (in our herd, this is accomplished by the presence of Fenway Bartholomule), as a harness goat, or as a pack animal.

We believe that neutering and disbudding (horn removal) should be done under aneasthesia and with pain medications. This means a couple hundred bucks into each year's litter, and with a set of baby boys one would not necessarily see a return on that investment. In the grand scheme, though, I feel it's worth the money. Well bred female kids (we've had six, out of seven total) are valuable enough to offset this occasional loss, but that's not the crux of the matter. When it comes down to it, I want to drink guiltlessly. Healthy, wholesome milk, produced by a happy, vibrant animal, is the only milk I can stomach.


  1. Good post! But if you're just going to get rid of young bucks, why bother disbudding?

  2. Good question. I'd say it's because most people want a hornless pet, and bucklings WITH horns are harder to place. Horse owners would be afraid of having their equines gored, for instance.

    That said, horns can be an asset to working goats (packing and carting) as they aid in heat loss. If a working home is available, horns might be a better option for a buckling after all.


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