Is he too big? Is there such a thing? Years ago I pointed out a really pretty one-year-old ewe out of the large flock my dad manged. He agreed the young ewe was a real looker but said they would be selling her. I was puzzled, “Why?” She’s too big and will require too much feed for our pastures to support. I heard the same story from a manager of a herd of cattle that puts 10,000 head of the ranch’s yearlings in their own feedlot. Their cows were too large. They were really nicely built, just built too big.
Why is big a problem? Larger animals require more pasture and more hay to maintain their body weight. And if you are like us, limited on how much hay you can afford and how much pasture you have, bigger is not necessarily better especially when it comes to goats. Goats have a poor feed to weight conversion. Therefor we want no bigger animals than what we need to produce a large amount of milk. Of course a larger animal is capable of producing more milk. Yet too big a goat and the feed is going mostly into the animal and not the bucket. Nigerian Dwarfs produce very little milk in comparison to a Saanen.
That is where the problem is with Bravo. He eats as much as several does combined which makes him expensive considering he only works for a week and a half a year. He will likely produce larger does which in turn will make them more expensive. That we don’t know for sure since his oldest offspring are just coming two-years-old this spring but they are already close to the size of their mother. Will our feed costs go up? We shall see.
I would guess Bravo is over 300 pounds or 136 kg. For a large Saanen the average is 200. Bravo is very gentle, letting the little girls go in and pet him in all but the breeding season. He stands still to have his feed trimmed so his size in that way is not a problem. It’s the costs. We had an Arabian/Welsh Pony mare when I was a kid that could gain weight on scant pasture, “an easy keeper” as we call her. Just like our Dorper sheep are. Bravo is no “easy keeper”
Maybe I’m dreaming but I want the goats you see on the television who roam the high, green, flower filled pastures in summer followed by a lady goat herder, “Oh wait, minus the goat herder.” I don’t want them filled with commercial feeds and toxins. They were not created to eat that way.
Our goal is to breed a level of goats that require little grain and yet produce lots of milk. Maybe it won’t quite be the two gallon a day variety but they will have the capacity to do so just not pushed to that limit and worn out quickly in the effort. Did you know that some of today’s milk cows last milking only two years because they are bred to produce such a high output that it wears them out fast? That is what I’m trying to avoid.
We aren’t selling milk so this operation isn’t about producing the most money. This operation is about quality for our money and doing so in the most economical way possible. In other words, “best buy”. That incorporates not only the best for our pocket book but our health, our time, and there’s. We aren’t young and so the thought, “Can we sustain this?”runs through our mind.
That is why we don’t have a small breed of goats. It takes four minature goats to equal the milk output of one Saanen – one quart versus a gallon. You have sixteen hooves to trim on four minis, versus four on a large goat. You have to have more equipment like collars, feed pans, etc. You have to milk four, worm four, give shots to four, de-horn far more heads especially since mini’s have more babies. They also cycle 12 months a year where as full sized dairy animals are seasonal breeders. Our buck can run in the pasture with our does much of the year. Mini’s can’t navigate our snow drifts.
So just right for me may not be just right for you. We have Saanens because they are cold hardy and were developed in high snow areas just like where we live. They also produce lots of milk so we don’t need as many animals. So if you are thinking about raising goats ponder equipment needed, feed costs, space, and work load. What limits an operation the most is energy and time and don’t we know it as we age.