From Motorway Services to Dairy Goats

I never thought that I would feel comparable to a motorway service station but it has happened. Motorway services fulfil basic functions, they offer a place to break your journey, use the lavatory and re-fuel both yourself and your vehicle. Unfortunately all too often services are crowded, of inferior quality and vastly over priced. As a farmer, biologist and possibly annoyingly devoted Mum I know that breast is best! I personally breast fed for a total of six years (four strapping sons) and I spend many hours each year making sure that all the babies born here at Whistlebare attach properly to their mothers to get their fair share of warm, life giving milk. Very sadly, sometimes, despite our best efforts we find ourselves with a kid or a lamb needing to be bottle fed. Happily we have yet to have an actual orphan. Our pet kids and lambs are either a triplet too far for the mother to rear or a little rejected one, usually from a first time mum struggling to cope with twins.

The first milk that any mammal produces is called colostrum, it is bright yellow and packed full of anti-bodies and nutrition. We know that if any of our goat kids or lambs do not receive colostrum within six hours of birth it is very unlikely that they will survive. Ensuring that new borns are up and sucking within this 6 hour window is one of the most important jobs in the kidding / lambing shed. Any baby that is too weak or whose mother is being obstructive is given a bottle milked straight from the doe or ewe. Often this is enough to set things on their proper course but sometimes we have to go on bottle feeding. Enter the motorway service station. In our case this consists of a pen with a radiant heater and a white plastic bucket with teats containing powdered milk held at 37ºC.

This system works fine. The kids and lambs feed as they want to and grow well. Somehow it is not quite right though. The bottle fed kids just don’t quite look as glossy and beautiful as their doe reared peers. Hardly surprising given that the milk they are being fed is processed cows milk. Thousands of years of evolution has resulted in female mammals producing the perfect nutrition for their offspring so why I ask myself have we been feeding baby goats on expensive processed cows’ milk? Surely there is an obvious solution – enter the dairy goats! We are all very excited to be soon welcoming a pair of British Toggenburg Goats to Whistlebare. Here is a snap of ‘Candy’ to give you the idea. Follow our blog to hear all about this new chapter on our farm.

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