HCF Blog

Pigs! I know why I got pigs….

Some of you may have read my previous post titled, “Pigs! Why did I ever get pigs?” where I listed the pros and cons of owning pigs (mostly cons).  Well, I have an answer for you now- the MEAT! Ohhhhhh myyyyy goodnesssss.  I am pretty sure pastured pork is a gift from God no matter what anyone says.  It is so flavorful, juicy, and just plain ‘ol good.  So, if you read my previous post and thought, “no way am I getting pigs,” please, reconsider.  I can’t even put in to words how great it is to have fresh bacon, pork chops, ham (which I will be sharing with my family at Christmas), and sausage. Totally worth it. Now, my husband might not agree. 

I came home to this delicious, homecooked meal one night! Lucky me! 

Pigs! Why ever did I get pigs?!

Why did I get pigs? Oh, I know why… I watch way too much Justin Rhodes, Art & Bri, and John Suschovich on YouTube and become “inspired”. We recently added two Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs (GSPs) to our homestead. Get pigs they said, it will be fun, they said! After 2.2 minutes of research, I settled on this breed because is known for its docility, intelligence, and prolificacy. Plus, I read that when the royal family eats pork, this is their pick. It has to be good, right? (I’ll let you know at slaughter time!) Well, I am going to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with you today based on my last 3 months with pigs.


The good:

  1. They are pretty cute. (That is not my pic by the way, but that’s what ours look like.)  They are “supposedly” docile, however, when we got ours they were NOT so docile, more on that in the “bad”.
  2. Pastured pork is apparently no comparison to what you find in the grocery store. Like, no comparison. The verdict is still out on this as we obviously have not slaughtered ours.
  3. Your fridge stays clean because as soon as something starts going bad you can give it to the pigs! And it is fun watching them eat.

The bad/ugly:

  1. The FLIES. Oh.Em.Gee. There are A LOT of flies. And everywhere. Our pigs are a good distance from our house, but the flies have found us. It is really quite annoying. I have gotten a bug-zapper light bulb above my kitchen sink and that seems to help, but really, they are still pretty bad.  Someone on Facebook suggested sticking cloves in fresh lemon wedges and it seemed to work fairly well when I did it. I really don’t have a great answer. There are just flies everywhere!
  2. They aren’t that nice. This is supposed to be a “docile” breed, and they do come running when its feed time or when I yell “PigPig” but they also push their snouts against your leg and push. My husband claims they are “loving us” but I feel like I am about to get eaten. It is rather terrifying in my opinion.
  3. They are expensive. They are eating anywhere from 4-5 pounds of feed a day. There are 2 of them. A 50-pound bag of feed is $15. And 6-8 months until slaughter. You do the math.
  4. They stink. Honestly, it is no near as bad a people say, but they do smell.
  5. They tear up the area they are in.  Fortunately for us, we have them in an area that is fine to tear up, so it is not an issue, however, I would be upset if I had some high-dollar grass!

The jury is still out on if these pigs are worth it or not…We will have to see how good this ham is.  Normally, I am very generous with the meat in our freezer, but I may have to “hog” this (haha!) because this may be our one and only time! What have been your experiences with pigs? Are they worth it? I would love to hear your experiences!

Disbudding and Tattooing


During the first 2 weeks of age, kids should be disbudded and tattooed. Humane disbudding can only be accomplished early in life. Swiss breeds and LaManchas should be disbudded before 7 to 10 days of age, depending on birth.  Nigerian dwarfs should be disbudded at 3-4 days.

You can read all about how to disbud here (from Weed ’em and Reap– LOVE her!). She also posted a cool video for you to watch the process.  You can find that here.


Tattooing assures kids have permanent identification for the lifetime of the animal. In order to effectively manage dairy animals, it is essential they be identified. Without legible, permanent ID, the various performance programs available to dairy goat producers, like registration/recordation, production testing, linear appraisal, show accomplishments, progeny records, and DNA testing are impossible. All dairy goats must be tattooed before they can be accepted for registry or recordation in the herd books of the American Dairy Goat Association.

HOW TO TATTOO A DAIRY GOAT (from the ADGA website)

Success in securing a lasting tattoo mark depends entirely upon the operator. A few simple rules must be observed:

  • Halter or muzzle the animal, if necessary.
  • Cleanse the area to be tattooed with alcohol to remove dirt, grease, and wax.
  • Insert the correct symbols in the pliers and press the thin rubber sponge pad down very firmly over the needles. This pad helps to release the needles from the skin.
  • Check the correctness of the symbols by making a mark on a piece of paper.
  • Smear ink on the skin, choosing an area free from freckles and warts, if possible. Place the symbols parallel to and between the veins or cartilage of the ear or the veins of the tail web. The accidental piercing of a vein may spoil the tattoo. Green ink/paste is much better for permanent tattoo identification, particularly where the tissue receiving the tattoo is black or very dark.
  • Make the imprint with a quick, firm movement and immediately apply more ink/paste and rub vigorously and continuously for at least 15 seconds to ensure penetration (an old toothbrush is excellent for working ink/paste into the tattoo area). This is important.
  • Remove the rubber pad and rinse it and the needles in water; then dry. The sponge rubber pad should be replaced when it begins to lose its elasticity.
  • Do not disturb the area until the healing process is complete, which may be from five to twenty-one days.
  • Keep a list of tattoo numbers with names of animals and enter it in your private breeding record. The safest way to double check a tattoo is to make an impression on the animal’s application for registry, as well as on some other form that will be kept as a permanent record.
  • To read the tattoo in a dark-eared animal, hold a lighted flashlight against the outside of the ear.

Appropriate goat ID needs to be both visible and permanent. An electronic implant or microchip may be useful in some cases, but an approved implantation site needs to be agreed upon. Implants are permanent ID, but not visible without a reader. When using electronic implants, it is recommended that visible ID is used for daily management records.

Colostrum Feeding

Kids should be fed at least 8 ounces (250 ml) of heat treated colostrum (10% of body weight) within 8 to 12 hours of birth (for smaller kids, they can be fed in two meals), but it is preferred they get the first feeding of colostrum within 2 to 3 hours. If kids are born compromised (weak, cold, or in an unclean environment) they need to be fed colostrum as soon as possible, and warmed as soon as possible. If kids are born weak and have a weak suckle reflex, their suckle reflex will not improve until they are warmed and receive nutritional energy from warm colostrum. It may be necessary to tube feed colostrum to very weak kids. (An excellent publication, “Tube Feeding Neonatal Small Ruminants” by Kerr (2005), can be found at http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/su08ruminants.)

Upon consultation with your veterinarian, it may be beneficial to give some vitamin and/or mineral supplementation to kids at birth. Sources of colostrum Colostrum is the first milk a doe produces after she freshens. This first milk is rich in nutrients and contains antibodies that can be absorbed by the gut of newborn kids up until about 24 hours of age, but is most effectively absorbed within the first 12 hours. Antibodies in colostrum are large molecules and cannot pass through the gut wall after the kids are a day old. Therefore, most producers keep frozen colostrum on hand for use as soon as kids are born. Even though does are apparently healthy, it is recommended that producers heat treat all colostrum before feeding it to replacement kids.

To heat treat colostrum:

  1. First, determine that colostrum is of good quality. Colostrum should be fairly thick and yellowish in color. For an accurate measurement of colostrum quality, a “colostro-meter” can be purchased from a dairy or livestock supply company. Colostrum from only the first milking should be used. If does have been leaking milk, or been milked before kidding, it is not recommended that their colostrum be used.
  2. To adequately heat treat colostrum it should be heated to 135°F (57°C) and held at that temperature for 1 hour. Higher temperatures will denature the antibodies in colostrum, and should be avoided. The most convenient way to heat treat colostrum is to use a water bath. Pour the colostrum into canning jars with lids and heat to 135°F (57°C). Check the internal temperature of the jars and hold it for 1 hour. Then check the internal temperature again to make sure the colostrum in the jar has not gone below 130°F (54.4°C). If the colostrum temperature is still above 130°F (54.4°C), the colostrum should be properly heat treated.
  3. Pour the heat treated colostrum into 8 to 24 ounce bottles.
  4. Label the bottles “Heat treated colostrum (HTC)”, doe number or numbers, date, and amount.
  5. Put the tops on the bottles and freeze them. Producers should always have frozen colostrum on hand for immediate use. It is simplest to freeze colostrum in 8 to 24 ounce bottles so the amount needed can be thawed. The most effective and safest colostrum to use is heat treated colostrum from does in the resident herd. Does should be immunized against tetanus and Clostridium perfringens (entertoxemia), 3 to 4 weeks before kidding, so their antibody level is high when the colostrum is harvested. Never thaw colostrum in a microwave oven.

Additional sources of colostrum (in order of most to least recommended) are:

  1. Heat treated goat colostrum (from tested clean does in a different herd).
  2. Heat treated cow colostrum (first milking from second freshening and higher cows).
  3. Raw colostrum from dam.
  4. Raw goat or cow colostrum.
  5. Commercial colostrum substitutes based on bovine plasma (effective in lambs, not tested in goats). 6. Other commercial “colostrum substitutes” are not recommended. These preparations do not provide the necessary antibodies.

Providing colostrum to newborn kids within the first few hours of birth prevents “failure of passive transfer” in kids. Passive transfer is a method of providing kids with “passive immunity” to disease-causing organisms until kids start producing their own antibodies. Passive immunity means the antibody is available to the kids through ingesting antibody on the first day of life and having it absorbed through the gut. Another way to provide passive immunity to newborns is to have a veterinarian give the kid a plasma transfusion. Without passive transfer, newborns are susceptible to a number of life-threatening infections. After the initial processing of kids is completed, kids should be placed in a clean area dedicated to the purpose of raising kids through the first 2 weeks of life. The ideal kid rearing area should be at an appropriate temperature, keep kids isolated in small groups, be kept clean, and not used to raise previous kids.

To read more about how we feed our kids at HCF, click here.

Reference: Jan Carlson, University of California- Davis, Kidding and Kid Rearing.

Kidding and Kid Rearing

It is almost kidding time at HCF! We are so excited! We have three pregnant does due in two short weeks (due April 5, 2018).  This is our first time to have pregnant does, so as you can imagine, I am reading everything I can about kidding and kid rearing.  Just when I think I know enough to get by, I find more information and am quickly reminded there is quite the learning curve to all of this.  I hope you will find what I share helpful- and if I forgot something, please comment. I am always open to learning new things!

  1. Preparing for Kidding– We have been planning since breeding time! We selected a buck from Carrheart Nigerians to breed with our girls. When selecting a buck, a breeder should look for qualities to improve the herd. You can find a complete parental history of our animals on our webpage.  We have studied the performance programs on the ADGA website and feel certain our bucks possess genetic merit.  Generally, dairy does will cycle in the fall from September through January- cycling every 21 days until they are pregnant.  “Flagging” is one indicator they are cycling.  They will raise their tail for the buck.  Generally, does who are not cycling are just “not in the mood” and should be reintroduced the buck when they are cycling. Since we only have three does, we decided to breed them all at once, however, next year should we have a larger herd; we will likely breed some and then take a break and breed others so we do not have them all kid at once.
  2. At Breeding Time– It is important to record the breeding dates and then service sire when possible. I, personally, grabbed a lawn chair and a sweet tea and made a day of sitting in the goat pen.  Since it was my first time, I videoed it and sent it to a friend who is a breeder.  Yes, it was very strange; however, I wanted to ensure the goats were indeed pregnant.  The best way to tell if a doe is pregnant is to have a vet provide an ultrasound between 42-75 days of gestation.  I did not do this; however, I may in the future.
  3. Decisions, decisions, decisions– Where will kidding take place? How often will you observe? How will kids be handled at birth? What is the plan for emergency care? Will the kids be removed from the dams? Where will the newborns be located? What is the colostrum source? Where will the kids be housed the first 2 weeks? Where the kids be housed after 2 weeks? What type of milk to feed? What feeding method will be used? What age or weight will the kids be weaned? It is important to calculate the number of kids you are expecting and plan accordingly.
  4. Pregnancy Care– Does that are carrying triplets or quads are more at-risk of pregnancy toxemia during late gestation (this is the importance of the ultrasound). Therefore, does with triplets should be fed high- quality roughage and offered supplements to maintain adequate energy through gestation.  At least 30 days before kidding, does should be vaccinated against CDT.  You can find this medication at the feed store. When the doe is vaccinated, their level of antibodies will be increased, in turn producing colostrum that is more beneficial for the kids.
  5. Kidding Preparation– A clean area large, enough not to be crowded should be provided leading up to kidding. A mixture of straw and shavings can be used as the bedding.  Does most often kid in the daylight hours, usually midday and early afternoon.  This is not a definite pattern; it is common that difficult pregnancies (dystocia) will be noticed in the evening or late night hours.
  6. Kidding Supplies– The following items should be in your kidding bag- Obstetrical lube, OB sleeves, disposable exam gloves, disinfectant, Vaginal speculum, flashlight, umbilical tape, scissors, iodine or disinfectant for the umbilical cord (Betadine), clean towels/ sheets, suction bulb, puppy pads, and container to hold the babies.
  7. It is Time! – Gestation for does is normally 150 days; however, kidding can occur between 143 and 157 days. Labor stages are as follows:
    1. Stage 1 Labor– Ligaments loosen, restlessness, pawing/ nesting behavior, vocalization, and isolation from herd. This stage can last up to 12 hours for first-fresheners- older does usually progress faster.  The cervical mucus plug is sometimes visible. The cervical plug prevents bacteria from entering the pregnant uterus.  If you see this, it looks like a thick, white or yellowish, usually opaque mucus.
    2. Stage 2 Labor- Cervix is fully dilated. As the birth progresses, you should start seeing membranes at the vulva.  As the contractions continue, the amniotic membrane surrounding each kid will be presented.  It is most common to see two feet and a nose with the kid in a diving position.  Sometimes the kids are born backwards and the back feet are presented first.  The feet will be upside down.  If the kids is presenting in this position, the does may need help as the umbilical cord may be compressed.  It is important to figure out if the doe has an additional kid by standing over the doe, reaching around the rear barrel (in front of the flank), join your hands and lift sharply.  A kid may be felt against your hand or arm. The process of the kids being born can take up to 2 hours.
    3. Stage 3 Labor- During this final stage of labor, the doe passes the placenta. This usually happens within 4 hours.  Placental membranes are considered to be “retained” after 12 hours.  DO NOT EVER pull on the placental membranes as they could tear, ultimately causing infection.  Call your vet if this happens.  Postpartum discharge (lochia) can be seen for up to 4 weeks.
  8. After Kidding– Mama is tired. Offer her some warm water with a little bit of molasses to perk her up.  Milk her out soon after kidding.  If you are going to allow your kids to nurse, they can nurse on mom to get the colostrum.  The raw colostrum can be heat treated, labeled, and frozen for future kids.
  9. Dystocia (Difficult Birth) – The difficulties that can arise at birthing time range from mild to severe. The two major concerns are introducing bacteria into the uterus and causing a vaginal, cervical, or uterine tear, which can result in infertility or death.  To avoid dystocia and to know when to intervene, the following procedures should be followed:
    1. Make frequent observations.
    2. Keep a “kidding log”. Make notes of details of labor- when it started, what you observed, etc.
    3. Observe the “15-minute rule”. If a vet cannot correct the dystocia within 15-minutes, it is time for a surgical procedure.
    4. Use clean, sterile equipment when assisting with births.
    5. Sterile lube should always be available and usually liberally.
    6. If hard labor persists for 30-60 minutes without a delivery, assistance may be necessary.
    7. If placental membranes have been showing 30-60 minutes without a delivery, assistance may be necessary.
    8. If there is yellow staining of the mucus, this indicated stress on the fetus. Assistance may be necessary.BEFORE assisting, clean the vulva with a mild disinfectant (such as Nolvasan), mild soap, or alcohol wipes.  Have someone hold the doe. Wear an OB sleeve (without your jewelry) and cover your hand with sterile lube.
  1. Kid Rearing– YAY! Your kids are here! Keep them WARM, FED, and CLEAN! If you are not going to allow kids to nurse mom, remove them immediately and offer them colostrum in a bottle.  (This should be done within 2-3 hours of birth.)
    1. Kids should be kept in a clean place! At HCF, we bleach everything down weeks before kidding and keep the stalls closed and ready. Navels should be dipped in iodine.  Record the kidding information immediately (this is important especially if you are registering your goats (which most of ours are)).  Appliance boxes work great for kids (keep siblings groups together) for the first two weeks.
    2. Colostrum should be given within the first 2-3 hours and no later than the 12th  hour.  (To read more about colostrum and safe practices, click here.) After this feeding, kids should be fed a safe source of milk. These sources can be pasteurized goat milk, pasteurized cow’s milk, or a milk replacer.  If using a milk replacer, they should be 20-28% protein and 16-24% fat.  After colostrum, kids should be bottle fed for an additional day or two and then taught to drink from a milk bar.  Kids should be getting at least three servings of milk a day.  When the kids are around 2 weeks old, loose, leafy hay can be introduced.  This should be discarded each day and kids should be provided with new hay. At around one month, feed can be introduced. Weaning should occur between 2 and 3 months.
  2. How Much to Feed– Kids up to a week old, should receive a quart a day.  By three weeks of age, a kid should be receiving 2 quarts a day (divided over 2 to 3 meals).  Water should not be given until the second week and should never be mixed with the milk.
  3. Keep it Clean– Many diseases can be spread a kidding time and/or during the first few days and weeks of a kid’s life. CAE, Johne’s, mycoplasma, salmonella, and Coli can be transmitted via milk and colostrum.  Scrapie, Q Fever, and chlamydia are transmitted via birth fluids from the dam and other freshening does in the kidding environment.  Young kids (neonates) are especially susceptible to CL, soremouth, and other diseases in the kidding process.  At HCF, we are committed to prevent these diseases by keeping a closed herd consisting of healthy animals. We provide our kids optimal conditions allowing them to reach their genetic potential and have long, productive lives in dairy.

Please feel free to add what you know! I would love to hear anything I forgot. Happy kidding!

Reference: Jan Carlson , University of California- Davis, Kidding and Kid Rearing.