It really is the most wonderful time of the year: a barn full of babies. Last weekend, we had successful deliveries of three sets of Boer goat kid twins, four bucklings and two doelings. While I’m loving having these little ones to cuddle, I’m doing my very best to not become attached (I’m feeling verklempt right about now). There will be no naming these goats, as they are destined to be sold or exhibited in the Morrow County Fair in August.
And for those of you considering adding Boer goats to your homestead, there are tons of articles online giving advice on preparing for kidding season. All of this information is extremely valuable, and you can’t research it enough.
There are two things, however, that I’d like to share with you that have made an impact on our kidding season: a camera and a DIY warming barrel.
Utilizing Cameras for Livestock Monitoring
While it may make you feel a little like you’re watching a livestock version of “Big Brother” (and let’s face it, that’s probably way, way more entertaining), having a live-feed camera in the barn is extremely beneficial. It enables you to maintain constant visual contact with your animals, allowing you to watch for early signs of labor.
And, because we had all of our pregnant does in one pen, it was easy to keep an eye on all of them with just one camera. If one of the mamas is becoming restless, “pawing” at the ground, or “talking” to her belly, we know it’s time to chill the celebratory champagne and hunker down for some goat-cam viewing until we see active labor (OK, I’m joking a little bit on the champagne part).
What’s more, having a camera saves my husband from having to suit up in his overalls and walk outside in the frigid temperatures we’re experiencing right now for middle-of-the-night barn checks, both before and after birth. He simply turns on the television, and bah-bam!, he can see the mamas and all six of the babies frolicking, feeding, and sleeping.
And with WiFi cameras in virtually everything, there are so many options and price points for which cameras you can use in the barn. There are so many cool cameras nowadays that can connect to your computer or smartphone. Heck, you could use a live-feed game camera sold at those mega outdoorsy stores and view the stream on your computer, or whatever you tech-savvy homesteaders do.
Unfortunately, we are too rural (right now, anyway) for WiFi, so we have a basic security camera that is connected to our television with old-school RCA audio and video jacks. Matt bought a $30 weatherproof camera with infrared LEDs and night vision (which is vital for midnight checks). Also, the built-in microphone is important, as we can listen for distress from the off-camera goats.
DIY Goat Kid Warming Barrels
I like big barrels and I cannot lie (whip crack). A lot of homesteaders buy food-grade 55-gallon plastic barrels for rain collection or container gardening, but there is another reason to snag a few more: kid warming barrels. Actually, I asked Matt when he called me this morning about it, and he said, “I’m a big believer in the barrels. It saved that one kid we had.” And it’s true. One of the wet, cold, and weak bucklings would not have survived if it weren’t for the warming barrel in the kidding pen. The other option is to haul kids into the house, and that’s just not practical for us.
So many old-timey farmers are leery of using heat lamps because of the possibility of a barn fire. And rightly so: There should be concern with heat contacting straw or hay, and that’s why containing your heat lamp in a plastic barrel helps reduce the chance for a fire.
But like just about everything used in agriculture, heat lamps’ design and materials have improved. Many are made of durable polypropylene flexible sides, reducing the possibility of damage and bulb breakage. There is no guarantee, however, that the lamps won’t break, and that there isn’t the possibility of a fire, but using heat lamps may help save a cold, weak newborn.
Matt simply flipped over the barrel and drilled a hole for the heat lamp wire. He then cut an opening big enough for the kids, but too small for the mamas, to get into the barrel. Securing the heat lamp wire through the hole and into the outlet, as well as anchoring the barrel with a good ol’ bungee cord to prevent tip-over, should be enough to make using a heat lamp safer. And voila!, the barrel retains much of the heat, keeping about four kids per barrel warm and dry.
If you have been thinking of adding Boer goats to your homestead, with the intent of breeding your does, I hope you’ll consider these tips to help make the kidding season a breeze. If you make a DIY warming barrel like the one you read in this article, message me a picture on my farm Facebook page. I’d love to see it.
Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page. Read all of Corinne's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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