We rear our high welfare herds of goats extensively, allowing them to thrive in their preferred free range, varied environment.
The welfare of our goats is paramount on our farm. We run a closed herd, meaning that other than bringing in genetics in the form of embryos or semen, we do not introduce live goats from other farms.
Along with regular disease testing through our accreditation with Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), this approach ensures we have an approved high health status. We also execute good animal husbandry practices including multiple day checks, foot trimming, parasite monitoring, stimulation, pasture and feed management, and housing and fencing management.
Unlike sheep or cattle, it is mandatory that you provide shelters for goats. We have natural shelters for our goats, such as gorse bushes and trees on our paddocks, in addition to providing man-made sheds which include repurposed truck trailers from Neil’s haulage business. These recycled shelters are essential for our goats’ wellbeing.
In the winter time when there is no naturally growing forage, we move our goats into large sheds and provide them we extensive lounging areas dotted with scratching stations and enormous tree trunks for them to climb upon. It is so important to provide stimulation to goats for their psychological welfare.
Parasite monitoring is one of the most important part of goat husbandry in a commercial herd. Goats are more susceptible to parasites than most livestock, and in some goats, parasite infections can lead to ill health and in some cases death. For those reasons, we routinely monitor the parasite burden and look for any clinical manifestations.
Part of this assessment involves performing faecal egg counts on all of our herd onsite. This allows us to monitor the number of parasites and type of parasites in real time, without the cost and delay of sending samples for external analysis. Our routine parasite monitoring not only ensures our herd is kept healthy but helps us make informed decisions about future breeding as parasite resistance is genetic.
Rotational grazing is a regenerative agriculture process that we adopted to manage the grazing our herd. This is an innovative approach to pasture management which involves allowing the goats to browse in defined areas for short periods. We adopted this approach in an attempt to naturally manage parasite burden in our goat herd and also to improve long term pasture quality and fertility.
Part of our process involves monitoring the height of the plants grazed as the closer the goat grazes to the soil, the higher the exposure to parasites. We are in the early stages of rotational grazing but are already seeing increased average weight gains in our goats which grazed in this manner as opposed to groups of goats who were left to graze permanently in the same paddock. Decreased scouring in the rotationally grazed group suggest improved gut health and reduced parasitic burden, which we are validating further with faecal egg count data. Furthermore, we are analysing our soil health too.
Goats require regular hoof trims to keep them happy and spritely. We tend to trim each herd every two to three months, and as and when they need it. This job is made a whole lot easier and less stressful for our goats by using our Ritchie Agriculture’s Combi Clamb. This device safely holds the goat in position while you trim their hooves. Not only does it half the manpower needed for this laborious job but it also saves Neil’s back.
The sandy soil at Lunan Bay, where we rear our goats, is perfect for rearing goats as goats hate marshy ground as it causes hoof problems such as foot rot and foot scald. Apart from the odd pedicure, we have no feet issues with our goats.
On our farm, we run breeding programs which involve natural conception, embryo transfers (ETs) and artificial insemination (AI) by trans-cervical and laparoscopic methods. These processes are typically undertaken in Autumn. Along with running our own breeding programs, we also offer this as a service to other goat breeders.
During our natural conception breeding programs, we observe our bucks’ classic pre-coital ritual of urinating on their beards and performing the Flehmen response; curling their lips in response to their urine and the urine of females. It’s a truly magnificent sight to behold and unique to goats!
Several weeks after our breeding programs, all of our does are scanned by a specialist sonographer to assess whether they are pregnant ant how many kids they are carrying. This expensive extra step is essential to ensure that we correctly meet our goats’ nutritional needs during pregnancy and for responsible welfare of our does during the kidding process.
Our kidding season takes place once a year from Feb – April. We believe for welfare reasons that our does should only be producing offspring once a year. Several weeks before kidding, our pregnant does are given time to settle into their maternity pens in our large dedicated sheds.
During this time, our pregnant does are administrated with a vaccine against tetanus, pulpy kidney, and dysentery. Given at this time, this vaccine immunises the pregnant does and its unborn offspring. In the weeks before kidding, our pregnant does are given our homegrown Lucerne hay, a natural protein rich superfood for extra nutrition.
We are on hand all at time during kidding to ensure we are there is any of our does require assistance. Thankfully our goats have very good mothering instincts so we do not have intervene very often. Once our kids are born they are moved into a private pens with their mothers to bond. After a week or so, we move both Mum and kids into a communal pen in our maternity suite where they can socialise with fellow kids and their Mums.
After a month or so after kidding, when the weather has improved and there is plenty grass, our kids and their Mums are moved from our maternity suite their outdoor paddocks with goat shelters. At three months old, our kids are weaned from their Mums, after which they go for a much needed rest and relax at our beachside paddocks at Lunan Bay.