Following the death of my little black and white doeling (http://newtofarmlife.blogspot.com/2011/04/this-one-really-hurts-bad-year-for-baby.html), I spent some time reflecting on my breeding program - or rather, my lack of a breeding program. Here's my program, in a nutshell: I like spots. It was very easy, I found, to breed for spots. I just pick my spottiest goats, let them go at it, and now, a few generations later, I got spots all over.
But I really do believe that Flopsy's triplets were weaker and less vigorous as a result of their close inbreeding. They were sired by their brother - or in other words, Flopsy was served by her own son. I knew it wasn't the best idea (even though both goats were utterly without defects as far as I could tell) but I just marked them down as meat kids in my mind. It was only when all three came out spectacularly spotty that I went against my better judgement and started thinking about keeping the girl. Last year I was able to sell a spotted wether for $250 (unHEARD of price for an unregistered wether), so I started thinking about trying to sell this boy, too. After all, if he were wethered, I wouldn't have to worry about him passing on his bad genetics....
However, when all three of Flopsy's triplets had problems of one kind or another, I had to face the fact that most likely they were simply not "good" goats, no matter how adorable and seemingly perfect. I am wholly against single-trait breeding - I don't even like purebred dogs! I think it is the height of irresponsibility to breed animals for a single trait, at the expense of their overall health or temperament. Yet, I did it myself. It really is frighteningly easy to get carried away by a showy, attractive trait like spots or, I would guess, a lucrative one like milk production and end up with defective or somehow inferior animals. Aside from the ethics of deliberately creating unhealthy animals, what a homesteader like me needs to be breeding for is hardiness.
Storm Cloud, the sire, is already sold. I sold him for a very handsome price after last year's breeding season, knowing I wouldn't be able to use him again. I thought about buying a new buck, but actually I have a different plan, now. I want to give Iris and Django a year off. They have both produced four years in a row and that's a lot. They are good, strong healthy goats and for all I know it won't do them a lick of hurt to keep on year after year, but as a woman and a mother, it feels cruel. Give the ladies a break! Flopsy, I will sell if I can. So I needed a replacement doe.
I found Edith on Craigslist, advertised as a two-year old, never bred purebred Nubian doe. I believe the rest of it, but I don't think she is a purebred. She looks like part Boer to me. She is thick-boned, with legs almost twice as thick as my other goats, and she is thick and heavily muscled. The last owners called her "Edith Behemoth" and I've already nicknamed her "the Bunker." It's a little bit hard to tell, because she is also pretty severely overweight, but I think she may have the signature "double-muscling" of the meat goat. If so, I would consider that an asset. After all, at least half of the kids born here end up on somebody's table. We have found that the Nubians and the crossbreeds give a nice carcass, if slaughtered in the fall after a summer on grass and browse, but I am sure adding some Boer into the mix would improve things. I'm not sure what kind of a milker she will be, but I have seen 1/2 and 1/2 Nubian/Boer mixes advertised as "dual purpose" goats, so I'm willing to give it a try.
Especially considering her spots! Edith has great color. And she is totally unrelated to all my other goats. So here's my new breeding plan: rent a spotted Nubian Buck this year and breed him to only Edith, giving the others a year off. If Edith throws a buckling, I can breed him to all my other ladies the following year, and send Edith out for breeding to a different buck. B y the end of that year I will know if Edith is a good milker or not. If she is, I'll keep her and sell the buck. If not, I'll keep the buck and sell Edith. Either way, I will have new blood in my herd and hopefully still have preserved the spotty genetics.
Edith is also a sweetheart. She loves people and follows me and the kids everywhere we go. She has been well taken care of and has good hooves, a shiny coat, and is pooping pellets. I hope she works out and adds a nice meaty strain to my stock.