Sunday, July 28, 2013

Goats - Facts and Trivia - Part One

Yesterday, my wife and I decided to skip our planned anniversary trip to Old Town Sacramento and instead put in the Amador County Fair. Once there, we more or less made a beeline for the livestock to see what the 4H and FFA kids were exhibiting this year. Among the youngsters was Kristina Woolsey whose FFA project was a couple of goats. She's a Sophomore at Amador High School and lives in Dry Town. 

Goats are pretty interesting for a lot of reasons! First off, goats have been around a long long time. In fact, goats were the first animals to be domesticated by man back in 10,000 B.C.

The phrase Judas goat is a term that has been used to describe a goat that is trained to herd other animals to slaughter while its own life is spared. In earlier centuries, goats were often used to nurse babies. And believe it or not, goats were the first animals to be used for milk by humans.

According to Roman history, on February 15th, young men would run around wearing only the skins of goats they sacrificed earlier and hit women with strips of goatskin, known as "februa," to promote fertility. It is from these purification instruments that the month of February gets its name.

In the biblical town of Jericho, people kept goats as long as 6,000 to 7,000 years before Christ. In many parts of the world, goats are economically valuable for a variety of purposes such as skins for leather, and the pelts are used for making rugs and robes. Before coins were used for money, it is said that goats were traded for silver because they were so valuable.

I'm not trying to get some people to hate goats, but we all know how Christopher Columbus upsets a lot of people these days. What does Columbus have to do with goats? Goats were first brought to America by Columbus in 1493. I hope that fact of history doesn't make some simple-minded snowflake go out and start attacking goats.
Actually, the early explorers used goat skins for water and wine bottles when they traveled. During biblical times, goat skins were used as parchment for writing. Many of the scrolls that have been found were goatskin. 

The Tennessee Stiff-Leg Goat, also known as the "wooden leg" or "fainting goat" is native to the United States. Yes, it too is a descendant of that Columbus guy's goats! This breed suffers from a recessive trait called "myotonia." When frightened this animal will experience extreme muscle stiffness causing extension of the neck and hind legs before it topples over onto the ground.

There are approximately 450 million goats around the world. There are over 210 breeds of goats in the world. Most goats can be found in Asia and the Mid-East. And it's not that surprising that with its huge population, that China has the most goats (over 170 Million).

Goats were regularly imported into America in the early 1900s. The male goat is called a "buck" or "billy." A castrated male goat is called a "wether." The breeding age for male goats is between 8-10 months. A mature, healthy male buck can breed 20 to 40 doe. Bucks can be quite aggressive to their handlers during the breeding season. The larger the scrotal circumference of the buck, the higher his libido and fertility. Of course, breeding season is when male goats go through a period called a "rut" when they are ready to mate. This period coincides with the start of the breeding season. The "rut" is characterized by a decrease in appetite, obsessive interest in the does, fighting between bucks, and most notable is a strong foul-smelly musky odor. And yes, they have a tendency to stink because they pee on themselves. 

A large group of goats is called a herd. Depending on the breed, adult female goats can weigh between 22 to 300 pounds and adult males between 27 to 350 pounds of body weight.

The female goat is called a "doe" or "nanny." The act of giving birth is called "kidding." Why? Well, because a "baby goat" is called a "kid." Healthy kids can stand within minutes after birth and are able to move with the herd almost immediately. Colostrum is produced in the first milk of the doe and it contains high levels of immunoglobulins (antibodies), vitamin A, minerals, fat, and energy. Newborn kids must ingest colostrum within the first 24 hours of life to help protect them against diseases. Blood in the milk or "pink" milk may be a sign of udder trauma and not mastitis.

Goats and sheep are seasonal breeders. The age of puberty for female goats is between 7-10 months and 4-8 months for male goats. A yearling doe should be bred when she has reached 80 pounds of body weight or when she has reached 60-75% of the adult weight for her breed. She must also be in good body condition and health. 

The length of gestation (pregnancy) in does is between 146 to 155 days. A doe can have 1 to 6 kids per litter, but having 4 to 6 kids are rare. A doe can produce 3 litters of kids every 2 years. The traditional breeding season for goats in the United States is between late August and the early part of January, however, some goats can breed out-of-season.

Estrus (heat) is the period in which doe is receptive to mating. The estrous cycle is between 18-22 days in does. The duration of estrus is 12-36 hours. Signs of being in heat include tail wagging, mucous discharge, swollen vulva, bleating, mounting, or being mounted by other goats, etc. 

A lactating doe that is kept in a pen with a musky buck may produce milk that tastes "goaty." It's said to be offensive to humans. Goats can be born with or without horns (polled). Some doe and bucks that are polled are also infertile. They are of no use to the owner, either as breeding stock or milk producers.
Boer goats are considered the leading meat breed in the United States today. Mature Boer goat males can weigh between 260 to 380 pounds and females may weigh between 210- 300 pounds. Those are big goats. 

More trivia, goats do not have teeth in their upper front jaw. Goats have 24 molars and 8 incisors. Goats do not have tear ducts. Goats and octopuses have rectangular pupils of their eyes. Normally goats have two teats and cows have four. Goats are bovines and are closely related to cows and antelopes. Goats are herbivores (plant-eaters) that spend most of their day grazing. 

A ruminant is any hoofed animal that digests its food in two steps. First by eating the raw materials and regurgitating a semi-digested form known as "cud" then eating the cud. Ruminants include goats, sheep, cattle, deer, camels, llamas, giraffes, bison, and more. 

Most medications that are currently used on goats were developed for use in other livestock species such as cattle and swine. Goats can become lame after an injection has hit the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs from the hips down to the leg.

Goats deposit less fat externally and deposit more fat internally around the organs compared to sheep and cattle. Goats have a four-chamber stomach that contains fermenting bacteria and "protozoan" that aid in breaking down their food. Goats are hollow-horned, bearded, ruminant mammals of the genus Capra and the species Hircus. Wattles are those little tufts of hair that cover the skin that dangle from the throat of some goats. Wattles serve no function and are thought to be remnants of gill slits that mammals shared somewhere back down the evolutionary tree.

No, there is no such thing in nature as "transgender" animals -- including goats, even though both male and female goats have beards. But then again, a "hermaphrodite" goat is a goat that exhibits both male and female sexual characteristics and organs. No, they are not just found in San Francisco!

Goats do not eat tin cans, clothing or garbage, but are selective eaters when provided with a well-balanced diet. They will eat hay, grasses, weeds, and grain. Of course, the main part of a goat's diet is "roughage" which is usually grass or hay that is high in fiber and has relatively low calories. Goats are able to consume 3 to 5% of their body weight in dry matter (perhaps more if the forage is highly digestible). To consume this amount of forage, goats must be pastured in an area with a large quantity of available vegetative forage. Goats will eat less when they are moved to poor-quality pastures.

As for seeing if they are getting enough water and are staying hydrated, there is a simple test to perform. To check for dehydration, pull the skin that is over the shoulder area. If the skin snaps back quickly the animal is adequately hydrated. If the skin does not snap back quickly and remains erect the animal is dehydrated.

Goat's milk is said to be easily digestible and less allergenic than cow's milk for humans. Goat's milk is higher in calcium, vitamin A and niacin than cow's milk. Dairy goats have little subcutaneous fat. Goat's milk is naturally homogenized and can be digested in less than 20 minutes -- whereas cow's milk can take almost all day.

Of course, besides milk, goats are raised for wool and meat in the United States. Goat meat is lower in fat and cholesterol compared to beef, pork, mutton, and poultry. Worldwide, more people eat and drink milk from goats than any other animal. Besides wool, milk, and meat, goats are also used to make gelatin, their manure is used for fertilizer, they are used for research models in biological studies, they are used to pull carts, and they are used as pack animals.

The normal body temperature for goats is between 101.7 to 104.5 degrees. The heart rate of goats is between 70 to 135 beats per minute. The normal respiration rate for goats is 12 to 15 breaths per minute. The natural life expectancy for goats is around 8 to 12 years and in some cases, goats can live over 15 years. Azalea bushes are poisonous to goats. Plant poisoning most often occurs in goats in the spring after the herd has been released into a new pasture. Vomiting in goats is almost always due to poisonous plants.

Goats are usually between 17 to 42 inches tall from the shoulders. Goats are very agile creatures and have been known to jump over 5 feet. Goats do not like to get wet and prefer to seek shelter when it is raining. Goats are very social creatures. Goats are one the cleanliest animals and are much more selective feeders than cows, sheep, pigs, swine, and even dogs. Goats do not grow as fast as sheep nor can they utilize feed as efficiently. Goats do not like eating food that has been soiled, contaminated, or has been on the ground.

Because of the influx of Middle-Easterners to the United States since 2000, goat meat production has become the fastest growing livestock industry in the United States as of 2005. The top ten states with the largest population of meat goats are found in Texas with over one million of the critters. Next comes Tennessee (98,000), then Georgia (77,000), Oklahoma (65,000), Kentucky (63,500), North Carolina (52,200), California (50,000), South Carolina (41,000), Alabama (37,800) and Florida (36,000) as of 2005. The top ten states with the largest dairy herds are Texas (30,000), California (30,000), Wisconsin (28,000), Iowa (13,000), New York (13,000), Philadelphia (13,000), Ohio (9,500), Oklahoma (9,000), Indiana (8,800) and Missouri (8,600) in 2005.
Ethnic consumers are the backbone of the meat goat industry in the United States. Approximately 1.5 million pounds of goat meat is imported into the United States every week from Australia and New Zealand because domestic production and processing systems in this country can not keep pace with demand. It is believed that demand for goat meat will continue to increase as the population in the United States becomes more ethnically diverse by consumers who traditionally eat goat meat. At this time, the marketing infrastructure of the goat industry in the United States is said to be relatively disorganized. Nationwide there are no mechanisms in place by which the animal is moved from the farm to the processor and the product is accessible to the consumer.

The Egyptian pharaoh Cephranes loved goats so much that he had 2,234 goats buried with him.  Mahatma Gandhi reportedly consumed goat milk every day for more than 30 years. If you like coffee, you should thank the goat since coffee was first discovered when goat herders noticed their animals acting very energetic after eating coffee beans.

As for the last two bits of trivia. There have been 12,000-year-old paintings of goats found on the walls of caves in Europe. And lastly, believe it or not, Abraham Lincoln's sons had two goats that lived in the White House with them. my wife and I had a goat wonder on to our proper

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