Tag Archives: twinning in goats

Birth and Death


February brought new babies to our goat herd. (See Goat genetics) We started with the birth of Brownie (girl, little ears, campanitas (bells)), to Shortie. The next day Moya gave birth to Peanut Butter (boy, pinto, no campanitas, little ears.) Then Caramela gave birth to Pumpkin( boy, little ears, no campanitas.) The fourth day had Vaca producing twin girls (little ears, campanitas, and pintas.) We haven’t come up with proper names for them yet, we’ve been toying with Cookie and Galleta, or maybe Bessie and Bertha, but it remains to be seen. Then the fifth day, Short Ears, our oldest goat at 4 years, also presented us with twins, a boy, and a girl, (little ears, all-white, the girl has campanitas, the boy doesn’t.) We’ve named them Sugar and Salt. Queenie also presented us with early morning twin boys (short ears, campanitas) tentatively named Chocolate and Vanilla.  That leaves Venada waited nearly a week before delivering twin boys.  I guess she wanted them to make an entrance.  One is brown, the other white, both with little ears and campanitas.  And much to our astonishment, Princess is also pregnant, although less than a year old.  We aren’t expecting her to deliver for a few more weeks though.


Short Ears has never had any sort of problem giving birth up until now. She varies the number of babies she has. The last birth gave us Princess, (pinta, short ears, campanitas.) The time before, she gave us twins, Duke and Duchess (white, no campanitas). This time, at first, she seemed to be just fine. We arrived home right after her second baby had been born. She had already expelled the tripa, (placenta) from the first baby and was in the process of cleaning baby 2. As she had a boy/girl set, there were 2 placentas, unlike Vaca, whose girls arrived in the same bag. This second afterbirth took its sweet time in detaching. The next morning, there was still a sizable section attached. So, my husband, had me consult the “book.” Otherwise known as Keeping Livestock Healthy: A Comprehensive Veterinary Guide to Preventing and Identifying Disease in Horses, Cattle, Swine, Goats & Sheep, 4th Edition

goat kid

What I found in my research was that she had a retained placenta. Typically the placenta is expelled 30 minutes to 12 hours after the birth, but, that if it hasn’t, you should by no means pull at it as that might cause internal bleeding and death. Okie, Dokie. So we decided to wait it out. As long as there was no infection, there should be no problem. We separated Short ears and babies from the other new mamas and mamas-to-be so that she could rest and eat at her leisure. She seemed listless and tired, which again was not normal for her. Additionally, her stomach remained inchada (swollen), and we wondered if perhaps there was a third baby as yet unborn. My husband treated her to a corn handful, which she ate up with gusto, and some plants that he remembered might help in expelling the afterbirth. (Emergency Procedures First Aid and Nursing Care for Goats)

Much to our horror, although Short Ears had successfully expelled the second placenta, the next morning found us with a dead sheep. I haven’t mentioned the The Roof that Almost Wasn’t). Flaca la borrega (Skinny) had just given birth to Jack when they arrived. She was so weak that she couldn’t stand to eat. We were concerned that she might not recover. However, it wasn’t Flaca that had died, but Panzas (big belly).


The second female and heavily pregnant sheep we named Panzas because of her girth. Since the moment we got her, she was a bleater. She bleated when we arrived, she bleated when we left, she bleated when she caught sight of us in the window, she bleated when she didn’t. We often remarked that we wished we understood sheep because she was obviously trying to tell us something. We hadn’t noticed much of a difference the day before, what with our focus being on Short Ears. However, in the afternoon, my son and I had remarked that she was breathing like she’d been running. The week prior, due to births and imminent births, we hadn’t taken the goats or sheep out of the pens but kept them in feed. In the morning, we had brought back a special treat, a bag of orange rinds from a juice vendor, and distributed it among the ladies. We were completely clueless as to what might have caused her sudden death.

My husband had me consult the book again, but I didn’t have enough information to determine the cause of death. Our concern was that it might be something contagious and we would loose our precious newborns. We estimated she had died in the very early morning. My husband found her around 5 am. We decided that just maybe we could save the baby. I convinced my husband to take the body out of the pen before he cut it open just in case there was something contagious involved. So he hauled her bloated corpse out and cut her open. The baby had already died. Since she was already opened, he performed an autopsy. In her stomach, he found a 6-inch long rope, the kind that is often used to tie up pacas (hay bales). So with this, we think the cause of death was bloat.

I believe that the previous owner knew that she had eaten the rope and did not tell us. My husband thinks everyone is his friend and that “he wouldn’t do that.” We know she did not ingest the rope while she was in our care. The alfalfa bales that we buy are bound in wire. Furthermore, my husband is meticulous in checking the food for bits of debris. When he dumped the orange pieces into the trough that morning, he removed every little bit of plastic and paper napkin.

Panzas’ progressing pregnancy also masked a swollen stomach symptom and put more pressure on the stomach, which is probably what she had been trying to say with all her bleating. The hard breathing was also a symptom of the impending death that we overlooked as it could have also been pregnancy induced. (Bloat in sheep and goats: Causes, prevention and treatment)

As we didn’t know she had eaten a foreign substance, we didn’t even know what to look for or where to look for it. We feel sad that she died under our care, but I personally feel angry about the previous owner’s negligence. We knew that he did not care for his animals with the same compassion that we do, which is why Flaca arrived in such a state. And now he is the new owner of Beauty, whose condition has deteriorated to such a state that she is unrecognizable. We have some vague thoughts of buying her back. My husband’s done that before, sold her and bought her back. I guess we shall see what happens.

But then, Flaca died the following afternoon. She had a rectal prolapse like what took place when we had the piggies staying with us who ate chicken intestines. (See Miss Piggy didn’t bring home the bacon). My husband tried various things when she noticed she wasn’t up and ‘attem, even went to the vet to see if there was something more to be done. The vet said that the oranges were what did it. However, we asked around to other borrega (sheep) owners, and they said no. We have given oranges to them before with no ill effects. I checked the books, there wasn’t anything listed about oranges. I went to the internet and found that no, oranges were ok for sheep. ( Effects of feeding ensiled sliced oranges to lactating dairy sheep Australian oranges being fed to the sheep Citrus pulp, fresh Citrus Pulp in Formulated Diet)

So then we thought maybe the oranges we got were bad, but no, none of the goats got sick, besides Short Ears who was already sick prior to the orange snack. And we had fed them oranges before, ruling out bloat caused by sudden change in diet. ( Rectal Prolapse in Sheep Rectal prolapse)

We continued our collection of information in the days following the sudden deaths.  My father-in-law told us that a sheep can be “deflated” in the event of bloat with a knife hole in the back stomach, right at the hipbone juncture.  He’s convinced the oranges were too warm and caused the bloat.  Another borrega owner told us that giving the sheep beer will force it to burp and take care of the problem.  So armed with new knowledge, we blunder on.  We knew that sheep were more troublesome to care for from previous experience (See Separating the sheep and the goats), but we’ve never had any livestock die on us, except of course the rabbits, duck, and chickens that were killed by various dogs (See 101 Perritos)

So this has left poor Jack an orphan. We hope that he’ll find a buddy in the myriad of new kids on the block, but so far he bleats for his mommy, and we are helpless to comfort him.

bringing in the sheep

Jack, Flaca and Panzas

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Goat Genetics

mama and baby goat

Tweedledee and Harry. No horns, no campanitas, white, big ears.

One of the most interesting features for us in raising goats is learning about genetics without hours in the classroom studying the theory. As goat gestation is five months, we have at least one, probably 2, chances to see the results of genetic matings each year.

We aren’t looking for thoroughbreds or rare breeds, but we are interested in healthy, productive goats, maybe with a few extra colors or characteristics thrown in to give each goat distinction.

The majority of the goats in our area are white with long ears. While there is nothing wrong with white, it is a little boring. We have been hard pressed to find a little natural variation with which to infuse our stock.

Vaca the goat

Vaca the goat, pinta, horned but no campanitas

A few months ago we came across a small black and white pinta (black and white) that we paid a little more for and subsequently named Vaca (Cow). Much to our surprise, she was pregnant. However, we weren’t sure if the father was Chivo Pestoso (Stinky Goat) our macho or the macho from the herd she had been with, that seriously resembled Mr. Snuffleufagus, huge, shaggy and brown. We tried counting the months, but without knowing the exact time she became pregnant, we couldn’t say for sure.


Large, hairy, pinto, no campanitas, no horns, big ears.

Nothing to be done but wait. So we did. And out popped Firolais one bright morning. He didn’t look like Chivo Pestoso. He didn’t look like Mr. Snuffleufagus. He didn’t even look like Vaca. He looked exactly like our puppy Hershey! Talk about genetic anomalies! We determined that he had to be Mr. Snuffleugagus’ son based on his ears. His ears were not like Vaca’s or Chivo Pestoso’s ears. He also has longer than average hair and seems to be developing into quite a big guy, while his mother is rather on the small side.

One male goat is enough manliness for our small herd. Males have a strong odor emanating from the base of their horns that they add fresh pee cologne to when a lady goat is in heat through the impressive feat of urinating on their own faces. So believe me, one macho is quite enough. We had been using a rent-a-stud service, but the arranging, transporting and servicing fees made it more practical to keep one of our own machos as the herd stud muffin. Last year, Queenie gave us twin boys from which to choose.

stinky chivo

Stinky Chivo, little ears, horns, campanitas, not white and a twin son from a mother who was herself a twin and a father who was one of 4!

My husband kept Chivo Pestoso instead of his twin brother, based on the size of his ears. Chivo Pestoso has itty bitty ears, even smaller than his mother’s ears. The twin had ears that were the same size as Queenie’s. All our adult female goats are currently expecting, and the now teenage Chivo Pestoso is the father. It will be interesting to see if little ears is a dominant or recessive trait. Personally, I think it is an unattractive characteristic. Furthermore, it has become evident that Chivo Pestoso has some hearing issues. All the goats come running when we shake corn in a tin can. All but Chivo Pestoso that is. He continues munching away, oblivious to the stampede for corn and often gets left behind. Finding himself alone, he panics and begins his high-pitched bleating. But, as he doesn’t hear so well he can’t hear the rest of the goats when they answer, and he wanders about lost until we go and fetch him in.


Little ears and campanitas!

Chivo Pestoso, Queenie, Tinkerbell, and Caramela have campanitas, small balls of hanging skin on the neck resembling “bells” hence the name, which is another trait my husband prefers. This particular characteristic is cosmetic, nothing more. It doesn’t appear to be tied to twinning, fertility or milk production, which are traits I am more interested in.


Caramela, big ears, campanitas, not white and horns

Horns, however, are not just for looks. In goat reproduction, it’s important that the macho has horns. A macho without horns has a 50 percent chance of his daughters being sterile. So any male kid without horns is sold. Males that grow horns are watched to see if they are a potential replacement for Chivo Pestoso. My husband can usually tell if the kid will have horns or not shortly after birth, but it takes me a few days to determine whether the hair swirls will remain swirls or grow horns. As not all of our nanny goats have horns, it is important that the male does to avoid that chance of infertility.

goat family

Frank and Jesse, little ears, campanitas, pintos, twin sons of Duchess, a twin, and Stinky Chivo, a twin, and looks like both will have horns

Twinning is another genetic factor we consider when buying, keeping or selling our goats. Queenie has produced two sets of twins in 2 years and was herself a twin. She’s a keeper. Tweedledee has delivered twins 2 out of 3 births; we don’t know if she was a twin or not. Duchess was a twin, but her last two births were single offspring. However, yesterday, she presented us with twin boy kids (pinto with little ears and horns). Vaca had a single birth, but as her offspring is not related to any of our goats, the jury is still out on whether he will stay or go. We try to avoid too much inbreeding. Tinkerbell, Cookie (otherwise known as Shortie), Diabla and Caramela are new purchases and have yet to have babies. Venada (Deer), the daughter of Queene, is the current favorite, being a lovely brown color, having horns and campanitas and being a twin. She just turned seven months old, so not ready for baby making yet, but we can’t wait to see what she produces.


Caramela, Diabla, and Cookie

Milk production is another significant factor when culling the herd. Tweedledee, though not always a twin producer, always has more than enough milk for our evening hot chocolate. Queenie, being small and the mother of twins doesn’t produce much extra milk, but has sufficient for her offspring. Duchess and Vaca have barely enough milk for their offspring and are on the watch list. To be fair, Vaca’s baby is enormous, and Duchess is an excellent mother, so no action has been taken as of yet, but when the time comes, they are near the top of the list.

My husband, as the main milker, has a preference in udders. Some teats are long and hang low. This type of udder is harder to milk, seems subject to more infections and often gets tangled or cut when out foraging. Other teats are shorter and found under a rounder udder and the goat booby preference around here. My husband insists that this trait is determined through the male. I can’t say whether I completely believe that or not. His theory, and one I’ve heard from several other locals is the hang and shape of the testicles has a bearing on the type of udder any daughter born will have.


Venada–Long ears, twin, campanitas, not white and unique personality

Personality also plays a role in whether a goat is kept or not. It may be more of nature vs. nurture though rather than true genetics. For instance, Queenie lets us know the minute food supplies are dwindling, even if she is still has a bite in her mouth. Her daughter Venada is just as assiduous in keeping us informed. Tweedledee, although a good breeder and milk producer, doesn’t have the “spark” that Queenie and her offspring have. Her twin boys, although both having keepable (i.e. good color, campanitas, and horns) characteristics, were not considered as potential macho replacements because they too lacked the “intelligence” we were looking for. The verdict is still out on Duchess’ little boys. A week or so watching them play a rousing game of bump heads or king of the rock will tell.


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