Performance data: you can make it complicated — or not

Now that more than 300 goat kids have been born to our does for the year and are playing, growing and generally acting like goat kids the world over, it’s time to put the kidding records into the computer. While our does are kidding, my husband Craig, is outside for an hour or two each day, giving each kid its eartag and writing down information about the births on pages in a 3-ring binder. I’m here in the office on my wheelchair due to M.S. — yes, no longer being able to walk is annoying but compared to having a painful or fatal disease, I’m a very lucky and thus happy person! A few days ago, Craig was laughing when he came in for the afternoon. He told me that a mother-goat had put up with him tagging the first of her triplets, although the kid had made a small sound of complaint as the tag pierced its ear.

Having been cuddled

momentarily by Craig before being put back on the ground, the kid had immediately dived under its mother and had a snack of milk. When Craig had tagged the second triplet and the kid made a noise, the doe had flipped her ears and snorted. But when the third triplet was tagged and complained briefly, the doe took action and rushed threateningly at Craig!

Luckily for him, the mother-goat that had quads this year remembered that humans tagging her kids happens and that she doesn’t get hurt thereby, and spent her energy on making soothing noises to the babies rather than trying to get even with the person doing the tagging. So now it’s my turn to put the data into the computer so that we can use the information more easily than leafing through 15 pages in this year’s binder. And being my ‘helpful’ self, which isn’t the word Craig usually uses to describe my efforts, an idea from past years has resurfaced again.

That idea is, since we have written information on kidding from 1992 on, and yes, 3” by 4” spiral-bound notebooks were big enough many years ago to write information about 50 does kidding, but now a 1” thick 3-ring binder is needed. Being my usual over-zealous self and having used databases since 1997, I immediately started dreaming about a Smoke Ridge computerized system that would hold all of our information. Ah, hopefully some wiser folks than me are already snickering, asking what the objective of said database would be. Which brings up the questions: • What goal/s does Smoke Ridge have as an enterprise? • What do we need to be able to achieve the goal/s? • How could we get what we need? Trust me, goal setting is an issue that humans have been working on since our beginning, so don’t get scared or frustrated if the subject seems like a big, ugly, nasty monster! Not that I, let alone we, have yet managed to agree on answers to the questions, but I wonder if to simplify things even more, one could just ask where are you and where do you want to be?

(This column’s information is based on raising meat goats in Montana and on The Meat Goat Handbook, written by Yvonne and published by Voyageur Press, which is for sale from Smoke Ridge at E-mail questions to that you would like to have answered in this column.)

Thinking outside the fence...

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August 2020 | Goat Rancher 25


Getting back on the subject of kidding data rather than philosophy in general, I would personally love to be able to assign a numerical grade to each animal, which could then be used for sorting the does, kids or bucks. Wait, please stop laughing at me for a moment: if anything is very important to you about any of your goats, be it performance, looks or pedigree, you would give that factor a stronger weight in the grade, wouldn’t you? Rather than suggesting that we meat goat producers come up with

yet another livestock record-keeping system, of which there were dozens when I searched by computer just now, let me suggest the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Sweetheart! What is good or important about meat goats TO YOU? That’s all that matters, isn’t it?

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