Goat farming and producing are currently making their niches in the local and international markets. For one, goats are by far lower maintenance than other farm animals. Also, they produce high-quality products that promise for good growth of sales and profit all throughout the years. One of these products is the goat milk, which is characteristically nutritious and low in fat content. For instance, a popular dairy goat breed, Alpine, produces off milk with high protein and an averagely 3.4% fat.
To maximize the Alpine goats dairy production, one must pay attention to its diet and shelter. Alfalfa hay is among the best sources of nutrients for Alpine goats. They also eat corns, small trees, shrubs, and grasses. One must not forget water as it is essential to Alpine goats diet.
Its shelter includes the bedding and fencing. In terms of shelter, a pole barn is sufficient, but for colder areas, a fully-enclosed shed is necessary. For bedding, one can use materials such as hay, straw, sawdust, or wood chips/pellets. When it comes to fencing, it could be temporary or permanent, depending on the area.
It’s ideal for Alpine goats to be on a farm where there’s access to pasture. It helps the farmer with the food costs and gives the goats enough space to roam around and exercise.
Goats, as a whole, are hardy animals that can adapt to changes in climate pretty well. However, as a dairy or milk goat breed, Alpines have certain requirements for certain aspects of herding. Individuals who want to start raising Alpine goats need to know as much as the comprehensive information below.
BACKGROUND AND CHARACTERISTICS
Alpine goats originally came from the French Alps. Hence, purebred Alpines are called the French Alpines. However, as a result of importation and cross-breeding, other breeds had emerged out of them, such as the American Alpine. Cross-breeding is common in goat farming to develop the quality and the original genetic makeup of an animal. Besides, cross-bred products yield similar characteristics to the purebred ones. For instance, American Alpines similarly are docile in nature as the French Alpines. However, they might be a little different physically, but they likewise generate nutritious milk.
In the main, Alpine goats are distinguished as the only goat breed that has erect ears and comes in all colors and color combinations. They may come in dark markings, light head, and neck, or with a black stripe down the back. Other than those distinctive traits, Alpine goats also have a straight profile and are acknowledged as an alert and graceful breed. They are described as having a hardy nature, which enables them to adapt easily to any climate. Nevertheless, like many other breeds, Alpine goats have short to medium length hair, horned, and usually bearded.
A breed that is medium to large in size, Alpine bucks can grow, at the withers, over 81 cm tall. The does, on the other hand, can grow over 76 cm tall at the withers. Moreover, Alpine bucks can weigh no less than 77 kg, and the does, 61 kg at the least.
In addition, behavior-wise, Alpine goats have a mild temper, are very friendly, and are docile, as mentioned. They are also highly curious, independent, and strong-willed.
HEALTH AND DIET
Alpine goats require a balanced diet as they have high nutritional needs. Raising a healthy Alpine means generating an abundance of sweet and nutritious milk. Some goat farmers prefer to consult a livestock nutritionist to formulate for a good goat diet. However, below is a general idea of a goat’s food and diet.
First off, upon planning to raise Alpine goats, one should know and set up a feeding schedule. Ideally, goats should be fed about four times each day to build up their muscles. However, Alpine goats may do well with twice a day feeding schedule.
Next, Alpine goats love a variety of food in their diet. However, they mostly eat organic ones and a few others, such as the following:
For instance, Alfalfa hay. This is the main nutrient source for goats, especially during the winter, when they cannot have access to a range or pasture. It contains a significant amount of protein, vitamins, minerals, and calcium, which is necessary for milkers or kidding does. Also, the quantity of hay required for each goat a day may be about two to four pounds. Hay can be stored in a manger which enables for less waste and for easy access for the goats.
- Shrubs, Grasses, and Small Trees
In short, pasture. Pasturing calls for a cheaper cost for a nutritious goat food. However, it is advised not only to feed Alpine goats of entirely fresh grass.
- Grain Feed or Pellets
This is a supplementary food many farmers add on their goats’ diet. It adds for more proteins, vitamins, and minerals, especially required for does that are raising kids. Also, this could be handy during bad weather, when the goats cannot go out foraging and browsing. However, it is advised not to overfeed goats with this type of food because it can make them fat. This may even cause illness and worse, even death. Moreover, this type of food should be stored in metal or plastic containers or buckets to reduce waste.
Corn or corn chips can be a good treat to goats. However, it is advised to treat goats with it in a rather small quantity.
Nice and easy access to clean and fresh water is necessary for raising goats. Water may be placed in a bucket off the ground, ideally an inch and a half from the floor. One may make use of a platform or an old tire in order to avoid getting kicked or pooped in by the goats. This may also apply to the food container. Moreover, a water heater is necessary during winter to obviously avoid turning the water to ice. Also, it enables that the goats can drink nice warm water, not a freezing cold one.
In addition, it is important that Alpines are not fed with leftover food. They should be fed regularly with fresh food. Also, other than their diet, Alpines need to be dewormed and vaccinated to keep them healthy and free of illness. Hence, one should approach a veterinary doctor about deworming medicine and vaccines. If an Alpine is noticeably weak or sick, it should be immediately isolated and is sent to the vet’s attention.
FENCING, BEDDING, AND SHELTER
Normally, goats are good jumpers. Hence, raising any goat breed, including Alpines, require a high and sturdy fence. Also, a good fence will keep the goats secured from predators such as dogs, coyotes, foxes, bears, and the like. The fence should be around the entire property or goat area.
Another one, cross fencing, is also necessary within the area to keep the goats separated from each other. This cross fencing may be a temporary or a permanent one.
Types of Cross Fencing:
- Temporary fencing is designed to separate the bucks from the does and the weaned kids from the does. Keeping bucks away from does prevents unplanned breeding. Moreover, temporary fencing may be constructed out of poly tape or wire, electric net, or high-tensile wire. High-tensile wire fencing shall require five to seven strands spaced at about 6 inches on the bottom. A bit more shall be needed for the top, about 8 to 10 inches.
- Permanent fencing can similarly be constructed out of high-tensile wire. However, the six-inch high wire may not keep small predators from crawling under. What is recommended for a better perimeter fencing is a woven wire fencing. Also, a strand of electric or barbed wire at the top shall make sure to keep the goats in and predators out.
Alpine goats, as mentioned, have a hardy nature that enables them to adjust to any climate. However, it does not mean that they would not need a shelter for them to be comfortable during bad weather and night times. They will need a shed or a pole barn to keep them away from drafts. For colder areas, a fully-enclosed shelter may be needed. However, for the warmer regions, a three-sided one or a hoop house shall be enough.
Pregnant and/or lactating does will require for a specific shelter, in addition. A solid building shall be necessary, especially if the kidding is happening during winter. The building may be divided using livestock panels to create separate pens for different groups of does and kids. Each adult goat or doe needs a kidding pen of at least 4 by 5 feet. Hence, one must consider planning how many does will be bred at a time in relation to how much space is available or to be built. Different does can kid at different times in the same space or pen. However, it should be made sure that space is cleaned and sanitized before a new does is placed for another kidding.
Furthermore, a goat shelter shall contain not only the goats, but also farm equipment, goat food, and bedding. Keeping space for feeders and waterers will keep the food and water clean and waste-free.
Lastly, if goats do not have access to range or pasture, a shelter may need to be a certain measure. For instance, a 10 by 15 square feet space for each goat shall accommodate for sleeping. Otherwise, a 20 square feet sleeping space for each goat shall be ideal and a 30 square feet for exercise. However, a huge outdoor space is preferable for a goat’s exercise.
Besides a solid building for pregnant and/or lactating does, an area where they can comfortably lie down is also needed. Also, bedding shall not only be for the kidding does but also for the other goats if necessary. For instance, layered up bedding shall keep the shelter warm for the goats during winter. The bedding shall make mucking out wastes easier. Also, replacing the bedding regularly shall be necessary, for instance, once a month during the summer. It can last longer during the winter, given that it can be layered up for warmth.
There are a variety of bedding that can be used. Here are a few:
Straw, preferably wheat, helps for an easier muck out. It is less dusty, and the goats can eat it if it’s fresh. Also, it is cheap and easy to store as it comes in bales.
Hay, like straw, is easy for mucking out. It is also less dusty and something that the goats can eat. It is easy to store and comes in bales, as well.
This option is preferable in areas with little rain. As for its storage, these may be kept outside, which can be convenient.
- Wood chips/pellets
These are effective in absorbing urine and odor. However, they may be too hard and uncomfortable for the goats. They may also be relatively expensive.
Alpine goats are prolific breeders. Alpine does commonly give birth to twins, but they can also give birth to singles. Triplets and quintuplets are also not uncommon when it comes to Alpine does giving birth.
A mass mating technique in breeding Alpine goats has a ratio of about one buck for 25 does. It is important to keep the older goats away from, the younger ones if one plans on breeding with different ages.
When the time is right to breed the goats, the bucks should be kept in a small, shady enclosure during the day, especially in warmer areas. The bucks will also need small dosages of growing supplements. During the night, a buck may be placed with a doe, certainly in a pen. Other farmers, however, opt for artificial insemination. To do this effectively, it is best to contact animal husbandry or veterinary doctors.
The age for when Alpines are ready to breed is at 4 to 5 months for bucks, and 5 to 6 months for does. The does must be about 75 to 80 pounds heavy, as well, to be suited for breeding. Moreover, the gestation period for does lasts for about 150 days.
MILKING AND PRODUCTION
Goats generally require more attention when they are pregnant or are being milked. They will also need to be separated from other farm animals. Significantly, milking Alpines is best done away from loud noises or distractions as they tend to hate such. Keeping the milked Alpines away from bad smells is also crucial in the milking process. Bad smells may spoil the taste of the goat milk.
The milk production for Alpines peaks at the fourth to the sixth week of kidding. Also, the does should be at the optimal weight of 130 pounds for optimal milk production. A record of 2,134 pounds of milk per lactations is existent for an Alpine doe that weighs higher at 135 pounds. Certainly, a doe can produce about two to three quarts of milk a day. However, the milk can be as much as more than a gallon. This is dependent on whether the doe is pregnant and at what stage.
Alpine milk is typically low in fat content with an average percentage of 3.4%. It should be filtered and chilled right away after getting it from the doe. This is if the intention of milking is for human consumption. Ideally, the temperature for the milk’s storage should be 4.4 degrees Celsius in order to prevent the excessive growth of bacteria. Bacteria grow in warm temperatures, which will also cause the milk’s spoilage. The shelf life of refrigerated milk is about three to four weeks. However, if frozen, it may last for four or five weeks.
How much does it cost to get Alpine goats for starting a milking goat farm?
An amount of $100 to $400 is estimated for a proper and registered Alpine doe. Registered Alpine bucks, on the other hand, shall cost about $300 to $800. However, the cost of purchasing Alpine goats will highly depend on the breeder where one is purchasing from. Other breeders may ask for a greater amount depending on the goat itself.
Also, for starters, buying a single Alpine, as with all the other goat breeds, will make for an uncooperative goat. Goats are typically social animals; hence, one will need to buy at least two when starting a goat farm. However, bucks and does are also normally kept at separate pens; hence, calling for more members in the goat farm. It is important to take note as well that a single goat is not introduced to a herd alone. This is because the other goats tend to pick on newcomers.
How long is the lifespan of Alpine goats?
Alpine goats have a lifespan of around 12 to 20 years. A longer lifespan is not impossible, especially if the goats are properly cared for. This means that they are fed healthily, sheltered comfortably, and are given sufficient supplements, medicines, and vaccines. Goats are generally hardy by nature and can adapt to changes in climate. However, lack of proper care, especially during extreme weathers, may call for mass death.