Getting Started with your first
goat kids, lambs, or piglets
What combination of goats, sheep, or pigs is best to start with?
The answer depends on what your goals are:
Barnyard Pets: If you simply want some animals such as sheep, goats or pigs to enjoy, help with mowing and weeding, to encourage children toward responsibility/teach animal care, or even provide some fiber to "play with" each year, wethers (neutered males) are ideal! Males are typically more confident, so easily become friendly pets when given some attention. Their care is consistent and the most simple. Raising wethers is great for "testing the waters" and learning about raising goats, sheep, or pigs. If you ever decide to increase your flock or herd, wethers continue to be versatile. They can be housed with females or males, and even babies. And, one other bonus is that they are the least expensive.
If You're Planning to Produce Offspring: Managing a breeding pair (or more) is more complicated. Here are some of the issues to consider:
Timing the first birth, kidding or lambing: It is best to not let miniature livestock get bred until she is at least 1 year to 18 months old, so she ends up having babies for the first time when she is almost two years old. This is because it takes a Babydoll two full years to mature to adult size, and Nigerians often don't get to their full size until 3 years!. Kune Kune pigs also don't reach full size until 3 years of age. If allowed to be bred her first fall, she will not only need to provide nutrition for her developing babies, but also her own still-growing body. She will give birth when she is not adult size herself, inviting complications during delivery. By waiting, the doe, ewe or sow will have a better chance for a long healthy life (probably including more lambs throughout her lifetime).
Housing/Companions: If you get a breeding pair, who will each live with the first year while being kept separate from each other? Remember that they need a buddy to be well-adjusted and content. Female goats have been known to be fertile as young as four months of age, sheep, 6 months of age, and Kune Kune pigs 8 months of age. We make sure to remove any intact males before the females reach this age.
Season for Kidding/Lambing: Lambs: Around the middle of August the ram should be separated from the ewe if you've kept them together earlier. We plan for lambing to start in the spring. To do this, the rams are put with the ewes usually around the beginning of October (March babies) or November (April Babies) (Gestation is about 145 days for Babydolls.)
Goats: bucks need to be separated from the females almost as soon as they are weaned, because bucks
can become fertile as early as 2 months old. (Gestation is 145-150 days for NDG). Nigerian dwarf goats can come into heat year round.
Pigs: Kune Kune pigs can also come into heat year round, giving birth during any season.
Here are some different options to get started with a small herd or flock:
Buy a breeding pair (one female, one male) and two wethers. The first year, keep one wether with the doe or ewe, and one wether with the buck or ram. or
The first year, buy two females. The second year, buy one male. Let the three live together. This option may cause birth to happen during the middle of winter depending when you introduce the male. Unless the male is bought in the fall when you want breeding to start. If a male is born, you could make him a wether and he could be the companion for the other male from then on. or
The first year, buy two unrelated does, ewes, or sows. The second year, buy two unrelated bucks, rams, or boars. Keep the females housed separately from the males except during breeding season when they would be paired (also separately). The resulting offspring of this first generation could be sold for unrelated breeding pairs. Any female offspring could then be kept and bred to the buck or ram or boar that was not her sire. or
Buy two older unrelated sheep or goats (1 male/1 female) as the first pair, and then purchase more unrelated females the following spring. If a male is born to the adult pair in the spring, he could be made a wether and be the companion for the ram. The following fall, the older ewe would be moved to the ram and wether, while the younger ewes wait to be introduced till their second fall.
**Please note: If an older buck or ram could ever fit into your plans, let us know! We are sometimes willing to sell an established adult buck or ram. It enables us to purchase another buck or ram with "new genes" so we can keep supplying unrelated offspring to repeat customers. The advantage for you is that you will know exactly what you are getting since the buck or ram is already mature, he's a proven sire, you can see pictures of his offspring and know a little bit about what to expect, and his personality is known. Also you don't have to wait for him to mature he would be ready to breed right away.