Phew! After a brief, yet very productive, flurry of activity that lasted from February 23 through April 12, we have made it through our birthing season!
We feel so lucky this year to have had all of our does progress through healthy deliveries, which also means that the herd is back on the milking stand producing that delicious fresh goat’s milk again (that’s right - our goat cheeses are back in stock!)!
(Our does being milked by herd-manager Sophie alongside our delicious fresh Chevre cheese)
As Michelle Rudolph (co-owner of Stepladder Creamery) explains from the birthing barn in this kidding season send-off video, “this year was probably the most successful birthing/kidding season we have ever had.” This success was due in part to the fact that after 6 years of being in operation, the staff on the ranch is now “the most prepared, most experienced” that we have ever been.
It is also due to ”a little friend that we introduced this year” in the form of herbal goat cookies. “Basically they are these molasses balls... that have special herbs for different individual needs,” including support for fetus development, labor support, and even deworming. This is the first year we have introduced these delicious organic herbal treatments to our goats, and they have already proven themselves to be a valuable resource for keeping our herd healthy - we love them as much as the goats do!
(Rosemary getting her bi-weekly organic herbal de-wormer cookie on the milk stand)
While these goat cookies contributed to the healthy development and births of this years offspring, “for some weird and odd reason - genetics, terroir, who knows”, we had one of the most remarkable kidding seasons we have ever seen on the ranch in terms of the size and overall number of babies born. Over the previous two years, our average number of kids born per doe was 2.1, whereas this year we had an average of 1.6 kids born per doe. However, though we had the fewest overall number of babies born, we also had some of the largest kids we have ever seen; “last year, the average baby weight was 7.2 pounds. 7.2 pounds! And this year, the average weight was 9.9 pounds! That is a very large difference!” In addition to the larger average size of this year’s kids, we also saw the largest individual kids we have ever seen; the largest were Grapenut and Wilma’s sons (we weighed Wilma’s son after the video was taken), who both weighed a whopping 13.1 pounds at birth!
(Wilma cleaning her 13.1 lb. son after delivery)
The size of these newborns is especially mind-blowing when one considers that our average doe only weighs about 150 pounds and that these little youths develop in the womb in only 5 short months. And each doe may end up delivering more than one of these massive babies! In fact, Grapenut delivered another male that weighed 12.8 pounds right after delivering the first huge boy. The poor girl had 26 pounds worth of babies inside of her - no wonder she was so tired through the month of February!
(Grapenut and her two huge sons)
Now that the birthing season has officially ended, we are back to our regular daily routine of milking the does, cleaning their pens, and going on our regular goat walks into the hills to offer our herd access to the local foliage. We will also be keeping a significant amount of the doe’s milk in order to bottle-feeding all of this year’s youth, which helps us guarantee that each kid gets an equal portion of milk while also improving the health of the doe’s udders. Those babies grow quickly, and before we know it they will be ready to be weaned and rehomed! We will most likely keep 15-20 of this year’s doelings and 3 of this year’s bucks for our own breeding/milking herd, but the rest will be looking for their own loving home! We will keep you posted as we make the difficult decision of who will be added to the Stepladder Herd!
(The Stepladder youth practicing parkour on their goat huts)