Friday, February 14, 2014

Smelling Pink or Blue? Could it be True? The Sniff Chart! Join in on the fun!

Left to right: Acorn, Panama, Pistachio, Joy, Palabra, Palmella, Bella, and Palisade grazing and browsing in the new pasture.

Hi all! While we are on babywatch here at Firestone Creek (with six does due to kid between now and mid-March, and then just one more to go after that in late spring), I have decided to test a theory that some of us in the goat community were 'testing' a few years back. At the time, it seemed to hold mostly true, so I wanted to test it out again, for accuracy this time, while also recording my results. Join in if you like, and share your results.


All dairy farmers want to 'see pink'; they want the majority of the kids born in a season to be does (female). Does can be retained to the herd, and since the main goal of most dairy farmers and homesteaders is to produce milk, more does means increased milk production. However, sometimes we have what we refer to as a 'buck year,' which simply means that the percentage of bucks born that season was much higher than that of the does born. Is that a bad thing? It certainly can be. For instance, if there is a large percentage of bucks born to a group of first fresheners (first time the doe has had babies), more than likely all of those will be wethered (castrated or not left intact as males). Wethers do not bring in a lot of income, and let's face it, dairy farming is not a cheap business; we have to make money somewhere to show profit that enables us to buy feed and hay, pay for vet fees, medications, shows, milk test, and beyond that, to pave the way for general costs such as upkeep, new equipment, and additional stock. If bucklings are born to second or third fresheners, especially those who have nice udders, good production, and excellent conformation, then those bucklings can be sold for a higher price as intact males; it is beneficial to pass those genetics on to other herds or to keep them in your own herd. However, if the doe hasn't fully developed, and the breeder has no clue how well her production, etc, will be, most good breeders will simply wether (as we usually do). How much do wethers usually cost? Generally, anywhere from $75-125, disbudded and wethered. While this is a little money to help pay for things around the farm, it certainly doesn't add up to much overall unless you have a lot of wethers, but if that happens, then we have another problem.

What's the other problem? Does are where the real money is, and this is where the milk is, too! If a breeding seems promising, does will always sell at a higher price since may do quite well as  breeding or show stock. Like the buckling, the cost of a doeling from a first freshener (unless she is from proven bloodlines--parentage or has already earned show wins) will generally be lower than that of one from an experienced doe with a proven quality of production (amount of milk produced over a specific lactation period) and type (conformation). Most breeders will sell these doelings, but they may retain one or two, dependent on the bloodline and the specific parentage of the breeding. If the mother produces well through her first lactation and is retained for another, doelings maybe be retained in latter breedings if the doe continues to improve with lactations. We want to improve our lines and keep as many of our own animals as possible. When we show, we want to show animals with our own farm name, not the farm name of others, so that we get the recognition for the hard work and research we've put into our scheduled breedings. We also keep as many doelings as we can for the following season, not only for showing, but to give us milk year round and to continue to improve our breeding program. Those we do decide to part with, usually because we have to keep our numbers down, are the bread and butter of the dairy farm, helping us pay for all of the essentials during the coming year. Do we want to see pink? You better bet we do--and lots of it! It's the way we survive.


Several years ago, several members of the Goat Spot mentioned that their goats 'smelled' differently when they were pregnant with bucklings. For instance, someone hypothesized (sorry if I do not recall exactly who it was that did this) that if the doe was carrying bucklings, even one buckling and several doelings, that maybe the doe would smell a little 'bucky,' or like an intact adult buck. Those who have been around an intact buck know that he smells this way due to the hormones being secreted in the urine--the same hormones he uses to attract the doe during breeding season. Bucks urinate on their beards and legs, using the 'fragrance' like cologne to attract does. This smell can be extremely musky and pungent during the fall of the year; if you've ever been around a male in rut, you won't quickly forget the odor.
On the other hand, does generally do not have much of an odor. Instead, I always say they normally smell like hay. Because it is a known fact that hormones are excreted by kids during pregnancy (it is actually those same hormones that encourage contractions, full labor, and lactation, just as in a human birth), it seems quite possible that some smell --the buck smell -- might be present. Of course, even if it were possible to detect bucklings before birth, how would this be helpful (unless you were going to end pregnancies, and I certainly hope this isn't the case)? Knowing bucklings are on the way helps you plan. It can help you market your kids in advance. It can also help you market your adult bucks. How? First, if you have a buck who always delivers lots of does, he is an important buck! Most people will hang on to him or one of his offspring, hoping to pass on this trait of producing lots of daughters. Second, if you have a buck who is always producing sons, you may want to replace him with one of the bucklings that is on its way or with one from another farm --one that promises to help improve your lines.
The horns of an animal help regulate body temperature, so is it possible that hormones could also be excreted through the skin in this area-- the head-- even in disbudded (animals with their horns removed) animals? Some believe so. In fact, this is what I am going to test, and if you want to join in, by all means do! I'd love to hear your results.
I've created a table below (Table 1: The Sniff Chart). All you need to do is 'sniff' the top of the head where the horns are/were, and then you can record your own data. Share if you like! I will update as the girls deliver their kids.
Table 1. The Sniff Chart
Doe (Dam) Buck (Sire) Smell / Gestation time # of doelings/bucklings
Muddy Creek B2 Panama On Firestone Creek AA Mesa
(history of producing high % of doelings)
Panama's head smells 'bucky' on 2/14; she is due on 2/21. She is pregnant with multiples--looks like three or more. She has a history of having bucklings, so maybe there is a doeling or two in there.
On Firestone Creek HWD Acorn On Firestone Creek AA Mesa
(history of producing high % of doelings)
Acorn smelled like hay on 2/14; she is due on 2/15. She has a history of having doelings. She looks like she may be pregnant with one or two kids.
NC PromisedLand Z Bella On Firestone Creek HWD Bo Peeps Bella smelled like hay on 2/14; she is due on 2/15. She has a history of having doelings.
On Firestone Creek Palisade 2*M 5*D *B NC PromisedLand RB Bolero *S On 2/14 Palisade smelled a little bucky. She is not due until 5/15. She has a history of twins and triplets; the triplets are usually bucklings and doelings.
On Firestone Creek BJ Kukarabisha On Firestone Creek AA Mesa
(history of producing high % of doelings)
On 2/14 Kuka smelled like hay. She is due on 2/20.
On Firestone Creek R Palabra Proctor Hill Farm B Cuervo Gold *S On 2/14, Palabra smelled a little bucky. Due on 3/13.
On Firestone Creek UP Sunnee Day Proctor Hill Farm B Cuervo Gold *S  Will smell again next week. She could tell I was up to something and didn't want to be sniffed. Perhaps she thought I was going to nibble her or make her wear deodorant. Who knows! :)

Happy deliveries, and think pink! I know I am!

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