Tickleweed Hill Farm: A Commercial Kinder Goat Operation
Lisa Robb Lamm & Kendra Rudd Shatswell It was incredibly fun to work on this article with Lisa! She and her husband Craig are a wealth of knowledge and so helpful whether it be discussing goats in general, at shows, or discussing Kinders at evaluations. You might see some familiar faces in the photos - the Lamms now own some of my does including 4H Farm Farrah, Serena Kinders Priscilla, Hefty Goat Holler Farm Tulsi, and Findley Follies Hannah aka Noodle. as well as a few doelings! I love getting to see the updates!
Craig and Lisa Lamm have raised Kinders in central Missouri for over 20 years. The Lamms have developed a commercial operation, raising Kinders primarily for the meat market. I got to visit with Lisa about their unique perspective and farm.
The Tickleweed Hill Farm herd is large, boasting about 50 does and 6-8 bucks. With kids, the numbers can swell to 100-130 and rarely dips below 80 total animals. Animals are pasture-bred, meaning the chosen bucks are turned out with the doe herd for a set amount of time – this is especially handy when trying to catch subtle spring heats. Ideally, a Tickleweed doe will be bred at 7 months old, at around 60lb, and kid twice a year. The ultimate goal is a Kinder doe that weighs over 90 pounds at 2 years of age but Lisa also acknowledges that some does are still filling out between 2 and 3. The mature size of a doe is not as important as her being big enough to breed at 7 months. First fresheners may not always breed back that first year, which is fine with Lisa, but she expects first fresheners to raise decent kids and quickly gain back any condition lost rearing those kids. With this method, most does have about four months kid-free to eat, grow, and get in good shape to kid again. Some does might skip and only kid three times in two years. Most does will have a kidding rate of 2-2.5 kids per pregnancy. Singles are okay the first couple of kiddings. Milking happens on an as needed basis, usually for a limited amount of time. Kidding records reveal which does are the best producers of kids.
Bucklings are weaned between 10-12 weeks. Smaller bucklings, depending on their sexual aggression, might get to nurse longer. Lisa is considering castration of all bucklings during the next kidding cycle so everyone can stay together longer. The large herd just seems to do better together. A good buckling will weigh around 45-50lb by 4-5 months of age, the low optimum size for the feeder meat market. Prices naturally fluctuate throughout the year, but Lisa routinely receives average to high market price for her kids because they’re the size and type the buyers want. Cull doelings usually sell a little cheaper but Lisa explains “I always feel like I get a fair price based on what I’m selling.” Since the herd kids twice a year, in all months except June through August, and bucklings are sent as they hit weight, the Lamms take goats to auction every 2 or 3 months. Two salebarns are within a 45 minute drive of Tickleweed Hill Farm. One sells goats once a week, and one has a goat sale monthly. Weaning doelings is up to the dams until the doelings hit 4.5 – 5 months of age. It’s usually time to turn in a buck, so a decision is made to segregate doelings for growing out to breeding age/size or to the sale barn. Weight can often be a factor. “You’ve got to think if it makes sense to spend more money feeding them to obtain the goal weight of around 50 pounds for the feeder meat market. Feeding Kinders to slaughter weight of 60-80 pounds usually takes too long to make economic sense, unless you’re feeding out for your own use. ” Lisa stresses that, while she has very specific goals for her herd, she gives the goats every chance to succeed under her management. “I give almost all does three chances to improve whatever it is I’m not happy about…I weigh the pros and cons of each animal from all aspects...It costs the same to feed poor producers as it does exceptional ones. Kidding frequency is just one component of the whole package.” Some of her additional considerations are the doe’s growth while pregnant, and after kidding, how easily a doe will settle, parasite resistance/resilience, and mothering ability. The doe’s temperament is also a consideration. Kids are rarely bottle raised, so does must be naturally easy to handle. Lisa has also culled does for repeatedly having small or unthrifty kids sired by different bucks or behavioral issues like jumping fences. Any animal that requires a lot of individual attention or worry will likely end up on the cull list. Lisa keeps does in her breeding program until they start having mobility issues, aren’t raising healthy kids, or can’t keep weight on. Does that shouldn’t be bred again are processed. “I prefer a humane death at the processor for my old girls rather than an unknown fate at the sale barn. I owe them that. We have burger made due to its many useful options, and goat summer sausage, because it’s really tasty.”
In order to keep the goats in optimal condition while achieving frequent kidding and excellent growth rates, they must be fed well. The Lamms grow and put up mixed-grass hay from their farm and Craig’s mother’s farm. The 1100lb bales are kept out all the time, even in summer when the goats would normally be grazing and browsing all day. After sunset or if it rains during the day, the goats can stay busy filling their rumens at the hay buffet in the loafing area and barn.
Lisa feeds the same grain ration at slightly varying amounts year round. Kids have access to creep feeders and also eat with the does. Bucks are fed in their own group. The weaned buckling pen is free-fed. All goats have access to loose mineral. A good feed buffers any shortcomings of the grass hay. At first, the grain ration was a custom mix developed by Lisa’s mentor. It included Purina goat chow, oats, wheat, BOSS, and barley. At first, Lisa mixed it herself but this quickly proved too laborious as the herd grew. “Everyone likes to work smarter, not harder.” Eventually, the Lamms purchased a three-ton portable grain bin. It is filled with 2.5 tons at a time, though the mix is a little different now, comprised of a 16% goat protein pellet, BOSS, oats, wheat, wet and dry molasses, cracked corn, soy pellets, soybean meal, and alfalfa pellets. Getting the feed in bulk translates to significant savings – “The last time I had it filled, the cost was $11.36 per 50#.” The grain bin paid for itself in three years by just eliminating the bagging fees. The savings on fuel from making trips to the feedstore is also notable! The bin gets filled every 4-6 weeks, depending on herd volume and the age of kids.
With her unique management system, Lisa has developed a herd that is quick-growing, productive, and efficient – qualities she highly values in livestock. She strives for a Kinder that is a good middle ground between the Pygmy and the Nubian. To the Lamms, Kinders should be truly dual purpose and one of the best ways to determine this is to weigh kids at intervals, keep production records for kidding, milking, and keep carcass/meat weights of processed animals. Even if a breeder doesn’t milk, the kid’s weaning weights compared to the doe’s body weight will give a good idea of her milk quality/quantity and how efficient she is. “If a goat weighs 6lb at birth and gains a conservative .3lb-.35lb a day, he will weigh about 50lb at 5 months.” By keeping bucklings past weaning, breeders can see how they grow without milk, a true test of growth and the meat characteristics of the breed. Only the very best bucklings should be offered with registration papers. “Numbers don’t lie and aren’t emotional.” Records, official Kinder evaluations, and an experienced mentor can help breeders look at their herd objectively.
Among the Kinders you might see a token miniature LaMancha, probably causing trouble!