June 10, 2011

Tattooing Lamancha Tails

As a Lamancha breeder there comes a time each year when you have to get the tattoo pliers out and put a tattoo in the poor little kid’s tails. The Saanens and Toggenburgs don’t know how easy they have it – their tattoos go in the ear, the poor Lamanchas get theirs in their tail.

So let’s start with the obvious question, why tattoo at all? Even though it is not a fun job, I would encourage every goat owner to get their animal tattooed. This is important method of identification. Even if you only have a goat in your backyard and never want to take your goat across state lines or even down the road, things can happen. You never know when a goat is going to discover a weak point in your fence and push its way under the fence for a tour of the neighborhood. And, much sadder, there are always the case of stolen animals. I once had a young animal taken directly from its pen and thankfully I was able to tell the police that, yes I did have a defining mark on it – it had already been tattooed. Why not microchips you ask? Well for pets this is a great option, but the reality of having a working herd of dairy goats is that not all animals will forever be a pet and microchips could become a big problem if the goat ever entered the meat market.

So how do you begin? Well first you wait. The Toggs and Saanens could probably get tattooed at a day old (although we try to group them so they are usually around 3 weeks) but the Lamanchas need time to grow those tails. We don’t usually bother tattooing them until at least 2 months old. You want to make sure there is enough tissue on both sides of the bone so that you can get letters into the tail. In my opinion it is better to lose a jr leg on 1 month old kid because she has no tattoo then to have to re-tattoo her at 1 year old because the tattoo is no longer readable.

So the first step is cleaning the tail. You will want at least 1 helper for the whole procedure. Although it is possible to do it solo – it is not fun or easy. Have your helper secure the hind of the kid. Whether this means putting the kid’s head in the milk stand and securing its back legs and rump or if it means holding the kid between the helper’s legs so that the kid’s legs can be held and the helper’s legs secure the middle section so the kid can’t go running forward. Clean the tail with rubbing alcohol so that it does not have dirt or anything to block the pins. Baby wipes work well to clean all the dirt off and then a paper towel or second baby wipe with alcohol to sterilize the area. Once the tail is clean keep hold of the kid so it can’t go running around and get dust in your clean work.

Cleaning the tail

Clean and alcohol sterilized tail

Get you tattoo pliers set up with the correct letters for either the herd tattoo or for the year tattoo. CHECK THE SEQUENCE ON PAPER FIRST!!!! It is not fun to have to put an extra tattoo in the ear or tail if you mess up!!!

Once the tail is clean, have the helper hold the tail up, but don’t stretch it tight. When you stretch it you take away skin that you can punch. Ideally you want the tattoo positioned about 2/3 of the way down the tail. It is hard to read when it is hidden in the tail web, but it is harder to read when it is up near the end of the tail because there is not enough skin. Find a place where you can reach enough skin to punch successfully. You can line it up over and over again before you punch – but you only want to punch once.

Add the pliers up before you punch
Once you have the tail still and the pins lined up, punch. Punch ONCE! And Punch HARD! It is supposed to bleed a little. If it doesn’t bleed you may not have punched hard enough. At least there should be holes that you can see easily in the tail. 

Aim for towards the center of the tail web or 2/3 down from the end of the tail. (you should be able to see the holes in this skin on the right side of the picture)

Once you have punched one side take your pliers back and swap letters. You could start rubbing ink into the side you just punched, but we find that the pliers and the tattoo letters stay cleaner if you do all the punching and then rub the ink in. Punch the other side the same way that you punched the first side.

Line up for second punch

There will be blood - that is alright, it means you got a good clean punch.
*** The Herd tattoo goes on the goat’s RIGHT side (or right tail web) and the Year tattoo goes on the goat’s LEFT side***

Once you have punched both sides, rub ink all over the tail and rub hard into the holes. I have always found a finger works better than a brush or anything like that because you can really push the ink into the holes.

Rub the ink in well so that you cannot see the dots any more.

Finally let the poor tortured kid go and eat something – they always feel better after food. Ideally you want to leave the tail alone until the ink falls off on its own. This is ensure the proper healing occurs. Don’t wipe it off just for curiosity sake – you will just mess with it, better to wait several weeks so that you have a good tattoo.

June 03, 2011

REDGA 2011

The Redwood Empire Dairy Goat Assn or REDGA puts on a two day show every year over memorial day weekend and it is one of the best shows of the year for several reasons.

First, nationally known breeders bring their animals out for a spectacular show. Last year the judge was so moved by the champion Saanen line-up, she actually got choked up over the mic. The quality of animals brought to this show is really impressive. When you choose animals to go you really have your “REDGA” quality animals and the rest of the herd.

Secondly their junior show is done “four ring circus” style so that you get to let other people help and you get to help other people show their goats. There is nothing quite like being handed an animal to make it look good only to have it move up 4 or 5 places. The second most important thing about showmanship is to feel comfortable and look confident. The best way to do that is to practice, practice, practice, and there is no better place to practice than in lots of breed classes all at once. It really makes you feel more comfortable about being in the show ring. It reminds you that the show ring is not some scary place, but a place to show off the animals you have. We love having 4Her come out and try their hand at showing.

Finally they do an amazing job of recognizing the youth exibitors. As someone who came up through the 4H program and is now a 4H leader, I think it is so important to recognize those exhibitors. On both Saturday and Sunday they have 1 ring which recognizes the best youth owned doe in show. They also give the kids shirts and make sure to have fun activities (like a costume contest) that adults may not enjoy but that the younger exhibitors really get excited about. Many of the exibitors only know a few other people who raise goats – so it is shows like these which get the kids interacting to really make friendship of people with mutual interests.

This year our breed placings were both exciting and pleasing. The big star was Keegan, who, at less than 2 weeks fresh won Reserve Grand Champion in the Togg specialty ring. We were so excited!!!! We also got to see her mother who looked beautiful at 10 years old and still milking! Argentina received a second Reserve Grand Champion award and all the other kids stood near the tops of their classes. The unfortunate thing about the “4 ring circus” is that if you are showing more than one breed – you often miss that is going on in one of your other breeds. I was monitoring the Lamancha and grade show (making sure the right kids took the right kids into the ring) and didn’t get to see the Saanen show at all – I guess that is what next year is for!!