Routine Raises Quality
When a bidder paid $5,400 for a 2013 American Dairy Goat Association Spotlight Sale doeling last October, there were those who wondered why. There were also those who wondered what does it take to raise something of that quality on a typical goat farm?
For Nelson and Eileen Broaddus, New Jersey breeders of the top-selling doeling, Araby-Farm SET Alantra, raising dairy goats is a lifelong passion that involves a lot of hard work, just like it is for most others in the industry.
What has brought their dairy goats to the forefront of quality is not only paying attention to sound management practices, but putting those practices into effect with an emphasis on routine.
“People have asked us how our kids grow so well,” Eileen Broaddus said. “Routine is our answer. Animals respond well to routine. If you do the same thing, at the same time every day, they know what to expect. We all know goats are smart, and they learn quickly.”
Goat science and production expert Sandra G. Solaiman, a Director of Small Ruminant Research at Tuskegee University and contributor to several textbooks on the subject, said that behavior management is an important practice for all dairy goat producers to consider.
“Goats are more sensitive than sheep or cattle,” Solaiman said. “They are smarter, trickier, and more curious, but they are easier to train… They are creatures of habit and when they get familiar with a certain set of routines, pens, or handling procedures, they will expect to be treated the same way every time, which makes them easier to handle and able to produce at their highest levels.”
Family members introduced the Broaddus’s to dairy goats prior to the1990s and they learned from their own experts, as well as developed their own reasons for staying with their interests once they got going.
“Nelson’s brother, Joy, and sisterin-law, Barbara, of the well known Aspen Hill’s herd, used to travel around the northeast showing their goats,” Eileen Broaddus said. “Whenever they were in the area, we would go to the show to visit with them. In 1990, we saw some really ‘cute’ recorded grade does they had — Bizzy Bee and De-Javu — which we purchased from them. They were our first two goats.”
Broaddus said several youngsters in the area became very interested in their dairy goats, and since those children were already in 4-H, they let them borrow their does for their projects.
“That adventure lasted 20 years, with approximately 60 youngsters going through the project,” Broaddus said. “Most of those kids excelled in their projects, excelled in college, and are successful today. Several have their PhD’s. We like to think we had some positive impact on their lives. We know the dairy goats did. That is one reason we kept going, working to get the best routines down.”
Broaddus said all of their goats have plenty of free choice hay at their disposal at all times, the type of hay depending on what stage of life they are in.
“Kids and milkers are fed a quality alfalfa mixed with orchard grass, while our bucks have quality orchard grass,”
Broaddus said. “As the kids mature and the milkers enter the dry period, they are only fed orchard grass.
“The hay for the kids is supplemented with a 16% dairy goat feed at a rate of a 1/2 pound twice a day per kid, until they are about a year old, at which time, if not bred they only have free choice hay. Milkers are fed the same 16% dairy goat feed at a rate of about two pounds twice a day, at milking time. It certainly gives them the incentive to come to the milk room!”
Broaddus said grain is not fed to does during their dry period until about one month before freshening. However, bucks are fed grain at a rate of one pound twice daily all year long.
They provide supplements such as free choice baking soda and a free choice loose goat mineral.
“We are very careful with water,” Broaddus said. “Fresh water is a must! All buckets are emptied, cleaned and refilled at least twice daily. During the hot summer months, electrolytes are added to the water.”
Broaddus said they also deworm all animals on a routine schedule and give CD&T vaccination shots annually. When it comes to raising caprine kids, Broaddus said she recognized that everyone has strong opinions as to how to do it.
“Our kids are pulled at birth and bottle-fed heat treated colostrum for two days,” she said. “Then they are transitioned to lamb bars. We have found the square, bottom feeders to be very beneficial when feeding groups of kids.
“The kids have pasteurized milk in front of them at all times. They can nurse from the bucket as they need to. We refilled the buckets with warm milk at least five times a day during the first month of life. This practice eliminates kids gorging themselves, which eliminates the scours.”
Broaddus said they also provide good, leafy alfalfa to the kids from about a week of age.
“They don’t eat much of it, but it helps them to become curious, and they start to ‘pick’ at it,” she said.
A little grain is introduced to kids at about a month of age. As they begin to eat more hay and grain, the number of milk feedings is reduced until they are weaned at about three months of age. The couple believes in plenty of sunshine and fresh air for their kids, and disbuds them at about three to five days of age. CD&T shots are given to the kids at a month old, with the booster shot given two weeks later.
Broaddus said she and her husband Nelson know there are very few people in the dairy goat industry getting rich off their labors, but passion for the love and care of their animals keeps them going.
“When we get out to the barn first thing in the morning or before we turn the light out in the evening, we stare at our does happily eating their hay or chewing their cud, admiring our ‘works of art,’” she said. “It gives us the incentive to get up again in the morning to do it all over again.”
Another thing that has helped them be successful in their dairy goat endeavors is the opportunity to work with good genetics.
“We have been fortunate through the years to have wonderful friends and family that have helped to guide us and offer advice,” Broaddus said. “We started with good genetics from Aspen Hill’s, and it is from those genetics, that our herd has been built. We look to add great bucks, when adding genetics. The only time does were added to our foundation does, was when we had the opportunity to purchase, along with Helen Snyder, the Albanhaus herd when it was dispersed. Since that time, only bucks have been added. When looking to add a new herd sire, we evaluate our animals and look for those genetics that will help in areas that we feel need improvement and also those that will compliment our herd. We use ADGA performance programs, study websites, and look at those animals that are excelling in the show ring. A majority of our herd have several National Champions in their pedigrees. Breeding beautiful goats is always a work of art in progress.”
Before 2013, Nelson and Eileen Broaddus had never even been to an annual convention, so when they got a call from the ADGA director in their area inviting them to nominate something for the annual Spotlight Sale, they were a bit surprised.
“We had never done anything like this before, but we did have some kids that were looking pretty special,” she said. “Alantra stood out amongst the rest and we felt that if we were going to nominate, she would be our best. She had the pedigree and she had the look of greatness. And so, we did. What an adventure! We didn’t even know where to start to market, create a display or anything else. So our truly good friends came to our rescue, creating displays, brochures, and to offer support. And after the sale, our truly good friends were there to congratulate us, hug us, and cheer us on. What an experience it was!”
Alantra just happened to be a daughter of a top-selling Spotlight Sale buck from the previous year, *B Sartyr Eclipse Tyrone, so when she took top sale price honors this year, there were many in the crowd that were excited about her pedigree.
“We were so fortunate to form a partnership with Maribeth Andresen of L.I. Scapegoat, to be able to purchase Tyrone last year,” Broaddus said. “He had been consigned by Steven Considine and excelled in correctness and general appearance. Of course, an added bonus was that his granddam, Titian, already produced two National Champion daughters.”
By the time it was Araby Farm’s turn to use the new buck last fall, most of their does were already bred, but they did have him service Arabella, Martina, and five dry yearlings. The results were worth the investment, Broaddus said.
In her spare time, when not helping her husband care for their Saanen dairy goats, Eileen Broaddus enjoys creating special gardens in her backyard.
“I was in a small town with houses on small lots, so the only thing we could have were flower gardens,” she said. “Mom always loved to garden and I took up the hobby. It is a passion, and a form of relaxation, if there is time for that after taking care of the ‘girls.’”