We’ve had dairy goats on our farm for nearly 10 years now and a commercial dairy for eight. We have learned, over time, that there are things you need to be able to know about your goats at any moment’s notice and that you will never remember on your own. We’ve found that the best way to keep that information accessible is by posting it on the milk-room wall.
On giant dry-erase boards, we lay down a grid in permanent marker, and enter all information we need using dry-erase markers. This gives us the ability to start clean twice a year, which is about how often we do it. Here is a breakdown of what we put on our board and why. You can also do this on paper.
Well, this is pretty self explanatory. It obviously should go first. All other of these categories can be moved around as you choose.
Good dairy-herd management requires you to know the dates on which your goats are bred. I know there are plenty of people with plenty of experience who pen breed, but we hand breed. Knowing your breeding date means being prepared at kidding time, and an an exact date helps you know when it’s time to intervene with an overdue pregnancy.
We put the breeding date and the initial of the buck used in this square. (You can obviously skip this part if you only have one buck.) When it comes time to register kids or issue service memos, having that buck information ready comes in handy.
It’s all well and good to know your breeding date, but unless you are a math savant, you probably won’t know, offhand, when 100 days until dry-off or 150 days until kidding is, so it’s best to write it down and be ready. The due date also guides us in giving our annual CD/T and BoSe shots, which we do three weeks prior. I usually note that with a little “C-B” in the due date box after the shots have been given. The dry dates only stay on the board until the goats are dry, and then they get erased to avoid confusion.
A quick note: Once all of your does are bred each fall, we recommend taking a photo of your board, wiping it clean and re-ordering the whole thing in due-date order. Having your does listed in the order they are supposed to kid helps avoid surprises or overlooked due dates and keeps you better organized. It also gives you an idea who should be bred first/last the following fall.
As soon as kids are born, we record them in this space, which we make a quite a bit larger than the date spaces. On our farm, we automatically assign an ADGA tattoo letter and number for each doeling, even if it’s not going to be registered later. Sometimes buyers change their minds and this enables us to sell papers even years later. If we know a buckling has been sold for breeding, it will also get a tattoo number; otherwise, we generally just note the boys with a little male symbol. As kids are reserved or sold, we also add in the name of the buyer for each numbered kid.
Having the goats’ weights on hand helps when it comes time to administer wormers or if your goat needs any other medications. We use a weight tape and record a baseline when they are milking but not more than two months bred. We weigh them at least once a year, usually when I reorder the board, as explained above.
You may not need the bolus header, but we have very serious copper deficiencies in our soil and need to administer copper boluses to our goats each year; sometimes twice a year. We generally do the whole herd on one day, so I often just write the date on the very top and not in the cells. I calculate the weight of the bolus and keep it on the board in case anyone spits theirs out and we need to make another. Again, you might not need this info on your board, so eliminate it if it does not apply.
You can use this space for any other notes. If a doe needs a hoof trim soon, you can mark it here. If someone needs to be watched because they have been off feed or because they had a limp (or any other weird thing that goats are forever coming up with in an attempt to get you worried), a written note is more reliable than a mental one. We primarily use this space to record any medications given, including the annual post-kidding worming, as well as any withdrawal information and when that doe can go back into the milk stream. Anything you might not remember should go here. Make this space pretty big.
The information listed above is what we need most often, so they’re put on a board that we see twice daily at milking time. But there are times when we need other kinds of information, like a goat’s dam and sire at breeding time or registration time. At the end of the year, when everyone has kidded and all kids are sold, I take a photo of the board completed board and save it both electronically on my computer and as a printout in my breeding book. If three years down the road a buyer wants to register a doe she didn’t buy papers for at the time of sale, we can sell the papers and have all of the necessary information with just one click. Everything else is at-a-glance.
If you have a dairy herd of any size, I hope this guide helps you even a little bit. With 35 goats in our herd, we’re always looking to make things easier and more organized and to help others with the same.
Need help getting organized? Click on the record-keeping chart below to print your own!