My Kinder Story

My Kinder Story

Excerpted from 5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a
Self-Sufficient Homestead
and newly released Critter Tales: What my homestead
critters have taught 
me about themselves, their world, and how to be a part of it

Goats in the field

When we first bought our homestead in 2009, we had a little savings to invest in it. Among other things, we bought two registered Nubian does and two registered Pygmy bucks as our "Kinder Starter Kit." I had researched goat breeds carefully and concluded that the Kinder was the perfect breed for us: milk, meat, manure, multiple kids, not too big, not too small, and good personality.

My first set-back occurred several months later, when we lost our buckling. Even the vet was not sure what was wrong. There was no diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nor a heavy parasite load. One day the little guy was fine, and the next he was down. In spite of treatment, he was soon dead. This was difficult on multiple levels. It was emotionally difficult because we really liked him, but also it called to question my abilities as a goat keeper. I felt this was a failure on my part. On a practical level, it meant we lost much needed genetic diversity for our Kinder breeding program. At that point, however, there was little we could do but press on.  With autumn approaching, we had another challenge to face.

That challenge, which is inherent in the Kinder Starter Kit, is the size difference between the proposed mating pair. Some Kinder breeders state the mission will be accomplished by the buck's desire and cleverness alone, while others use something like a straw bale to give the buck the height he requires. This is where we ran into difficulties. We didn't have baled straw at the time, so once we figured out that our buck Gruffy was too short to do the job without it, we tried leading a doe to a small ridge. If she would stand downhill with her rump facing the crest of the ridge, we figured he'd have a chance. We led the does to the correct position, but unfortunately Gruffy never quite seemed to catch on. Neither did the girls, who particularly did not like being made to stand in a specific spot.

Our next idea was to make a small platform. We called it our “Pygmy buck assist.” 

Our Pygmy buck assist

The idea was to place the doe in front of the platform with her back end up to it, and lead the buck onto the platform to do his job. Neither of our does was particularly cooperative, but we were committed to this project. In the hope that practice makes perfect, we continued with this method for several heat cycles. That the does continued to go into heat every three weeks was the indicator that neither had been bred. As the months passed and our does continued to go into heat like clockwork, I began to worry there was a possibility our plan wasn't going to work. It was frustrating to deal with their apparent lack of cooperation. I finally threw up my hands, opened the gate between the buck and doe pastures, and said, "Fine, see if you can do any better by yourselves." I put the girls in with their husband and leftthem together for the next three months.

Then the unexpected happened. One of my does broke her shoulder. Neither Dan nor I witnessed it, but a few hours earlier there was a brief rain shower. Jasmine was out in the pasture at the time and I saw her take off running toward the goat shed, because goats hate rain. The most likely scenario is that she slipped and fell as she rounded the corner to get into the shed. When I found her, she was standing in one of the stalls with her left front leg dangling in an odd position.

Initially, we thought she'd dislocated it, but we were clueless about what to do. We called our vet in hopes we could treat this at home. He said she would need to be examined in case of ligament damage, so we took her in. He could palpate a break, right under the shoulder in a place impossible to splint. The prognosis was not encouraging.

Deer Ridge Farms L Jasmine

Ordinarily, such an animal would be put down. Dan wasn't willing to accept that without more research, however. Also he wanted to verify whether or not she was pregnant. If she did have to be put down, we didn't want to kill the kid(s) too, if they had a chance to live. We had blood drawn for a pregnancy test and brought her home.

While we waited for the test results, I tried to make sure she remained comfortable, well fed, and had a clean stall and bedding. The pregnancy test results were negative. I was disappointed on the one hand, but relieved on the other. As much as I had hoped for our first Kinder kids, I worried about labor, delivery, and active, nursing kids for Jasmine with her leg, or more likely, separating them from her and then bottle feeding them.

I continued to treat and care for Jasmine, still hoping her leg would miraculously heal properly. As time passed, it became apparent it wouldn't, and she had great difficulty getting around on only three. In fact, she finally gave up trying. We decided that the thing that made the most sense was to take her and our wether to a meat processor. It was not the way we had hoped things would turn out, but also we knew that real life is not always fair, nor "happily ever after".

That left all my hopes in Surprise, our remaining Nubian doe. Every potential due date came and went. In the end we were kidless, Kinderless, and milkless. It was a discouraging experience and I began to question my goals. Our primary goal is working toward establishing a self-sustaining homestead. Kinders seemed ideal for meeting that goal, but I began to wonder if another breed couldn't achieve the goal as well.

About this same time that my husband Dan began mentioning a breed of goat he'd been admiring on the internet. It was the Kiko, a meat breed. The bucks, especially, were masculine and magnificent. I began to wonder why I couldn't create my own dual-purpose breed, a Kiko - Nubian cross. When I found an unregistered purebred Kiko buck for sale, I bought him. Surprise liked him immediately and it only took one visit for her to settle. In addition, I bought two more does, Lily, an unregistered Nubian and Ziggy, an unregistered Nigerian Dwarf. I bought Ziggy because she was in milk. I thought I'd breed her to Gruffy and, in fact, he was delighted with her, even from the other side of the fence; a woman his own size, I suppose. She, however, only had eyes for our hunky Kiko.

Ziggy & Gruffy

The following spring six beautiful kids were born, all Kiko-Nubian or Kiko-Nigerian crosses.  It was exciting to wonder what I could do these kids. I decided to call them Kikobians. I worked with these breeds for several breeding seasons. It was interesting and fun to experiment like this.

One day Lily went into heat, but the only buck around was Gruffy. She stood there at the fence, flirting with him and I thought, why not. I turned her in with him. It was impulsive, but I couldn't resist the possibility of that Nubian - Pygmy cross, i.e. unofficial Kinders. Unfortunately the other bucks caught on and broke through the gate, so that I couldn't be sure who had bred Lily. All I could do was hope and wait.

It was in that hoping and waiting that I knew I'd be faced with another decision if Gruffy had been successful. Our property is small, with only about 2 and a half acres fenced for pasture. That means I must be careful with the number of goats I keep. I do not want to overgraze and abuse the land. I want to keep a balance. If Lily perchance could give me Kinders, even if they weren't eligible for registry with the Kinder Goat Breeders Association, which would I prefer, Kinders or Kikobians?

When Lily gave birth to a beautiful set of spotted triplets, I knew in my heart that I would prefer Kinders. Experimenting with a new breed was fun, but I knew it would take years to properly evaluate the result. Kinders were already proven in the traits I wanted. Either one could help us fulfill our prime directive and I wasn't sure which way to go. So I prayed. If I could find any Nubian - Pygmy cross goats for sale, then that's the direction I would take, even if they couldn't be official Kinders. I mention "official" because the KGBA had trademarked the word "Kinder," so that it can only mean a Nubian - Pygmy cross goat eligible for registration with the association. That meant starting with registered parents, which Lily wasn't. However, it was the breed qualities I was after, and if that's all I could get, I would be satisfied with that. If I couldn't find any Nubian - Pygmy crosses, I would be content with my Kikobians.

My unofficial Kinder buck and the does

Within a couple of days I found a  Nubian - Pygmy buck for sale. I snapped him up. When Lily's kids grew too large to be half Pygmy, I paused again, because things weren't working out as I'd hoped. Still, I couldn't help but peruse Craigslist for more Nubian - Pygmies, because what else would I do with my new buck? When I found a doeling, I bought her, after selling off some of my Kikobian kids to pay for her. Then I found two more Nubian - Pygmy cross doelings. I sent an email to ask about them and kept looking while I waited for an answer. To my surprise, I found two registered Kinder does for sale, and only about 150 miles away. They were not being sold by a breeder, but by someone who had purchased them from a breeder farther away. These were more expensive, but this is what I had prayed for. Still, it was an emotional dilemma because I had gotten used to accepting an alternative. More prayer.

In the end, Proverbs 31:16 came to mind, "She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard." I had a bit of savings from book royalties; what better to do than invest it in Kinders?

I sold the rest of my Kiko, Nigerian Dwarf, and Kikobian goats. I bought the Kinder does, and learned about a Kinder breeder only two states away. From her, I purchased a registered buck for my new does. A second buckling followed soon after that, flying in all the way from California. He seemed like another miracle because it meant finding an airline that would take him plus meeting all the requirements to ship him across the country. At the end of the year I renewed my membership with the Kinder breeders' association, suddenly, but providentially, finding myself very official indeed.

My first Kinder Does

In terms of our prime directive of working toward sustainable self-reliance, the breed of goat was largely irrelevant. All goats provide the basics of milk, meat, kids, manure, and brush control. All require shelter, feed, minerals, water, protection, and whatever is necessary to keep them happy and in top health. All can have health issues and require veterinary care. The kids, of course, mean herd growth, but also having something to barter or sell. One of the things I learned from my Kikobians was that, in general, folks are looking for purebred goats. I always found it easier to sell my purebred goats (with or without papers) than the crossbred ones no matter what I called them. And registered goats were easier to sell than unregistered. As my California buckling's breeder said to me, it requires just as much to raise unregistered goats as it does to raise as registered goats. If Dan and I were going to try to make a living from our homestead, it made better sense to produce a quality product that people wanted to buy. As I contemplated that, I felt a sense of closure with my decision making. I had taken the right step.

Some folks will tell you that if you give up a thing it always comes back to you. I cannot say I have necessarily found that to be true, but it certainly was in this case. I have never doubted what Dan and I are doing on our homestead. We have longed believed that the agrarian life is the best one. Not necessarily rural agrarianism, but the social and economic model it presents. What will the future hold for my Kinders and me? That will be the stuff of many more goat tales to come.

Leigh Tate

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