There comes a time in (almost) every goat farmer’s life where you need to bite the bullet, dive in head first… and buy a buck. After three years of owning goats and two seasons of borrowing bucks from friends’ herds, it was time for us to go shopping for our own leading man. It’s a big deal! A buck is half of your herd! I really didn’t want to screw the pooch on this one. So I did my research, gave it a really good thought, did some math (!!!!), then did more research and more planning. But then it came time to go shopping for our buck. Two weeks ago, we brought him home. His name is Humphrey Bogart (Bogey), our first leading man, and he’s amazing. Let me introduce you to him and walk you through the process of buying our first buck.
The first question that came to my mind was… when is it time to buy a buck instead of renting or borrowing? For us, we waited until we had enough female goats (does) that we wanted to breed. We waited until we knew we liked their genetics, milk production, personality and mothering skills. For the past two years we’ve only had 2-3 goats that were ready to be bred. But this coming fall, we’ll have 4-5. Next year we’ll have 5-7. When you’re getting up into these numbers, you probably want to start thinking of buying a buck instead of renting or borrowing. It makes sense financially, genetically and is a better use of your time.
The next question is… where do I look for a buck? This is most important. Like I said before, a buck is half of your herd so you want to make sure that his genetics are tip-top. Of course, you get what you pay for. You can go on craigslist or to an animal swap and find a buck every spring for $100 or less and have questionable health and genetics. But then you could go to a reputable breeder that has quality stock and pay a pretty penny. That buckling could cost anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars. We wanted a dairy buck from good milking lines, that had a great personality and is easy to handle. But we didn’t want to travel a great distance to get said buck. Luckily for us, Missouri is home to some excellent ADGA breeders. I contacted Windsong Farm in Springfield, MO (I knew that none of our does came from Windsong, so genetics wouldn’t be an issue). Windsong specializes in excellent Nubian dairy goats. They already had a great deal of their bucklings either reserved or pre-sold so I had to make a decision. And I had to make it fast. I saw one baby on their website that was beautiful, was still on the bottle and had great parents that I could see on site. He was the one.
Before I go on, let me explain a little bit what to look for in a buck. Just because he has “the goods” to get the job done, doesn’t mean that he is right for you. Never look a cheap buck in the wang. Isn’t that a saying? I’m sure someone has said that. But there are some specific things you should look for in a buckling. When you’re looking at a breeder’s website or better yet, visiting their farm, look at the parents. Actually, look at the dam (the mom). Look at her udder and teats, if she has a good looking bag and pipes, then you’re on the right track. Those genes are then passed down through the buckling and to his daughters. This gene doesn’t come from the mom’s side of the family, it actually comes from the dad’s. It’s like how the baldness gene in humans comes from the mother’s side and not the father’s side. It’s a weird switcheroo. Look at the buckling’s shape, size, how many brothers and sisters he has, body conformation, and temperament. Look at these attributions in his parents too. Think of how these things will affect your herd and the does that you’re breeding him to. You always want to “breed up” and add quality genetics into your herd. Otherwise, it’ll take you years to breed out bad genetics. Another thing to look for is his registration papers. We don’t register our does and we really don’t intend to. Registering your herd is a personal choice and we just choose not to register them. However, I did want to buy a registered buck. Why? Well, since I have his registration number, I can look up his family tree going back 5-6 generations at least! I can see on paper, in black and white, that this buckling is legit and from good stock. I know for a fact that he will be an improvement to our herd. I’m not just buying him cause he has a wang and he’ll give me more kids. I’m buying him for his family history and proven bloodline. And also… because I love him. Obviously.
Now that I had my eyes on the buckling that I wanted, it all came down to timing. We wanted to get a bottle baby for a few reasons 1) I love bottle feeding goats and 2) he would be easier to train and more human-friendly than a dam raised buckling. By getting him young, we would be able to make him our own. Have him adopt the ways of our herd, get used to our pasture, feeding and environment. And most importantly, get used to us. This guy is going to be 150+ lbs one day and go into rut! I want to be sure that I’ll still be the alpha when he gets bigger and stronger than me. The best way to do that is to train them from a young age while bottle feeding. I’m the boss/momma! The only problem is that we had wait for our does to kid. Usually, we would want all of our does to have all baby girls. But this year, we wanted one of our does to have a baby boy so that our soon-to-be new buck would have a wethered (castrated male) friend. So we waited and waited until Babs and Liza decided to kid.
Babs was the first to kid, she had one big baby boy during a thunderstorm. That’s the baby boy we wanted! Now it all came down to Liza. She has great genetics and since we already had our boy, I was hoping that she would give us twin girls. But what are the odds of that? Apparently they were pretty good. After I got home one night, I went in the barn to see her with two baby girls already standing and nursing! I checked their little lady parts about three or four times, I couldn’t believe it! It was real! Really real! We named the twin girls Bette Davis and Hedy Lamarr. We named Babs’ boy Bing Crosby. My heart grew three sizes with each happy baby bouncing around in our barn.
Now that everything was absolutely perfect on the homefront, it was time to shake things up and mess up this perfect utopian harmony. Dave and I took a four hour drive to pick up our buckling. Immediately, I felt like he belonged to me. I knew he was going to be a perfect fit into our farm family. On the way home, he snuggled underneath my jacket in the back seat. When it came time to introduce him to our herd, there were some head butts and a little bossing around. But all in all, they welcomed him in just fine. With him established as part of our herd, he became our first official leading man… so we named him Humphrey Bogart, Bogey for short.
This fall he’ll be mature and tall enough to breed our girls. In a few weeks, we’ll separate him and Bing from the herd so they can live together in the “man cave” until breeding season. I’m really excited for our herd expansion… this is huge for us! Right now we’re milking Babs and Liza and getting about a half gallon a day. Come breeding season we won’t have to worry about finding a buck to rent, introducing him to the girls and worrying about health and bio-security. Our goat game is going strong and on the right track! Just when I thought my heart couldn’t be any more full with love, just when I thought that my heart couldn’t get any bigger… one baby buckling proved me wrong and nestled underneath my coat, right into my heart.