Zoë Thorbergson is a passionate advocate for continuing education to promote goat health and welfare. Not only does Zoë bring an academic background to goat management she has cared for goats since early childhood. Her family had goats long before she purchased her first registered Nubian in 1986. Decades of showing, milk test, classification and raising calves and pigs on goat milk fostered an appreciation for having effective management protocols in place. It is not enough to just do the same thing year after year without knowing why, knowledge is key to progressing your herd and ensuring your goats welfare. Taking education seriously the following is short list of University level courses Zoë has completed:
We have used herbs for over 30 years, although we will use medication or wormers if necessary. We feel by far the best health tool is management to prevent disease, illness or parasites from becoming a problem. Nubians have been a part of my life since childhood. 1986 marked the year of my first "registered" Nubian along with joining the Canadian Goat Society.
My desire to learn proper herd management began a young age, by continually reading and applying new management tools. As a young teenager, I found formulating my own rations very exciting, although only rudimentary calculation could done with the Pearson square calculation, it was exciting none the less to know how to determine CP! When the University of Guelph offered the Dairy Goat Production course I signed up right away and went on to complete the Diploma in Agriculture. As well completed certificates in : Animal Care Program, Accredited Animal Health, Managing for Sustainable soils and New Farmer all offered by U of G. In addition, completed the following separate subjects: Feed Regulations, Feed Formulation, Feed Technology, Government Regulations (for feed formulation) offered by U of G. And in 2014 I graduated with a Masters of Animal Science.
Herd management has always been my first tool to prevent disease, illness or parasite overload. It is more effective to prevent than to treat a problem. We clean our barn daily to prevent cocci build up. We started doing our own herd fecal sampling (EPG McMaster method) starting in 1994. Our feeders are designed to prevent hooves from contaminating the feed.As well our water buckets are on the outside of the pen so they have to put there head through, which prevents water contamination. Check out the Resource page for our Feeder design.
Our feeding program is based on the NRC Small ruminant guidelines. We determine what is needed for each stage of growth, gestation, and milk production then through analysis determine what nutrients (energy, protein, minerals ) are needed then supplement accordingly. In addition to grain, forage and minerals, we also provide daily browse such as evergreen branches, alder when in leaf, and salal. I feel this provides the ultimate scratch factor for optimum rumen health. For over 30 year, in late gestation we also provide our mix of herbs, the does love it and we feel it provides the extra boost of micronutrients needed at this time. During the rest of the year, does, kids and bucks are offered buffet of fresh herbs daily, when possible, from our garden. The fresh herb mix may vary with what is in season at the time. We also offer sunchoke, dandelion and comfrey greens, mulberry during the growing months. And of course water which is the most the important nutrient is supplied free choice and each bucket is emptied then refilled twice a day. During the winter months we offer warm water daily.
Although we like to show, out main goal is breed an animal that is productive, has an easy temperament ( yes we feel temperament is an important trait!), easy to breed, kids easily, and is healthy. We do not use (have never used, nor plan to use) hormones to bring does into heat or if they are cystic, if they cannot breed naturally or do not take on a natural cycle then they will not be used in our breeding program.
We consider welfare of the animals very important so dam raise our kids. It provides a more natural start and reduces the stress on both doe and kids. Although we will supplement with bottle feeding some of the kids from large litters or if they are pre-sold and will be leaving at a young age. Many people ask if our kids are 'wild', yes they are 'wild' about mobbing anyone who comes in the pen for a treat or scratch. As we maintain a very small herd, we have lots of time to spend with each kid, that is one of the best parts of raising goats!
Although we aim to breed for good milk production it must come with high butter fat and protein! We feel the Nubian trait of high components is important to maintain within the breed. It helps makes wonderful cheese, outstanding Ice-cream, of course butter and generally makes the milk taste rich, sweet and creamy!
Vanilla goat milk Ice Cream with our home grown peaches
Our homemade dark chocolate goat milk
ice Cream (only milk no cream!) .