About Us

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I fell in love with Nubians back in the seventies when we lived in Devon and a family friend had a big herd. I used to go round all the A &P shows helping her show them and sleeping over outside their stalls in big tents and having my favourite doeling,  Zilla, follow me round all over the show with no collar or lead.

Many years later in New Zealand, we bought our own block of 22 acres in Canterbury and someone offered me a Nubian doe in milk. One thing has led to another and I now have a herd of between 20 and 30 goats. Although they are a mixture of breeds ,  I have an ongoing breeding programme to upgrade Nubians using the more high yielding  Swiss breeds and pure bred Nubian bucks. This has given me some nice animals with greater hybrid vigour but I still have  a way to go …so I have downsized  the herd quite a bit this year to make way for a very busy season in Spring 2015 as I will be using my new and rather gorgeous HR buckling, El Rojo, over the girls next Autumn.

My aim is to end up with a herd of upgraded Nubians with excellent hybrid vigour more suited to the cold South Island climate and with higher milk yield than most Nubies . I also personally like lots of colour, ear length, limb length and other accentuated Nubian features. Getting exactly what I am aiming for is going to be a long process, particularly since I am in the SI and breeders are few and far between down here! But it is definitely going to be possible. I was really chuffed a couple of years  ago to have one of my does awarded Judges Choice at the South Island show after another  judge I know asked if she could take a couple of my goats along to show with her lot.

Winter is obviously a pretty quiet time of year for us but I do milk a few does through as I have a constant demand for milk. So in Winter it feels like you just finish the milking and have time for some housework and a sit down, before you have to feed out again! We feed the whole herd daily with brewers grains that we get from a brewery in Christchurch ( the milkers get extras of course and an extra feed in the morning) and they get ad lib hay,  plus regular seaweed and molasses. All our stock ( we also have Highland cattle) do really well on brewers mash and I thoroughly recommend it as a free feed source if you can get hold of it.  It is slightly fermented and promotes rumen health and we have never had any issues with bloat even when they eat it ad lib.

Once Spring comes and milk yield goes up, I make cheese every day, mostly hard cheeses to see us through the Winter, but also a blue Roquefort type cheese which stores well  and Brie and huge amounts of the very versatile Chevre.  I teach cheese and soap making classes when I have time which always involves  a trip to the goat barn and a hand milking session which people love!.   The emphasis of all the classes is always on a very simple approach  so the recipes I have developed over the years are super straightforward and easy for anyone to follow. I particularly love teaching people about old fashioned artisan ways to make cheese before the modern day cultures and equipment were so readily available.  Some examples of these can be found in my favourite goat book called The Book of the Goat by Stephen Henry Pegler .  For example, the French used to use bread mould to make blue cheese, something I have tried and had great success with!

I have had so much help and support since I started with goats and  have  learnt a lot through necessity and  my own interest  so now  I find that I am the one doing a lot of the supporting and advising! I am absolutely passionate about these wonderful and  intelligent creatures to the point where my hubby who is a psych nurse,  diagnosed me with what he calls Caprine Obsessive Disorder!  I spend a lot of time researching ,reading and learning as much as I can about goats but I have to say that some of the best information and advice I have received comes from Irene Ramsay based in Otago who is immensely knowledgeable and has saved me hundreds of dollars in vets bills over the years . She is always willing to share the wealth of knowledge she has acquired over the dozens of years she has had goats and I recommend checking out some of her articles on line. The U-say Ranch website has quite a few and they make very interesting reading. In fact, thanks to Pat Coleby and Irene in particular, I have only had to call the vet out twice in 8 years and one of those occasions was for a euthanasia!
 
 

I also really rate Juliette Baraicli de Levy’s book, Herbal Handbook for the Farm and Stable. She has a herbal remedy for difficult births which is very effective and easy to put together ( but you do need access to some ivy leaves!) …a true life saver in difficult births. I used it very successfully on a Nubian first timer who went into labour and was obviously in difficulty.

So overall we have a very holistic approach to goat care, using minerals, browse, herbs  etc as  the first port of call if a goat gets sick but using conventional treatments too when necessary. Obviously keeping your herd well mineralised and keeping worm loads down are key to keeping goats healthy but also being aware that each goat is different and some have higher requirements than others.

The herd is treated pretty much like an extended member of our family with the does being able to keep their kids for months before they are weaned ( and that is really to give the poor Mums a break) as well as being well fed, brushed  and generally fussed over on a daily basis! They seem to thrive on it.

One of the great things about our having goats and making cheese is all the interesting people we get to meet from Wwoofers (voluntary farm workers) to goat herders from other countries who come and stay and share their own knowledge and goat stories. Last year we has Leshiy staying who is  a Russian speaking goat herder from Israel and ran over a hundred goats similar to Nubians  in the desert in the Golan Heights . He was a fascinating source of information and I learnt a lot from him. He even showed me a photo of one of their working bucks who had an udder and produced over a litre of milk a day, something I could not have believed was possible though I have since heard of other bucks doing the same.

We are really looking forward to the future and in particular seeing how the breeding programme pans out over the coming years. I am also hoping to have time to do more shows in the summer.
If you are interested in finding out more about us and our goats, you could check out the website tricoloregoats.com. And if you are down this way, visitors are always welcome!
 
 

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The following article below was written at the request of the New Zealand Rarebreeds Society and was published in their January 2012 newsletter.
 

 
 

Nubians: Crossbreeding with a Purpose

 

When I was eleven, I was taken by my mother to visit some new friends who lived in the Exe valley near Bickliegh in Devon (UK) They had a gorgeous old rundown farmhouse and ran a beautiful herd of Anglo Nubians. It was there that my love affair with goats began. I joined the family on many outings to shows and fell in love with my first goat friend (Goat) Zillah. This tri-coloured Nubian doeling followed me around the show grounds, free of collar and lead and we had a fine time together.
Many years came and passed before I found goats again and during those years, I always felt something was missing in my life.
Well now, with my own herd of goats and having been officially diagnosed with Caprine Obsessive Disorder (a term coined by my psychiatric nurse husband to describe me!), I can now say that my life is complete!
And so to the point of this article: crossbreeding with a purpose and why:
I am not sure exactly how many Nubians there are in New Zealand but I know there are not that many.  My first Nubian doe and Nubian buck came from completely different sources but their paperwork showed me that they had the same father. I would think this is quite common especially in the South Island and with such a tiny gene pool available, very inbred animals are inevitable. This is the case with so many rare breeds.
This is not to dismiss inbreeding out of hand. Managed inbreeding, in the form of line breeding, can be a valuable tool in increasing hybrid vigor and other positive attributes and this is something I am also planning to try in the coming years. Line breeding, it seems, works particularly well when animals have previously been crossed out  (up graded) with another breed, as is the case with my herd.
One of my main aims is to increase resilience and to improve overall stamina in the goats I breed, which brings me to how I got started on this path and to the subject of  ‘The Nubian versus the Cold’:
It is my experience that Nubians dislike the cold (and wet) intensely. When I got my first doe in milk, she was a purebred Nubian who I purchased from a breeder in North Canterbury. It was the middle of winter and the first thing I noticed about her was how she suffered so badly from the cold…so I naturally bought her a coat. The Boer does I had at the time didn’t seem to have this problem due to a fluffy winter undercoat they possess.
There is no doubt that Nubians love the heat and the sun. The New Zealand climate, particularly in the South Island, is often not hot and sunny! They do not grow a fluffy undercoat in winter like other breeds and they are so sensitive to the cold, that they can develop frostbite on their pendulous ears, which were originally designed to act as a cooling device in their desert ancestors. A friend and fellow breeder goes as far as sewing woolly socks together in which she encases the ears of her most vulnerable goats in very cold weather!  The lack of fluffy undercoat just serves to exacerbate this and other problems. Cold causes weight loss and also compromises the immune system leading to illnesses such as Pneumonia. Prior to coating, Jilly would be shivering badly on frosty mornings at milking time.
Providing a coat for a Nubian in cold weather is all well and good and exactly the right thing to do but would it not ultimately be better to breed an animal, where possible, that did not require a coat in the first place?
I decided that perhaps if I bred Jilly with a buck with a nice winter coat, that her kids may have a winter coat and could be hardier in other ways too.
A breeder I knew had an English buck that I decided to put over her.
I was quite happy about the cross as I figured that an English (Anglo) buck plus Nubian doe would give me a goat that would still essentially be Anglo Nubian – this seemed to make sense, so I tried it.
The resulting kids were nice, semi true to Nubian type, with winter undercoats and good hybrid vigor…  but small. The English side didn’t do much for the udder or teat size either!
A year and a half later I bred these kids with a Nubian buck with a much better result but these goats were still on the small side.
At about this time I helped run the Dairy Goat Association stall at the Rare breeds Auction at Willowbank in Christchurch. I was amazed that nearly every person who came to chat was looking for Nubians. This spurred me on.
What I was really looking for was a larger goat that looked like a stunning Nubian (long ears, a coat with lots of colour and beautiful sheen, arched nose etc). A goat, to all intents and purposes, that conformed to Nubian breed standard but was hardier, had better milk yield and tolerated the cold much better that the average Nubian.  If a goat like that could be produced through strategic crossbreeding, then other people could benefit by owning them too!
So I decided to try the larger- framed goats. I put my registered Nubian buck Harry over a half Nubian/Saanen/BA doe I had acquired as well as a couple of Toggenburgs and Saanens.  What a success!
The half Nubian doe produced triplets including a ¾ doeling who in November last year won the Judges Choice Cup at the New Zealand Dairy Goat Association Club Show in Christchurch. I was delighted, especially since the judge was a Nubian breeder from the North Island. I assumed I must be doing something right!
I am now completely convinced that strategic crossbreeding,  (crossbreeding with a purpose), can indeed offer a huge amount in terms of genetics and overall hybrid vigor and could be the way forward for some or our rare breeds in this country.
What could be better and more positive than breeding an animal for its all round ultimate benefit, whilst retaining its defining traits and enhancing characteristics it is lacking?
My favourite book on goats was written in the early 1900s and is called “The Book of The Goat” by Henry Stephen Holmes Pegler who, by the way, lists Nubians in his chapter on crossbred goats. He is very much in favour of crossbreeding and states: “ From my own experience, … I do not consider that for practical purposes a pure specimen is always the best…There is no doubt that by a combination of the Nubian and Swiss breeds…handsome animals and splendid milkers are to be obtained. There can be no doubt that the chief advantage gained by the crossing of breeds is the introduction of absolutely new blood, and the effect of this is quickly observable in improved stamina and more abundant milk flow.”
(P. 44 The Book of the Goat; Containing Full Particulars of the Various Breeds of Goat and Their Profitable Management. Henry Stephen Holmes Pegler)
It seems that strategic crossbreeding was popular with breeders, in the UK at least, in the early part of the 1900s. And thank goodness!  It did, after all, create the Anglo Nubian, which would not have existed if it had not been for crossbreeding. In fact this breed of goat was created from crossing an assortment of different breeds of which the Nubian and English goats were ultimately only a small part.
In conclusion, it is still early days but I am delighted that this simple approach to crossbreeding with very clear aims is beginning to show the results I had hoped for and I am full of excitement for the future. I would welcome visits from anyone who would like to see my herd in person and talk to me more about what I am doing. I for one do not see crossbreeding with a defined purpose as being anything but beneficial to my favourite breed of goat…the wonderful, the adorable, and very special …  Anglo Nubian.
Sarah Page
January 2012

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