We are often asked how we manage to have so many friendly, calm animals at Learning Tree Farm. Take a look and let us give you a peek into the working side of our farm.
We breed our sheep and goats every year so we can share the wonder of newborn lambs and kids with our visitors every spring. To accomplish this goal, we start the process in the late fall– as the gestation for sheep and goats is 5 months. We have local farmers who generously offer to house our ram (male sheep) and buck (male goat) until we are ready to breed. This is important because we have limited space and do not have the proper facilities to separately house the males to keep the breeding timing predictable. We bring the rams and bucks to the farm during breeding time.
Also, the males can be aggressive at times, so for us to continue to allow visitors to interact with our animals, we keep the males on site only for breeding.
At about the 4-month mark, the mothers start to develop their udders. This is usually our first sign that they are pregnant and will soon deliver. The goats also begin to fill out and look very wide as the babies grow quickly in the last few weeks. We increase the amount of grain they eat daily and still provide unlimited hay and fresh water. At delivery time, the does are excellent mothers and we usually do not have to intervene. Our goats normally have twins or triplets without any human assistance. Of course, situations do occur now and then and we need to step in to help, but fortunately, that is a rare occurrence.
Once the babies are born, we allow the mother to have a few days to bond before we allow visitors to interact with both mothers and babies. This is part of the process that helps to tame the animals. We acclimate them to being handled from a very young age. We also have strict rules about food – we do not let visitors or staff hand feed any of the animals. This is extremely important in keeping our animals calm and quiet. If they expect food from visitors, they will start to run and jump up on them. We want to ensure that even our youngest visitors have a positive experience. So if the animals only expect to be pet, they are much quieter and will not knock people over. We also are very selective in deciding which babies to keep to maintain our breeding flock and only the very calmest animals stay to interact with visitors and are first bred at 1.5 years old.
When summer arrives and the babies are old enough to be without their mothers it’s time to say goodbye. From time to time we will keep babies to grow and keep our flock healthy but most of our livestock is sold with the goats going to other farms as pets and the sheep being sold at market for food. It all begins again in the fall, so be sure to pop out to the farm in the next couple of weeks for one more visit with some of your favorite babies of this year’s season.