It must be Spring, because the pitter-patter of little feet can be heard non-stop in the Animal Encounters barn. Conner Prairie partners with select Indiana family farms to raise a wide variety of bottle-fed newborns. So far this season we have two bull calves, an Angus and a Simmental/Angus cross. Their gentle nature, cute faces, and ridiculously long eyelashes are sure to please.
We also have goat kids; a Nubian buck, an Alpine buck, 3 Nigerian Dwarf bucks and a Nigerian Dwarf doe. That’s a lot of bottles to feed!
The Nigerian Dwarf is a new rare breed to Conner Prairie this year. The pint-sized caprines only grow to about 20 inches tall. Their small stature means they do not require as much space or feed as their larger dairy goat counterparts and their gentle and friendly personalities make them good animal projects for small children in 4H or FFA. The females can produce up to 2 quarts of milk per day or more. So far this season, we are finding they are also just plain cute and fun to be around. Every morning it seems like they are training for the Goat Olympics. Some are better at their dismounts than others.
A Boer goat mother and her young doe are here representing the modern meat breed of goat. The doe kid has decided napping in the exact center of the hay feeder is a lot like resting on a throne so she can most often to be found there or bouncing back and forth over the backs of the calves. Also visiting is a very sweet adult Saanen doe, named Begonia, that we are milking every day to provide milk for all those babies.
A Suffolk ewe lamb is the first of many lambs guests will spend time with this year. We anticipate Horned Dorset lambs will be arriving next, then soon after a few Tunis lambs. We have specifically asked the mothers to deliver the lambs during business hours so guests can watch. I think many will comply with that. Although the Leicester Longwool, another new rare breed for us, seems like she may have stage fright so we won’t hold it against her if she wants a private birthing room.
The Leicester Longwool is a critically rare sheep breed that we are proud to help preserve. Once popular in colonial times with farmers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the breed lost favor and became extinct in North America. Through the efforts of the livestock program at Colonial Williamsburg the breed was reintroduced to the United States in the 1980s. Conner Prairie invested in two adult ewes this season, one we believe is pregnant, and we are very much looking forward to the arrival of the lambs.
Between miniature goat kids and extremely rare lambs it is looking like it will be a fun and exciting season in the Animal Encounters barn this year.