Note: We do not need a Goatie WooWoo Alert for this blogpost!
I can’t really say that this is Goat Breeding 2012, as our girls got bred for the 2012 kidding season in January. We were really behind the times last year and our artificial insemination experiment didn’t get its show on the road until early January. That’s really pushing the breeding season for goats in this part of the world, and unfortunately the AI didn’t “take,” and we ended up transporting two of our 3 girls down to a friend’s farm to have Pippi and SnowPea bred by their Saanen buck.
This year I vowed to get started much earlier. Since we now have a contact with a wonderful AI vet, Dr. Whittaker from Turner, Maine, we decided to get started early. We did not use all of our semen straws last year, so the doc has them in a tank and we will proceed as last year, except in a more timely way (our girls are LaMancha, and we are always hoping to have close to purebred LaMancha babies).
Anyhow, yesterday our friend JoAnn of Beau Chemin Preservation Farm in Waldoboro emailed me to say that the hormones had landed, so I headed over there after work and picked up our box of goodies (she also is doing AI on her goats). Today was the day for the initial shot of estrogen plus the insertion of the hormone packs. Not something the girls were looking forward to, I must say. Our friend was here to lend a hand and the 3 girls are on their way. In a few weeks we will have the big event: the visit from the vet with his tricked-out van and wonderful staff. And then we cross our fingers and hope!
We are making definite progress in the goat breeding department. Today was the day that was appointed to give two more shots (estrogen and something called Foligon) to the girls as well as to remove the CIDR inserts. 51 hours from the removal and the shots is the target for optimal insemination. So the vet and his helpers will be here on Wednesday afternoon.
The girls are not difficult to round up, and today when I went out to get them taken care of, things went fairly well. After the shots I pulled their hormone packs out, and when they went into the paddock again they got so frisky that I couldn’t believe it! Of course, today was in the 40s again and it felt very like spring… but I have a feeling that being free of the CIDR must have felt great as well!
It’s that time of year again. I can say that almost any day of the year I guess, but this time it’s about the end of school and the beginning of some summer r&r. And farm work. And trying to play catch-up with all kinds of things. When I am feeling really stressed, which is typical at this time of year (and this year more so), all I want to do is knit or spin or weave. Or get lost in a book! So I have quite a venerable stack of books beside the bed and a list as long as my arm of the projects that I want to get done this summer.
When I was doing a very quick organizational move through my yarn supply I found one skein of a very dark brown, DK weight two ply. It was the last skein of yarn that I had had spun up from two of our ewes that we no longer have on the farm. They were two extraordinarily lovely Coopworth sheep; Dafka and her daughter Raven. (Dafka was one of the first Coopworth ewes that I bought). They stayed incredibly dark all of their lives, even into sheepy old age. That’s a little unusual for any black sheep, as most tend to “silver up.” But they didn’t. The real shame of it is that we had to cull them because their lambs were born with entropion every single time. (Entropion is a turned-under bottom eyelid that scratches and ulcerates the cornea and is so painful the lambs don’t get onto the udder and they don’t thrive unless you deal with the situation). I hated to see them go, but they made us some grand meat lambs, so I guess that you can say they did their part for the farm. I miss them and their beautiful, dark brown wool. I found one lonely skein when I was getting ready for the Fiber Frolic, and decided that I would keep it and knit it up into a scarf for myself. The Dafka/Raven scarf! I will wear it and remember them fondly.
I am using the Yarn Harlot’s One Row repeat pattern. It’s a good one for potato-chip knitting and I am carrying it with me wherever I go. It’s also reversible which makes it even nicer. So this last 250 yard skein will be a scarf that I will cherish. Our years with Dafka and Raven will not be forgotten!
Sunday while I was working outside and waiting for SnowPea’s kids to arrive, I decided it was time to get our yearling ewes Beezus and Ramona out of the mom’s pen and in with the other unbred group. They don’t really need the extra feed and it would also save some money. Beezus and Ramona are ewes out of our Lucy, who is a daughter of Lucky, the ram that we used this year. Lucy got bred this past fall but must never have settled, and it was probably a good thing, as she got bred by her father. (I know that line breeding is valued in some quarters, but I am not a fan at this moment in time). I have been hanging on to Beezus and Ramona, who are inseparable, intending to sell one of them when I could figure out which one I like better. Not the easiest task in the world. I am leaning toward Beezus, but I have to check their fleeces again.
Anyhow, during the post-prandial naptime in the sun on Sunday afternoon I thought that it would be a great time to get a halter on at least one of the sisters and lead her into the next paddock. So I got Ramona on the lead and unwillingly she let herself be led into the adjoining paddock. (Their sheltered area in the greenhouse is separated by some green and galvanized grid panels, but they can see each other). I was very pleased with myself for taking the opportunity to move one of them over. And I had thoughts of moving the other one the next day. I am sure that anyone can tell what’s coming next: and yes, when I took a break and got back up to the paddock, there were Beezus and Ramona, side-by-side on the hill in the mama’s paddock, pleased as can be with each other! I just can’t win.
A little sleep deprived, but all in all, very content this morning. Yesterday afternoon Pam came over to see Meadow’s new lambies, and as it had been raining hard, we didn’t rush right out to the greenhouse. When we did get there, who was inside, but Lucy – a first-timer – and two gorgeous, black ewe lambs! Talk about color genetics! Mr. Big, the AI white Border Leicester ram is the father. And these aren’t the only black lambs that have come from his crop of babies this year. Apparently, although my understanding of color genetics is sketchy, I would think that Mr. Big must have some recessive black genes in there. I was thinking that we have never had black lambs from him in the past, but I need to look at my records to be sure. It’s been a very interesting lambing!
I locked everyone into the greenhouse last night as the weather was getting worse, and again in the wee hours we had another set of twins, this time from Raven, a very dark ewe. Two white ram lambs from Mr. Big. And they are big boys! 11 and 12 pounders. Very cute, and very quick on the uptake. Full tummies in no time at all.
And we still have our 50/50 split of rams and ewes!
Our first early morning lambing went off without a hitch. Meadow had a beautiful black ewe and black ram a little after 2 a.m. Our son very kindly checks on the ewes and does before he goes to bed (which is way later than we do!) so we have the ability to get a little bit of sleep if there looks like nothing is going on. He knocked early this morning to tell us that Meadow was looking like a possible, having taken up residence in the deserted greenhouse in one of the “favorite” lambing corners. We gave her a little bit of alone time, and when John got out there he called to say that number 2 was being dried off (the picture above) and number 1 was up and about and mostly dry. They are the first lambs of the year that were sired by a ram lamb of ours from last year: Hamish the blue Coopworth. Both the lambs have the beautiful markings on their eartips – lighter around the edges – and the white teardrops that indicate the “blue” gene. And the lighter grey “saddle” around their middles. Sheep color genetics are quite the mystery to me, but our friends at Hatchtown Farm have spoken about them in their blog. I really look for the “blue” in our Coopworths as I think the silver-blue-grey that comes out in their fleeces is the best thing ever. And as Pam of Hatchtown points out, dyeing the silver fleece or yarn yields such an amazing color palette. Much more subtlety and depth than on a white fiber.
So we have two more lambies in the greenhouse and still have our 50/50 split on the sexes. I have never seen it fall out this way! When I did chores this morning, Meadow’s babies were hopping around the pen while Meadow had a well-deserved rest.
I wonder what Raven, Lucy and HoneyBea have planned for us tonight! They were all due over the weekend…
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!