The heavens have aligned and yesterday was the day that we separated the group of girl goats into two (intended breeders and those who will not be bred). And it also worked out that we were able to grab Reddog the buck and put him in with the intended four does. We planned for every eventuality, going into battle calmly and carefully (if you have ever handled a buck in rut, you will know what I mean!).
Oh my! I try to get the buck in with the does when none of the girls is in heat so they get used to each other for awhile before the buck gets to do his thing. (Bucks are very aggressive with the does, and sometimes I think the girls get scared and will do their best not to have anything to do with the big stinkpot, even when it’t time). This time it worked as planned, none of the girls is in heat at this point.
When we put his stinky butt in with the 4 girls, he went absolutely nuts! The first doe in his sights was Beezus, the extremely shy brown doe. He chased her around the paddock with his nose up her tail, until he realized that she is not in heat. And he did that for each of the girls in turn. It was very funny for us, although probably not for the does. In time, the action ratcheted down, and you could see all the girls relaxing. So we left them to their own devices for the night.
Today things continued to be fairly low-key, but every once in awhile you can see Reddog catch a whiff of something interesting, and off he goes to investigate. A lot of that involved trying to get a sniff of the girls in the next paddock… it’s always greener!
And so we wait to see how things go. Reddog was only able to breed one doe last year, and I am desperately hoping that he has grown up and can meet the challenge!
Not the nicest of smells, that is for sure! We are getting ready for the breeding season, and one way to tell that it is time is that the bucks smell so bucky. Yow! The older the buck, the stronger and more eye-watering the stench. You know it is autumn, when.
I have been getting nervous about whether or not Reddog the Guernsey will be able to do his thing with more than one doe. We have been watching the buck behavior, and the Lamancha buck (who loses every battle with Reddog) has been hogging the corner of the paddock that meets the corner of the girls’ pen. He is always over there, stretching to see the ladies. I was worried that Reddog was not showing the appropriate interest, and that had me in a bit of a panic. Anything that goes wrong at this stage can mess up your whole following year!
Well, Reddog has proven us wrong. He is doing all the appropriate things, but whereas Oreo just stands in that corner as a matter of course, Reddog kicks him out if one of the girls is in heat. So, I am as sure of anything as I can be. And when our friend Emily came to help me with the hoof trimming, she started to laugh because she told me his feet were absolutely saturated and dripping wet. Not because we have had rain, and even the dew would not be that bad. He is holding up the honor of all buck-dom, and peeing all over his legs. That’s about the best thing I have heard all year!
And so it goes. I am not in a total panic about the breeding, but I am going to pop Reddog in with the breeders a little earlier than I had wanted, just to make sure that we have time to see what is going on. And if he is shooting blanks, we will have a chance to put the other buck in without losing too much ground. I really don’t want babies in March, April is really my target date. If Reddog does breed someone next Wednesday, our babies would be due around March 11. Earlier than I want, but the does cycle in approximately 18 day turns, which can put us back almost a month, which then leads to later and later kids. (One year we had a doe in heat on New Year’s Day. That is a breeding nightmare, and not much fun!).
This year I am not even minding the big buck smell, because I am hoping that it means the hormones are working correctly. But you just never know with animals… The best laid plans and all that.
And so October is in and we finally got a little rain. I don’t even think it amounted to 0.5,” but at least it was something… we even have a few puddles in the driveway! That’s quite a novelty for us this summer.
Since I need to be finished with milking before I go away toward the end of this month, to that end I have been spacing out the milking schedule a little more and more. I know some folks go from twice a day, or every 12 hours, to an 18 hour divide (which means the middle of the night), but I back it off to once a day as I am lowering the feed ration a bit. The first few days are tough, lots of milk in that udder and almost tough to get it emptied before the girls rebel and want off the stand.
And so I am working on this right now. I don’t want to stop milking, I love the milk that we get in the autumn, the curds are larger and we get more cheese for our efforts out of each 3 gallon batch I make. But this year family obligations and another weekend (a fun weekend), have conspired against me! Two 4-day weekends in a row that I will be out of town. Neither my husband or my son milk. Even if one of them started, the girls wouldn’t be trusting them all that quickly. The milk and cheese thing really is my specialty, so I plan accordingly.
I have been milking just once a day for the past 5 days, and I did my first 36 hour separation today. I won’t milk again until Tuesday morning. On Wednesday the girls are going to be wormed in preparation for breeding, and that will effectively mean the end of the milk usage, even though I will continue milking farther and farther apart. We have a 7 to 9 day withdrawal on the wormers that we typically use, so by the time that is up, so will the milk!
Another year’s cycle is coming around, and as much as I love Joni Mitchell’s rendition of The Circle Game, I am kind of sad to see this part of the year go into dry dock. But, then we have the excitement of the Breeding Game to attend to! Farming is all about the yearly cycles, and each one is exciting in its own way. And this year I get to experience it all without the stress of the day job. Yay for retirement :*)
Eat! For the goats, it’s their most favorite part of the day and they know all the cues that lead up to the magic moment when they get their grain. Hay is pretty exciting, too, but not the same as the jingle of the sweet feed in the buckets!
There is a lot of jockeying for position at one of the 4 trough feeders. It’s quite entertaining to watch then run from one to the other, many times leaving a whole trough alone, full, with no one on that chow line. They tend to go to a feeder from the right and kind of move left, so some drop off that line, and run to another.
Sometimes we referee, if one goat is getting pushed out of each feeder in turn. Goat society is pretty ruthless, so most days we make sure to watch pretty closely. There is usually one goat that is at the bottom of the pecking order and needs a little protection. We see much the same behaviors in middle schoolers! Too bad the goats don’t ever grow out of it.
Ah those goaties! The numbers are going to be going down a bit now, and one goat is going to freezer camp in the next day or two. Sigh. SnowPea is getting old, and if I feel I cannot breed her any more, which is the case, then she may as well feed us while she still has good body condition.
The Train is on a full schedule these days. I am only milking two of the goats, Pippi and Battie, but each milking is getting me 3/4 of a gallon. This means that every 48 hours I have enough milk to begin a new 3-gallon batch of chevre (with leftover milkiness for my grandson and for anyone who wants it in coffee). It’s lovely! As the lactation season goes through its cycle, I get more and firmer curd structure, so I actually can get more cheese per gallon than I do early in the lactation cycle. Yesterday I got 15 chevre forms out of the 3 gallons, and earlier in the season I was lucky if I got 8 or 9.
Most of my days are spent on the chores surrounding handling milk and cheese. Sanitizing! But it’s worth it. I will end up with a good amount in the freezer to dole out during the long winter and the early spring. If I can find a day when I am not running in 20 directions, I have to try and make some more Haloumi and Mozzarella as well.
Maybe I will be able to dabble in some aged cheeses as well this fall. If I can find a wine cooler, and then also dig out a place to put it. Definitely a work in progress!
Another absolutely fantastic day on the coast of Maine! It was definitely a good one. The weather was perfect, even to the point of not much wind. I was beginning to prep for a big cleanup day (today), but I also had some eggplant that needed to be turned into parmigiana.
While I was having my morning coffee, I began the red sauce. (At this time of year that means that it’s 3 cans of Italian tomatoes, plus all the garlic, onions, carrots and celery – plus the little end of sauce pork I had stashed in the freezer). I got that puppy going and then we went out to get some things done with the goats.
I have been wanting to separate Reddog the Guernsey buck from the large group of does. I didn’t want to do it in the really cold weather in case Jingle doesn’t allow him into the shelter while she is getting to know him. So yesterday we thought it would be just about time. We got him in with Oreo and Jingle, and there was some jousting. He got into Jingle’s face right off, and was paid back with a swift kick to the head (but Jingle made contact with Reddog’s horns). Oreo confronted Reddog, and they got into it a little, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.
We were watching them through the day today, and there was a little sparring by the two bucks, but so far it looks okay. Today was a mudroom-clean-out-day. And a dentist appointment. Exhausting! But we still have some eggplant parmigiana leftover. It’s soft enough for me to eat tonight :*)
I don’t know! I think it’s close. I am dying to be outside and enjoying the sun. One more day until April vacation begins. I am looking forward to it more than I can say.
I feel like I am starting to have a weekly blog instead of a roughly every-other-day-blog. But it’s okay.
Things are chugging along as usual. Nothing out of place. Waiting for our next goat kids which are due in May. Cleaning up around the farm, trying to get our pigeon pairs together. Reading some new YA books and going to the chiropractor to see if I can get my hip up to par. So far it’s really helping. Walking is much improved and I am feeling better in general. Just hanging in the paddocks in the sun with the goats in every spare moment.
It’s been quite a few weeks. Getting ready for a winter that hasn’t really landed yet continues. I am not complaining, however! We don’t usually get this much grace time for winter prep in the animal paddocks.
Golden Guernsey update: our girls Batty the Beautiful and Saffron the Lovely are doing well. We bought them as bred does, and I was extremely upset when Saffron went into heat. The little buck that my friend Jane and I went in on together is still in Vermont at Jane’s house. He is quite young yet, and the news is that he is not yet mature enough to breed the girls. Which left me in a terrible bind! No Guernsey buck, and a pregnant doe. Actually, all but Batty the Beautiful are open. Sheesh. What a pickle! So I have put our only buck in with the girls, and so far, no action. Saffron did knock the poor guy around, so I hope that he has the desire to hang in there :*)
Marigold update: we did our best to get our Marigold up and moving, but things just didn’t work out. She was our sweet girl and a doe that I had hoped to be on the farm for a very long time, but it just wasn’t a go. John put her down on Sunday, so it was not a very great day, despite the beautiful weather. Her mother, Big Zelda, had begun sleeping far away from Marigold’s pen, so we knew that she had already acknowledged the fact that her girl was not well. This was an extremely tough one for me. We have lost animals and had to put some down in the past, but she was just 18 months old. It never makes sense.
On a happier note, we got our Christmas tree, even as we are celebrating Hanukkah! It’s a pretty one. We have not been able to find anything suitable on our 20 acres (weener Charlie Brown evergreen abound, but nothing remotely nice), so we went to a local tree farm and got a 7′ lovely little number. Our grandson was not impressed with our choices, but I am! (The other day he asked me how old I am. I told him I am 61. He looked at me and asked, “Are you shrinking? I think that someone your age ought to be a lot taller!”). And there we have the viewpoint of the next generation :*)
And so it goes. The holidays are upon us and I am doing my best to not get caught up in the stress of it all. I am sure that we will get the tree decorated, and we will get the presents wrapped. It’s coming,
While all our joy is devoted to our new Golden Guernsey does, at the same time we are dealing with a potentially devastating situation with my favorite yearling doe, Marigold.
When I got home from Vermont last Sunday afternoon, everyone was fine. On Tuesday morning I went out to do chores about 5:20 a.m., and I found that Marigold was on the ground, pulling herself around with her front legs. Her back end was not working, although her legs have power, but her back is not cooperating. The classic symptoms of Meningeal Worm infestation. (The worm goes into the spinal column and wreaks havoc with the nervous system). My beautiful girl, strong and lovely, is struggling with a very ugly problem.
I am devastated. We have two new Golden Guernsey does, but I have been counting on Marigold to be one of our breeding stalwarts. Not to be, I know, but it’s a blow to the farm plan. She is one of my favorite goats, one of the most colorful and friendly, and I am grieving for her struggle with this disease. Those damn snails that carry the awful worm. Aargh! We will see how things go. As of today she has had 5 days of the prescribed treatment, so now it is up to her and the vitamin injections. Fingers crossed!
We are finally able to announce that we have some new friends on the farm! Saffron and Batty, our Golden Guernsey goatie girls.
I have been wanting (well, lusting after might be a better way to describe it), Golden Guernseys for at least 30 years. I read about them way back when, and even though I adore my Lamanchas, the Golden Guernseys have been a dream that I never thought would come true. They are smaller than most of the Alpine breeds of milk goat, have long lovely red/blond hair, and are reputed to be extremely docile and laid-back. Getting genetics from Europe has been difficult for years because of the fear of disease transfer. Bringing animals into the country is impossible, but sometimes the genetics can get into Canada, and then eventually over the border.
That is what happened with the Guernseys. Channel Island goats and cows have a really wonderful reputation for being wonderful milk animals, with high butterfat ratios to the amounts of milk that they give. I am hoping that my Guernsey/Lamancha crosses will be a winning combination.
Saffron and Batty are bred does. We got them from Ardelia Farm in northern Vermont. My friend Jane, who lives in Peacham, Vermont, and I also bought a buck to share from Ardelia. Right now he is at her house, but hopefully soon he will be here to take care of some of our Lamancha does. And so it goes. New genetics on the farm! New hope for the future of our smallholding. It’s a new endeavor here at Ruit Farm!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!