Category Archives: Golden Guernsey goats

Busy week and some moving

Saffron with her babies

Yes, it’s been a busy couple of weeks.  Out of 9 goats in the girls’ pen, 4 have now moved on to their new home.  Luckily enough, they all went together:  Eleganza, Saffron and two babies.  They couldn’t have found a better home in Sarah and Tully’s place in Westbrook, Maine, where they are with other goats and young children.  I hope to get some updates, although from the sound of it they are all well, and from photos it looks like they are in a lovely spot.

And then my special baby, Jingle the Donkey, left for her new home last Sunday.  We have also lucked out in that she is not too far away for me to visit, and for the first time since she was very young, she is living with two other donkeys!  There are goats there as well, which will certainly not require her to do any adjusting, at least not much!  I have felt like a mom whose oldest child has just started kindergarten or preschool, wanting to know if he/she is making friends and having a good time!  Her new owner has been keeping me updated, and it sounds like she is getting the hang of things there.  Jingle has hit the sweet spot with these folks, as they are very knowledgable and loving animal people.  I can’t be too sad knowing where she is!  (You can read about her new adventures on Daryl’s blog FairWinds – she has two lovely posts up about Jingle)

And now it seems that we are finally getting some introduction to summer, although they are still predicting a bit of rain for the weekend.  It’s such a kick to have the leaves out on the trees again and to have some sun to enjoy along with it, that I hope we don’t get too much rain!  I am so relieved I won’t have to figure out hay for next winter… it’s not looking like a great haying season so far with all the coolness and wet.  Fingers crossed that this passes and lots more hay can be cut!

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The Saffron conundrum

Saffron

When waiting for the babies to arrive, I always think longingly of when I can start getting more sleep, and of when the order and organization of the day can get back to a new normal.  I don’t know why I am so surprised when that doesn’t happen like the flip of a light switch!  And this year is not going to pass without a bump in the road, either.

Saffron had a very tough time last year when I thought she had toxemia or milk fever after her babies were born and it turned out to be mastitis.  She mothered her babies but had almost no milk for quite a long time.  We bottle fed those girls and they did fine in the end, though.  I have been watching her very closely for signs of mastitis this year, and unfortunately, she has it again.  Although this year I didn’t waste time treating her for other things and just got right to the antibiotics, vitamin B, and udder massages.  Her babies are only drinking from the right half of her udder (which runs out of milk pretty quickly), and the left side keeps getting bigger and bigger, and they can’t get on the distended teat.  I can get the girls on that side after I milk some of it out, but once I am back in the house I don’t think they touch it at all.  It also seems to be a little tender for Saffron, and that could be part of it.  And so my new normal has been making many trips a day and into the evening to milk her left side and also to get the girls on that side of the udder.

Freedom!

The biggest difference this year is that Saffron does not appear to feel sick like she did last year, which is a huge relief.  She has been very much herself, and never stopped eating her grain and hay.  I have had her and the two sweet little girls in a nice large pen in the back of the greenhouse where they are surrounded by everyone else, but I know that is quite restrictive and I was as ready as Saffron for them to be released.  Her girls gained a pound since yesterday and are really full of beans, so after the worst of the rain today, I let them out into the big paddock world.  (The girls had not been gaining as well as they should have, although they have fared better than I expected).

Oh my gosh, those girls did not hesitate a moment!  They began running and jumping with all the rest of the little ones, and mama Saffron was standing in the middle of the action trying to keep them in her sights, calling to them the whole time.  They didn’t stray too far, but they are fast little imps and took great advantage of their new freedom.

If we could just get a nice stretch of weather at some point, they will really be tearing up the place and enjoying the days.  Nothing better than sitting with the girls on the rock pile, watching the action in the sun.  And in the meantime I will ponder whether Saffron should ever be bred again.  And so it goes on the farm.

Saffron’s day

Saffron and one of her girls

And so our last but not least girl, our herd queen Saffron, had her kids Thursday morning around 8 a.m.  It was a warm day, cloudy and a little breezy, but really pretty perfect all around!

Wednesday night as I was doing my midnight rounds, I found Saffron up in the paddock whining and crying, very softly.  I was a little alarmed, and couldn’t tell if she was talking to her babies and encouraging them to make an entrance already, or if she was upset at being alone up there!  The two other moms were in their jugs with their babies, and Peanut unfortunately doesn’t count as a real goat with the rest of the crowd, so for all intents and purposes, Saffron found herself on her own.  It was quite unusual, watching her walking slowly around the paddock under that bright moonlit sky.  She definitely had no signs of active labor, so I went in and got into bed but didn’t turn the light out so I would get up in another hour or two and check on her again.  Same thing going on at 2 a.m. as well!

Saffron’s girls

John checked on them around 4 and 6 a.m., so I headed up to chores about 7:30 on Thursday morning.  It was already comfortably warm, and Saffron was still doing the same thing.  Talking, crying and walking around!  She didn’t show any signs of wanting breakfast, though, so I knew she must be getting close.  And sure enough, while I sat in the greenhouse with the babies and moms, I was able to watch her on the little hill, pop that first doeling out.  She made quick work of getting that little girl dried off, and nursing, then her second doeling made her entrance a little under a half hour later.  I left them where they were for as long as I could, but the breeze was a little stiff and I didn’t want those babies to get chilled.  As I was carrying the doelings slowly toward the greenhouse, Saffron was frantically licking them both, and ended up washing my arms into the bargain!  She is such a good mama.

Bellies are full, time to nap!

And so our kidding year is closed now.  I am very grateful, and getting more sleep is a very good thing.  I am still sitting up around midnight wondering why I am awake, though!

Twig’s big afternoon

Twig’s first!

It’s been a busy few days!  All of our girls have now delivered their babies, just in time to avoid the rain that is coming in this afternoon.  (Actually, I think it is already drizzling).

Yesterday I came and went over and over again up to the paddock, and around 1:30 I decided to take the lawn chair to just outside the girl’s greenhouse, and relax for a few minutes.  The sun was warm, and there was a breeze, but not a bad one.  I closed my eyes, and then realized I was hearing two things:  Eleganza, who was in the greenhouse penned with her babies, was calling to Twig, her 2 year old daughter, who was outside in labor, grunting.  Oh my!  That goes to show that you are never finished with being a mom!  It was so sweet.  Twig grunted and growled, and Eleganza called.

Lighter is the doeling

Twig was doing really well, and didn’t even get up to get that first baby out, a little doe.  What a cutie she is, very spunky at a minute or so old!  I didn’t have to guess her sex, as after only a moment, she squatted to pee!  That is something I have never seen before.  Twig is showing herself to be as good a mother as Eleganza; she had that baby cleaned up and on her feet in record time.  As the afternoon wore on, however, I realized her next baby in line was having issues.  He had his head tilted up and back, and one leg was all the way forward and out, while the other was all the way back.   I don’t think I have had to help any goat births in about 10 years, and here we had two situations in two days that needed a little push.  You just never know!

As soon as I got the little guy’s head down and out the back door, she didn’t have any problem getting him out.  He’s another beautiful red buck, with a little white blaze on the top of his head.  They are both very active babies and are doing well.

And so it goes!  4 babies down.  I’ll tell you about Saffron a little later!

New life

First baby

Is always so precious and wonderful.  We finally have had our first babies of the season!  Eleganza, our beautiful Guernsey girl, went into labor this afternoon.  I wasn’t there for the very beginning, but when I went out around 2 PM, I knew that she had not just begun her labor.  She is a real trooper, and last year had two 8.5 lb bucklings without any help from us.  This time seemed to be a bit different.

Goats and sheep usually deliver their babies in an intact sac filled with amniotic fluid.  You can usually see the head resting on the two front legs, as they come to meet us as though they are diving into a pool.  This one was no exception, nothing wrong about his presentation, but there was something wrong with her ability to get him delivered.  This poor little/big fellow was coming out and going back in, which is not unusual, but our girl Eleganza was not making any progress.  I don’t tend to interfere with a birth if it looks normal, but after almost an hour, as she began to lose steam, I waited for my chance and helped the little bugger along as she was having a contraction.  He is a very big boy, over 9 lbs, and I am glad I did help him out as he had been so stressed that he was passing a lot of meconium poops into his amniotic sac.  And so we have our first baby of the season!

Baby #2

And then his brother made an appearance an hour later, just as I like to see it, so that the first could have all his mother’s attention for a bit before having to take care of the second baby.  Our little guy was up and nursing before I knew it, and the second large buckling was born with no help from me, thank goodness.  The darker red buck is actually the second born, and the smaller of the two, although he looks bigger because of the camera angles.

I love it when we have babies in the daytime!  And no, we still have no spring peepers!

Waiting, again

For goat babies, and for spring peepers!

Everyone has spring fever!

We have had some lovely weather in the 50s (F), and now today it is sleeting and snowing and blowing, but isn’t too very cold at least.  Just what I want with one of the does due to kid tomorrow!  I hope she waits until tomorrow, but compared to some of the years we have kidded and lambed, I can’t really complain too hard about the temperatures.  We have historically lambed and kidded in early March.  Brr.

Eleganza waiting patiently

Our Eleganza is the one up for tomorrow, and our Saffron due a week from today.  Both are experienced and wonderful mothers.  Twig, our two year old first time mom, is due next Tuesday.  All in all, a nice tight cluster of sleepless nights and early mornings.  Not too bad, really!  In looking back on the two older does, they have both kidded every year during the daytime.  I would be very grateful if that trend continues!

We have also been enjoying our local wild turkey population immensely.  Our house is on a mostly wooded site, with a beaver pond down back just barely visible through the trees.  And so our yard is a heavily travelled turkey route, which currently includes the back of the house at our bird feeder.  There are two or three fairly large toms that are traveling with a large group of females and a few jakes (young toms), as it is the mating season.  We have been treated to a daily show under the feeder by the tom.  His harem, however, doesn’t even give him a glance!  They are busy eating the fallen seed and the little chunks of stale bread I throw out there, and as they move on, the tom moves with them – after he has put on quite a show!  I think when he is showing off he looks like a wind-up toy.

And now I think I will be off to check on our expectant mamas again!

Icemud season

Ice and mud

What a lapse in blogging!  The days have been flying by, even by winter weather standards.  I think most of us in the northeast can agree that this has been the winter of ice, which was definitely not an easy-to-handle one.  Each snow storm we had ended in rain and sleet, and the buildup of ice in all the areas where the shade predominates has been epic.

Sunrise over the pigeon loft

And so we enter the in-between time of icemud.  Not yet mud season, but mud mixed with layers of ice… and everything re-freezes at night.  Gotta love it because there is nothing to do about it!  I am enjoying these 40F days, though, and afternoon chores are my favorite time of day.  The sun is high and warm, and even the unrelenting wind has not spoiled how nice it feels to be outside.

Peanut, Twig, and Eleganza (left to right)

On the goat front, we are just 3 weeks away from our first babies!  Eleganza is our Number 1 this year, and is due on April 9th.  The other two are due a week later.  Our first-timer, Twig, has begun to have a nice little udder, so even though she does not look incredibly pregnant, she is chugging along well.

And so it goes!  Spring is not a season that we really have here in Maine, but the trees have buds on them and the overnight temperatures are in the upper 20s and low 30s, which is delightful.  Maple trees are tapped and syrup is flowing well.  And Daylight Saving time is here, which always makes my day :*)

And now December is upon us

Autumn was beautiful
And then this happened. Twice.

Holy cow!  Time is really flying by.  Much of what is going on in our lives is the minutiae of getting older and dealing with some health problems.  I am not feeling quite as energetic as I used to because of higher beta blocker doses (that really seems to sap the energy!) and my ongoing battle with some crazy painful bursitis in my hips.  And so I am moving more slowly and trying to be mindful of not doing too much, as I always have in the past :*)  It feels like it’s becoming a full time job.

Pippi on the left, with Twig

After our yearly NY Sheep and Wool/Rhinebeck trip in October, my dear Pippi went off to the butcher.  Thankfully, her boy found a great home, so we were spared sending him off for meat.  And then breeding began and ended as quickly as I have ever seen it!  Everything just fell into place in spite of itself, and in spite of not having much of a plan in place.  Our girl Peanut, who I am not going to breed this year, if ever, was in heat middle of the first week in November.  So that passed and on Sunday the 11th I woke up to the sound of aother goat in heat, screaming at the top of her lungs.  Eleganza made no bones about her predicament, and so I grabbed our sweet Ephraim, the very laid back buck, and threw him in with the girls.  I gambled on Peanut not coming back into heat, which could have happened, but it didn’t.  (Although I will keep in mind that she was in with the buck and make sure I don’t miss anything as the winter goes on).  And as if I had planned it, Saffron and Twig came into heat during that week as well, and all of our 2019 babies are due between April 9th and April 16th!  It really couldn’t have worked out better.

Eleganza giving her opinion on the stink of her very attentive suitor!

And I don’t believe I have to worry about Peanut, because she has just spent the beginning of this week screaming at the fence, in heat again (and I am sure the whole neighborhood knew about it, too!).

And now we are 8

The last few weeks have been very busy ones.  I had been advertising the goats I needed to move along, without any response, and I was feeling a little down about it.  I really hated the thought of sending these beautiful girls to the auction, but I was beginning to think I would have no choice.

3 of the Guernseys around the feeder
Saffron stuffing her face
Jingle and Fergus

But, then, I actually found a farm that wanted all of them!  Edna with her two doelings, Battie and her daughter Betsy.  All together, which made me the happiest of all.  And so last Friday they all got a nice ride to their new farm.  I hope they do well, they are in a very good place.

Pippi and her buckling from this year are still here, although they have a butcher date in late October.  Pippi is still milking well, but she is losing her teeth at an alarming rate, and she is elderly.  If I leave her to try and winter over another year, I am afraid I will lose her at a time when we cannot bury her…  and I hate using the goats as coyote bait, but a lot of folks do that around here in the winter when they can’t bury dead animals.  And so she will provide us with a little stew meat, and her circle of life here will be complete.  She’s been such a great little goat, my fierce Herd Queen!  (Saffron is lining up to challenge that position, but Pippi is no slouch, she is not giving in one little bit).  Pippi’s buckling may actually have a home lined up, but if that does not work out, he will go with his mama.

And so the seasons are moving forward, and I am moving forward with our little farm.  Chores are so wonderfully uncomplicated now that we are smaller, and much more enjoyable.  More time to actually hang out with the goats and enjoy our time together.  They are awfully good company!

And I should not forget Jingle the Donkey, who will never leave!  So maybe I should say, now we are 9 :*)

Wherever you find yourself

Ephraim and Fergus earlier this week, sharing like nice children!

Wherever you find yourself, there you are.  And that is life, as usual.  Now that my son is not here to help with the chores, the first thing I really need to deal with is selling a few of the goats.  I have too many to handle by myself now that he has moved on.  Every day, twice a day at chore time, this truth reveals itself, whether I want to acknowledge it or not.

Tonight, it was just a mess at milking time.  I had the boys and Jingle in a neighboring paddock eating down some tasty weeds, and when I let the big boys back into their home paddock for dinner, the little buckling would not follow.  Well, I left him in the other paddock with Jingle the donkey while she ate her grain allotment for the day, and when I was getting her back into the home paddock, he slipped out behind her and got loose.  Wandering the work area and the places outside the paddocks.  He is a little bit shy of people, so I could not grab him right away.

Milking time

Well, I decided I could work around him for awhile, so I started to get everything ready for milking and the evening feed.  I got the first girl up onto the milk stand, and realized I had left my milk buckets up at the house.  I was sweaty and hot, it was raining, the milk stand was half in and half out of the greenhouse and the goat’s backside was getting wet, so I decided to just milk and toss it.  Awful, I know, but it was about all I could do.  (I was also trying not to get the halter heart monitor wet.   The doctor wants me to wear one for a few days to see if they need to tweak my beta blocker meds a little.  I could not have picked a more perfect week, hot humid and rainy.  Yuck!).  And so chores went the way that chores have so many times in the past, downhill very quickly.  After I milked her, the little buckling came wandering into the greenhouse where the feed is stored, and I was able to grab him and get him home.  Phew!

But, in the end it turned out to be a great chore evening.  When I finally got all the milking mamas back into their paddock, I had to go in to move some feeders around.  It really began to rain pretty hard then, and I just hung out with my girls and relaxed.  Pippi was rubbing her wet and itchy head on my hip, one of Edna’s girls was sniffing my arm and nibbling on my shirt, Peanut wanted some head rubs, and we all just stood there together and waited until the worst of the rain was over.  A little cluster of wet, itchy souls, waiting for the bus, or whatever.

And so it goes.  No milk for cheese tonight, but tomorrow it will be better.  I have not hit my routine stride yet, but it will happen, and it will be a lot easier if I can move a few of the herd on.  I don’t need to be milking 4 goats, it’s too much milk for me to deal with, and just that more to do on my own.  It will be difficult to let any of the girls go, but it’s what I need to do.  Life always seems to be a work in progress, doesn’t it?