Overnight the snow did turn into sleet. It was quite nasty out there for our 11 PM goat check last night. Everyone was snug as a bug, and no one looked as though they were going to be standing alone in the corner anytime soon, listening to their inner baby bio-rhythm, so it was back to the house for some sleep.
After my husband plowed the driveway yesterday afternoon, we must have gotten another 4 or 5 inches of snow, with a crust of ice on the top. Lots of snow was coming off the greenhouses this morning, and Pippi and her daughter Beezus were in heaven. Yes, Beezus loves to eat snow as well! After their grain this afternoon, they both were in their element, noshing at the best and the freshest. It always gives me a chuckle.
I am adding one more doe to the short list of possibles earlier than later. Eleganza the white Guernsey has a nice little udder coming along, and her belly looks like it may have dropped as well. Baby watch is getting a little more serious. It’s supposed to be bitterly cold Thursday night into Friday, so we shall see. We can hope to have a miss on that one!
Well, Monday is a wrap. Finally. We had quite the morning. Zelda and the buck Oreo were scheduled to leave us and join the farm that Sassafras and Pickles went to live on two weeks ago. And it was not as easy a transfer as I would have liked!
Scheduled is the word. I was worried all last night that Zelda was going to be the one that was difficult, and Oreo would be the piece of cake to walk into Curt’s trailer. Not. What a surprise, but it’s something that should not shock me at all. You just never know.
And so we had the goat rodeo on ice. Oreo knew something was up the minute we went out for chores this morning, and we were even being nonchalant. I did my usual thing, and Sam went to do his. Oreo was having none of it! Zelda came with me into the catch pen and launched into her morning hay like nothing was amiss. But Oreo got the wind up and it took four of us adults to get him cornered and caught, slipping and sliding on the ice and the snow. I really hate doing that. In the process, Sam got an arm injury, John came in with a bleeding arm, and the new owner’s hands were bloody by the time we got the buck into his trailer. I waited to take a fall until I tripped on the handle of a bag in the house. Not a winner of a day, I can say that now. But tonight, it feels like it is ancient history. I can truly say that this morning was kind of the end of an era.
Since last spring I have been working toward getting all the animals together that I can definitely handle alone. Sam will not be here forever, and when he moves on, my 62+ year old body needs to be able to handle what we have. I don’t move as fast as I used to! And so I have planned accordingly, and we made a plan for who to keep and who to part with. I had a really hard time parting with SnowPea’s daughters Pickles and Sassafras, and Zelda was an even more difficult cull. But we lucked out and found an amazingly wonderful farm in Auburn, Maine, and the owner there really loves our girls and our genetics, and not only has the 3 girls now, but he also has Oreo the buck. I couldn’t have asked for a better home for them, and they are not really that far away. (He has Nigerian Dwarf goats as well, and I am dying to go up and visit his place!).
Anyhow, we are turning a corner here at the farm. I think we are as tight as we can be. I have two purebred Lamancha does left, and 7 almost purebred Guernsey girls. One Guernsey buck and one half Guernsey buckling. It’s finally a picture that I think can work for me.
The winter seems to be settling in, so I am glad that the Goat Rodeo is finished for the year. I hope. After the Solstice I think I can feel a little more positive going forward. But we definitely won’t think about January 20th just yet :*/
I guess! I am feeling a little sad, as we said goodbye to Pickles and Sassafras today, SnowPea’s only twin girls, ever. The girls are a Lamancha/Alpine cross, where their mother and grandmother were purebred Lamanchas. The Alpine in them is how they got those big old ears! (It was a bit of a rodeo as we took them out of the pen… Sam had them on leads, but they took off backwards, and in the process they mowed me down and took Sam for quite a ride. But all was well, Sam never let go. Oy. I have a sore knee, but it will all work out!).
Decisions about how many animals to keep on the farm change from year to year as our needs and capabilities change. Having slightly morphed our focus toward breeding the Guernsey goats made me have to take a really hard look at how many goats overall I really can manage to milk in a season. Keeping more than a few girls just ends up with me only breeding half, and carrying the others along. Not only is it more work and management, but it’s an added drain on the budget for hay and grain. The market for crossbred goats is not huge around here. I am hoping that the Guernsey youngsters will be more salable, so keeping some around and not milking all of them will hopefully pay off a little bit.
We shall see! It looks as though Pickles and Sassafras are going to a wonderful home where they will have plenty of other goatie friends. Lovely folks. And now we are down to only one Salsa/SnowPea progeny, our little friend Fergus the Buck. He will have to carry those wonderful milking genetics forward to some of our new girls. It’s all good :*)
Was a totally grey one. November has been pretty true to form, and as the leaves have finally left the trees, we have seen almost no sunny days. It’s ok, this is what November is all about. Good knitting and cooking weather!
This morning I made my annual trek to Maple Lane Pottery‘s annual small business weekend sale. I love Robbi, and she not only has a great lineup of pottery items, but she has a few other small business folk there as well. Cari Balbo of Ridge Pond Herbals was there and I was able to get my new supply of winter face and skin creams in. It’s always fun and I could not restrain myself when I saw that Robbi had a mug with Guinea Fowl painted on it. How could I pass that up???
In the Ruit Farm goat world, we decided that today would be the day to take Reddog the Buck out of circulation. We have had him in with the 4 girls since Wednesday, October 12th, which makes it a total of 46 days. Goats have an estrus cycle of anywhere from 17-24 days, but the average is about 21 days. So we are a little over two average cycles, and no one has really appeared to be in a second heat. Reddog has spent most of his recent time at the fenceline, ogling the girls over there, hoping for some action. Poor guy, he really didn’t have too much of a challenge with just 4 does to breed.
After we moved Reddog back into the buck paddock with Oreo and Jingle the donkey, we opened the gate between the two girl paddocks. And there we had our afternoon entertainment! It took a few minutes for one of them to find the door, but after that, it was a free-for-all of head butting and running around. Beezus, who has been sharing a pen with Saffron and Battie, the Guernsey girls, turned around and pursued Saffron for at least a half hour. They were nuts. Fergus the buckling took the opportunity to try his moves on Pippi while she was busy fighting off all comers from the top of the big rock. I have to give him lots of points, he really keeps trying! Zelda the beautiful wandered into the opposite pen and found a new head-scratching post, and ignored the rest of the fray. Always a work in progress.
And so it goes. I am hoping that my friend Jane, who co-owns Reddog, can come by and pick him up soon so that he can do some work at her farm. 3 of the non-bred girls are currently for sale, and even though I thought they were spoken for, I think I may need to re-advertise them. It’s all good. I only want Zelda, Pickles and Sassafras to go to a good home with someone who will really appreciate all that they have to offer.
It was a quiet Armistice/Veteran’s Day yesterday, but by noontime the wind had tuned itself up out of the NW and I thought we might be having a windy power outage at some point. The lights flickered many times, and a big piece exploded out of our elderly birch tree at the top of the driveway, but nothing serious came down near the house. Last night the King Moon shone brightly and, very uncharacteristically, I went to bed close to midnight so I had a few hours to enjoy it.
Animal-wise, things have been quiet on the farm. (With the exception of the day that we went out to do afternoon chores and found that Oreo the Buck had done a Houdini from the buck pen and was trying to bash his way into the breeding group’s area. He wasn’t hard to catch and he went back in with Jingle the Donkey, pouting all the way, with a bleeding headbone).
The tentative news is that all 4 does have been bred! At least I believe that all 4 girls came into heat, and each one was courted in her turn by Reddog the Stinky Boy. (The Guernsey girls do not show their heats as clearly as the Lamanchas, don’t know if it is a breed characteristic or not. I know they are 100 times more laid back than the Lamanchas, who are pretty laid back to begin with).
So now we just have to sit back and count the days until each doe should come back into heat if Reddog is not fertile. But if he has done his job, we will have a nice little cluster of kids at the end of March/beginning of April. (March 27th to April 3 or so). It would be perfect. Just hope that the predicted Polar Vortex isn’t howling then!
I finally got my wish! John had a hydrant put in up near the goat pens. It’s the best 35th anniversary present I could get :*)
We have a dug well with a sump pump in it and hoses at least 100′ long that we use in the warmer weather to get water to the animals. Hauling water out from the tub in the house (those 6 gallon cans are killers) in the winter is a royal pain.
My last post was actually written about a week ago, and it got put on the back burner accidentally, so when I published, it was a little misleading. I am definitely using Reddog for our herd sire, keeping our fingers and toes crossed, of course. We are putting our faith in him! He smells like a randy buck and is certainly acting like one, which I am counting on to mean that he is all there and able to do the job.
The 4 does and Reddog have been penned together since October 12th. So far I have pretty good proof that he is doing his job. If he is not shooting blanks, Beezus is due on March 27, and Pippi is due on March 30. I had initially thought that Saffron was in heat around 10/18, but I did not see the courtship dance and snuffle at that point, and I am thinking she is coming into heat today or possibly tomorrow. And then it’s just down to our Battie.
All of this is well and good, but the proof will obviously be in a few weeks. If the girls come into heat again, one by one, then we will have a clue about Reddog’s worthiness as a buck. Only time will tell! The suspense is on :*)
I have spent the better part of this past year quietly worrying about whether or not Reddog the Guernsey buck could really do his job this year for us (you know the kind of worry: you wake up in the middle of the night and it’s just kind of on the edge of your consciousness). Last year after our friend Jane and I bought him, he went home to her place and she had plenty of does in heat, but he did not give them a second glance. Jane had gone to work and fed him up quite a bit (I don’t think he was getting any grain on his home farm) and I continued that. Even though we witnessed him actually breeding 3 does last December, only one of those breedings took. Our little Fergus is his boy. (The other two does are girls who have never failed to be bred).
And so we know we either have a very enthusiastic buck who can only produce enough viable semen to impregnate one doe, or we have a buck who has grown well, will not be pushed around by the adult does, and is healthy enough to have viable sperm and get the job done with our 4 does. Truly, we really are not asking very much of him, compared to what some farms do!
I argued with myself all summer about this breeding. I have another buck, but he is directly related to both Pippi (his mother), and Beezus, his half sister. Do I depend on Reddog to get the job done, with a buck in the wings that can probably do it, but only on two of the does, the Guernsey girls? And then how to get my best remaining Lamancha milker bred? Take her down to our friend’s Saanen farm again?
Since I am definitely committed to breeding Golden Guernsey goats, I really need to begin looking for another Guernsey buck. That much is perfectly clear!
We are into the second half of September and the cooler nights are definitely working their magic on the goats. Particularly the bucks!
After the saga and struggle of last year’s breeding attempts, I am hoping that the going will be a little easier this year. I believe that our Guernsey buck, Reddog, was too young and a wee bit undernourished when we bought him, and being a smaller guy, the girls picked on him mercilessly. He did breed one of my Lamancha girls. However, we witnessed him breeding two others, and they did not conceive. There is no one around here that does testing on the viability of sperm in farm animals, which would really be the right way to make decisions about the bucks.
But, I am going to have to go with the try-it-and-see-how-it-works method. If Reddog goes in with the girls in mid to late October and they come back into heat, I will have to use my backup buck, Lamancha Oreo. (But his mother is in the breeding group, so that won’t work for her).
Most of us complain year after year about the musky buck smell, but every morning that I step out the back door and get that odeur, I smile and cross my fingers that it is a good sign of fertility and the hormones doing their stuff! We shall see.
Yes, with livestock it generally does not work as smoothly as we think it will. I have had two groups of does and one group of adult bucks since last fall when the Golden Guernsey girls joined us, but the overarching goal has always been to have one group of does, and one group of bucks, with an alternate pen for emergencies or newbies.
Things don’t always work out that way, and we kept things fairly static, but moved Pickles and Pippi into the Guernsey pen in order to wean their kids. And that pen is definitely closer to the milk stand, so it works quite well for milking times. But even though Pickles was no longer being drained by her kid Fergus, she has not been settled in the new pen, and she has not gained any weight in the mean time. Not a successful move, even though it did wean little Fergus!
And then last week we were working in between the two pens of girls, and tidied up and went in for the night. When I came out in the morning to milk, it was all over without any evident fighting!
I probably had not latched the gate between the two pens well enough, and with a little pushing, they opened it and had a great time getting to know each other over night. Upon inspection, it was obvious that no blood had been shed, and all the girls were happily mingling.
And so, the best laid plans are out the window, but thank goodness it all worked out well. Sometimes we get lucky!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!