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!
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!
One of my favorite kinds of mornings, when I have the chance to be home and enjoy it. Air is coming in from Muscongus Bay, bringing with it the smell of the ocean and some mist. It really is almost August!
Had a visit from our grandboy for the weekend which was lovely. Got a little bit of the Corriedale fiber spun on my big Jensen production wheel, much to his delight. He was smitten with the lovely machine and also very respectful of it, thank goodness. I don’t know what he thinks of fiber, but he was definitely delighted with the wheel.
Today I really need to get onto skirting the two fleeces that Emily sheared for us last week. It’s beautiful fiber. Beezus is the ewe who had the prepubic tendon rupture just before her first and only lambing in 2012. We had not considered having her stick around so last September when Emily came to shear the market lambs I had her shear Beezus, thinking she would have to go to the butcher and become sausage. After we got her summer fleece off we realized that her rupture had remained the size it was when it happened. So we decided to keep her around for her gorgeous blue fleece, and hope that she remains healthy.
And Little India the black ewe born in 2012 hung around as well! No butcher for her! Her fleece is lustrous and dark, so I am glad we kept her to be a fleece machine as well :*)
It was a windy but gorgeous day yesterday, first day of April break.
As all the lambs are on the ground, I have needed to get going on creating a creep area for them (where they can get through a gate that the mamas cannot get through, to eat grain and hay free choice). I couldn’t set one up until I had the two yearling ewes in the other group with Jingle the Donkey. Two years ago we had a creep set up and one of our yearling ewes (Beezus) was not adult-sized but also was not baby-sized, and she got caught in the creep gate. My husband got her freed from the gate after taking the whole thing apart, but she is the one who had the pre-pubic tendon rupture last year before her lambs were born, so I am thinking that her time forced halfway through the creep gate might have been a contributing factor.
Not wanting this situation to play itself out again, I decided to put off the creep until I could get the two yearling ewe lambs and Beezus the ewe out of that group and in with the donkey’s group. This meant that I needed to get coats changed, and these three also needed their CD&T shots (which everyone else got at shearing in March). That was our goal yesterday afternoon, and we got it done, I am thankful to say.
After the past few weeks of bitter cold temperatures and gusty wind, the last few days have been something of a treat. It’s in the twenties to low thirties and we even had some sun yesterday that made it feel a little warmer than that. Snow showers are in the forecast for today and when I went out to do chores this morning it was coming down pretty fast. Aside from the little poopies on the snow, the sheep and goats looked quite photogenic!
The weather has continued to be hot and humid and disgusting. Typical of July, so I shouldn’t complain too much. Last night it broke for a very brief moment and then we got some much needed rain overnight and the humidity came right back today. I am trying to take it easy because of my asthma, but there were still things that needed doing.
Yesterday afternoon Sawyer and I went out and we moved some panels around (he dug in the dirt and played with buckets of water) so I could move the market group of lambs into the paddock that the field ewes had been in. I really need to just get them fed up and ready for the late August butcher date. I also included Esther and her lambs (the ones who were born almost a month later than all the other lambs) as well as Beezus, the ewe with the pre-pubic ligament rupture. Esther is the only one in that group not going to the butcher, but she is in poorer shape than the other ewes that we ferried down to the field. She will get down there in another few weeks.
In the meantime, the goats and a few of the ewe lambs that are either going to stay or who are going to be sold are together in the upper paddock. It’s much easier to have the goats in the upper paddock as it is closer to the milking greenhouse, so that is what decided the move. And the goats who are feeding kids are getting fed separately on the milk stand and everyone else is just eating hay. Much easier to manage this way, and we don’t have to feed everyone grain (that even though the oil prices have gone down it has not “trickled” down to the price of feed!).
But the weather is keeping us smiling even though it has been another week of waiting. We have 3 very pregnant ewes waddling around; HoneyBea and her gigundas lamb BabyBea are doing very well; and Beezus is doing much better than could have been expected. We still have her and the two lambs jugged. The ewe lamb is getting her bottle and the ram lamb is not getting as much as I would like, but he is gaining on his mama’s milk. I have not been too upset at the wait as I am down with a sinus infection and wish I felt better so I could really enjoy this unusual weather.
This week has also been full of the most amazing and unseasonably warm weather I have ever experienced in Maine in March. It’s been a little taste of summer as spring was officially ushered in yesterday. I know that the lack of snow over the winter is not boding well for the water table as we go into what is traditionally a messy mud season, but it sure has been a treat as well! Unless we get a lot of precipitation soon, I wonder if we have seen all of the mud season we are going to! Of course, all that means is that if the weather stays warm, the black flies will be here early. Yuck!
She did a great job and had her lambs last night while no one was watching! Typical. She likes her privacy and is not always thrilled to have people handling her and being around. It is totally awesome that she had the lambs herself. When I got out there at 10:30, both were up and the 11 pound black ram was already fed. He must have gotten what was available on the side of her udder where the teat actually sticks out near her leg. The 9 pound ewe lamb had not been fed and was dancing around, bleating for breakfast.
I ran back to the house and defrosted the colostrum I had taken from HoneyBea and shared that with our new little girl. It didn’t take her long to figure out the bottle, so she really must have been hungry. I could not get the ram lamb to take anything from it, but his little mouth was very warm and while his belly wasn’t totally full, it had something in there.
And so it goes. It’s a huge relief that Beezus was able to deliver those babies without help. She is making some colostrum, although I don’t know how long she will be producing anything. We are milking the teat that hangs straight toward the ground, as I don’t think the lambs have found it, or maybe cannot get at it and drink normally. I am hoping that the ram lamb will get with the bottle program soon. We have tube fed him because he so obstinately just wants his mother. It’ amazing how strong the survival instinct is and how quickly they bond. I hope Beezus has some time to mother her little brood!
We are still waiting for the rest of the girls to drop their lambs. They were obviously marked early on and then remarked, or everyone would have done their thing already. It doesn’t mean that we can stop doing our around-the-clock checks, however, because you never know!
In one of my recent posts I wrote about a situation that was developing that we already know is going to be dicey as it develops. One of our crossbred first-time ewes was growing well and looking healthy, her belly nice and round, and a very nice udder was already a good size. Last weekend I noticed that her belly was dropping, so I thought that she was getting ready to lamb. But by the end of the day on Sunday I realized that only one side of her belly had dropped. And it had dropped irregularly. All the way down to the right, and it is pulling on her udder as well, so that it is very lopsided. Her back right leg is stiff and clumsy as well. Not normal. We have seen this once before and it doesn’t bode well.
Poor Beezus is suffering from a ruptured pre-pubic tendon. There isn’t a lot written about it out there, although from what I understand it is quite common in horses. In my layman’s interpretation, I understand it to be a critical tendon that basically holds the belly in shape and helps keep the muscles where they should be. We had a ewe, Esme, quite a few years ago, who had this situation and we didn’t know what it was, thought it was some kind of hernia, and we couldn’t get her lambs out and ended up at a new vet, and lost one of the ram lambs. Esme died a month later, a victim of her out-of-whack organs and guts. I have to say that she was a first-time mom as well. I don’t think that that has anything to do with it, but it feels like some kind of a curse. Big sigh.
I fervently hope that Beezus can manage to deliver, or help deliver her lamb(s). And mother them. I already have milk replacer, colostrum replacer and some colostrum collected from HoneyBea, Pritchard teats and lots of bottles ready for the babies. I am so glad that our friend Chris Antonak bought Beezus’ hoggett fleece last fall and used it and enjoyed it. Her first adult fleece is a beauty as well. I am hoping that she will survive to mother her lambs and maybe make it through the summer. She would be able to at least make us some bonus sausage.
This has been a rough year. We downsized as far as we could to save money on feed and hay, and now we are going to lose the years of productivity that we would have gotten from Beezus. And the bad news doesn’t end there. But that, again, is a story for another day, I am sorry to say. Farming is not an easy choice to make at the best of times and with the numbers that we have, we get to know our animals very well. So each one is special and more than appreciated. And mourned deeply when they are hurt or lost.
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.
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!