Tag Archives: breeding

Last Sunday in November, 2016

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!

Guinea hen cup and new skin cream.
Guinea hen cup and new skin cream.

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.

Zelda checking out the other side of the fence
Zelda checking out the other side of the fence

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.

And, I can’t believe it’s almost December!

Blustery day

Finally got the garlic in
Finally got the garlic in

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.

They took a break from fighting to see if I had anything good for them
They took a break from fighting to see if I had anything good for them

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).

Beezus is shy, but she always has an opinion!
Beezus is shy, but she always has an opinion!

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!

Breeding 2016 commences and continues

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.

Reddog coming in for his grain, with his girls
Reddog coming in for his grain, with his girls

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 :*)

 

Breeding season 2016

Reddog the Studly boy
Reddog the Studly boy

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).

Beezus the Beautiful, just had her courtship with Reddog
Beezus the Beautiful, just had her courtship with Reddog

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!

Oh boy!

Reddog surveys his domain
Reddog surveys his domain, that handsome guy

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.

Reddog and Saffron have a truce
Reddog and Saffron have a truce

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.

The girls cluster around some of the feeders. Not anywhere near the big boy!
The girls cluster around some of the feeders. Not anywhere near the big boy!

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!

 

Smell like a buck

Autumn color at last
Autumn color at last

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!

Emily helps us out with the hoof trimming
Emily helps us out with the hoof trimming

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!

It's definitely autumn when the giant pumpkins arrive
It’s definitely autumn when the giant pumpkins arrive

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.

36 hours

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.

Pippi is not happy with me
Pippi is not happy with me

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.

Next to last milk bucket for human use this year
Next to last milk bucket for human use this year

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!

Something new to chew on
Something new to chew on

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 :*)

A good sign?

Reddog the Guernsey buck
Reddog the Guernsey buck

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.

Oreo the  buck
Oreo the buck

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.

Regrouping

Pickles, one of our yearling does and first-time mother
Pickles, one of our yearling does and first-time mother

On a farm, it is always time for reorganization and re-evaluation of everything that’s happening.  It’s so easy to get into the groove of just feeding every animal that is here, whether they are “working” for the farm or not.

Keeping animals for sentimental reasons is very easy to do, and I fall into it just as much as the next person.  But I try to be aware of and on top of making the kinds of decisions that will help move us forward.  I am only milking two goats right now and I have 9 does (including baby Betsy).  I am never going to be a big enough operation to milk that many, but some of them are here for a variety of reasons, and some of those reasons, truthfully, are emotional!

Does on both sides of the fence resting in the afternoon
Does on both sides of the fence resting in the afternoon

The middle of the summer is the time when I am getting prepared for the breeding season, and evaluating who should be here or not anyway, and this year I am trying to take a very hard look at what is happening and comparing that with my goals.  In the past I have kept certain does together, whether I intended to milk them or not, because in a small operation like mine, family units can be very supportive of animals that would otherwise be picked on pretty hard.  Zelda, for example, is a wonderful doe who milks well and is a great mother, but I only held onto her because she was the last doe I had from Elf, who is long gone (and I had kept both of them because they were a family unit).  I had wanted to keep some of her genetics around, but truthfully, she would be better off on another farm where her milk and her mothering skills would be of value.

Zelda the Beauty
Zelda the Beauty

And so it is crunch time, and I am making myself all kinds of notes, but the difficult part is here, and it’s time to decide who will stay and who will be sold.  Zelda and two white crossbred youngsters are definitely on the list to go, as is one of SnowPea’s yearlings, Sassafras.  We are definitely hanging onto Fergus and Betsy.

Instead of having to feed out to 3 groups of animals, I am hoping to just have one pen of boys/Jingle the Donkey, and one pen of girls going into the winter.  We shall see how successful I am at the reorganization!

Spring is here, so is the snow

Betsy loves her mama's food!
Betsy loves her mama’s food!

Monday snow day!  2nd day of Spring, gotta love it.  Our new little doeling is doing very well, and has found her name, Betsy.  She is a corker, and yesterday evening Sam caught her on the wrong side of the paddocks, and had to get her back to her mama.  None of the girls were hysterical (yet), and apparently SnowPea and Pippi had her corralled and were keeping her away from the others, so she was not in any danger at that point (SnowPea and Pippi are awesome mothers, and I think they had already acquainted themselves through the green panels).  Betsy seemed very unabashed, but was happy to be back on the other side, with Battie.  We plugged what we think are the two areas she may have gotten through, and everyone was where they are supposed to be this morning.  It’s always a work in progress!

Snow day skies
Snow day skies

On the other hand, things had not been going too well for the past few days with another goat.  We knew that Saffron was a little depressed at being separated from Battie for 5 days, but there was something else going on as well.  I had begun to treat her for pregnancy toxemia, and she was showing no signs of perking up.  Friday she ate, but with no great enthusiasm, and Saturday was not much better.  We were dosing her with caprine Nutridrench, which has all kinds of good things in it, and  giving her vitamin B shots as well.  I was getting ready to get out the straight Propylene Glycol, because  Sunday morning she was standing in the corner with her ears down, not paying attention to anything.  We got some Nutridrench into her, and when I came back a few minutes later, I could see that she was having labor contractions, and that explained it all.  This is about 6 weeks too early for her to have kids from her breeding with Oreo (she came to us already bred, and then lost her pregnancy after she got here, so then was bred by our buck).

Saffron is up
Saffron is up

Well, it wasn’t pretty.  A very beautifully formed little buck who had absolutely not a speck of hair on him was stillborn.  He was breach, and it kind of freaked me out when it wasn’t coming, because all I could feel was a rat-like tail in there.  And so she (and we) had quite a day.  After the baby came, we were waiting and waiting for the placenta, and when it started to pass it was totally clear, as though she were having another kid.  It was quite the process, and I am happy to say that this morning she looked almost like her old self.  She is interested in what’s going on, and appeared to be interested in food again early today.  This afternoon her temperature was down and I could not get her to eat.  About an hour ago I was putting some fresh straw into the pen and she dove right in and began stuffing her face… all the wonderful 2nd cut hay that she has, and this is what she wants?  I don’t get it!  And after some of the straw I got her to drink quite a bit of warm water.  The sun is just beginning to go down now, and the vet has just told me to put her back in with Battie and Betsy, which will definitely be a warmer option.  I will have to keep checking on her as night falls.  We may have to put a coat on her.

Battie and Betsy frolicking in the snow.
Battie and Betsy frolicking in the snow.

We will continue giving her antibiotics and vitamin B, and hopefully there is nothing inherently wrong with her plumbing that she can’t keep a fetus to full term.  (I would like to believe that she lost her fist pregnancy back in the fall due to the stress of traveling here from Vermont, at a crucial time in her gestation).  I guess we will see next year.

So I got the gift of a snow day and it was perfect timing.  I needed to recuperate from the stress of the accumulated weekend events, continue getting over the pneumonia, and try and tend to Saffron as well.

Catching some rays
Catching some rays

The best thing about yesterday turned out to be the sun: while waiting on Saffron, in-between taking her temperature and checking to make sure things were progressing, we got to work around the farm during the middle of the day, and even caught some relaxed rays for awhile.  The temperature and wind were cold, but the sun was spectacular!  I’m glad she chose yesterday for the Big Deal.  Thank you, Saffron.  You are a sweet, gentle girlie, and you need to get all better for us  :*)