I don’t know what has been going on for the last few days, but the milking moms have just been very, very naughty! I have a whole routine, of which they are very aware, for milking times. Every one has her turn in a specific order, and when they get off the milk stand, they are allowed to wander around the outer greenhouse areas and eat all the weedy stuff, until all the girls are finished. Then they go back into the paddock areas, where the other girls and babies have finished their grain.
Maybe it’s the weather, but in the past few days we have been forced to escort each doe back into the paddock and lock them into the middle section while the non-milkers get their meal. Pippi started it, I think! (Poor Pippi, she is getting all the blame). As the next doe was getting on the milk stand and I began milking, the does that had finished and should have been grazing, were coming back around and eating out of the milking mama’s bowl! Heresy! Which ended up with every one fighting to get their heads into the pan and hoover up as much grain as they could. Sigh.
And so it goes. As of this morning, things seem to have calmed down. Even though it was raining, the does grazed and let each successive mom have her breakfast. Maybe it was sunspots, or the phase of the moon. I am just glad not to have to jump up from the milkstand every 5 minutes and usher a naughty girl out of the area, dirtying my hands and messing up the usually Zen activity of milking!
Having learned the hard way many years ago, I always keep a goatie family member for every goat (among the girls). No one in the paddock doesn’t have either a mother/daughter or a sister there at all times. I don’t know if it’s documented, but in a herd as small as ours, the odd girl out gets picked-on mercilessly, and constantly. It’s painful to watch, and dangerous. The recipient who is chased around the feeders and bounced off fences is not a happy goat, and we want happy goaties.
My little plan backfires, however, when one of the companions has new babies. This is the situation right now for our girl Pippi. Her yearling, Beezus, is now not even welcomed by Pippi herself (and Beezy wasn’t big enough to be bred last fall). I know that this, too, shall pass, but it bothers me. And the other goats all notice; no moss growing on them! And they then pick on her as well. I had to intervene the other afternoon when Zelda was pursuing Beezy around the pen. Zelda would just not stop!
Pippi’s babies are not destined to hang around. They will probably go to freezer camp late in the fall, or early winter. But while she is nursing them, there will be no peace for Beezus. Sad goatie girl. She sits alone, and has to watch her back. Sigh.
11 or 12 weeks until weaning isn’t the end of the world, but it definitely gives me one more thing to watch over.
The kind of days that I dream about are here. I love warm, dry days and cool to cold nights. August always seems to be that kind of month here, so it's a treat after all the nasty humidity we have coped with during July. The crickets are revving up their little songmakers and the grasshoppers are getting big.
Yesterday I started on and continued many projects. Got a batch of soap going, made some more dryer balls in readiness for a housewarming gift, finished spinning 4 oz of the Corriedale fiber that I want to ply with the silk/camel blend, and tried to knit a few rows on my High Plains Drifter shawl/scarf. So many things happening at once had me a little crazed about the soap as I kept coming back to check the temperatures of both the oil and the lye/milk. I thought I had the temps about the same as usual, maybe just a tad lower than I usually do, but it didn't reach the trace point as it usually does. And when I was pouring it into the molds it continued to be very liquid-y. I was beginning to think it was a giant fail! I refused to hover, however, and I didn't check it until I was on my way to bed.
This morning it looks as though the soap is as hard as it should be, so I am very relieved! And the morning is a spectacular one, as you can see by the goats who didn't want to get up when I went out to do chores.
With all this talk about sheep breeding groups, I have left our poor LaMancha dairy goats out of the equation. Even though we have very flexible fencing and paddock areas, I have been scratching my head over how to get the goats together as a group with a buck, and just let them get down to business. That’s what we have done in the past few years and it works like a charm.
Traditionally, instead of keeping a buck, most goat keepers get their girls to another farm and pay to have the does bred as they come into heat. It’s problematic for us, since we both work and can’t just drop everything to get them to another farm, so we obviously need to keep a buck around. But with only a small pen inside the greenhouse available, we decided to wait until we saw signs of a doe in heat (difficult to miss with most!!!) and then put them into the pen with the chosen buck, let them have a day together, and then put them back in their usual grouping. When I wake up in the middle of the night and hear a doe calling, and come out in the morning to her plastered up against the fence, bleating and wagging her tail like a frantic flagger at the boys, it’s a pretty clear sign! This has worked for most of them, but Elf and Rhubarb may have silent heats. I haven’t caught them yet. So all but those two have been bred.
Elvis was extremely laid back and easy-going last year after we got him in with the does. Like the year before, when we had Stinky Pete, everyone was happy and well-mannered. I was able to walk amongst them with no trouble, feed them, check on them, etc., no problem. Well that was then, and boy, this is now! Elvis was fine until he had a visit with 2 does and then had to go back into the buck/ram pen. His world came to an end, and he lets us know it, every time we are out there. Oh my! And after he went to the trouble of peeing all over his face and rubbing it in the dirt… all dressed up and nowhere to go! He has decided that I am the cause of his frustration, so I can’t go into their paddock anymore… he jumped on me and almost knocked me down, making chortling noises the whole time. Do I look like a doe? After milking, I may smell like one to him maybe! No one I know can stop laughing….
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!