Tag Archives: goats

Blizzard 2017

Looking out the living room window to the west, where the almost 5' tall Rugosas are looking like dwarves in the drifting snow
Looking out the living room window to the west, where the almost 5′ tall Rugosas are looking like dwarves in the drifting snow

Has definitely been here.  It’s almost gone, but the work entailed in dealing with it is going to take at least another day.  What a mess.

Greenhouse snow caves
Greenhouse snow caves.  Our fences appear to be getting shorter as well!

It certainly is a beautiful, white world out there, and the snow is light, but when 2 feet of it falls in such a short time, it’s not so light to remove :*)  We will deal better tomorrow with the paddocks, but for now the goats are fine in their houses, which really are looking more like snow caves tonight.  Even the metal donkey shelter (portahut) is covered in snow, as it’s so high up the sides, the stuff on top had nowhere to go.  I don’t know how much snow the wind will shift tonight, as it is roaring again out there, with 30-40 mph gusts.

Stuff this deep is really a struggle for me to get through as I am so short.  But I have to say that the goats are doing well, and when we showed up at 3 this afternoon for the supper run, Pippi broke a trail through to the new greenhouse, where she knew the grain would be offered.  She actually almost knocked me down going past.  Fergus, however, stopped to jump up and say hello, and see if he could get my hat from me before I noticed.  Not a chance, Fergus!

Ut oh, you can't change direction on a path that narrow!
Ut oh, you can’t change direction on a path that narrow!

Most of the photos I took look like nothing but white, with a few higher white things sticking up here and there.  But it was a doozy, and we are supposed to be seeing a storm Wednesday night into Thursday that could bring another 6+ inches.  I truly hope not!

Settling in

Waiting for supper. Left to right: Eleganza, Dorcas, Delta, and little Edna peeking between Eleganze and Dorcas.
Waiting for supper. Left to right: Eleganza, Dorcas, Delta, and little Edna peeking between Eleganze and Dorcas.

Our new girls are very friendly so far and they are getting accustomed to being ogled by the gang from the other side of the fence while getting used to their surroundings.  It didn’t take long to see how the pecking order between them played out, either.  Dorcas has the upper hand at all times; Eleganza (the whitish doe) comes in a close second.  Of the two very laid back, smaller girls, Little Edna is bottom of the heap.  Even Delta will give her a head nudge.  But, such is life in the goat world.

Breakfast at sunrise
Breakfast at sunrise

I had worried that Edna was holding back on eating because of the pecking order, but we have so many baskets of hay around, they all have found their way to as much as they want or need.  I spent a lot of time with them today, and am chilled to the bone now (we woke up to 0F this morning).  They are doing just fine, and are licking up every bit of the kelp meal and ProBios powder that I am adding to their feed.  Good girlies!

Delta and Dorcas in the intrepid road warrior Jeep with Sam
Delta and Dorcas in the intrepid road warrior Jeep with my son Sam

I  know how stressful transport can be on any animal, and these girls are no exception (hence the addition of ProBios to their feed).  They were in a vehicle for over 4 hours, and the two in the back of my Subaru never lay down, even though they could.  If I had known them better, I would have put Delta in with Edna in my car, and let Eleganza and Dorcas have the slightly more spacious Jeep space!

Dorcas and Delta doing their relaxing in the back of the Jeep
Dorcas and Delta doing their relaxing in the back of the Jeep

But, all seems well in the land of the Guernsey girls.  I think they are doing fine, and after another few days we can let them into the larger pen, but I will still be keeping them separate from the larger group for now.  I keep wondering if Battie and Saffron recognize their friends from Ardelia!  I can hardly wait to see how they react to one another when they are all together in one pen.  Should be interesting.

 

Getting ready

New tarp is installed on greenhouse #1
New tarp is installed on greenhouse #1

The time has come for us to make sure we are ready for winter.  In the past week the animal’s water tanks have been freezing over, and it was a sign to get going on winterizing the pens and the water troughs.

We had a new and larger tarp on order from our local farm and feed store, and today it arrived.  We are lucky that it was a very lovely day, and we got that puppy on this afternoon.  Yesterday we ended up replacing a stock tank with a floating heater with another kind of heated 16 gallon bucket.  It is different than our other heated stock tanks, but I hope it will be just as good.

Not truly gorgeous, but a new stock tank is beautiful to us!
Not truly gorgeous, but a new stock tank is beautiful to us!

And so we move into the winter, whether it is officially here or not.  The goats are all putting on their furry best, and we are adding straw in to their sleeping quarters regularly (those little buggers eat quite a bit of the straw, so it’s difficult to keep the amount we want available to them!).  The dreaded Polar Vortex is scheduled to arrive for a quick showing this weekend, and then again in a more serious way toward the end of next week.  Brr.  I don’t feel quite ready, but it doesn’t matter.  We will see it in.  And the countdown to the shortest day of the year is on!  Totally looking forward to the Solstice :*)

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!

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.

September just flew past

Late September skies
Late September skies

I really am having trouble believing it’s the 29th already.  In a blink, it’s just about over.  The autumn is upon us, and the nights are great for snuggling under the sheets and sleeping well.

The drought continues, however, and most of the trees are turning brown with curled up dry leaves.  I don’t think that there will be much bright color.  It’s a shame that so many others have been overwhelmed with rain this summer, but we can almost count on one hand how many raindrops we have had.

Greenhouse bones
Greenhouse bones

Things have settled down since SnowPea went to freezer camp.  I still have 3 girls for sale, but the dynamics of the group are a little bit less frantic.  We are working on putting up a greenhouse that we took down a few months ago, to give us some shelter, a little storage, and dedicated kidding pens away from the others when the time comes.  (I want to have a “nursery” type set up which is less crazy after the kids are born.  The singletons tend to pick on the new little ones, and I would like them in a slightly smaller, more controlled area).  I also want an internal catch pen, one that is not outside the main fencing.  We have got the bones of it in place, mostly, and now need to tackle some ends for that greenhouse (I would like to have a wooden end on the driveway side, if possible!).

Time for baking bread
Time for baking bread

And so autumn has arrived.  My most favorite time of year.  The days are definitely shorter, and knitting and fiber work have a much greater allure. Just wish we could get a little rain!

Best laid plans and all that

Mingling
Mingling

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!

Guernsey girl Betsy and Beezus the Lamancha are happily noshing in the alternate pen
Guernsey girl Betsy and Beezus the Lamancha are happily noshing in the alternate pen

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!

 

 

August endings

Rest time
Rest time

This month feels like it has just flown by.  Busy days, and for the most part, beautiful ones.  We have had our share of the hot-and-humids, however, and I think this may have been part of the catalyst for the Coccidiosis outbreak in two of the baby goats.

I am always on the watch for things like this, but we have not had any cocci episodes here since we had lambs, a few years ago now.  It also usually hits us when we are having a very wet spring and summer.  As we are in a pretty extreme drought, it kind of surprised me.

But the really humid and hot weather is very stressful on the goats, particularly the young ones.  Our Fergus was the first to turn into Mr. PoopyPants, and then within a day or two the white buckling started.  We got the sulpha powder mixed up and going pretty quickly, but it’s a rough ride, even when the diarrhea stops within a day.   Sulpha drugs are hard on anyone, and when you are only 20 or 25 lbs., it’s not so nice.  We are doing vitamins as well, and they seem to be responding.

The last load. Not even a big one!
The last load. Not even a big one!

And as it is August, it is haytime.  We have a very lovely hay dealer who keeps our hay and we can go and get it when we need it, but that is for the first cutting bales.  A good friend of ours recently decided to cut his really nice hay field for a second cutting.  His neighbor does a first cut, but for some reason isn’t interested in doing a second.  I was definitely interested, and today was the day we had to pick it up in the field.  It was great to see Matt, and he even played farm boy for the day and helped us transport the goods.  Nice to see our second greenhouse having such a nice collection of bales going into the winter.

The crickets seem to agree.  I love going to sleep by their singing.  Reminds me of childhood vacations on Cape Cod with my cousins!

 

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!

Birthday

Our sweet Saffy!
Our sweet Saffy! What a great goatie girl.

Not mine, my husband’s.  He is 65 today. Lots of wonderful phone calls, one of which was from his dad.  92 years old, but going strong!

I love chatting with my father in law, but today I was struck by the fact that I am extremely jealous.  To be having a phone call with your dad when you are 65 is a wonderful thing!  I would give anything to be talking to my dad even now, at the age of 62.  He was killed by a drunk driver, and was older when he became a father to begin with.  And so it goes.  He has been gone for 31 years, and nothing can change that.

But it was quite a day, and a beautiful summer day at that.  I am so grateful for the time I have had.  And my husband is 65, and still going strong.  A summer day to appreciate, for sure!