Well, it looks like we have gotten through the storm of Halloween 2017 in one piece. We were in a little pocket of houses that did not initially lose power last week. They did shut us down for awhile while they were making repairs, but we got by without the problems most folks in Maine and NH were faced with. I am extremely grateful, as we are in an area that is almost always hard hit.
And so the breeding has proceeded apace, storm or no! Four of the girls have been bred by Mr. Stinky Reddog, but Edna has not shown any signs of being in heat yet. I have my fingers crossed that she will come into heat soon, as I would like to get everyone situated for their winter quarters asap. Unless I missed her heat and she and Reddog did their thing while I wasn’t looking (very possible), it would seem like she may be the last one to kid again! What’s up Edna??? I guess we will know in the spring :*)
The only other news is that we have officially decided to sell Reddog the buck. The friend of mine who owns him with me has not room for him and is concentrating more on her Angora goats now, and I have found a replacement buck with very nice genetics (and no horns!). I don’t have a big enough operation to keep numerous bucks around. If anyone is interested, I have a page for Reddog’s particulars.
When I pulled down the driveway Monday evening on my return from NY Sheep and Wool, I was greeted with the sound of Pippi absolutely bellowing her head off. My son said that she had been at it all day, and had not really eaten while on the milk stand that morning, just kept trying to go over as close to the boys’ pen as she could get, and mooning about, bellowing. As I don’t want kids too early in the season, I had been waiting until after the Rhinebeck trip to put the breeding group together. And so I took the opportunity to get Pippi bred on Tuesday when we moved Twig, Peanut and Betsy to a separate paddock, and moved Reddog in with the 5 moms-to-be. Jingle the donkey misbehaved badly with the non-breeding group, so we put her in with Hagrid and Fergus the wether. (Donkeys hate change of any kind, and I think those young girls freaked her out. She sees them through the fence every day, but she didn’t care for their company at all. Ah well, it’s a donkey thing).
And so Pippi was a happy camper all day Tuesday. As it happens, by Wednesday morning it was clear that Saffron was having a good time with Reddog as well! Now when I sit down at the milk stand in the morning I can have a full dose of buck stink up close and personal. (Bucks who are courting a doe rub their heads anywhere they can on their intended – and that head has been drenched with all kinds of stinky hormone-filled pee. Delightful to a doe, not so nice for humans!).
And so my new spreadsheet has been inaugurated. First babies due on Friday, March 23, 2018!
I hope everyone had a lovely holiday, whichever you celebrate. We had a very laid back beginning to Hanukkah, and a lazy Christmas day with the kids and grandson.
But, best laid plans, and all that! The vet was supposed to be here yesterday at midday, but she had an emergency in Belfast, which is up the coast far enough that she could not get here while we still had daylight. She came instead this morning, so we finally got the newbies vaccinated for Rabies, and she got blood from all of them for the usual blood tests.
In the meantime, we have been watching things with Jingle the Donkey and the boy group, which is down to one buck now, Reddog, since Oreo left the farm (we could only have used Oreo the Lamancha buck on the Guernsey girls as the two Lamanchas that we kept are his mother and his sister… not very useful at this point).
We have always kept Jingle in with the boy group, back to when we had both rams and bucks. Even though she is technically a mini donkey, she is definitely on the larger end of mini. Jingle has always had complete control over behaviors in that paddock, and makes no bones about it. Everything was quite normal with the bucks until we had Reddog the Guernsey boy come back into the group after being with the does for almost 2 months. His behavior has changed. No longer the mild-mannered, shy young buck. And he has gotten quite aggressive with Jingle in particular, for some reason. As he has horns, Jingle has begun to avoid him at all costs, which is becoming a very poor situation. Being chased by a little guy with big horns across icy patches of ground is not how I want my little donkey to spend her days. She is here as a guard animal as well as, you know, a pet.
I have always said that there is no room on a dairy operation for horns (particularly on the does), but we have had horned bucks in the past who would never even consider crossing the line with the donkey. I am not sure what is going on here, but obviously we need to address the situation. If I thought the behavior was only because Reddog no longer has a goat companion in the paddock, I could remedy that pretty easily. But this behavior began the moment we put him back in after his breeding stint. And has only gotten worse, Oreo or not (he was terrorizing Oreo as well).
To that end, Sam and I have been out there putting in a small paddock area where we are going to have to move Reddog (t-posts through the ice not fun, but the ground is not really frozen hard yet, and today’s temperatures were a gift). He will now have a full fence line with his girls, and hopefully, will calm down. Jingle will stay in her paddock for the time being as I don’t need a pregnant doe getting on the wrong side of her and being kicked. All the paddocks are contiguous, so everyone will be able to communicate with everyone else, so none of the animals are truly segregated and alone.
BUT, we cannot do this move until we are ok to mix the two girl groups. Aargh! It’s Dominoes all over again. At least I know it will be ready the minute we have test results, or the vet gives her okay. It’s always something.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Another absolutely fantastic day on the coast of Maine! It was definitely a good one. The weather was perfect, even to the point of not much wind. I was beginning to prep for a big cleanup day (today), but I also had some eggplant that needed to be turned into parmigiana.
While I was having my morning coffee, I began the red sauce. (At this time of year that means that it’s 3 cans of Italian tomatoes, plus all the garlic, onions, carrots and celery – plus the little end of sauce pork I had stashed in the freezer). I got that puppy going and then we went out to get some things done with the goats.
I have been wanting to separate Reddog the Guernsey buck from the large group of does. I didn’t want to do it in the really cold weather in case Jingle doesn’t allow him into the shelter while she is getting to know him. So yesterday we thought it would be just about time. We got him in with Oreo and Jingle, and there was some jousting. He got into Jingle’s face right off, and was paid back with a swift kick to the head (but Jingle made contact with Reddog’s horns). Oreo confronted Reddog, and they got into it a little, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.
We were watching them through the day today, and there was a little sparring by the two bucks, but so far it looks okay. Today was a mudroom-clean-out-day. And a dentist appointment. Exhausting! But we still have some eggplant parmigiana leftover. It’s soft enough for me to eat tonight :*)
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!