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!
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!
That time came to us here at Ruit Farm a few weeks ago. Our girl Betsy the Guernsey was quite overdue for weaning, actually. A few weeks ago I put her in with the larger group of does, which shares a fenceline with her mother and auntie. (Big debates in the dairy and sheep world over the best ways to wean, whether it be whisking the babies away so they cannot hear or see mama, or whether it is to the opposite side of the fence.) And a week later, I took our girl Pippi out of the larger group, and moved her in with the two Guernsey girls.
The acclimation time has differed for the two different weaner groups. Betsy has had a very difficult time being separated from her mama. She gets pushed around by the big group quite a bit, but she is holding her own. Pippi’s two babies have been sad to be separated, but they aren’t inconsolable. And the difference is that I left Pippi’s twins in with their cohort, but Betsy not only got separated from her mama, she had to go into an alien group. Poor girl! I am hoping that if I re-introduce her back in with her mother in another month, that she will not nurse, but just be happy to be back in her element.
And so we have milk! I have been madly making cheese. A few batches of chevre, one small batch of Haloumi, and a batch of cheese that I hoped was going to be chevre, but turned into something halfway between a partially cooked-curd cheese, and something indefinable. I kept it, pressed it, and may just have to use it as you would use curds. Poutine anyone???
Yes, a new batch of chèvre is in the works and we got curd! I was a little anxious, but I had about 2.25 gallons of fresh goat milk. So yesterday I started a new batch and swaddled it with towels, to be opened this afternoon. I remembered both the culture and the rennet, this time. Phew! It’s early in the milking season (calculating from when the kids were born), so the curds are still very delicate and we don’t get quite as much return for our milk amounts, but it’s amazing, nonetheless.
So when I scooped out the curds, I got 8 forms filled with curd, and the rest of the curds got sent into the colander, so maybe I can salvage all that I couldn’t scoop with my spoon. I added wild Maine blueberries to one of my forms, so that should be a little bit of a treat as well.
I am not separating my does and babies this week because I am getting ready to go on a little bit of a fiber retreat with some friends this week, on the island of Vinalhaven. I can’t wait! But to keep things simple for my husband, who is doing chores, the babies will have to take up the slack on the milk end of things. They won’t mind at all!
A week from tomorrow, hopefully the babies will be separated from the moms and I will be seriously milking twice a day. It’s Weaning Time! Gotta get some serious cheese in the freezer.
It’s been a rough 36 hours. I have been a little overdue in moving the two remaining bucklings into the paddock with the big bucks. The little boys were very actively pursuing the girls around the paddock and making a general nuisance of themselves, so it was time. Yesterday morning I got Henry and the brown buckling into the adjoining paddock. They can see their mothers and sisters, but they (hopefully!) cannot access the girls.
The two boys have been crying piteously (they could wake the dead) for their mamas and hanging around the fence hoping to have a little contact. There has not been too much pushing and shoving by the adult bucks, just a little sparring. They learned quickly not to annoy Jingle the donkey, thank goodness, and things are ok on that front. But the crying for their moms continues! It kept us up most of the night last night, and hopefully they will settle a little bit better tonight. We can certainly use the sleep.
Fenceline weaning has its plusses; some people have a preference about whisking the babies totally away from all sight and sound of their mamas abruptly, and some prefer it this way. We did not have a whole lot of choice this time. Maybe we need to put the air conditioner on in the bedroom tonight. Hmm. Nice idea :*)
SnowPea’s boys are amazingly cute, but they were more than ready to be weaned. I couldn’t milk their mama until they were, or gone. In the beginning when the babies are small, they don’t drink up all of their mother’s milk and I can get in there and get some uneven amounts. But once they are about a month old, there is no extra for us. So I had pretty much stopped doing any milking for the last 6 weeks.
Yesterday the two boys went off to live in Jefferson to be weed control for a friend of ours. I am seriously hoping that it works out for them, so that late in the autumn they can go into the freezer for the winter. Many people euthanize bucklings as they are born. I just can’t really understand that practice, although we do goats on a very small scale and that makes a big difference. I may not make much money on our little bucks that probably won’t make the cut as breeders, but we try to set them up as feeder goats at the very least. It probably doesn’t make economic sense to keep them hanging around until they are butcher size, but if they don’t feed someone else, at least they go into our freezer.
I suspect that our receiving family may have had a noisy night last night. Their mama was calling loudly for her boys this morning, and she is still checking all corners to see where the they may be. But SnowPea is our best milker, and this morning she did not disappoint. I just wish we could get a doeling out of her someday. The only one she has ever had got tragically strangled in a feeder. We can hope again that next year she graces us with a female, but until then we shall certainly enjoy her milk.
The boys. They are on their own tonight. Our little buckling, the one on the right, was in serious need of weaning. I am sure that SnowPea is pretty relieved not to have him giving her the business. Which all means that I am now going to be milking twice daily. Finally!
I tricked the boys and Zorro into the next paddock this afternoon, and while they ran in there to see what was up, the ewes that were in there ran into the other paddock to see what was going on in there. Phew! I didn't have to manhandle anyone to one side or to the other. Now all we have to do is get the 3 ram lambs in there with the two bucklings. As the nights grow colder, I am beginning to be worried about one of them getting riled up and breeding one of the ewes. We do not need any unexpected lambs :*)
Busy days. Yesterday we penned all the ewes and lambs first thing and we checked their Famacha scores and wormed them. You are supposed to do that on an empty stomach so that the wormer takes effect better, so that was our early job. Then we separated all but one of the mama ewes from the lambs and put them into the other paddock. And that began the crazed calling and crying that has continued into the day today. All of these lambs are very past due for weaning, but it wasn’t really convenient for a number of reasons. The only mom who is staying with her lambs is Esther as she had her babies so much later than the others. She has not gotten the very best nutrition as I had to cut down on the grain for the other moms. So she needs to stay with the market lambs and get more grain before she heads down to the field.
And then the big trip to the vet’s today with our four doelings. It was time for their disbudding. I really hate doing this, but the vet does it very efficiently and they get a shot of Banamine which is an anti-inflammatory so I think they are more comfortable. They were a little dozy on the way home through the torrential downpours and by the time we got back to the farm they were hopping around in the back of the Subaru and checking things out through the back window. They got with their mamas right away and within minutes they were out playing on the big rock. A few more things to check off the list!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!