March 22, 2010

The Bonus of Bucks

Had someone tried to convince me that I would voluntarily care for, pet and become attached to a buck even as recently as early 2009, I would have cringed and possibly emitted a cynical chuckle followed by a scoff. I have never been markedly fond of bucks - they served for the purpose of propagation of offspring. A necessary nuisance if you will. During my years of having a 4-H herd, I mostly took does to bucks, although at different times did own a Togg buck for one breeding season, then a LaMancha buck I won at a show raffle several years later. Beyond that, my interaction has predominantly been at the commercial dairy where I was employed during college and in most recent years, at shows throughout the US that I have been privileged to judge. A series of bucks over the last 8 months have served to alter my opinion to the better.

Pineapple was the first buck who served to at least mellow my opinion of bucks. Pineapple arrived in the middle of an August heat wave and reacting to this stress, while exiting from the truck, landed himself in the middle of a shrub in my front yard, effectively re-landscaping it before running up and down the block not once, but twice (this during a time of goat keeping on the edge of a 300,000 population city). Over time, however, this free spirited buck began to tame and would appeal for attention over the top of the livestock panels. By the time he returned home, he was so tame that, when the truck couldn’t make it up a steep, moss covered Santa Cruz mountain road, he agreeably hiked the last 1/4 mile with us up to his home.

Then in late January the opportunity to purchase Elm*Glen Brazil presented. Talking with Karen Senn, she warned me that he was spoiled and more than a little attention seeking. In the time since Brazil’s arrival, he is more docile than some of the does. After trimming his hooves yesterday, he placed his head in the crook of my elbow and closed his eyes as I rubbed his chin and neck. I mean, really, as smelly as he is, who could really resist that charm?

Early this month, thanks to Trinity Smith of Goat-San LaManchas, we brought home Arabica, a beautiful little buckling full of spunk. A bottle baby in our herd of dam-raised kids, Arabica lived the first 10 nights in the bathtub of our spare room. He would vociferously protest the outrage of being “abandoned” by his human mothers, leading to the shutting of the bathroom door. Arabica is truly the buck who has won over my heart. No matter how much a slobbering, hormone driven buck he becomes, chances are I will still have a deep attachment to the creature who drapes himself over my knee foraging for the bottle he know I must be hiding somewhere!

This said, I suppose I should be grateful I recently discovered my ginger salt bath scrub does a near miraculous job of removing buck “cologne” so I can continue to enjoy petting the boys after the start of breeding season. With their unique personalities, the bucks truly are a bonus to the herd.

March 20, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Update

It has been almost a week since my last post so I thought it was time for a new one. Lets start with the general update - we are holding at 11 kids including the little buck we picked up last week. He also has a name finally: Goat-San Babys Morning Arabica. So (in case you are keeping score) we have: Azalea (and brother), Arizona, Alaska, Artemis (and brothers Atlas and Apollo), Apple Fritter (and brother), Argentina, and Arabica. We have also transitioned Arabica to spending his days outside in the goat pasture where he plays with all the other kids and learns to be a goat. He is helping up with milking too - by eating it all. I always feel happy when I am not wasting milk. The days are sunny, the nights are mild, spring is in the air. Working our way backwards - the bad part is my does are all trying to die on me. Thistle is back to fighting ketosis. She won't eat grain because - well if I knew then I could fix the problem. We had given her dextrose thinking she would fight it and her ketone levels had come way down - and now they are back up which is simply frusterating because you know part of the problem is she is too stubborn to eat grain. Then Ysis - my less moody Saancha cross - comes down with what we think is listeria and 1/2 of her face is paralyzed. Poor thing has food/cud falling out of her mouth. Still just as cheerful as ever she keeps putting food in to keep up. She seems to be getting better but only time will tell if she heals completely Finally the good - first the doe kids are growing so well. Not one has hit the ground that I am sorry for that breeding. Are there ones who are better than others? Sure. But really, this years kids have not made me sad at all. Now we are working on leading on a chain so the beautiful kids can show themselves off and not fling themselves to the ground at the first show. Secondly we pulled kids off does for the day to watch udders fill up. While I would love to say they were all perfect and large, they weren't. Especially a certain ketotic doe, but I guess that is to be expected. Katie (arizona and alaska's mom) certainly bagged up tremedously though - almost scares me how much milk those two must be consuming. Overall though pretty well attached udders all around. We will certainly repeat this experiment to see how the does look after a few rounds of bagging up. Well that is all I can think of for now.

March 10, 2010

Unexpected Surprises

I never cease to be amazed by the goats, but this time around it was people who surprised me.
So Jenn and I were just sitting around Monday night when an email comes through from Trinity Smith of Goat-San Lamanchas offering us a new buck kid who was just born and has amazing genetics. Sire's dam was the national champion two times and the sire's sire's dam and dam's dam is a doe I have always been highly impressed with. We just bought a buck, but really, can you turn down that offer?
So off we went the next afternoon up to Redwood Hill Dairy to pick him up. After an almost 3 hour drive through traffic we are proud to say we have another buck here in the herd. It was an unanimous decision between us which one we wanted and we have great expectations for him.
He rode home at the feet of the passenger seat and slept most of the way home. I think it must have been a rather bumpy ride from his point of view because he was rather nauseous as scouring a bit when we got home. He had 1/2 a bottle of clear liquids instead of any milk to help his stomach stay calm and then spent the night in the bath tube - a warm, dry and cleanable location for baby goats.
As you can see he was excited about breakfast this morning. Just admiring he height and width to the escutcheon we are so excited to see what he does for our small herd. The added bonus is he is a beautiful color with several shades of brown and white.
After breakfast as we were getting ready for school he found himself a warm cozy spot. 2 minutes before this picture he was standing in the living room. I turn around only to discover he has found a sun spot. Well he didn't stay there too long, his first adventure in his new home - off to Jenn's 6th/7th grade class for love and attention (and to make sure he gets lunch).

March 04, 2010

Why Goats are Supposed to Have Twins

This kidding season has been a significant improvement over last year, where three does kidded, each with a single kid (albeit all doe kids). In five kiddings, we've had 3 sets of twins, 1 set of triplets and one single kid.
The mind of a goat is an amazing thing. They can see a hole in a fence from 20 yards, enlarge the hole with a tenacity that should put mammals with opposable thumbs to shame and climb obstacles that would challenge some college athletes, but even goats have their limitations, one of which is the ability to count beyond TWO. Two digits on their hoof, anything beyond that exceeds their mental capabilities. Such was the case with Ysis, poor girls couldn't count the third triplet to save her life. After two ate, she was baffled by the appearance of a third kid seeking her udder and would walk off, convinced someone was coming back for seconds.
Yucatan's issues are a little different. Yucatan had a single kid. Yucatan is a dairy goat in the truest sense. Her body understands that milk production is the primary purpose of her existence. Now, Argentina was a good sized kid at birth and ate heartily since the day she was born, but not even that appetite can begin to keep up with mother's milk production. Yucatan is now feeding her own kid, plus supplementing milk for the triplets who waddle away from nursing.
The other problem with a single kid is similar to the problem humans have with "only children". They are spoiled and life revolves around them. Argentina, for her whole 10 pounds of body weight believes that SHE is princess of the pasture, proceeding, with gutsy indifference to the dramatic size difference, to push around the January born Saanen and LaMancha kids. And, should anyone challenge her authority, she bounces back to mother who will, of course, protect her little darling. Twin kids would never stoop to such levels. They have siblings of equal size, strength and maternal affection who would quickly stop such prima donna nonsense.
God gave goats two teats, two hoof digits to count with and the brains to cope with twins - no more, no less. Hopefully the remaining 4 does to kid take heed and deliver twins!

March 02, 2010

Kids Update

Tuesday of a school week is not generally my most creative time of week, so forgive my generic title. It feels like life hasn't stopped moving at warp speed since before kidding season began.
Kidding season itself is exciting, the waiting is nerve-wracking. Unless, of course, you don't realize the doe is going to kid. Yucatan, my two year old LaMancha is a prime example. Rebekah and I had been watching her closely since mid-February when she started bagging up. We had two possible breeding date, both by AI. Sure, she was getting close, but her udder wasn't tight, tail head ligaments still present and accounted for, appetite healthy - nothing to suggest imminent birth, right? I got home during a rainstorm and immediately realized that Yucatan, typically very social, wasn't with the remainder of the herd at the gate. A quick search of the paddock revealed Yucatan hidden away in one of the shed stalls with a good sized, almost pure black kid, standing behind her. Dry, clean, fed and fluffed up. As a side note, this makes AI doe kid #3 for the year - twin doe kids from Katie - Arizona and Alaska, and now Argentina from Yucatan.
One of the older AI doe kids, Alaska, broke her leg about a month ago. The first week of the fracture was something of a trial and error to find the best splinting method on an active, spunky kid. Then two weeks in the splint and last week I removed it. At first she was hesitant to place weight on it, but this week, she's bounding around with only a slight bowing in of the front leg and thickening of the canon bone due to the callus , which will hopefully resolve with time.