January 31, 2011

An Extra Breed

If you know our herd at all (or you have been to the website), you know we have 3 distinct breeds on the property – and of course our beloved grade does. Now 3 breeds is actually quite a few for 1 herd because of all the different sire service it requires but we each have our own personal love of certain breeds and so as a result we have 3: Lamancha, Saanen, Toggenburg (sometimes shorthand called Togg).

Right now on the property we have 1 additional breed – an Alpine. A good friend of ours was looking for a way to have her Alpine dry yearlings in milk. Ideally you want your does to be bred by the time they are two. After that, you cannot show them until they are milking. Additionally as a doe gets older, the first kidding process gets harder on her body. A two year old first freshener doesn’t really have a terrible time of it, but it can be extremely hard on a 5 year old first freshener. Partly I think this has to do with joints beginging to fuse together making the body change and kidding process harder. Because our friend is away at school right now, burdening her parents with the responsibility of milking and managing kids seemed a bit much to ask. So her choices were wait another year or breed really late and try for kids born after she got back from school.

We bought Brazil, our older Lamancha buck, last January after all our does were already bred. So we had to wait until this fall to use him. Well, understandable we wanted to use him on as many animal as possible so that we would have plenty of doe kids from him to improve our herd. Well, suddenly we had this great idea. Why don’t we lease her alpine does and breed them for ½ Lamancha kids. We’ll keep the kids and she can have milking does. Everybody wins!

Although we tried to breed 2 does early only one settled so only 1 Alpine has joined the herd for a few months. Her “sisters” remain at our friend’s house until they are much closer to kidding. Ziggy came because she is due at the beginning of February with the rest of our kidding storm. Ziggy is a broken sungau. This means she is black with white facial strips like the toggenburgs with a large white belt over her barrel. It is really funny to see her stand next to the other toggs. She has a bit of an appearance like she is just the wrong color. She is the only black and white doe out there (Argentina is solid black) so she stands out a bit. Additionally she has a different personality from the other does. Every time she does something quirky we have just decided to term it she is pulling and “Alpine”. Like when she refused to eat hay with all the little girls… who are maybe ½ her size. Or when she follows us around wondering when we are going to put out “her” flake of hay. Or the fact that she hold her tail nearly over her rump – all the time. Okay so maybe this are not all “Alpine” traits, but it is sure funny to have a different breed around for a while – hopefully her kids will have their sire’s laid back personality :)

January 28, 2011

The week before kidding starts

It’s amazing to me how you can re-watch a movie and the thing that sticks out to you is the thing that is most appropriate a few weeks later. At home we get by with less than the modern day technological advances (because let’s face it, which is more important, living with you happy well-fed goats or having cable or internet?) and we watch quite a few movies as a result. A few weeks ago we were re-watching an episode of Everwood that had this closing line about the moment in a production before the curtain goes up. In so many ways I feel like that is the way it is before kidding season. I suppose there are lots of other “waiting” metaphors, but this one seem to just fit somehow. The breath you hold. The scenarios fly before your eyes. Yes, the week before kidding season feels similar to right before a curtain rises.
It isn’t like waiting for the report card or test result. Yes, something could go wrong during kidding season. More than likely something at some point will go wrong. Last year we had 2 boys die one week after they were born no matter how hard we tried to save them. One kid died at birth from a broken neck. Sad but true, sometimes things happen. With all the first fresheners this year, something is bound to happen. But you don’t think about those things. You don’t sit and worry and dread the results. There is so much excitement and anticipation it is hard to get too worried about what will go wrong – we’ll solve those problems when we get there.
Similarly it isn’t the same as waiting for Christmas morning. Kidding isn’t a one day event where after you open the presents you go back to normal in a few days. The next eight months of our lives will be filled with milking, graining, feeding, clipping, showing, and everything else that comes with the show herd that makes my life so exciting and so full. It has possibilities as you evaluate 2011 kids for 2012 offspring. It has choices to make and you cull down your herd (because if I kept everyone – no one would get fed. Well, maybe Ysis but she is pushy like that). You admire the udders on your 2010 kids as first fresheners and you comment on how much better your older does look after another lactation.
Usually I have one doe who I am really excited about – this year I don’t know if I could limit it to just one; or even if I could limit it to just one goat per breed. What will the grade kids look like? Will I finally get color in my 1st generation Lamanchas? Will Arabica kids be long and tall? Will Auric put dairy character on Alba’s amazing frame? Will Fritter’s kids be togg colored or Saanen colored? Will Xymphony have a doe kid AND a buck kid so we can breed in her dairy frame to the rest of the herd? What will Brazil do for all the goats in the herd? What will Alpine-Lamanchas look like (and more importantly what will they act like)?
No, I think the only way to really describe it is the hush before the curtain rises. You plan. You’ve picked out the best bucks as sires and taken as much care with graining and vaccinations that you could have for these kids. You practice. (I won’t lie, my first kidding season was quite a bit more stressful than this coming one. I know what to expect – I’m aware of the risks but I’m familiar with the solutions). You prepare.( Kidding supplies stocked and at easy reach). Then you hold your breath as it is time to watch the curtain rise and for the show to begin. 

January 23, 2011

Davis Goat Day

In January ever year, UC Davis hosts a goat day full of talks and hands on activities, but personally I think the best part is getting to see everyone. I know that we are not actually held up in our houses as if we were snowed in or something, but the drastic difference of seeing everyone nearly every week at a show during the summer then not seeing anyone at all during the winter months is pretty strange. Regardless, Goat day is that great opportunity to come out and listen to what is happening in all the latest research and then socialize and finally have some hands on discussions.

The problem every year is that there never seems like enough time to catch up with everyone. This year I spend the majority of the afternoon in a training session to become a DHIA tester. DHIA, which stands for Dairy herd Improvement Association, is an official agency which is set up to test milk and licenses testers to weigh milk on site and then collect samples to send in to the agency.  This year a group of us with a total of 4 herd are all going to put our animals on test and test each other herds. Why would you want to test? Well, just like with showing and LA, it is important to test so that you can have official records for your animals to see how they compare to the rest of the country. Even if you never what to compare with the rest of the country, you want to know if you are choosing good bucks and are improving each daughter from her dam. You can’t tell for certain if you are making improvement until you test to see where you are starting. I am really excited to set a base level and see where our animals go in the future.

The only unfortunate thing was the training took most of the afternoon so I didn’t get to see as many people as I could. Oh well, something to look forward to this spring and summer.

January 16, 2011

Little Growing Udders

Look at that little udder!!

3 weeks until the first kids start arriving! As we eagerly await their arrival another of my favorite things to watch in preparation of kidding is the developing udders on the first fresheners. Although showing them as a dry animal gives you a hint to their potential, this is really what it is all about – what type of udder they have. As you can see our girls are showing adorable little udders and we can’t wait to see them as the develop more and more.

January 08, 2011

Baby bumps

Yesterday I went out to feed goats and “bumped” bellies for goat babies. I could feel babies in almost all of our Feb fresheners!! Legs, spine, head, rumps, REAL baby goats!!  I just love this part – although you don’t have kids yet, you can feel them and some even kick you back. You know that you are really going to have lots of fluffy, bouncy kids in just a month!

If you want to try this at home with your own does, get a helper (or do this on calm does at the feeder). Come up from behind them and gently wrap your arms around their belly in front of their udder but behind their barrel. Gently lift up or press into their stomach. You (obviously) want to be gentle but depending on how far along your doe is the kids will be large and easier to find and you may need to push a bit into the stomach. Sometimes applying pressure then releasing (but keeping your hand there) and the kid will kick back! Some people can estimate how many kids the doe is carrying, although I have not been as successful at this. I just like the feeling that my goat is actually pregnant and I am not going to be severely disappointed after 150 days of waiting.

One more month! I’m sure there will be more blogs on expected kids to come!