March 27, 2011

Rain and Mud

First Disclaimer: This is the end of spring break (which isn’t actually a break for graduate students, just a “go to lab everyday” time) and the next quarter promises to be very difficult with a combination of teaching and taking a very difficult class. You will have to forgive me for 10 weeks if I don’t get many blogs posted. I’ll try, but they might be short and infrequent.
Rain has hit us hard here. Now, I know many people across the country have to deal with snow, but since I don’t, I can only talk about the rain. It is not so bad that there is water falling from the sky, which makes hay wet and everything else wet, but goats are allergic to water. I mean they like it in a bucket and need it to drink, but if it is on them! Oh the drama!
Plus with the rain bring the wind and the mud.
The wind is easy enough to take care of – you but up some boards and make sure there are plenty of wind blocks (in lots of directions because somehow as soon as you break the southernly wind the northern one starts up. But the mud!
Oh the mud is everywhere. There are puddles that don’t drain in the middle of the pasture. There are places where my feet get stuck to the point of pulling my boot off! Then there are the goats. They look horrible they are muddy and spotty and dirty and just plain gross. The white does are in no way white and the brown does seem to have lighter brown spots on them. The kids legs are muddy and they put horrible muddy foot prints on all your clothes. I have gone through more jeans this week because of it!!
I know we need the rain, but I need the sun!! I need the pasture to dry out! I need the clover to grow back. Right now nothing can grow. All the little tomatoes I planted – dying of water overload and wind. It is really all too much.
But in the wise words – This too shall pass. Until then, time for mud boots.

March 21, 2011

One Thousand Page Views!!

Thank you to EVERYONE who has read the blog, once, twice, or regularly. We have crossed one thousand page views!!! I'm so excited you all enjoy reading the blog!!!

Buying Grain - in bulk

Once upon a time I owned one small goat. We feed her one bag of grain a month (spread out of course). Once that little doe was milking we bought a couple 50lb bags a month. Eventually when her daughters were milking too I got up to 5 bags or so a month. Never in a million years did I think I would every buy grain by the ½ ton – honestly I didn’t even know it existed until a few years back. Now that is the most popular way we buy grain.

Every year we start off buying the first few rounds of grain in sacks. It is easy when we need 1 or 2 bags to get us through a few weeks. Plus it helps to replenish our grain sack stash. After you use the bags for a year or more they start to really wear out.

Then once the milkers start producing and we have plenty of milkers, it is time to go buy in bulk. Find a sunny day, line to bed of the truck with a clean tarp, and off we go.

The cool thing about buying in bulk is that you can decide what you want to milk in. Sometimes we want to add a little extra molasses, sometimes we feel like we want to boost the protein, or maybe we want some other feed additive put in – whatever we want, we can put in! So then we wait around while the feed gets mixed up and ready for us. We position the truck under the shoot and shortly they are dumping it into the bed of the truck.

Of course the real work begins when we get home. We have the great fun of shoveling (and I do mean shoveling – with a shovel) into a bags and a trash can to actually feed to the goats. 1000lbs of grain usually goes into 10 or 11 full bags of grain, or a trash can and a few less bags.

Here’s hoping that it will last a few months at least!

March 14, 2011

Bippity Boppity Boo

I am a little behind but mostly I think that is simply from too many things to do and not enough hours to do it. However I briefly had to post about Annie’s little twins.
Annie was our last kid born last year, at the beginning of May and as a result she was handled less than our older girls. She was a bit wild and a bit skittish. If you caught her she calmed down and behaved fine, but first you had to catch her. This is the down side to having a herd that is over a certain number. The animals who are friendly get more attention and as long as the less friendly ones are eating and seem content you don’t chase them down and handle them. Annie fell to the second set. We would see her eating with her mother, we would see her happily lying in the sunshine, and we would catch her to trim hooves and make sure she was alright but we didn’t handle her daily. As a result we missed the fact that she was definitely pregnant.
Sure we noticed she was round, but she was also VERY furry. I mean, for goodness sakes, she is a Togg. Then we noticed she was growing a small udder, but it was pretty covered with fur and she comes from strong milking lines so there was always a possibility that it was just a precocious udder. We went round and round in our own minds. She was so small… when could she have gotten bred? Wouldn’t we have noticed?
Finally over our “kidding weekend” one of our friends asked when Annie was due. Sigh, I guess it was time to face reality. So finally after Azalea kidded we tried chasing her down. It took quite some effort but we finally caught her. Sure enough – there was definitely a baby we could feel. Since we didn’t want to run around the pasture every time we wanted to catch her – we put her in with Arabica (well! She was already pregnant at this point!)
A week and a half later Annie delivered a beautiful set of buck/doe twins. They are the most adorable things ever. Perfect Toggenburg markings with little Lamancha ears, truly precious. Annie was such a good mother and a good milker. Shortly after she went to live at her new home where her milk is helping to raise calves, but the two kids stayed with us. I’m sure there will be many pictures of the two of them, but for now here is one shot of them and yes, we are calling the doe Bippity Boppity Boo.

March 04, 2011

Saanen kids at last

I am a skeptic. Maybe I secretly hope for the best but I plan for the worst and expect it to come. I suppose in some ways this means life occasionally gives me good surprises but mostly it means when good things come my friends have one more thing to tease me about.
Well it was the same last fall when Zinfandel didn’t come back into heat  after 21 days I held my breath. We had tried breeding her by AI twice and I was only going to give it 2 rounds before I took her for natural service. AI – or artificial insemination tends to be a hit and miss thing. In 2009 we bred 2 lamanchas (one time for one and two times for the other) and had 2 sets of kids. We also bred 1 Toggenburg and had no Togg AI kids. In 2010 we bred 1 Saanen twice and 1 Togg 3 times (she didn’t settle by AI at all). Zinfandel didn’t come back into heat BUT I caught Arabica out at least once near the time when she was in heat. I told my friends I would not believe that the AI had worked until those kids came out with long white ears.
To make me even more skeptical and worried Azalea ends up with a little grade Lamancha cross after breeding her specifically to a Saanen buck. Now I was truly worried. The doe that I have taken to the breeder to have serviced by a live buck and I never saw even close to the Lamancha pen kids with a cross so what was going to happen to the doe that I AI’ed and saw near the Lamancha buck pen.
Saturday morning rolled around and Zinfandel looked to definitely be in labor. She kidded with no problems and no assistant needed and guess what… the kids had perfectly shaped Saanen ears and were white all over!!!! It worked!!! I can now say I have successfully settled a doe with AI!!!  The small downside was that they were both bucks so no does this year (last year our 2 sets of AI kids ended up being 3 does) but now I can add AI bucks to the list of potential sires. And yes – I am already plotting next year’s breeding plans including some cool AI crosses. I’m sure the skeptic will be back soon but until then I will go have a long chat with Alba about some Saanen doe kids ;-)

March 02, 2011

Creative weekend

This weekend seemed to spur creativity. I feel like I totally accomplished so much including planting radishes and beets and starting to set up another area for a small garden bed. However my best moment came when I had the brilliant idea to recycle.

So you know those really gross jobs that come with raising animals? The ones that involve lots of poo or other smelly things? We have two large dog carriers that we use to hold animals. Sometimes it is for transport and sometimes it is just for storing young animals. The last things these carriers were used for was holding the sheep (who we are raising up for meat) and they really needed a good cleaning before we wanted to put any little goats in them. Well then the question is what do you use to scrub them out? You want something stronger than paper towels, but you also want to throw it away after wards.

Then it hit me – before I throw away that nasty scrubbing pad that I have nearly killed doing the dishes – give it one last hurrah. So the old dish scrubber pad gets used (it was headed out anyway) and then it gets tossed!

This was again repeated (with a different scrubber pad) when I had to clean out the tub. When a kid is not looking strong or quite right and we want it to not have to maintain its body temperature, we often bring it in the house and put it in the (dry) tub. Well you can guess that the sick baby does not leave the tub spot less – so it is really nasty once it is strong enough to go back outside to mother. Once again – brilliant idea. Normally we just put a towel underneath, but why not put a paper bag. The bag is disposable and very inexpensive and it can be changed if the kid remains in the tub – so the poor thing is not rolling in the manure. Then at the end – everything can get scrubbed out with a pad to then toss.

This all worked perfectly until I found myself this morning with a clean tub and a different weak kid. Oh well – I tried.