Thursday, April 22, 2010

Well, last night when I was feeding goats I noticed Indy was a little more friendly than usual, and she wanted to stand and eat out of the bucket instead of the feeder with all the other goats. I indulged her, as I remember how uncomfortable the end of pregnancy was. "34's" kids are still doing well and she is indeed mightily maternal, so we are happy about that. I noticed Indy's rump was starting to sink a bit, but she is still a week and a half away from when we thought she was bred, so I just went along my way. Today was the first day Chuck has been back to go take care of the goats in almost two weeks, and when he fed tonight, he noticed Indy's absence at the feeder. As he poured the feed, he could hear her "blaaah" from nearby. He went around the shed to locate her, and came upon this scene:

Now, we did expose her to Boomer about a week prior to when we thought she caught, but we thought we missed her cycle, and she appeared to short cycle about a week and a half later. This doeling has stood and sucked, so maybe we didn't miss the first cycle after all. I know there is a five day window outside the 150 days, but I hope this kid is not as early as we thought at first. We will watch her and hope for the best. Chuck will be checking back in on her tonight. Boomer is sure throwing a lot of little black or black and white kids. Surprise, surprise.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

just a quick few pictures

Word of warning - these pictures were taken on zoom from my phone, so please forgive the poor quality. It was all I had on hand, and I was spending some time checking on the yearling field.

Just a brief update on "34" and her kids - she is taking good care of them and they are doing fine. I think she is living up to her sire's reputation for making highly maternal does.

Indy, the young Iron Horse/Blue'sSonTayW27doe cross is starting just a little bit of an udder, and I expect a single out of her, which is fine first time around. She is a little friendlier than some of the others, and although I get tired of goats climbing up my back, I do relish a goat you can give a shot and it still comes back for more the next day... call me crazy...

We had a goat in that field acting like something was stuck in her mouth for a couple days, although we could find nothing, and she got a knot on her jaw almost like an abscessed tooth. The vet was out and said whatever it was is over with - maybe something sharp stuck her inside of her mouth - but she is on penicillen for a week. Now that's a good time - giving a goat penicillen. And she is not easy to catch, or hold, and of course getting less so with each injection. I'd about rather give any shot than penicillen. I'm sore afraid of anaphylactic shock from years of having horses and hearing horror stories. It is like injecting glue, too. She is a yearling doe that is a triplet daughter of Hammer and short legged but deep bodied, and she was none worse for wear after her shot because that is her white head poking up out of the top of the hay feeder. We've got to get some sides on that thing. This was Chuck's first hay feeder, and he's improved a lot on his design since then.

Boomer, our yearling herd sire, is still growing, and so far his kids are turning out well. He still hasn't needed deworming, so I hope that continues, but of course, only time and more generations will tell us the true worth of his kids. I still like the way he's put together, but I may just be biased to like a big hip from all that horse judging back in the eighties.

The only goat in this field who has been left out is Connie, so I might as well include her. She is another NZ doe, by a son of Dale. She just came a year this month, so is a little behind the rest, but hopefully will make nice kids when she is a bit older. She tries to blend in and go unnoticed as much as possible.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

it's like they watch the weather channel

What is it with pregnant goats and weather? As we have mentioned, "34" (GHK Y11) was theoretically due to kid Monday. She is a first timer, and I had read first timers are more likely to go early than the veterans are. We have had all sorts of warm weather here in the Piedmont, but a front moved in a few days ago (I called my husband to warn him of the tornado watch as he was out picking up dinner, and he replied "oh yeah, there it goes up the road" as he watched the clouds forming a V and spinning off up Hwy 311) and the weather predicition was for ONE night with near freezing temperatures. One. Out of a month of good weather. So when did "34" kid out? Last night, on the one freezing night. In her defense, Chuck was running really late, so when he arrived at the farm about 10pm last night, she already had the kids, cleaned them up, and they seemed to have had a drink already. He ticked her right off by squeezing a teat to make sure it was indeed running milk, and her udder was somewhat deflated and the milk flowing easy, so he was pretty sure at least one of the kids had nursed.

She had them off from the main goat "hangout" which on a normal night would have been okay, but there was no windbreak and it was going to be below freezing and windy, so Chuck brought the kids up to one of the little sheds we have out in the field. The seasoned mamas all used the sheds pretty well. Although she is not a very "tame" goat, she followed Chuck with her kids, but after that first teat squeeze, she wasn't going to let him anywhere near her. We like to witness each kid nurse and actually get a full belly with our own two eyes, so he watched and waited and sneaked around and spied and finally after the sun was up this morning, was pretty satisfied both kids were getting what they needed. We don't want to have to intervene, but we've learned a lot just from watching. And watching. And watching. We are still on the upswing of the learning curve, so we tend to be a little paranoid about things like kids getting colostrum. Here are a couple pictures of the new arrivals, a brown doe and a buck that just begs to be called "Oreo" or "Freeway" or "Belted Galloway." One of the reasons we bought this doe at the Cream of the Crop sale was the reputation of her sire, AFK Caesar, for producing good mama goats that stay productive for a long time. She showed us a lot of these good maternal traits right off the bat with these first kids, so we hope to have many more kids from her in the future.

Referring to lessons learned, earlier this season one of our original dairy does had twins, and both kids got up and nursed, and their mama seemed to be doing everything right. She cleaned them and moved them towards her udder, and they bumped and sucked. Chuck watched for a while, and noticed that even though they were nursing, one of the kids seemed to be getting weaker and weaker. Finally he decided to see for himelf what was going on and tried to squeeze the side of the udder the weaker doeling had been nursing and it was hard and cold, like it is full of scar tissue. No milk. Of course, she was trying to protect her new kids so Chuck got bit. Chuck got bit a lot. Undeterred by goat bites, Chuck milked a little colostrum from the good side of her udder into a syringe and was able to get it into the weaker doeling and after she had perked up a bit, he came on home. We helped them get the right side if we happened to be up there, but otherwise left it largely up to the kids to work it out. Every day when I went up to feed, I was sure one or both of those kids would be dead, but after a day or two, both doelings had learned that mama for all practical purposes has only one teat and the doe has raised two nice Kiko/dairy cross doelings on that one teat. It's kind of a shame she has that screwed up udder, because she actually was trying to be a good mama. Am I going to breed her again? No way. I don't think it is a heritable problem, but if we aren't there and she kids out, if the kids don't get the right teat in time, those kids will die. She needs to go be a backyard weedeater, orBBQ. I'm sure she'd rather be a weedeater. We learned from the experience, however, to make sure the nursing kid is actually getting a full belly, and not just going through the motions.

This entry would not be complete without a mention of Chuck's new "helper." For the last year and a half, Chuck has had to move round bales, 800 lb square bales of lespedeza, and turn ground to plant chicory, all without a tractor. He basically used straps, PVC pipes as rollers, and his own strength on the hay, and a garden tiller to prepare the ground for the chicory. As of yesterday, Chuck is a tractor owner. The tractor is the same vintage as me - 1968 - but hopefully it is not quite as worn out. I hope both of us have many good years left in us. As you can see, to our kids, it is the most beautiful tractor in the world.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Unpredictability and life's transitions...

Today Chuck dropped off a few hundred pounds of orchard grass seed and a smaller amount of alfalfa seed up at a different farm in the country. Since I was a little girl, I have planned to someday live on this farm, known locally as "The Knight Place." I can remember my parents driving home from visits with my grandparents, with me in the backseat of the old Custom Cruiser. The plastic smell of the car seats, the gentle way the twisting roads would lull me to sleep as we travelled - it is as vivid to me now as when I was a child. I remember them telling me that this farm would belong to me someday, and I've looked forward to that day my whole life. The farm still belongs to my mother currently, but here, we are beginning the first step in making it "our farm" and future home.
A local family of farmers have rented the land for many, many years, growing tobacco on it and on off years planting some other crops or a little hay. Tobacco is of course not the industry it was once, and although tobacco probably put roofs over the heads of most of the people in that community, change has come and even the tobacco farmers are diversifying. This year our farmers plan to plant Burley instead of Fluke-Cured tobacco because there is more of a demand. They mentioned to me it requires no pesticides, and that was welcome news. I have always wondered about the chemicals used to grow tobacco - the herbicides, the pesticides, and the chemical fertilizers. I can't help but wonder how much will be in the land for many years to come. I hope it isn't so much.

This year, I approached the farmers about reclaiming some of the farm for our goats. This was such a bad winter, with so much snow and ice. I want to be able to have the goats on a small partion of this new farm next winter. It isn't far off the road, so we could afford some gravel, and it has the possiblity of having both power and well water. I don't know if Chuck will still be travelling a lot, but I know I don't want another winter of having to trek down a steep, slick hill with only a headlight on my head to cut through the darkness, and several gallon jugs of water tied together hanging over my shoulders, just to find at the bottom of the hill a branch across the fence has drained the battery on the electric fence and I don't have the physical strength to muscle the marine battery a quarter mile up a hill to bring it home to charge. No, I would like next winter to be a little more user-friendly.

So we are going to plant a pasture of orchard grass and alfalfa in hopes of creating a winter pasture for the goats on the new farm. I've taken care of animals my whole life, but this will be our first pasture "from scratch." We did plant chicory in the current area where the goats are, so they would have a higher tannin, high quality forage for summer. The hunters who bowhunt the property told my husband they believed every single seed he planted last fall came up, and now it does look like most survived the winter. I will be interested to see how well the chicory comes in now with our record warmth.

Of course, with spring, and with warm weather, comes unpredictability. While at the second farm, my husband noticed it looked a bit dark over towards the goats. By the time he reached the original property, only a couple miles down a country road, the ground was piled up in hail and a dense fog was hanging low in the valley. That's right - hail, on a day where the temperature bumped 90 degrees. The goats really did look surprised by it all, even after most of it had melted.

I will wind up this post with my husband's reflection on our new pasture on the Knight Place. As the sun set in the West, he couldn't help but think how this marked a sunset of sorts for the farm's long life in tobacco production. Generation Farm was named because these plots of land have been in my family for so many generations, and now, we are starting a totally new venture on this heritage property. We can only hope that this is just the start of a fruitful new life for the farm.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Now if only it could be like this year round...

Today was a beautiful day in the Piedmont of NC. Apparently, I was not the only one to think so. I received this picture from my husband when he went to feed the goats. Yes, Kikos are great foragers, but I think this warm spring day was just more than anyone could resist for a nice bit of relaxation.

The family group in the foreground is "Callisto," a 50% Kiko doe and her two 75% Boomer kids, "Superchunk" and his brother. These guys were born mid January, so they aren't even 90 days old yet. In the background facing this direction are MoneyPenny, another 50% doe with her 75% doeling, and behind them are Venus, a 50%er with her two 75% doe kids, Mud and Shiver. My husband named Mud and Shiver in honor of the weather on the day of their arrival. They were our Christmas Day kids, born in the sleet and freezing rain. All the goats in this group are for sale, as we hope to have fewer does next winter. We are planting a new winter pasture of Orchard Grass and Alfalfa, to which I plan to add a little of this and a little of that, but it remains to be seen how it will do between now and the fall.

We are still watching "34" who is due on April 12th. She is a Purebred doe by AFK Caesar and out of a Tay Naboo daughter. She looks like a bubble with little stick legs, so I would be surprised if she has a single. She is a first timer, so hopefully all will go well. This picture of her is an older one from over the winter. She is not so fuzzy now, but definitely wider and has an udder started. She isn't really interested in letting us feel for loosening ligaments around her tail, so we are just going to have to use arm's lengths observations about when she is going to kid. The chicory field is starting to grow, so we are hoping it will provide good summer gains.

This will be the next first timer, Indy 85, that we will be watching. She is due a few weeks after 34. This is a doeling by Iron Horse and out of a Blue's Son/Tay W27 cross doe. We really like Iron Horse, and this time next year plan to have four Iron Horse doelings in the herd. The other three Iron Horse doelings are out of Tay W48 (GoldmineI and Sunkist 109 daughter), Purdy (daughter of Tay 007 and W 65), and a daughter of Nick and Tasman Temptress. We hope these girls will add some frame to Boomer's muscle and rump, and of course there is plenty of muscle coming from Iron Horse, too.