Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Here's wishing everyone a wonderful new year! I have to say I'm not going to miss 2010 a whole lot... it could have been worse but there's an awful lot of room for improvement. Goat-wise, we have plans to try to finish moving goats to the FLAT farm, where we might actually be able to get water and/or power. The fence isn't dependent on voltage (don't let anyone tell you it is a great idea to use a high tensile electric fence in the woods - when it works it works well but when a tree falls on it, or the creek floods and buries the bottom wires in debris, or the goats manage to knock the connections loose - it might as well be an open gate, all the way around). We might actually get a building in which to store hay! Hoorah! And, as always, we plan to keep trying to breed the toughest goats going with great maternal instincts, while still keeping decent growth rates and a lot of meat and muscle.
Best wish to all for a productive, progessive, New Year with good health, good family, good friends, and good goats!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Token Doe

Well, today brought the first doe of the season. We bought a 2002 daughter of Tasman Aristocrat at the AKGA sale, figuring it would be a bit of a gamble if she would present us with kids or not. I don't know her kidding history, or if she has always been bred naturally or if she has ever been flushed. All we knew was that she was a good bodied doe with a really nice udder for her age. Today, Ivy had a 9 lb doe kid, white as the snow still laying on the ground in her field. If I could get a few more years worth of kids out of her, I will happily take a single doe each time. Hope we get another one next year. Chuck also discovered that Ivy is a very protective mother. The kid was hard to catch on her own, and Ivy trying to clobber Chuck just added to the excitement. I think the funniest thing that happened to him last year was the mama goat that bit him several times when he was looking at her babies. These latest pictures are unfortunately a bit grainy because Chuck is having to use the zoom on his camera phone. Nobody up there is appreciating him much these last few days.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kidding Season Begins

The first baby goats of the season were no surprise - the Purebred doe we interchangeably call Brownie and Fifty had actually looked like kids were imminent for over a month, down to the taut udder and hollowed sides. Luckily they also came in a "warm spell," if you can call it that. After weeks of temperatures far below normal for this time of year, we have had a week of temperatures making it up into the forties during the day and not far below freezing at night. Fifty is not a first time mama, but these are her first kids for us, so we are learning about her mothering instincts. So far, so good. Kidding brought out the "wild" in her so we've kept our distance except to see if the kids feel warm and full.

Two days later, when we arrived in the country, I noticed a young NZ doe that had obviously kidded recently. I looked around and found, stuffed up under the round bale feeder, Fifty's two kids and a third whitish looking kid. I told Chuck we had three now, and went on about my business. Shortly afterwards he investigated and announced I had missed one - there were not three kids stuffed under the feeder, but four. All bucks. I hope this trend doesn't continue without at least a few does appearing. I had to leave to pick up a human kid, but Chuck stayed to watch the kids and see how Jesse, a first timer, was handling things. We had earlier moved an old doe, not due til January, who had decided she'd like to have all four kids, and who was waving a very formidable set of horns at anyone coming near the kids - even their mothers. After Marshmallow and a buddy were installed in another area, things settled down a bit. Jesse still seems slightly bewildered, but the kids are warm and dry, so she is on the right track. They appear on closer inspection to not be white but a light red. No telling what they will look like in a month.
Now we have several does that should kid in the next couple of weeks. I hope the weather holds, because several are first time mothers. Here's a picture from a few days ago of the expecting does:
Hopefully with the goats being born, we can work in some last minute Christmas shopping over the next couple of days. We hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season, and we offer you our best wishes for a wonderful New Year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sustainable Agriculture Conference

We attended the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association annual conference at the beginning of the month. It was here in Winston, which made it doable for us, and although it was about sustainable agriculture in general, we learned many things in the seminars I think we can use on our farm. We attended a seminar about soil biology, which although geared towards folks growing vegetables, was very interesting. It would appear that tilling in cover crops is still considered a way to improve poor soil, but this seminar showed us how damaging the act of tilling can be. Disturbed soils don't soak up the rain the way undisturbed well-grown soils will, which contributes to run off and less drought tolerant soils. The guy doing the seminar was showing how crushing the cover crop and planting through it remaining layer would work, and also showed how careful we must be not to compact the soil running the tractor back and forth over it. I assume there are trends in ag like there are trends in everything else, but it seems the trendiness of tilling in a cover crop every year is beginning to be tempered with a little bit of "tilling in has its place, but should not be overdone." I suppose in all of farming, there is a learning process at every level. What was done for years left us with some pretty pathetic dirt in some cases.

Another seminar I attended that was pretty interesting was about mob grazing. While geared mainly towards cattle, it showed how some pretty pitiful soil (like we have on the Knight Place) can be brought back to life by having a very dense animal population on it for a very short time to add manure, and crush the current vegetation into a sort of mulch. The cows are moved to new spot each day, and the previous area left ungrazed for as long as possible. A person in the audience said she would have to deworm her sheep anyway (as the presenter said he no longer has to deworm his cows) and the State goat specialist, who happened to be in the audience too, piped up and commented that if she moves those sheep every day, she should not have to deworm, and if she found individual animals that still needed deworming in that regimen, she should consider letting them die. That was pretty interesting to hear in an "out loud" voice in this sort of venue. If we can make it work on the Knight Place, I would like to implement some sort of mob grazing rotation. This will depend of course on the setup, and we would no doubt have to use some electronet as front and back fences within the larger areas.

The presenter also uses pigs and chickens in his rotation, and we do have chickens we could use as a clean up crew. I don't see how we could pull it off on the Taylor Place, in the woods, but we have seen a new "topsoil" of sorts where the goats collect and the lespedeza stems have decayed. This grows stuff really well, and seems to hold together in the rain. Now I just need to get the goats off it for at least a season so it can grow some tall vegetation and we lose the parasites that are surely on it. It would be really nice to create more fertile soil at the Knight Place in a proper pasture, especially for the winters. The man doing the mob grazing seminar says he no longer has to fertilize, lime, or seed, and even though his cows may not have the highest weaning weights, they instead have the lowest inputs. Interesting stuff.

Now, I must say, for folks in the Southeast, if the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Conference is not too far from your neck of the woods any time in the future - attend if you possibly can. Even if there weren't a lot of great seminars and opportunities for networking, there is the food! Oh, the food! The ingredients for the dinners were provided by many of the farms presenting or attending the conference, and it was just amazing. Besides being delicious, it was sustainably produced (often organic) healthy food I could feel good about eating. I wish my daughter, also a "foodie," had been there with us for the purple homestyle cooked cabbage and purple sweet potato hash with chorizo... and the shrimp and grits, and the steamship round of beef, and the mountains of fresh veggies around the salads... I think you get the idea.