Saturday, December 31, 2011

Asking for it...

In posting these few photos, I know I am just asking to get stuck by a horn. After all, I didn't carry my babies particularly elegantly, either. These older girls give me a chuckle, though, and I thought I would share and bring a smile to your morning cup of coffee or late night snack. I can just imagine Bo the Anatolian saying, "man, I just mentioned she put on a little weight over the holidays and you wouldn't believe what she called me." This doe is new to us this year, so we have no idea what this tremendous expanse of girth is going to mean. I expect we will be finding out in the next month.

I really get a smile when I see this next picture. This doe is coming 9 years old, and was our first Purebred doe, purchased at the BBM herd dispersal. The Moores told Chuck she had already had several sets of triplets at that point. She gave us triplets her first year with us and raised them all with no extra bottles. Last year she raised twin does, and this year, we'll see what she gives us, but I would be very surprised if this is a single. She did intimidate a first timer last year, as she had decided she wasn't doing this mothering thing well enough and was trying to adopt the babies herself. We moved her for a day, and then she was content to wait for her own doelings to come.

Chuck learned she isn't afraid to use those horns when he checks her babies, too, but she has become more used to him, and just gives him a stern look of warning and he promises to behave. When we brought her home, Annalee had looked at her and declared we would call her "Marshmallow." It didn't seem like a very appropriate name at the time, as she wagged those impressive horns at all the other goats, who moved quickly and quietly away in deference to her. Now that we see how she looks, when pregnant, like a dollop of Marshmallow fluff dropped off a spoon, we think Annalee pegged her pretty well. She is also one of those goats that always looks like she is sporting a bit of a smile, like the Mona Lisa, if you will. I can't imagine she won't bring a smile to others when they see this latest candid of her.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Christmas to all

And to all a good night... at least, a good night to those who don't have goats fixing to kid out. To all of those who do - we wish you sleep when you can get it and easy kiddings where you can watch from a polite distance as your does do everything right and then you can move along and get a nice cup of coffee. Chuck is keeping a closer eye than normal this year since we had the huskies attack a chicken so recently. I believe in survival of the fittest, and only keeping the best for breeding stock, but loose dogs are indiscriminate destroyers and I don't particularly want them reducing the pool I have to choose from. This also will be the first kidding season our LGDs have experienced with the does, so we want to be there for their first interactions with kidding does with brand new babies. The dogs, and our Anatolian in particular, notices every "difference" and we found last year that the dogs saw goats that broke into the field with "their" goats as a threat, and would try to run them out of the field. As soon as everyone was back in their proper spot, they were happy, and they would even go field to field and be happy with the goats as long as the goats were where they were supposed to be. There is a graveyard on the property and people still put flowers out, and we have noticed that anytime the flowers on the stones change, the dogs notice and check them out. In this picture, Kitty, the doe with the broken leg who still can move pretty quick on three legs, had gotten away from Chuck and taken off down the hill to see her old buddies. Bo was most concerned about this - there was a goat out of place! Horrors! So he jumped the fence between fields and ran down to save the day (in his opinion anyway).

I hope all of you have had a wonderful holiday - Christmas, Hannukah, or whatever you celebrate. This is the time of year where we are reminded what is most important - family and friends. We focus on the joy of children, and rightly so. They are our future and all our hopes and dreams are embodied in them, and while life isn't perfect, it is so nice that at least for a moment, we can forget all our troubles and just smile along with Santa Claus...

And at the risk of being a little silly, I would add that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

ups and downs of farm life

This is the time of year special for kids both human and caprine - 'tis the season for the human kids to be doing a lot of anticipating, and for us to be anticipating new goat kids as soon as January. We may even have one doe who will grace us with kids earlier, as she had a special visit with Ace early, so she could be bred for her owner. We will be giving the rest of the does due in January their CD&T boosters within the week so they will be able to transfer passive immunity to their kids in colostrum. So many articles I have read recently show that if kids don't get adequate amounts of quality colostrum, even if they survive they may be poor doers their whole lives. This is one of those critical moments if we want to produce goats that will be good additions to a breeding herd. The does don't necessarily see it that way, though, and never appreciate our attempts to make sure all is going well for them while they are in a family way. I would love to know how they can tell so quickly who we are trying to catch. We have become opportunists. You might not be who we meant to catch, but if you are who we get, get ready to get an eyelid pulled down and your privacy invaded. As you can tell by the look on this goat's face, they just don't have much of a sense of humor about all this. I wish we had fancy goat working equipment, but we don't. Chuck was able to get a good deal on some dented gates, though, and is trying to devise himself a system. I help him with them when I can, but when a doe built like this goes to run through me, my carpal tunnel-ridden hands and bum shoulder say discretion is the better part of valor and I don't try to catch her. I'll wrangle with the yearling does, but these guys... not so much!

Today I went with Chuck to get a few round bales of hay. For more years than Chuck and I have been married, I have been going to the same man for hay. Back then I just had horses, but the quest for decent hay is the same regardless of the species. I remember when my dad, who passed many years ago, called me and told me he had seen an add for orchard grass hay in the newspaper, and Chuck and I drove waaayyyy out in Surry County (which now doesn't seem so far) to Ben Watson's farm. His hay was, and is, good horse quality hay, and as consistent as it gets. I think, in all the many years I have gotten hay from him, I may have had two bad bales. And that is out of hundreds and hundreds of square bales I have bought over the years. I'm getting some round bales for the goats this time, but I am sure I will be back to get some more square bales when the does are lactating in the coldest part of the year and there is snow on the ground. I'm not sure we could have more different political views, but Mr. Watson is a great guy. He has a store called Benny T's, and over the years I heard his dreams of opening it, and then heard years later as his dream became a reality. I remember when he told about his son's high school football team getting up hay, and now his son is a successful farmer in his own right. We only see him a few times a year (more now with the goats than with just a couple horses to feed) but it is always fun to see him. The people we have met and continue to meet enrich our lives, and around this holiday season, we recognize what gifts these friendships are.

On a sadder note, when Chuck got up to the farm this afternoon, he found a couple of huskies had killed Brownie the rooster. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I can't stand a predator. I remember when Brownie hatched and lived in the bathroom for a while, and then Annalee used to carry him around in her arms. He grew into a strapping big rooster with impressive spurs, but he was always gentle with the children. One of the guys who works the tobacco had seen it happen, and got back to the farm right about the time Chuck got there, and he said he was sad to see it because Brownie used to get up on his tractor and he would share his nabs with Brownie. Brownie had seen fights before, and was wounded over the summer but had recovered. I know how dogs can get out (and this was a day when our LGD was actually in his fence with the goats where he is supposed to be), but people, keep your dogs up best as you can, especially if they are a breed with a high drive to hunt and attack. It's bad enough to lose stock to a wild animal, but it is a doubly hard pill to swallow when someone just lets their dogs run.

RIP Brownie. You were a good'un.

Monday, November 28, 2011

mob grazing

I mentioned how we inadvertently did mini mob grazing with goats by sliding our moving pens around to utilize some of the existing forage in unfenced areas, and to find places to stash some of the goats that didn't fit in a large field for one reason or another (bucklings, new goats in quaratine, etc). Here is a picture Chuck took that shows a piece of the farm that clearly demonstrates the before and after effect. You can see the swath of green grass that curves in the foreground - this is the path left by one of the pens he scooted. The original growth is behind it - grasses, yes - but all full of sticker bushes, poison ivy, broomstraw, and the old timey lespedeza found on so many farms around here. Chuck just looooves moving pens in this area as he is guaranteed a thorn in the toe. He is that odd guy at all the goat sales in shorts, a ball cap, and boat shoes. That is his farm attire in all but the bitterest or soupiest weather, too. Looking at this picture, can you just imagine how you could convert an overgrown old field to a nice pasture for a grass grazing species? Yeah, I want all the cow and horse folks out there to go get 'em a couple Kikos so's they can have a nice pasture...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just want to wish all our friends out there a very Happy Thanksgiving. This time of year, our turkeys might be thinking all the tea parties they had to attend with Annalee and all the petting they had to tolerate was probably well worth it.

Our Thanksgiving was a little strange, as this was the first year my mom wasn't able to do all the cooking on her own. I've never been a cook (I wasn't allowed in "her" kitchen growing up so I was a much better hand with a manure fork in the stable than with a skillet in the kitchen) but I pulled off stuffing, four pies, a purple sweet potato dish, and even wild rice with chorizo in little acorn squash shells. And nobody even got sick!

This Thanksgiving was a bit of a changing of the guard. It has been a crazy year, with family changes all around, not the least of which being the arrival of Miss Virginia. I was laid off my job, but don't miss anything but the wage and the folks (I don't miss the on call and nights even a little bit). The challenge of the job was fun, but the hours were just brutal, and were taking a toll on my health. I am trying to find a teaching job now, still hoping to fulfill a lifelong dream to teach high school English. I have had stuck in my bathroom mirror for many years now a small metal bookmark with a quote by George Eliot: "It's never too late to be what you might have been." I truly hope that's right, and as strange as it sounds under the circumstances, I am thankful to have to opportunity to start over in a new profession. Not many of us get paid to make a fresh start and that is basically what this has been.

I have so much to be thankful for - the friends we have made over the years, the farm we have had the opportunity to use, and even though I did have to pull off the side of the road on the way to Grandma's house Thanksgiving day to address an extreme non-sharing incident - three absolutely wonderful children. Each is a unique individual: one, coolly logical and analytical casting a critical eye on the world around her; one, an emotional dreamer in whose eyes the world is a place to be pondered; and the third, just becoming known to us, is seemingly a small island of calm in the storm. She is my little eye in the center of the hurricane, looking on life with calm acceptance, and smiling with her entire body. They all amaze me and inspire me, and often exhaust me and challenge me, but always fill my heart so profoundly I'm surprised there's room for anything else.

There is a moment of quiet also on the farm. The heat of the summer and all its challenges has subsided, and we are just approaching the beginning of the kidding season. The first set of does to be due is getting wide and we are putting some Goat 20 N tubs out so they can get extra energy as they need it. We've never had a case of ketosis before, and I don't want to start now. The sheds are going to get some straw in them so if anyone kids out and there is a cold rain, there will be a dry spot out of the elements. When they were out in the woods, there were lots of nooks and crannies to safely kid out, but in the pasture, they are going to have to rely on what we provide them. One of the things I heard the old timers around the horse barns say was that animals can get wet on the top or on the bottom without ill effects, but you'd have problems if they get wet both top and bottom at the same time. We have to get kidding kits together, because I am a true believer that if you are prepared for a disaster, it likely won't come, but Heaven help you if you don't have the kits at the ready! That just tempts fate more than it can resist.

We are slowing down in one sense, getting ready for the holidays, but gearing up at the same time for kidding season. We're looking for "town jobs" and wishing all the while we could hit the lotto so we could move to the farm and be with our children in that setting full time. If I had enough money, I'd offer to teach school for free, too. I love literature and language so much, and to me, the study of literature translates to the study of film, television, commercials, and all parts of life, even our personal relationships. If kids learn to "read" commercials as something targeted to an audience, with an agenda, for the profit of some company, maybe they will be more informed consumers of not only products, but also political ideas and the (in my opinion) junk being mass produced to make our kids holler "oo ooo ooo I want that" and think they need some product to be popular and achieve personal fulfillment. That goes double for the stuff being marketed for them to eat!

Now I promise to hop off my soapbox and settle back in, and again, wish a very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. We do have so much to be thankful for, don't we?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ah stress... and I don't just mean the type of stress induced by job interviews, although I am experiencing that as well, now, too. I mean the type of stress we induce in our goats when we do things to them that they ain't real happy about.

I mentioned we went to the Cream of the Crop sale recently and brought home two mature does and a doeling. We received in the mail a letter thanking us for attending the sale and announcing it would be a different weekend next year. I can guarantee that is going to cause some stress around here, because the kids had fun dressing up and going to the Halloween festival in Corydon, and if there is no Halloween festival, they are going to have a much dimmer view of travelling 8 hours each way to go to a goat sale. Just last weekend we dragged them to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Conference, and while the speakers were very good, the venue, in our minds, was not as good and the food was not like it was last year. Of course, the food last year was a hard act to follow. I still can see it - mountains of colorful locally grown sustainable veggies, greens, and main dishes. I'm not at all a cook but it was so amazing I was inspired to learn how to make one of the dishes - purple sweet potato hash with chorizo (using Stokes Purple sweet potatoes from Stokes County, our home, no less). Wow. This year, well, it was just... food (except the lamb on one of the farm tours was absolutely top notch). Here is picture of the farm house where our food was served. The farm is in the RTP area and produces Animal Welfare Approved lamb, and they know how to cook it, too.

I did get to pipe up in one of the seminars when a speaker said he thought it would be difficult to mob graze with goats because of their small size and I was able to tell him about our "moving pens." We didn't exactly mean for it to work that way, but when we put three hungry mature does in a pen made of four goat panels, they can mow the enclosed area to the ground and trample the rest in one to two days. There is the additional nutrient added from any leftover hay if we've fed any and spilled kelp. We are finding that after we slide the goats to the next plot, the old one grows back like a well kept diverse grass pasture. If someone wanted to convert a field overrun with poison ivy and brambles into a horse or cow ready pasture, all you'd need to do is put 3 to 5 goats in one of these pens and slide it from spot to spot daily or every other day around the desired pasture area and then wait for the regrowth. It's pretty darn amazing. I really need to get some before and after pictures of it. And the only one it stresses is Chuck because he slides the pens and then turtle shells the shed on his back to its new spot each day. But I digress...

The other part of the Cream of the Crop letter reminded all the buyers that these goats, even if they didn't show it, had been under a lot of stress. They had the stress of the move to the sale, the stress of the sale itself and being exposed to all the other goats, sights, sounds, and different climate, and then they had the stress of the trip home and adapting to the situation at that new home. This leads me to a discussion on how we, personally, treat new arrivals to the farm. I can't make anyone who buys our goats do exactly what I do - and they may indeed have a better way because I sure don't have all the answers, but we have based our quarantine procedures on the article Dr. Sparks wrote for the Goat Rancher on stress (which I wish I could find right now) and also on our experience with koi, the Japanese colored carp.

I had read discussions of how new goats need to adapt to the germs and whatnot on the new farm. Any parent with a human kid in day care or school knows all about this concept. Our kids may be healthy, but then we send them off to school and they comingle with other kids bringing in their germs, which are no big deal to them, but that are new and novel to our kids' immune system, then we combine it with a little stress from the social aspects of school or change in the weather, and voila... sick kid. Our experience with koi looked more at the equation from the other direction. With koi, it is vitally important to quarantine, because not only are there a lot of strong, treatment resistant parasites out there (sound familiar?) but there are some viruses that don't show up until the water hits a certain temperature, and mean almost certain death for your entire pond. For someone with show koi, the losses may not only be sentimental as koi are pretty intelligent and some become beloved pets, but also can be financially staggering. Imagine an avoidable virus wiping out a pond with five to ten $10,000 apiece fish (yes, I said $10,000, which is not even enough in some cases to buy a koi that might contend for Grand Champion at a decent sized show). Even though our koi were worth much less financially, they were both expensive to us and loved by us, so we absolutely quarantined. We had been known to quarantine some koi an entire year in a smaller but equally filtered system.

I am not suggesting that goats need to be quarantined quite so strictly, but if I bring in bred does from a sale, I do keep them in a separate group away from my other does until after they kid out, and often until after they wean their kids. I've made an investment in those does, and I know not only that they could bring in parasites and pathogens that could adversely effect my bred does, but that my does could have parasite and pathogens that could adversely effect them. We all know that does are mean as snakes, too, and why on earth would we intentionally put them in a situation where we know there is a darn good chance someone will get the kids beat right out of them, or even just get beat on at all when they've already been through a stressor? Sparks' article mentions there is a period after a stress where that goat's immune system is still depressed and it is more susceptible to parasites or illnesses it could normally withstand. Of course, pregnant and lactating does have a suppressed immune system just by definition, but even a buck or open doe will be less able to stave off health problems after a stress event. If I could find the article I would quote verbatim, but I can recall Sparks referring to weaning, illness, and moving goats as major stressors. I can't remember where immunizations and deworming fell on the stress scale, but I don't know a goat that likes it (except most do like this herbal we use and eat it from our hands like a treat). He mentioned that it took 30 to 45 days, if I remember correctly, for the immune system to bounce back and normalize. Therefore, we should wait at least that long between stressors to avoid breaking the goat down to a point that something that should be a minor setback becomes, at worst, one that can't be overcome, and we have a dead goat or one ruined for future productivity.

I try hard to allow that sort of recovery time, but sometimes it just isn't possible and sometimes we get in a hurry. We usually get a hard lesson when we get in a hurry, and that gets us back on the right track, albeit with the wind knocked out of our sails somewhat. Today, we put a buck in with two of the does we brought home from Cream of the Crop because we are trying to juggle hoping not to lose an entire breeding season out of these mature does with not having them kid too late in the spring with allowing them a period of rest and adaptation after being brought home from the sale. They've been healthy for the three weeks we have had them, so I hope we won't regret this decision. I know Ace seems pretty pleased with it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Every situation is different...

Even when you're just a mile or so down the road. We started with goats on the "old" farm, which had been in my family for many generations and on which a Civil War ancestor and his wife are buried high on a knoll overlooking the area we fenced for the goats. There is cutover timber and heavy woods, and little in the way of actual pasture. Most of the forgage in the cleared areas is what we have planted. It was down a long, steep hill, sloping down to a point where two wide, swift creeks converge. We never had to worry about the goats running out of water completely although the creek bank was steep. In the summertime, the woods are a good ten degrees cooler than up at the road. On the flip side, it is equally colder in the winter. The drive down to the fenced area is miserable - especially in the muddy winter - and much too long a stretch to afford to gravel. To make life a bit easier, and to get the goats on the farm that will be mine, we moved them all of about a mile and a half down the road.

If you've followed my blog, you know that we also had to create what pasture we have on the new farm, which has long been known in the family as "the Knight Place" although I have discovered the original name for this when this parcel was first purchased by my family was "the Hawkins Place." This farm was tobacco land for as long as I can remember, and that is darn near forty years. My grandmother used to have black and white pictures of her husband and her father standing together in the tall tobacco, so I imagine it went back further than that. There is a lot of wooded area on this parcel, too, but none of it is fenced. We brought the goats here last fall and winter, and now that our first summer on the farm is over, we've learned several lessons about how different it is to have goats on pasture than it is to have them in deep woods.

The most important lesson we've learned is easily that we need to do more to allow the goats to escape the heat. I never thought all that much about it, because at many of the horse farms where I've either boarded a horse or worked, there are pastures and paddocks that are in full sun with just a run in shed for shade. I discovered that the low sheds we built for the goats, which are so good as kidding shelters, don't allow any air movement and just trap the heat in the summer time. What makes them good in the winter and traps warmth makes them inadequate as the only shelter in the summer. Our smallest field does get natural shade from the mature trees behind the graveyard, and the bottom field gets a bit from both directions at specific times of the day. The top field doesn't get a speck, though, and this bit us pretty good. On the day of the year with the highest heat index (I believe it was over 110 and I clearly remember the extreme humidity) we found a very good young doe of ours dead in the field. She was the only black doe in the bunch, and I really think the heat got her. We now have one of those garage roof thingies (technical term) out in that field. It has a white roof to reflect heat and it is wide open on the sides for air flow. It is wide enough to provide at least a fair amount of shade. It wasn't free, but if it prevents another loss of a doe like that, it will have paid for itself. I have notions of sliding the small sheds up around the sides of this to make windbreaks this winter, but that may or may not work out in practice. We'll see. Live and learn.

A couple of times over the summer, I had one of the little bucks in the middle field come up with scours. After a day or two of support, they would clear up on their own. This always seemed to happen after a rainstorm, so at first I thought it was a parasite bloom or coccidiosis, but it didn't really seem like it as the poop was very green and it would get better. We then started trying to figure out what weed it could be in the pasture. We knew there was a stand of something I have yet to identify near the back corner, so Chuck mowed that area to try to get rid of it, or at least make it less attractive to the goats. A couple weekends ago, we had someone drive up to look at some goats, and almost all the little bucks had some residue on their behinds and we were scratching our heads over it. As we were sitting there talking, I noticed our Great Pyrenees (pictured above, being less than careful with her happily wagging tail, much to our Anatolian's chagrin) playing with a something shaped like a ball. At first I was thinking that was one seriously dried up goat poop, but then I realized it was a black walnut. I turned around and looked up and there is a huge black walnut tree at the back of the graveyard leaning out towards that field. The leaves were just pouring off it and fluttering down into the field. I know what black walnut can do to horses, and I know it has anthelminic properties and is part of some herbal dewormers. Generally, if something is toxic to the worms in small doses it can be toxic to the worms' host in large doses. I wondered aloud if this is the mystery plant we had been chasing, and if the goats had eaten branches that fell off during the storms and that explained what we had seen over the summer. I know they are on a limb of leaves like white on rice any time we toss one to them.

We moved the bucklings out of that field and into some of our "moving pens" on some weeds, and I had planned to use some wormwood herbal on them but had run out, so I gave them the less toxic herbal wormballs. They cleared up right away. Now, this does not mean the walnut was absolutely my culprit, but it sure was a likely suspect, considering the chain of events. I would love to know if anyone else out there has had any odd issues with black walnut. I knew about the potential perils of wild cherry, and I know to ask the right questions at the sawmill for my horse shavings, but it never dawned on me that tree could be a problem. Again, live and learn.

I would suppose the third thing I have learned this year (and actually there have been so many things day to day I couldn't possibly keep track) is that if there is a goat with horns configured in such a way that they might hold fast to a leg, it would be a good idea to add a pipe before anything bad happens. We still are not sure how Kitty's leg was broken, but another goat's horns are the natural suspects. We had another setback with her - we unwrapped her leg one day and it looked infected, so I flushed the heck out of it just because I didn't know what else to do, and rewrapped it. We opened it again after a couple days, and although it looks like the infection was gone and healthy new tissue was growing, the blasted bone end had popped out again so there is no way it can knit. I can't tell you how frustrating this is, because Kitty is still bright and hungry, and while not really happy to see us coming, at least happy to see the hay coming her way. As a friend of mine said, this doe really has a strong will to survive.

Chuck actually phrased something in a pretty good way the other day when recounting our experiences to another producer. It seems that if you ask ten goat people a question about management practices, you may get twelve mutually exclusive answers. The way Chuck put is it that each of us learns what works for us, in our own unique situations. A producer might cross two sticks in front of a goat, and have it heal, and therefore make the leap that crossing two sticks worked for him to heal that goat. Obviously this is an exaggeration, but I think you know what I mean. With any living creature, there are some things that are black and white, but there are so, so many aspects that are various shades of gray, and so much depends on one's specific environment. We have more goats than typical per acre, so that is one of the things we have to change our management practices to accomodate. I can pass along our experiences in our circumtances, and I would relish hearing the experiences of other folks out there because I would prefer not to have to make every single mistake myself... but sometimes it sure seems like I'm well on my way, doesn't it?

I am also including pictures of the two 'possums Chuck trapped, one a day after the next, and both a few days too late from the perspective of the two young chickens that had gone missing. One of these suckers managed to pull a chicken out through two by four wire, after pulling the chicken wire up and going under it. Hateful beastie. These two varmints are now living down by the Dan River, far far from our farm. If we catch something like an opossum "in the act" of killing a chicken, I can't promise it will be rehomed (in one piece, at least) but after all, who doesn't like a nice chicken dinner? I personally have a strong antipathy towards chicken thieves, I must admit.

Finally, I must give the last new doe her 15 minutes of fame. This is a Purebred April doeling by Ozark Red Rocket. I figure I will put her in one of the moving pens with our other April doeling if she remains unsold, and the two of them won't be bred until next fall. Welcome Midwest Bianca (or Beyonce, as Chuck has been calling her). I just hope we don't get any strong winds or she might pull a Dumbo and we'll see her gliding off down hwy 704.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Handy info on parasite control...

I've posted this before, but I wanted to again post the link to a great site...

Among other parasite control related info, they have lots of research on this site about using sericea lespedeza and copper wire particles to control barber pole worms in goats and sheep. This is exciting stuff if dewormer resistant parasites strike fear in your heart.

If you haven't been able to make it to some of the Kiko sales and seminars in the past couple of years, several of the presentations we were able to attend have their power points available on the NKR site, under the tab "Kiko Info." Whether you are AKGA, IKGA, or NKR, this is some great information and Dr. Browning's (of TSU) research is included in the links. Very good stuff here, folks.

Since I want to give equal time to each of the new does, pictured above is Xuan. Two of the new does are named Xuan and Bianca. Chuck has been running around calling them Xanadu and Beyonce. He just ain't right, is he?

Updates on web site...

I have finally, finally put some more updates on our website. I have pedigrees on all goats except the new girls, and updated pictures on most. I will be working more on this in the next week or two, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step... right? Please let me know what other information you would like to see and I will do my best to add it. Pictured above is one of the new girls... HHR Ashley (88% doe). She is clearly queen bee of the quarantine...

Sunday, October 30, 2011


And I do mean whoowee. We had been looking forward to the annual Cream of the Crop kiko sale for months. I have purchased many of my best does at this sale in previous years. Annalee's Fall Sing was Friday at her school, so we headed out late Friday to Corydon, Indiana. I hate to miss seminars when they are available, as I always find something helpful to take away, even if it is talk I have seen several times - but the Fall Sing is the culmination of many hours of practice for the JrK and Kindergarten students. Annalee had really practiced the songs and I am amazed how at ease she is in front of a large audience. Never a terribly shy child in that sort of situation, she really gets a kick out of being on stage. She wore her black "ninja cobra" costume, which was as close as I could get to a cobra costume. She's been on a snake kick as of late.

Both kids were excited to pack up the costumes to take to Corydon, too, as we had promised them they would be able to do some trick or treating after the sale. Their main babysitter (my mother) was unable to keep them as she did last year, so we all loaded up in the truck - Chuck and me, 6 year old, 3 and a half year old, and not quite four month old. And did I mention we had to take the dog too? Yes, the truck was full, as were our hands.

The kids were excited about driving all night, and that they were allowed to stay up and talk a bit when they woke up as we drove. That was a really big deal to them, but they ended up terribly exhausted the next day. We arrived at Corydon with only enough time to check into the hotel, get the kids out of pajamas and into regular clothes, and head over to the fairgrounds. This was at least partially due to the snow we ran into in West Virginia and then the less than stellar detour instructions on the signs as we tried to get from Kentucky over the river to Indiana. I swear at least once the detour had us go in a big loop. We got to see some cute shops and some of the big decorated horses around Louisville, but to be honest, we just wanted to get there and get off the road.

It was a lovely fall day in Corydon. Even though it was cool there, it was actually warmer than the cold snap we had left behind us at home. We got the kids and the stroller out of the truck, we found the kids what we thought would be a safe place for them to play, and I started looking at goats. The goats I had circled on the program for their lineage looked as good in person as they did on paper. I can easily say this was the highest quality overall collection of goats I have seen as a sale. I was really excited about several of these does, and had put some money aside so I could really get myself a special couple does to help put my bucks on the map. Now, if this was a "normal" kiko sale, I would have been in decent shape, but this was no normal sale. I have heard the folks who have been in Kikos since the early days of the breed in America, and how high the prices were regardless of quality. There was apparently some sort of time warp or convergence of the stars or maybe their was something in the coffee they were serving, but the prices on these goats were just over the top. I've never seen anything like it. I mean, these were good looking, well bred goats from good performance tested herds - but by the middle of the sale the Purebreds were going for over a thousand dollars apiece (and often higher) and land help you if, like me, you wanted a NZ doe that was confirmed bred. The goats I had circled on my paper and truly intended to be bring home one or two of went for $3950, $3000, $3400, and $3200. Yes folks, those are actual prices. I had given up at $1000 on one of the first does in the sale and boy howdy I wish I had known what was coming and maybe I could have at least gotten one of the does I had so badly wanted. Whoooweee, folks. There were some serious dollar signs flying at this sale. I am still in shock.

Now, a goat is worth exactly what someone will pay for it, and these were truly some good goats, but around these parts, no matter the lineage, I can't get more than $500 to $700 for a good young NZ doe. That means I can't justify paying more than $1000 to $1400 for a good young NZ replacement doe so that if she twins, she has basically paid for herself. If I could get a truly rare doe, such as a Generator or Loverboy daughter (they're not making any more of those these days) then I could justify going a bit higher because of what she could bring to my herd - but almost all the goats were starting at $1000 and jumping up in leaps and bounds from there. Dr. Sparks chuckled in the middle of the sale that "cute trumps good any day of the week" and here were goats that were both "good" and also very attractive, with color, pattern, and conformation. I very quickly learned there was no point in me even bidding on a goat with a pretty face or particularly attractive pattern, so I decided to fall back and punt. I decided that instead of taking home a few bred superstars, this time I would have to try to get some basic, solid bread and butter type does to replace does no longer in the breeding herd.

To me, an unattractive head all of a sudden became a plus as long as there was a good body and good udder attached to it - and wide spaced horns, since the picture of Kitty's broken leg is still fresh in my memory. I ended up paying more than I would have liked, but I have a NZ replacement doe with a good deep body and nice udder, albeit a really strange face, and a Purebred doeling that was much smaller than her twin but obviously has the same genetic potential (and I wanted a doe closely related to the famous "Alice" in the herd - this doeling is a daughter of Ozark Red Rocket), and then an 88% Caesar daughter. I often go on and on about 34, my little Caesar daughter. Caesar has a reputation for putting excellent does in the herd that keep on producing into their teens. I like that, and that's the sort of doe I want to produce to sell to my customers. I guess I will be finding out if this new Caesar doe can add that kind of longevity into my band of breeding does.

I sure hate I didn't get a couple of those pretty does, though. I did have my heart set on them, but I just can't put more in a doe than I can likely get out of her in one to two breeding seasons, in my neck of the woods. My pockets just ain't that deep.

Now, on a positive note - I have a field full of the type of pretty does that were bringing top dollar at the sale. As a matter of fact, I have several does that are 3/4 sisters (or closer) to some of the top selling goats at this year's sale. I have a unique ability to want the goats that end up being the most expensive at any sale, but "most expensive" used to be a little more doable (we were the ones who were bidding against Sparks for Tay 27 last year, and found his pockets deeper than ours - I have a lot of her blood in my herd, though). If we wrote it down right, the doe that went for $4100 is a greater than 3/4 sister to my SDR Wendy Bear - an ECR Blackbeard daughter out of a Sports Kat/Nick cross doe (ECR Hanky Panky). She is indeed a nice big coming two year old, and should be bred by now. And yes, if someone comes to the farm with 4k wanting her, she'll be heading on down the road. I also have GHK 145 (we call her Puddin in honor of her grandma) who is an Iron Horse/MGR Lightin's Lady P21 cross doe, and she is also probably bred, and is a full sister to another high selling goat from a previous sale. I have to be happy that I have some seriously in demand genetics in the field. Sure stinks to not be able to get what you want at an auction, though.

My kids didn't get what they wanted at the auction either (which was for it to be over with so they could trick or treat), except for Annalee, whose exhaustion got the best of her and she crawled, tired and chilly, into her little sister's stroller and took a nap that I think must have lasted three hours. She was pretty darn whiny before the nap, but afterwards was much improved and had a good time trick or treating. Chip, unfortunately, did not ever take a nap. He fights against sleep so hard, and when he misses a nap - let's just say everyone's experience is rather diminished. He was on his absolute worst behavior but finally found happiness or at least some inner peace playing in the dirt and shavings on the floor and basically being a speed bump and/or trip hazard. He is our Loud Child, so there is always an element of trying to balance teaching him about cause and effect with trying to avoid a Large Scene in Public. I hope he grows out of it, but 3 1/2 appears to be kinda a tough age, around our house, at least. He trick or treated as well, though, in his skunk costume, but his little feet hurt and he fell asleep so profoundly Chuck had to carry him over his shoulder into O'Charley's, and Chip never even woke up enough to eat. Ironically, baby Virginia was the best behaved. Her needs are pretty simple right now.

We took some time to let the kids enjoy the trip home once the sun came up. Here is a picture of them out looking at a scenic overlook in West Virginia (they enjoyed seeing birds flying UNDER them) and here are the new does also at the scenic overlook wondering what all the fuss was about. We even went straight to a Halloween event when we got back to town, and the goats had to wait in the back of the truck. I'm not so sure what the goats thought of that, but they had to deal with it before we got them to the farm and out in a quarantine area for the night. We did find that they attracted a lot of interest at the West Virginia rest stop, and even had folks taking their pictures. Chuck thought about offering "pictures with a goat" for $3 a pop to help recoup our trip expenses. I found that the dog likes Pumpkin Spice lattes (she licked the spout before I even got my first sip after I splurged at Starbucks at the rest stop). I got to poke fun at Chuck when he about ran off the road saying "what kind of cow is that" and I got to reply "one with its head in a mineral feeder" (it did look pretty strange at a glance). The kids behaved pretty well on the drive home, and actually seemed to have had fun on what most kids would have considered a miserable trip.

Once we finally got them home, we got the new does unloaded in the quarantine pen with some hay and water, and we'll know when we get to the farm today if we bought fence jumpers or not. Goats (and goats sales, apparently) are like a box of chocolates...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

What a month. I was laid off from a job I've had for 17 years (and I'm actually pretty cool with it because it affords me some time for my family and hopefully a new start as a teacher - a longtime dream of mine). Chip caught a particularly nasty germ that had him down and out for a week, and he was kind enough to share with Momma! After I had my week with the crudd, poor Virginia came down with it as well. When a baby is sick, nobody around the house is happy or productive. Luckily Annalee and Chuck have both been able to avoid catching it.

The truly ugly thing that happened this month was our first goat with a broken leg. Of course, in typical fashion with the way things happen around our place, this was not just any old break. We were at the farm feeding in the dark (which happens far too often) and I noticed in the headlights that Kitty was obviously lame, but bouncing around behind the herd from bucket to bucket trying to grab some scraps. We don't feed much per goat, so they all scramble for what there is. Even when the forage is high quality, we still feed a little bit every day. On the few occasions when we've gotten the dreaded phone call saying, "are you the ones with the goats up off Beasley School? They're in my front yard" the fact that the goats all immediately recognize the feed bucket and come a-runnin' to it has been an absolute lifesaver. Most of them are not what we would call friendly, so it most helpful that they at least like that rattle in a bucket.

As we got closer, we could see that Kitty's hind leg was dangling grotesquely. It reminded me of that famous football player with the bad break from several years back. Unfortunately, the bone was through the skin and it was a right mess. We took the kids home and Chuck went back to the farm to catch her up. She has made her way to the top of the field and was in one of the sheds, and he had to chase her to catch her. Our normal vet saw her the following morning and the prognosis was grim. She said the break looked old, and she didn't have much hope it could heal. She said amputation would not be an option because three legged goats just didn't do well. If she had been acting like she was suffering, we would have put her down on the spot, but she was interested in eating and otherwise hanging out chewing her cud. We have to be practical, and we cannot afford to put more into her than the cost of a replacement doe, but we have a deep sense that this doe did not deserve what happened to her. She is a small, unassuming doe who really did not bother a soul. We used her to clear brush in a backyard in the West End neighborhood in Winston-Salem. She was a bit of an ambassador for goats in general and the Kiko breed in particular.

When we opened the dressing the next day, we found the end of the bone outside of the skin. Our normal vet does not allow outside goats on her property, so we found a large animal vet with facilities where they could get her up on a table and look at it, and do some x-rays. She found that there was missing bone, so there would be no way to pin it. She nipped the end of the bone, got it inside the skin, and stitched it up. Observing how Kitty tolerated all of this, and how she was still getting around on three legs and eating well, she commented, "this is an amazing animal." Now we just have to hope that the bone will knit and infection won't kill her. We change the dressing and resplint every few days, and she's been on antibiotic therapy, in temporary housing in a large dog crate. Only time will tell what the outcome will be. I doubt, if she lives, that she will be breedable, but we have already taken a goat to visit the children at my daughter's school during their study of domesticated animals, so if she makes it, she will have a niche she can fill.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Maybe we can play catch up now...

Well, as usual, I have gotten behind on the blog... and the farm... and cleaning up the house... you get the idea.

At least the weather has decided to be kind and gentle as opposed to the brutal heat and drought we had over the summer. The pastures looked so bad, we thought the only thing that had survived was cockleburs, nettle, and a little alfalfa. Now that it has turned off a little cooler and we have finally, finally had some good long soaking rains, I am pleasantly surprised with the condition of the pastures. The alfalfa did survive (along with the aforementioned weeds) but so did the grasses. We see turnips growing, and some of the chicory, and the clover. There is a good, diverse blend of things growing in the pastures and in the top field especially, there are not as many areas as I had thought of bare dirt. I see decomposing matter and we even had a dung beetle on the farm. It's kinda sad when you get excited about dung beetles - but we are hoping the dung beetle means the dirt is becoming soil and turf.

Chuck went to help some friends of ours at one of the top American koi farms this weekend, so I was on goat duty. I snapped a few pictures of the doe fields. I am getting ready to move Boomer down into the bottom field with these does, minus a couple of his daughters that I need to pull out, but am not sure where to put. It was really a beautiful morning - crisp, and cool. One of the does I have in with the eight month old buck we are calling "G" was shivering in the shade. We have given him a few does to test breed, as he has grown crazy fast and is a thick, heavy duty buck, if not the most stylish. He is pictured below, with my favorite Purebred doe, 34, and her daughter Ginger. At least, 34 is Purebred to the AKGA. When we had her IKGA registered as well she came back as a percentage doe because she is a mere 93% kiko. Once again, I realize the market for NZ is larger, and I am reading more and more about producers who are going NZ only, but the actual statistical difference when you get to those percentages is pretty much insignificant. I really scratch my head when folks are okay with a 97% goat, but not a 94% one. I understand the practical marketing side of this - the percentages have to add up or you end up with a doe like 34, who is "only" a percentage to the IKGA. But when I really look at the goat, and what she has done for me over the past couple years, I value her even more. She has given me two sets of twins in her young life, and has been an exemplary mother. She held her weight all season, did not have to be dewormed, has good feet we've never had to trim, and gave me a nice daughter who was a good first time mother this year. She has a great udder, to boot. Can't complain about that. Here is a picture of 34, Ginger, and "G" - who is by Goat Hill's Cherokee Fiddler and out of a Turbo/Loverboy cross doe. The drop in temperature we've just had brought the "horse person" out in me - hence, the pile of grass hay! They are in one of our moving pens. We have four goat panels fastened together in a square and Chuck (who has considerably more upper body strength than I do) moves the pens daily or every other day to try to utilize the unused area of wild growing grasses and lespedeza that cover the areas around the fields. He gets under the shed in each pen and slides it, too, and it is pretty surreal to watch a shed go moving across an area, when you're watching it from the back. He gets under them and lifts them like a turtle shell on his back.

As an aside - this is a picture of a showa (red, white, and black koi) from up at Quality Koi. She had some pec fin damage last year so Chuck was able to buy her at a bargain price. She grew out for a year in the mud ponds in New Jersey, and just came out. She is certainly not the farm's best work, but shows the quality of the koi they produce. We are lucky to be friendly with two great koi breeders - Mat McCann of Quality Koi and Brady Brandwood of Lotus Land Koi farm. If you are a fan of "living works of art" but you prefer to buy American - check out both of these farms. This is a big girl. I believe Chuck's text said she came out at 74 cm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Update on Baby Longstem

I had to take pictures of a few goats to email to a potential customer this evening, and I took a few shots of some of the other critters around the farm. Some have suffered from the neglect of our postpartum (Virginia's) neglect (of the goats, not Virginia). Chuck got stuck with total goat duty for the first full month of her life, as we live so far from the farm I just didn't feel comfortable carrying her up there and having to have her sit in the car with the exteme heat out, even with the car running. He frequently did his feeding after dark, and it is hard to keep as close a tabs on everyone as we need to when you can't see them. There were more, however, that were happy as a clam during this time period, and Baby Longstem was among them. He was not weaned as early as he should have been for Louisianna's sake (although she is bouncing back now - all the mommas that weaned late this year got more run down than I like, one more lovely side effect from this brutal heat), but even after weaning he is stout and slick. I would never have thought it that first night of his life, when he was half frozen and couldn't stand. We knew he had an incredible will to live, and this just proves it. He was not terribly cooperative and stood behind the post, but I got a shot of him and his buddy, Bo. Sometimes we find that certain goats just aren't pushy enough in certain groups, and every now and again we accidentally set up someone to get the crap beat out of them and then we have to go back and regroup. Longstem has been a scrapper from the start, though. He would not be denied.

The other little one that is growing on the farm is Virginia. I am still a lot more conservative with her up there than Chuck, because I'm not sure I would have done this, but when I came up the hill from taking goat pictures, I found the rest of the family changing the tire on the tractor, Virginia included.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Is there such a thing as fall fever?

Because if there is, I certainly have it. This weekend was just glorious. We opened the windows at the house and allowed some of the nice cool air to wander its way in and leave us all refreshed and looking forward to the day. Unfortunately it did heat up, but eighties or even 90 is fine - this 98 degree stuff with extreme humidity has just got to go. Even earlier this week when I was up at the farm, although it was hot when I was wrapping those little wires around the t-posts where we didn't already have the fence completely secured, there was a beautiful breeze that made it surprisingly pleasant. Now the kids are able to spend more time with us at the farm, which is nice. It had just been too hot for them earlier this summer. Once again, we have the grubbiest young'uns in town, but they are having fun.

Virginia and I have figured out fence work with each other. Even though it isn't very environmentally friendly, I drive down the fence line and as she sleeps in the running car, air conditioner keeping her at a safe temperature, I work my wires down a few posts and then roll the car down to the next set. I keep the window down so I can hear her wake up, and then I can just hop in the car and tend to her needs, and when she settles, I get back to the fence. It at least allows me to get something done that needs doing, and get a little exercise at the same time. I so dread going back to work and sitting in front of a computer all day, and being away from her. Babies and mommas are designed to be close to each other, and being outdoors is good for the inside of me. I am decidedly NOT looking forward to going back to work and being stuck indoors, in front of a computer, and away from my baby.

This cool snap has me thinking about babies and mommas on the farm, too. We have Ace in with a few does, and he is getting ready to move to the larger field with the main herd. Boomer will be meeting his does soon, and we are making him a new pen as well. Since he is a puissance goat, who can jump a four foot fence from a standstill, he is more difficult to contain than the rest of the goats. We have a young Purebred buck we will be trying on a few does this fall. He is heavily Loverboy bred, with some Terminator and some Lightin as well, so we will see what sort of does he will produce. He grew fast and big, and looks like he is going to be a muscular buck. I hope the Loverboy in him is a good outcross on my does to make me some good Purebred replacement does for the herd. We have someone picking up a buck this weekend, and that will free up space to get all the does moved in with their respective bucks before the end of next week.

Since I had bred some of the younger does for a late kidding, I can't try to rebreed them as early as I would like. As soon as they wean their kids, they will get a brief respite and then they will be paired with bucks for March and April kidding. I am not going to have anyone kid closer to the summer than that next year. The summer is just too brutal, and too unpredictable.

I think most breeders enjoy breeding season at least as much if not more than kidding season. It is a time for speculation, and for looking back at what we've done in the past to see what worked and what did not. I know I don't like a late kidding - even late May was just too late around here. I think October would be a beautiful time for the does to kid, but I am working against the does' natural season of fertility, so I won't even know for another month if any of the does I exposed in May and June are even showing signs of being bred. I have learned over the past few seasons what I can count on for Boomer to produce, and having seen Ace's first crop, I am getting an idea about his strengths as a sire. Two of our nicest buck kids were crosses of Boomer's and Ace's lines, so that is working well. They've grown and matured fast enough I need to get them weaned asap to avoid any unintentional breedings, but they are actually a little young to wean, especially with the heat. Now that we are getting some more seasonable temperatures, it may be the right time to move them.

Part of what makes breeding season so much fun is it is a time for experimentation. Which does with which bucks this year? How to try to maximize twinning when the temperatures having been soaring near the century mark, without putting off breeding so long the kids are born late and we have the heat to deal with? Some of the experimentation will be more about how I will manage my does. How can I move goats around on the farm to utilize unfenced areas of forage and give my fields a break since we've been in a drought? I look at those areas not yet fenced and not being used my the tobacco farmers - they have the "wild" lespedeza (or at least we've been told it is a lespedeza) three feet tall, despite the drought. It is stemmy, but there are leaves all over those stems, and the goats do love it. I wish we had several rolls of electronet, and a helper to move it every day! We could really minimize feed inputs even in a drought like we've had. That may be our next investment. It just pains me to see all those sticker bushes with goats not eating them.

I am also wondering what to overseed the fields with this winter. We had a great stand of winter peas that took a while to get started, but lasted all spring and well into the summer. Over the winter we had some brassicas as well as the grasses and alfalfas growing. I overseeded the bottom field with a bit of sericea lespedeza, but had no results from it, much like the orchard grass I tried first on this farm. The alfalfa took, the orchard grass did not. Now that the fields have been in use for a year and have had animals on them, I wonder if I would have different results. I don't think a soil test can tell me that. I wonder how long it will take to make a living, resilient turf, with actual topsoil instead of just clay. From the seminars we've attended about intensive grazing, I know there is a goal of no areas of bare dirt. We still have bare dirt in a lot of places, so I am looking to add more organic matter. Drought tolerance will have to be part of our goal, as this summer reminded us. We may try forage rye and mix in some chicory, turnips, and clover, and a heavy dose of winter peas this year. As I understand it, we can only use winter peas a couple seasons before there are disease problems (for the peas, not the goats).

At least we have gotten some good rain, and there is more in the forecast. It is amazing at how much green has returned to the farm, after so long of nothing but brown. Nature favors resilience and diversity, so we are trying to work with her and not against her as we continue to grow the farm. Chuck had sent me this picture after getting caught in one of the first of these welcome summer storms. He called it "pot of hay at the end of the rainbow" because it looked like the rainbow landed right in a round bale. As far as I'm concerned, hay and gold are pretty much the same thing these days.

The rain we had was the first measurable rain in what seems like at least a month. If you could see some of the tobacco being grown in this area you would understand how dry it is been. Some of it is less than a foot tall. It seems there is a protective wall around this area sometimes, and the rain splits and goes on either direction. We can watch it go around us as we stand there and bake. But finally, we had enough rain to fill in some of the cracks in the ground on the farm, and the guys who have tobacco on our farm are probably dancing a jig now, too. Their tobacco has been some of the best looking around, but they have been waiting on rain to bring it up to size. What we will need to be aware of now with the goats is our Famacha scores. All of those parasite eggs that have been waiting to hatch will come alive all at once, and the pastures are short this time of year. Oh well. We have the take the bad with the good when it comes to rainfall.