Friday, January 28, 2011

One expected, one surprise

Well, today the doe we have been expecting to kid out any day finally kidded out. She had a buck and a doe by Wild Bill, and we are looking forward to seeing how they grow. We bought her doeling from last year also by Wild Bill, so we hope they develop much like her. This doe had an udder like a basketball, so she should she have plenty of milk to keep these kids growing.

We had a surprise today, as well. Taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather, the Turbo doe who didn't look so very close to kidding had a single buck by Cherokee Fiddler. The biggest surprise was his size. She's not a fat doe, and she never got very wide, and she may be a first time mother, so imagine Chuck's surprise when her kid tipped the scales at 13 lbs. And he isn't very thick either. He is long legged and just big. Thankfully his mother is a very large framed doe, and seems none the worse for wear. She's proud as punch of him. We hope next year she'll produce about the same poundage, but instead in the form of twin does!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On mama goats...

Okay. I am officially tired of waiting for goats to kid out. We have a few that we expected to kid out yet that haven't, but even worse are the ones we bought bred that we KNOW are going to kid out... sometime. We have the date range of when they were exposed, but watching these obviously pregnant does expand and make udders is just excruciating. I suppose when someone gets to the point they have hundreds of goats there's not so much anticipation, but when a small operation like ours picks specific does for what they may bring to the herd, it is a different story. We have been spending our time and money "chasing" good solid does and we've had some great purchases and, admittedly, some not so great ones. We learn each year which does give us what we want and which don't. We have to wait a couple seasons on the first time mamas because, as we expected, the kids born to the first timers don't seem to have the same type of gains as the seasoned mamas. Part of me wants to keep only the best of the best as they stand right now, but another part of me wants to be sure I don't sell the one that will be even better next year.

It may be that the "perfect" mama goat is different for every producer. It may vary by what kind of terrain that producer has to deal with, what predators are in the area, and what goals they have for their goats. In our opinion, and for our circumstances, the best mamas have their kids up extremely quickly to get colostrum. We kid in the winter, so this is necessary for basic survival, because even with our little kidding sheds bedded with straw, heat loss can be rapid and deadly. Some mamas hide their kids, but we prefer the does that either stick close to their kids or even better, teach their kids to stick close to them. We of course want the kids to get plenty of colostrum for a healthy immunity and then plenty of milk for growth. We want a mama goat that at the very least looks sternly at us when we go near her kids because stray dogs are as much of a threat for our goats as anything and a dog may turn tail when charged by an angry doe with a formidable set of horns. Not every producer wants or needs these particular maternal traits, but they are part of how we select who to keep breeding in our herd. We've had no bad Kiko mothers, but some are closer to our particular ideal than others. What we still have to learn is how much to expect from a first timer when compared to a seasoned mama.
So far, the only first time mama I would label as "perfect" was 34, a white with brown PB doe by AFK Caesar. She had her twins up and nursing right away, stuck to them like glue and taught them to stick tight with her, and she provided them with ample milk that they grew like gangbusters. I kept 34's daughter Ginger (by Boomer), shown here behind her, and while she is a little shorter in height than her contemporaries, she is a solid bodied, very healthy doe with consistently good Famacha scores (even better than her mother's), and with good muscling all over. People like a big doe, but realistically big can mean big bodied or just long legged, and long legs don't mean more meat. I really hope she caught when exposed and I am hoping she is as good a first time mama as 34.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hay feeder part deux

Since we got a tractor and can actually move a round bale without use of PVC pipe as rollers and only the strength of Chuck's back, he has been experimenting with making hay feeders. He's made some pretty good feeders for grass hay by the flake, and a commercial horse feeder works fine for the lespedeza because the large openings between the bars work fine with the tightly packed lespedeza stems. The round bales were a challenge, though. How to make a feeder the goats could get the hay out of, with as little waste as possible? I noticed on another blog a goat producer had made a feeder with a very similar design, but out of metal. The original incarnation of our wooden feeder didn't have quite enough stability, and we have to contend with the goats eating a hole in the middle of it, leaving a giant donut. The "new" feeder is a little taller, so we hope that eliminates some of the donut problem, but at the least this feeder is much stronger. If anyone has figured out the perfect do it yourself design, we are all ears...

7/28/2012 - I've seen some horse folks on the site looking at the round bale feeder so I wanted to post about some alterations Chuck made on his later models.  He added a board across the open end that he takes off to load, and then rebolts on after the hay is in.  The feeder is much more stable with it on.  Also, we are using goat panels, not cattle panels, and goat panels have smaller openings so a horse with a normal sized hoof very likely could not get a leg stuck down in it.  I wouldn't use it for ponies, though.  I have horses, too, and I can't see a way yet that mine could get themselves killed on this thing, although I know some horses do try very hard to eliminate themselves from the gene pool.  If you don't know goats, though, you ain't seen nothin' like some of the ridiculous life ending things that they try to pull.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Got a few moved.

Here you can see an example of some good ol' Stokes County red clay, as modeled by our goat handlers...

So hopefully we will be able to get more does moved soon, and they won't all get eaten by somebody's stray pit bull. I worry more about that than I do about the exploding population of coyotes, to be honest.

Here are some of the young does. These doelings are around a year old, and all but one of them in this bunch have been bred for May kids to either Boomer or Ace. We bred two full sisters, one to each buck, so we could get a comparison. These doelings represent bloodlines including Nick, Sports Kat, Iron Horse, and Tasman Zorro.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snow does slow things down

because over on the new farm, we had planned to have the younger does moved into their new area last week. But, with the snow staying on the ground, we couldn't check to be sure the fence was close to the ground all the way around. We will be adding a string of barbed wire to the bottom as soon as it comes in. Being the procrastinators that we are, we still have some of the original soil samples we took from these pastures waiting to be sent out. Even after lime, we are finding that stuff doesn't want to grow very well on this area. We're wondering if there is some sort of herbicide residue that still could be slowing grasses. When we planted orchard grass and alfalfa, the alfalfa took, and the orchard grass didn't. Everything seems to grow in slow motion. Right beside this area, there is deep grass that has been there forever. After we find out what the soil tests tell us, I am hoping the addition of nutrients back into the soil in the form of goat poop will start putting back some of what has been taken out.

The does we bought at the Cream of the Crop sale are getting closer to kidding out. We are hopeful about what they and their kids will add to the herd. The large brown doe is by Turbo (a Terminator XX son) and out of a Loverboy daughter. She is bred to Goat Hill's Cherokee Fiddler. He is a Loverboy son out of a full sister to Titan (we have one of his maternal half sisters by Iron Horse already). The black doe is a Rolling Meadows bred doe by Tay Herk out of a daughter of Goldmine I. She is bred to Wild Bill, and we had also bought her doe kid by Wild Bill from last year, so we have some idea what her kids might be like. The real wild card is the light doe I bought on a whim. She is starting to develop an udder, so even though she doesn't look it, maybe she really is bred. At the time we bought her, she had ultrasounded with twins by WHF Hoss. I have nooo idea what she will have. All these does have been in an area of their own since they arrived, and everyone has either 1 or 2 Famacha scores. Of course, it is winter, but they have been in a relatively small area and had the stress of being shuffled to and from a sale and a long drive home, so I am happy to see they are proving to be good tough does.

Back on the old farm, old Marshmallow presented us with twin PB does. I find it funny how we had so many dark kids by Boomer last year, and this year most of them are light. They are two feminine does, bouncing around in the snow, and we hope to get the moms and kids from this farm moved over within the month to the new pasture so they have somthing to sustain their growth that doesn't come from the feed store. Woods full of kudzu and sticker bushes make good forage in the summer, but there ain't much growing in the winter to sustain a goat. The new kids have already figured out that the mama goats leave a few scraps. Not much goes to waste, unless you're talking about hay. We are still trying to figure out the "perfect" homemade goat hay delivery system.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolutions, Plans, and Hopes

Just an update on our plans (hopes) for 2011... the fences are still going in on the flatter of the farms. They aren't easy to see, but Chip is in front of the lower two small pastures. We are using a high tensile field fence with smaller openings at the bottom as a perimeter fence. The plan is to add a strand of barbed wire at the bottom of this fence to discourage predators digging their way in and our LGDs, who are not on the farm yet, from digging out. We may need to add a strand of hot wire on the inside to keep the goats from rubbing on our trying to reach through the fence. As tall as our Anatolian from Horsehoe Canyon is getting, we may need a strand of hot wire above the field fence just in case. He has not been a climber at home, but he is becoming a very big boy. We need to get both dogs back with the goats soon (probably the bucks, as soon as the does are moved out) so they can get reacquainted.

We are still sharing the farm with the tobacco farmers that have been leasing it for years. We had not planned to have goats on this farm originally, but the distance from the road of the current farm , with the crazy condition of the road down to where the goats are, makes it all but impassable in the winter. Not only was it impractical, but it sometimes gets downright dangerous. The tobacco guys have limed and turned up the front of the farm and are planning to plant it this year. Someday I do hope to convert the whole farm to our "home" but they have been leasing it since the quota days. I don't want to disturb anyone or make life more difficult. Making a living by farming anything is tenuous enough.

We have the few doelings we are not breeding this year penned up next to one of the fences as we finish the lowest part of the field. All the young does will go in here in a week or two, bred and unbred, and since we are only leaving the young does with the bucks (a few with Boomer and a few with Ace, our Wild Bill son) for a brief time, we expect a few of the exposed does will not have caught. In a few months we will sort them out and separate the bred and unbred doelings so we can increase nutrition to the ones growing kids as they are still growing, themselves. Chip decided these youngest does are his goats, and the tan doeling in the front has indeed always been a favorite of his. He has caught her by the tail and tried to pull her along and used her as a support for climbing in the hay feeder and she stood patiently. She likes to be underfoot more than she needs to be, but she puts up with a lot. She is a great little forager, too, even when the other goats are being lazy in the summer.

We also still have the goats from the Cream of the Crop sale in quarantine over on this farm. We are going to let them kid out here, keeping them just in their own group. It just made more sense, since we had bred does on the other farm and three of these does were purchased bred. Two are looking it, but we are hopeful the light doe who had ultrasounded with twins is still pregnant. The two dark does could be due as early as mid January, but the light doe could not even be due until between February and March or April. The plan here is to pull down the fallen in tobacco barn behind them and try to swing a metal building in which to store round bales. It would be lovely if we could pull off the mob grazing this summer in such a way that we don't need hay like we do down in the woods, but just in case, we do need a place to store it - among other things. Part of me wants to pull down the old outhouse but then having an old outhouse with no door on the farm... that just appeals a little bit too much to my sense of humor for us to pull it down just yet.