Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

During kidding season, there are lots and lots of reminders of how important mothers of all species are to the survival of the next generation. Our momma goats have their kids, get them up, get them fed, and then protect and feed them for months. Like human moms, their mothering styles vary from the moms who allow their kids more freedom from the first few days and just check in on them periodically to the super protective moms who keep their kids close at all times and would keep them in a tightly knit family group forever if they could. I've said before I like the protective momma goats, and I still feel that way. We decided to wean Fifty's buck kids one of the Animal Welfare Approved ways - we made a pen inside the pasture and put them in it. They cannot nurse Fifty or try to breed the adult does or doelings, but they did not face the stress of a total separation. They are well weaned now, but we notice that Fifty often still checks on them and spends time with them, and can even be found sleeping next to their pen.

I remember last year when we brought little 34's kids out to tattoo them (which we tend to do late). Even though her kids were old enough to wean and paying little attention to her anymore, she stood at the fence, watching us with them intensely, never taking her eyes off them. This year her yearling daughter Ginger got her head stuck in the fence and when all of the goats came running to the other side of the field as we drove up, 34 took a few strides towards us, then turned and ran back to be by her daughter's side, where she remained until we came to get Ginger unstuck. Both are bred this year, soon to kid out. I will be interested to see if 34 is in any way invloved when Ginger kids. Ginger was a year old in March, so she is on the young side for does we breed. She is obviously bred, but if she only singles that will be fine with me as she is so young. 34 is the only doe in this field who has kidded before, and she is very wide so we are of course hoping for twins or triplets, although I have read that if a young first timer twins the first time she often singles the next.

The efforts we have poured into the top pasture as an area for them to kid has paid off - the grasses and legumes are thigh high (although for someone 5'2" that is not so much of a stretch). I know they are not as nutritious at this more mature stage, but I'm thinking about those baby mommas having suppressed immune systems during lactation over the summer, and the parasites will have some pretty steep greenery to climb! We are trying a modified mob grazing scheme within electronet that gets moved when the stubble is about 6". So far the old areas are having good bounce back, and the does are getting a lot of forage going into kidding and early lactation. I don't know if we will be able to move them around like this once they start kidding, but so far, so good. I am still hoping to improve the soils in the pastures at the same time we raise good goats. At the beginning of this post is a snapshot at dusk of some of the expectant young does. The picture quality is horrible, but you can see the difference between the area they are on (we moved them right after taking the picture) and the rest of the pasture in the background.

We are still weaning bucklings, and I am going to keep working the pen within a pasture method to see how it goes. I want to get them back on the old farm for a while because it is getting overgrown, but I also realize weaning is a stressful time, and since they will be on tougher terrain with less attention down on the other farm, I want them to arrive there as healthy and well-weaned as possible without it taking the whole summer. I've got some pretty nice bucklings, and the move should show us who can really get around and forage, and still gain well with the increased activity. In an effort to utilize even the unfenced areas on the farm, we've taken the group of does we bought and quarantined last fall and have been sliding a pen down the outside of the fence line. Outside the fence is overgrown with lovely things like poison ivy and blackberry bushes, and in just a day or two they clean it down so it is quite walkable. It also is helpful for us, until we get that bushhog we've been wanting so badly. Seems like every time we get the money for it, some little complication pops up, like a blown tire on the car, or something else annoying and much more mundane than a shiny new bushhog. You can see the difference between the area they are in and the unmowed "weeds" behind them. That only took them a few days. The doelings in this group are sold, and the bucklings are going to be separated within a few days. The brown buckling against the fence was born the same day as the black twins behind the black doe, so we wonder if he somehow received a dose of radiation or some baseball player's steroids by accident. He is nearly the size of his mother, who is not a small doe.

Last but not least I have to comment on old Baby Longstem. Thankfully, we had another doe kid within a short time after he was born and she had a single doe kid, so Longstem has a partner in crime. I really think kids do better when they have other kids to run and play with. The two of them sprint across the pasture and leap and cavort, and the day one clever goat undid the gate and some of the unbred yearling does got in with the older does, Chuck found Longstem butting heads with one of them and holding his own, so he is getting pretty solid. I don't like bucks to be overly friendly, but Longstem seems to remember the kindness afforded him by a human at birth, and he puts up with the human kids. When he is weaned he will go to the other farm to grow out or hopefully go to a new family. We had a visitor that liked the looks of him, so we'll see how it goes. I just can't help but smile when I see him run and play. It just amazes me what a nearly frozen tiny goat can overcome, if he wants badly enough to live.

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