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.