Saturday, January 14, 2012

Strains of Tom Petty

are floating through our minds as of late... specifically the refrain "the waiting, is the hardest part." Nothing could be more true when we have finally arrived at the 150 day mark from when Ace was put in with the top area does. The only doe that had kidded thus far is the sold goat we have been holding for someone to be sure she was bred. There are only a few does in this group, and all are obviously bred and all but one have developing udders, so we know we are close. But when will the kids arrive? Year after year Chuck tries to watch udders and squeeze tail heads, and year after year he guesses most of their statuses with some accuracy when they are within 24 hours of kidding, and year after year there are a couple that fool him absolutely. We've had several of these does long enough to start establishing what is "normal" to them, but this year we have a few real wildcards. In this upper area, we have four does who were first timers last year. All did a good job with their kids, so we have at least some confidence they'll do alright again. Last year, one of them twinned and the other three singled. This year all four are appreciably wider than they were last year, and I have also been going back comparing pictures of them and their udders to the pictures we took last year as they approached kidding. Comparing years, if any of them single, the kid will either be the size of a small car or we will find out we've seriously been overfeeding them. They aren't by any means underweight, but none of them have a body condition so high we can't feel their spine.

Unlike some breeders, we do have to give supplemental feed this time of year. We don't have the acreage fenced (yet) to offer enough browse for the does to make it through winter, especially when they are heavy bred or lactating. This year we've made the decision to feed more hay, earlier, so the pastures aren't overgrazed and they are ready to spring back up when the weather starts to warm and the kids should be getting close to weaning age. We have much more green in the fields this winter than last, but last winter we had kept the does off the top field and this winter they are going to be on it as we expect it to start coming back. I wish I could have the big wooded area we have planned completed by March so I could move the January kidders to it and rest the top field for a couple of months, but I don't see that happening unless the fence fairies show up, and we've been waiting for them for a loooong time. Good thing we weren't holding our breath.

I do hope the does wait a day or two simply because the temperature on the new indoor/outdoor thermometer at the house showed an outdoor temperature of 13 degrees this morning (either Chip or the cat that will eventually go to be a barn cat finally pulled the outdoor probe cord completely out of the old one). It isn't going to be terribly warm later in the week, but it is at least going to be warmer than this. My "helpful" hint this entry is as yet untried, but I am hoping it will work if we need it. We are trying to collect a little colostrum this year to freeze, and we have frozen a bit directly in a bottle. I've read a lot about freezing it in ice cube trays, but we live a long way from the farm. Taking a cue from what I do with milk for the human baby, we thought maybe this would save us a step, as we have no power at the farm. We figured the frozen bottle could go right in the automobile baby bottle warmer we bought for Virginia's bottles. For the few weeks I got back off maternity leave until I got laid off, Chuck had to carry her with him, and he would keep some milk warming more often than not. This little warmer plugs in the cigarette lighter, and it is slow, but it will bring a bottle to temperature between the house and the farm. Now, I sure hope I don't need to bottle feed any kids or provide any colostrum, but we (read: Chuck) bought an old doe with a questionable udder because she was built pretty much like a brick house and the original block body style of the early kikos is something we want in our herd. Ironically, I bought a granddaughter to this doe at a later sale, and she has a perfectly reasonable udder and while not being a tank like the older doe, is at least a doe with a lot of body capacity. We'll know more about this whole experiment works out later this season, and we hope that udder can still allow her to raise her kids unaided. I swear she looks like she might have quintuplets though. I hope she is just "sprung" like old does get sometimes.

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