Friday, February 10, 2012

We never learn.

Did you ever wish you had read something just a few days sooner than you did? I seem to have a knack for coming across really pertinent information just a few days too late. Old CB lost her one surviving kid, and we were not sure exactly why. After reading the wonderful diary linked off Terry Hankins' blog where he mentioned "rule #355" I realized that this poor kid died because it hadn't gotten enough to eat for several days, because his actions were exactly as mentioned in the diary. This also made me once again envious of all you married couples out there who can finish each other's sentences, and communicate flawlessly with each other. After over ten years of marriage, Chuck and I still have a ways to go with that. We had discussed CB's udder, but here is how it went:

what MJ said: "Do you think there is any milk in that udder?"

what MJ meant: "Have you seen with your own eyes sufficient evidence to feel confident that the kid is getting enough milk out of that udder to sustain himself and grow?"

what Chuck heard: "Do you think there is any milk in that udder?"

what Chuck said: "Yes."

what MJ heard: "Yes, I am sure there is enough milk getting from that udder into that kid from him to live and grow."

what Chuck meant: "Yes."

So now, after the fact, we both feel guilty and a little stupid. We should have seen it coming, I guess, but we didn't. The day I was at the farm the kid had been kept up in shed with CB all night, and he was playful and active. A few days later, he died. If only I had read that article a few days earlier, I would have recognized his actions as Chuck was describing them over the phone, and I could have told him what to try. I will be getting some ringer's solution to keep on hand. We've never needed it, but it might have saved the kid. Our does really do spoil us. We've never even had to bottle feed triplets. The only kid we have had to bottle feed to raise was a Boer kid that developed joint ill. My goal is of course to only have does that make kidding season a breeze, but even with perfect does, stuff happens. We need to be ready for anything, and we are still learning. As much as I expect our does to do the right things and as much as I realize stuff will happen, I can't help but be troubled when we lose one, and the memory of CB talking softly to her kid, asking him to come with her, after his short life had just ended, will stick with me a while.

I would recommend reading the "diary" referenced in Hankins' blog if only for the poetry of its words. Maya Angelou wrote about falling in love with William Shakespeare as she read his words, and I know how she felt. I fall in love frequently as I read, and always with a writer who has a particular ability to use just the right words to really get at the heart of the matter. I fell in love with Maya Angelou (how can a mere human being cobble together things as commonplace as ordinary words in such a fashion to make a sentence a thing of beauty?) and I fell in love with the author of this diary, too. There is a simple honesty to it, a truth, and I think for most of us who raise livestock, the sentiment he shows and the way he cares for his goats touches us where we live. And now, we have adopted rule #355 as well, just a little too late. Here is the link:

On a happier note, the goats are handling this cold snap alright. We knew it was coming, the cold. I can't imagine being so lucky as to have temperatures in the fifties and sixties all winter, and somehow when the prevailing winds finally fall frigid, it feels even ruder than if the winter had been cold all along. The past few days have reminded us badly we need to plant some sort of windbreak, but we aren't sure where to do it that it will actually be helpful and not get in the way of the tobacco guys. The human kids played in the shed that will eventually become the chicken coop (and which looks like a giant reverse Reese's cup due to me choosing poorly on the color of the trim paint), and it kept them out of the wind chill. The goat kids nestled under the bottom wire of the round bale feeder, positioning themselves to receive the sun's warming rays while protected from the icy blasts. I watched them as they would go out to play and nibble grass next to their mommas for a few minutes, then turn and run back and dive under the feeder when the cold wind proved too unpleasant. I can't say as I blame them.

Now we just are waiting for the next round of kidding to begin, and it should be within the month. We are laying out groundwork for the next small pasture, which will include not only a small unused field full of grass, lespedeza, and sticker bushes, but also a small wooded area which should provide some natural cover. Now, we just need the time to get it done, and also to pick up all the old trash out of the woods. Maybe we'll find something we can take on Antiques Roadshow and hit the jackpot. No, I'm not holding my breath for that, either, but I'm sure it will make the cleanup go more quickly!

Monday, February 6, 2012

last one in wave one...

The last ones in this wave finally arrived yesterday. We had concerns about this doe not only because Bo is still getting carried away with himself and a couple of the does have bite marks on their faces to show for it, but because this doe has, for lack of a better way to put it, "too much" in the milk department. We bought this doe, bred, at Cream of the Crop 2010, and she had a nice doeling the following spring, but her udder had gotten just huge and stayed huge for over a week before she kidded. I had googled it, and it sounded like a congested udder. It was actually bruised looking, and Chuck had to milk it down so her doeling could even use it. The milk she produced was good quality, so she never got classic mastitis, and it receded somewhat as she nursed her kid. I had read that feeding corn could cause this, so this year we didn't feed any straight corn, athough there is some corn in the mix. Over the past week, her udder was getting bigger and bigger again, although her teats had remained a reasonable size. Her udder was causing her trouble when she walked, though, and she could hardly lie down. It almost looked like she was riding a Hippity Hop, for those of you that know what that is. Yesterday, her udder had begun to do what it did last year, and her teats began to expand. Thankfully it never got as bad as last year.

When I got to the farm yesterday afternoon, I saw one wet new looking kid behind one shed, and Speckles in the middle of the field with another one, obviously brand spanking new. I advised Bo to keep himself away from them, because it was a cold, wet day indeed. I took the liberty of moving the kids to one of the little kidding sheds we have just because of how miserably cold it was. Speckles continued to dry her kids, and I called Chuck and told him what was going on. Virginia had had enough (she calls the shots, and will for some time I expect) and I didn't figure I could catch Speckles to work her udder. Chuck and the other two kids had been out spending a small fortune at the Dinosaur show, and he was happy to have a reason to leave the long lines and crazy prices, and the kids were getting tired, too. Chip and Annalee both got to ride an animatronic dinosaur, but Chip never cracked a smile the whole ride. Apparently, he had some concerns about the whole thing. Discretion is, of course, the better part of valor.

When Chuck arrived at the farm, he blocked Speckles in the shed and took the opportunity to collect some colostrum... a lot of colostrum, and there was still a gracious plenty for the kids. I would never recommend this doe to someone who was a totally hands off producer, but to tighten up her udder some but still keep her capacity to produce a lot of milk would make some good does in future generations. Tightening up that udder is the trick, though, and only time will tell how well these bucks do that for her. She makes me mad sometimes , but she almost always has Famacha scores of 1, so I'll put up with her. Her kids were out beginning to bounce a bit, a buck and a doe.

The strangest thing we have had this kidding season (so far, as the season is quite young yet) is the ordeal endured by the old wide, wide doe. Chuck called me and said she had gone into labor, but nothing was happening. By the time I drove up to help (what I thought I was going to do, I don't know) she had delivered one buck kid, and was starting with something strange. Hours later she passed what appeared to be a mummified kid. After that, we gave up watching to see if there was another (surely dead at that point) kid or just afterbirth going to come after about 12 hours of her being in and out of labor. Since stuff was coming out, slowly but surely, we really didn't want to try to go up in her and risk screwing something up really bad. She and Bo also had gotten into it during all this. We started giving her LA 200 because of what she had been through, and have adopted a wait and see attitude. If she has internal damage, there isn't much that can be done. Chuck sequestered her and her kid for a day for everyone's safety, and today, she seemed brighter. She is absolutely in love with this buck kid, too. I may be anthropomorphizing too much, but somehow it seems when a doe loses one kid but the other survives, she pours a twins' worth of mothering into that one remaining kid. CB and Bo were not real fans of each other even before all this, and today, even though he was asleep about thirty feet from her and facing away, she stood there staring daggers at him, the look on her face saying with no uncertainty, "bud, you come near me or my kid, and they'll be cleaning up what's left of you with a mop." Now, I watched from the car with Virginia as her buck kid looked over at the sleeping Bo, and went bouncity bounce bounce right over to him. You could just see in the kid's posture that he was just itching to use Bo as a trampoline. Bo looked at him disinterestedly, then over at me as if to say, "clearly, you see I was minding my own business." CB continued her venomous stare. Three or four times the buck bounced back and forth between Bo and his momma. It was funny to watch, but I didn't want to risk Bo walking over to her because she would have gone after him full force, and he would have retailated... and I just didn't need all that drama. Bo seems to lose interest in the kids as "his" within a few days, so hopefully this is just part of his learning curve. If the difference in his style versus Ralph the Pyrenees' style is truly breed related, I can see why Tennessee State's goat program uses a cross between the two breeds. Ralph is a little too hands off, and Bo gets carried away with himself, and there are pros and cons to both. This is all part of the journey, and hopefully by next season both dogs will be old pros. The kids are getting out and about with their mommas now, and starting to be a lot of fun to watch. As I have seen written, it truly is impossible to remain in a bad mood when watching kid goats playing.

I want to mention one thing we've found about our kidding sheds. We made the originals 8 feet long by 4 feet wide and about 4 feet high. They make nice shelters from precipitation for adult goats, but the smaller versions of these we made are by far better for kidding and kids. Since we kid in the winter, it is more important for the sheds to retain heat. Even the larger ones aren't tall and airy enough to not get hotter than they should in the summer, so we will probably make some summer vent modifications to those. The smaller sheds do trap a lot of heat, though, and for one doe and kids, they are perfect for pastures like ours with no natural cover or windbreaks. We had painted the original sheds white, but we are going to paint them all a darker color to make them a degree or two warmer in winter, because the white paint isn't enough to cool them off in the summer. I'll try to get some pictures to post of both, and what modifications we can make to tailor them to best meet our needs.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

already thinking about next season

If any of you follow the Goat Rancher blog, you may have noticed that we are in the process of purchasing a new buck, Southwest Shaw. We were only "sort of" in the market for a new buck, as we are able to cross Boomer and Ace's kids back on each other and it makes a good goat, but I still am in pursuit of the toughest of the tough, while not going so far in one direction as to blow it in all others (and that is an art I will be learning for some time, I expect). One very well known producer for whom I have a lot of respect seems to have a real knack for crossing the right goats. That is nothing small. You can have the best buck in the world and if you cross it to the wrong does, you will get subpar kids. That works the other way around, too. The trick is not to buy a superstar necessarily, but to find goats that consistently outproduce themselves, or crosses that maximize the best of both sides.

Towards that end, and using the anecdotal information that Terminator line goats tend to be some of the toughest in the breed, I wanted to bring more of that original Terminator blood back into the herd, especially to use on my Ace/Boomer cross does. Ace is a Wild Bill son, so he is a great grandson of Terminator from the Terminator XX side. We have a nice Purebred doe I will keep doelings from (I hope) and she is a Turbo daughter (Turbo is also a Terminator XX son, and Terminator grandson). One of the sires that goes back to the original Terminator other than Terminator XX is Southwest Cisco. Southwest Cisco sired such bucks as ECR Rusty and BBM Dale. I had the notion I'd like to get a double bred Southwest Cisco buck to take back on those lines before going back to something like Onyx for more meat and frame. I didn't figure I would come across one, but I was going to start looking at sales and see what was available.

Imagine my surprise when I found Southwest Shaw for sale - a son of ECR Rusty (son of Southwest Cisco and grandson of the original Terminator) and out of a Southwest Cisco daughter. Interestingly, I had gone to a sale a couple of years ago planning to buy this very Southwest Cisco daughter, and was completely ready to do it when Terry Hankins, her owner, mentioned she had lost use of one side of her udder right as the bidding started. It was a pretty little udder for an old doe, but we had been through a season where we had a dairy doe with only one good side of her udder and it made us gun shy. Our doe raised twins on that one side, but if Chuck had not discovered it and insisted the kids choose the correct side, she might have lost them both because they were going for the wrong side (which was at a better height) and one kid was going downhill fast because we thought it was getting colostrum when it was actually getting nothing. It could have starved right off the bat. Since we don't live at the farm, it gave me enough pause I didn't buy the doe, and I have regretted not buying her ever since. I also respect Terry Hankins for putting that information out there so we could all make an informed decision, although looks like I made the wrong one. I spoke to Shaw's former owner, and she told me how pleased they had been with him and his offspring, and only after several seasons of keeping his daughters did they decide to sell him. I hope he sires us many good kids next season, but of course, we have lots ahead of us before we get there.

In the meantime, all but one of the first wave of does has kidded, and the March does are starting to puff up and make little udders. Here are a few of the kids thus far, and some of the does that should be kidding next month. Think these kids might be Ace's? We are becoming familiar with what we're calling the "Ace face" in even the ones not colored like him. They are robust little varmints, and already worrying their mommas by bouncing around. The portly pair at left are a mother/daughter team. Both are stout and stocky, and if not carrying twins, must be adept at swallowing basketballs. Or maybe soccer balls - I think the kids left a few soccer balls at the farm. I might ought to go make sure they are still around.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Two more in the daylight.

I can't continue in my "who is going to kid next" routine because the two does that kidded today were in the lower field, and I haven't posted pictures of their progress. Two days ago we noticed that "50" had a very taut udder, and had what appeared to be a drop of colostrum or wax plug on the end of one teat. She is one of the does that was in to be a guinea pig with our young buck, "G." Although he is quite young, we test bred him to four does - two at a time. During the first period, "50" was one of his ladies. Today when Chuck got to the farm (I think sometimes he feels like the "time to make the donuts" guy on the commercials, who met himself coming and going) he had a surprise - one white doeling being paraded proudly around by "50." We had expected twins, as she twinned last year, but it is what it is, and this is the first kid to hit the ground by "G." So far, so good. We can't make any real determinations about what he is going to throw until we see a few more, and out of different types of does.

He had not been at the farm long when Piper, Ace's full sister, who we knew to be due today (exactly 150 days from her being bred), began to circle around "50" and her doeling, hollering loudly as she circled. "50" showed a lack of appreciation for this, and gave her a good whack periodically as she circled. Eventually, Piper stopped in mid circle and started to deliver. Her first kid came and Chuck said it seemed to be a long time later before her second kid arrived, but before long she had introduced her buck and doe kids by Boomer into the world. They favor her, and they look much like her kid from last year, also by Boomer.

Lastly, here are UPS's kids by Ace. Ace throws some unusual looking kids, at least in the color department. They are good kids, and grow well and are strong, but when they inherit his coloration - let's just say they aren't going to win a lot of beauty contests. I supposed that is just as well in a meat goat, because really, color should be the least of our concern. Still, sometimes you look at some kids and just kinda shake your head...

And the next?

So the next of the first group of does to be due has kidded. Any guesses who it might have been? Here was a picture from the 31st...

If you guessed the brown doe on the far left, give yourself a cookie. You got it. I ran up to the farm yesterday to give Chuck a quick hand with the CD&Ts for all the does due to kid in March. As we aways do, we spent a moment doing a stare and compare at the top area does, hoping one would get down to business while we were there to watch from a distance. The goats, who are generally disagreeable creatures no matter what some say, did not comply. I mentioned to Chuck that UPS (the brown doe) had had her udder fill in the past two days, but upon palpation, her ligaments were the tightest of the three in this bunch. Just goes to show, there is a different "normal" for each individual, just like there is for people. Not that I would know much about "normal." There are of course some signs that are "typical" but within the definition of typical there is still a huge range when comparing one individual to another.

This leads me to the next part of the post - what to do with a very large male dog who apparently wants to be a momma. I got a call from Chuck about 2am this morning, because when he arrived at the farm to do checks, he found UPS wandering around hollering for kids, and the kids, who were dry, hollering and looking for... Bo. It would appear, using circumstantial evidence, that Bo must have cleaned the kids himself and interfered with the bonding process. I suggested he smear the kids on any fluids left on UPS's hind end (pleasant, I know) and then allow her to clean them so maybe they could start from scratch. What he ended up managing was to tie her, so the kids could nurse, and when she looked around and saw that these were her kids and not puppies, she happily started licking them and everybody but Bo was happy. Obviously, we are going to have to watch him closely, since he goes over or under any fence to be with this particular group of does. We will have to remind him to back off, since the doe can't do much in that particular vulnerable moment. If anyone has been through this, we would welcome suggestions about how best to do this. He respects the does otherwise, and I have seen CB plow into him from the side, and toss his considerable body up and into the side of the hay feeder like he was a chihuahua so I have a good idea why. Since I was wide awake, I googled and found a few other people say that they have had young male LGDs do this, so we will try to help him through this learning curve. Not long after, Chuck heard the din of coyotes at the bottom of the farm. He drove down to investigate, and Bo had already joined Ralph in that field and the two of them had rounded up the does into a bunch and were barking back at the coyotes. Have I mentioned I really hate coyotes?

Last year UPS had one giant (and I do mean giant) buckling. G was 13 lbs at birth (not exactly a good thing), but even as a first timer she had no trouble delivering him. This year, she had twins - a buckling and a doeling, both over 9 lbs. As you can see from her picture, she was wide, but not huge. I think she just has the ability to carry more kid weight than some others without looking extremely large or having it slow her down at all. Some does are like me - they waddle around in late pregnancy and seem to have all sorts of aches and pains. UPS hardly seems to slow down at all, though. I wish I could have said the same!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Spot the kidder

Just a quick update. Finally, one of the does has seen fit to grace us with a set of kids. Now, I am putting the picture back up of the group of does I had posted in my last entry. Of the three does in the foreground, can you guess which one was the first to kid out? Us, neither.

The correct answer is the doe on the left in the foreground (next to the brown doe). Looking back to last year, Jessie had surprised us then, too. She did not seem to have loose ligaments nor to have had her sides drop significantly last year, either, when we drove up and found her with two bucklings. This year, she has had two doelings. Last year, Marshmallow tried to steal them from her, and this year, Bo acted like he wanted one to be his (he tried to clean it and it was trying to nurse him). So far, so good. We will have to watch Bo to make sure he doesn't get carried away with himself as the next few does kid. Wonder who will be next? Any guesses?