Saturday, March 24, 2012

A brief lull...

I think we are going to float away today, but all this rain might make the grass grow, and I'm pretty sure come July and August, we will wish we could have bottled it and saved a little bit. We see the sticker bushes in the newly fenced area starting to push out leaves and I am chomping at the bit to get goats moved in there, but we are waiting on gates and Chuck is trying to figure out the barbed wire to go around the bottom. He made himself a barbed wire puller off the back of the gator the other day, but hadn't gotten far when he had to come out and spell me, because we've all been laid out flat with a nasty spring cold and the only thing worse than having a sick child is having a sick child while you are sick, yourself. Well, all of us got it except Chuck. I think this was an unintended benefit of how much time he has had to spend at the farm lately. He minimized his exposure.
Our new field is at least starting to come together, because with all the rain and warm weather I do have concerns that a whole bunch of parasite eggs will be hatching and spewing forth larvae all over the place. Chip helped hammer the reflectors onto the post, and after putting a few dings in them, declared "I not so good at hammering." Well, Chip, you came by it natural. I remember a time when I was fixing a fence at my aunt's farm and managed to hit my own self in the forehead. We figured it wise to add a reflector to the post, though, since it is new and near the road, and the road to the farm used to be a hangout for people drinking beer and whatnot before we started keeping the goats there. We also all spent a day bagging up trash out of the woods. So far, we haven't found anything worthy of Antiques Roadshow, but there's plenty more to go through. I expect even when we think we've gotten most of the trash, we will keep finding more. I know people didn't think much about it when they did it, but I sure wish they had taken a moment to consider that land may one day be used for something other than a giant garbage can.
I know it is time to hit the does with an herbal dewormer, in the form of the "worm balls" we feed them and most see as treats. This time of year I will add a dose of copper wire particles. We have been getting them into the goats this way, as opposed to in bolus form. I don't have quantifiable proof that it reduces fecal egg count, but they seem to be doing well when we use them. I applaud all producers that are doing fecals for themselves. We took the course to learn to do it, and we have a microscope, but we are phenomenally bad at finding things through the scope. I remember being pathetic at looking through a microscope even back in school. When we were first keeping koi, we had all sorts of problems and we gave the microscope a workout trying to do slime scrapes to see what parasites we were battling. I didn't have a whole lot of success. I think I saw a trichodina once, which looked a little bit like a UFO. I ended up learning the symptoms of each parasite, and we treated the koi accordingly. It took a long time, but we got so we could look at a koi's skin and behavior and guess with some accuracy what was bothering it. Then we found that once we learned to "keep water" rather than "keep koi" that we no longer really had a lot of problems to deal with in the first place. We obviously aren't there with goats yet, but that is our goal. We do know that "keeping pastures" has a lot to do with keeping our animals healthy, but we haven't reached that zen point yet - the point where doing the right thing at the right time comes so naturally that it all starts to seem easy. I believe we are still a few years away from that.
We are in a brief lull now, awaiting the last set of does to kid. The final kids of the middle wave are here, and things are settling down a bit. Chuck saw Ginger bred by G pretty late in the season, so if she caught, we will see how she crosses on G. The two does we bought at the Cream of the Crop sale are obviously bred with Ace babies, and they will be our first NKR goats. We have always had AKGA goats, and double registered with the IKGA largely because so many folks around here wanted IKGA goats. We are waiting to see what our customers want this year and next. We also are waiting to see how Kitty does. We were never able to keep her bone inside the skin and lined up to allow it to knit, but she is still with us, and living on three legs. Chuck found out the hard way that she can outrun his two legs with her three, and she took herself across the field one day when he had her out grazing and had a rendezvous with Ace, who had climbed out of the pen he was in with the new does. Kitty is starting an udder now, so we will see if she kids successfully. We are trying to figure a way to make her some type of pegleg apparatus to take some of the weight off the other hind leg to preserve the hip and pastern as long as possible. As long as she is comfortable, we will make accomodations for her and she'll have her own area. If she gets to where she hurts, we'll have her put down. I do hope she kids and leaves us a doe, though. Kitty is one tough goat.
The last thing I will address is the challenge of keeping records in a farm setting. I have found another thing I really miss about my old job - Microsoft Outlook. It was so nice to be able to get a text from Chuck telling me whatever information needed to be entered, and I could just email it to myself as an appointment with reminders. I had Outlook on my old laptop here at home, and it worked really really well. Then my old laptop died, and then I got laid off, and now my new laptop doesn't have any sort of calendar program. I have tried putting things in my smartphone, and Chuck has taken to carrying a small notepad in his pocket all the time, but smartphones get dropped (at Dick's Sporting Goods, no less) and quit working, and notepads get wet and get lost, and we lose valuable information. I am going to try the Google calendar and see how that works. We have the doe and kid software from the Cream of the Crop sale, but we need something that tracks the every day things like breeding dates, Famacha scores, vaccinations, and things like that. If anyone out there has found the perfect thing, and it is cheap or free, I am all ears.

Monday, March 19, 2012

March Madness

They say if March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb. I'll be honest, I don't remember how it came in because it seems like it has been an absolute whirlwind of activity these past couple of weeks. We have had a couple of does kid since the first main round, but over the past maybe week, week and a half we have seen the majority of does in the bottom field group kid out, and this has been one of those seasons where it seems we have had a new problem to deal with every day. Some of them have been the weather's fault, some of them may have been the goats fault or maybe the dog's fault, and some, as always, have been our fault. Then there have been a couple that really weren't anyone's fault, but are just part and parcel of kidding goats and a reminder that the process of having a baby is one of the most dangerous times in the life of both doe and kid.
Let me first put out there a few of the lessons we have learned through this, because they may be helpful to someone else. When Aggie kidded (a second timer) the birth itself was unusual only in that one twin was fine and the other had developed abnormally and was nonviable. That was a disappointment, because she is Annalee's goat and a good mother. We were happy enough with the kid that survived, even though he is a buck and we had specifically asked her to provide us some does. To be honest, we had asked all the does to produce more does, and it has become painfully clear they don't care even a little bit what we say. I think we are at about 80% bucks in this round as of right now. Anyway, this buck is a good looking buck, nicely balanced and strongly built. Aggie began taking good care of him right away, but about two days after his birth, it became apparent she was having some health problems of her own. As usual, I got the text in the middle of the night from Chuck telling me what was going on, and that she was off feed and looking depressed, and asking what to do. Not knowing what to tell him, and wondering if she had retained afterbirth, I asked him to take her temperature. It was slightly elevated - 104.9. We had some LA200 on hand so I suggested he give her that.
Since her milk supply seemed down somewhat, although the milk he expressed did look clean and normal, he grabbed another doe who had lost her kids when they wandered out into the cold field one night, and had the little buck nurse from her. We figured it would maybe help the doe dry off more gradually and preserve her udder health, and it would of course help the buck. When Aggie was still miserable the next day, Chuck called a couple of vet friends of ours and got their over the phone opinions, and called our local vet out for a hands on assessment. She found no sign of frank infection, and thought Aggie was in severe pain from either a uterine tear or a bad bruise. About all we could do would be to offer her supportive care. Over the next couple of days, we continued the LA200 in case an infection was trying to brew, and I added in a couple of things because Aggie was scouring about this time as well. Just in case a bacteria for which it contains antibodies was involved, we gave her some Bovi Sera, and also some B-12, just because I think it is helpful for anyone feeling poorly. Chuck pulled out the tub of Fibrevive as she was off feed, and we wanted to keep something soothing in her rumen. He made some "patties" of Fibrevive with slippery elm in it, mixed with water. The slippery elm is another one of those things that is generally healthy on the gut, so we figured it couldn't hurt. She would not take it on her own, but when he put some in her mouth, she would chew it up and swallow it. She drank water readily, thank goodness, and was down for a couple of days. Over the past day or two she has started wandering around picking at the grass and eating on her own, and yesterday when Chuck put a new round bale in the feeder she attacked it with gusto. I know goats well enough to not say she is out of the woods, but she seems to be on the mend, and her kid is still nursing her and growing alright. One side of her udder had started to get hard and warm during all this, so Chuck stripped it and stripped it with some peppermint and clove oil udder creme, and now, her milk looks clear again and her buck is nursing both sides. When she was so ill, she took such comfort in that baby, as you can see in this picture of the two of them. It is hard not to relate to that, as a mother.
The second thing I would like to offer up is our very first experience with a doe rejecting her kids. Chuck has been going back and forth to the farm, night and day, and one day when he came home for a couple of hours and then drove back up he found two little black kids in the field, nice and dry, but with no mom around. Using process of elimination, he found their mom, who was much deflated but showed none of the normal post birth crudd on her hind end. I think it was about two am when I got the text about this one. I suggested he smear the kids across the goo that should have been on her so she could recognize them, because we guessed that maybe the dogs had cleaned these guys off and the doe decided they must not have been hers after all. Well, the only problem with this was the fact that there was no goo to be had. Chuck struggled and fought with her and got the kids to nurse, but he kept texting me that she acted not like a mom looking for her kids, but like one that had no kids at all. Hmmm. This was a new twist.
He locked her in a shed with the kids and decided to check on them in the morning. The next day, she still was all a-stomp when the kids tried to nurse, and again he held her still so they could get colostrum. She looked like a horse trying to kick a horsefly off its belly, and every now and then she would connect and launch a kid. We had another doe kid the next day, and Chuck watched as one kid came out fine, but the other came out with what acted like something foreign plugging its airway. He tried to pat it out, sling it out, massage it out, and fingersweep it out, but was unable to save it. A friend of mine has since told us he could have tried to "suck" it out and spit really quick, and something tells me if he sees this again he will try it because that was a bad feeling, not to be able to help when the kid was right there. Well, we figured here was an opportunity. The recent kidder was a second timer, and would have plenty of milk, so Chuck took the smaller buck from the other doe and smeared it with new doe goo. She turned around and cleaned it off and started trying to get it to nurse and he was amazed at how easy that had been.
Since this is us, and nothing is ever easy, as fate would have it the kid had some diarrhea the next day and the new doe now wanted nothing to do with him. I suppose the smell of the original doe had come back and the new doe said, "hey - this one ain't mine." In the meantime, the doe that had originally rejected both her kids had decided she liked the one she kept, and she was beginning to mother him as she should have from the beginning. I noticed she would look at "the reject" from time to time and talk to him, and of course he was so confused he wouldn't talk back, and then she would come over, smell him, then decide he wasn't hers and walk off. The kid would then start following us around. I guess he figured he'd take any port in a storm. He follows the stroller quite nicely. We decided we had screwed up so we would try again getting him back with his real mother, so Chuck held her for him to nurse and they went back in the shed together. This was just yesterday, and as of today she still was pretty angry about the whole situation. When Chuck went to hold her today, she bit his sunglasses and hat off his head and slung them across the shed. She also bit him on the arm a couple of times, just for good measure. But Oliver got to nurse, and we will see if Oliver makes it and if, like with his brother, she decides to accept him. I guess I should mention that I was at Target recently, and found a kid version of Dickens' "Oliver Twist" in the dollar bin. I am a huge Dickens fan, so even though it has none of the language of the original story, it at least will familiarize the human kids with the story. Chip actually took it to school with him a couple of times. This poor little sort of orphan kid, following us with a look on his face that said, More? Can I please have some more, sir?" brought Oliver Twist to mind, and so he became Oliver for as long as he's on this earth. His brother already makes two of him, so he may make it, he may not, but we are trying. The lesson we have learned from this little adventure is that if you want a doe to accept kids, it takes time. Not just a day or so, but maybe several days, but it can happen. I know that this doe needed the mothering experience to have a chance next year (she gets one more chance since the dogs may have screwed her up) and we also didn't want her udder to have problems. Now if she blows it next year, she's out of here, and as a pet or weedeater - not breeding stock. With all the kicking and silliness with her nursing, I also wonder if she had a particularly sensitive udder. I hope a season of being nursed works that out. We have her mother, ironically bought at the same sale but not as a pair, and she has given us two sets of twins without a hitch.
We have four more does to kid, and we are hoping we get some doelings in this group. Right now we are going to be painfully light on does, but boy, if you need a black buck, do we have a selection for you to choose from!
Now, I will further say that this is the only sort of March Madness on which I will make comment. I'm a Duke girl, you see.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fact, fiction, opinion, and conjecture.

There are a lot of things I wonder, still, about goat keeping, even after having them for several years. One thing I have been hearing a lot lately is that we're going to have a very bad year parasite-wise because we've had such a mild winter. Now, this may be true, but way back in the day when I was doing the 4-H thing, and listening to all the horse experts, they said that this part of the country just doesn't get cold enough to make a significant difference in the parasite population. We were taught that our hot summers actually killed more worms than the winters. I don't know if this differs in goats because of the species of worms that they harbor, or which is actually correct for the Southeast. I know it seems easier to keep goats healthy in the winter, but we also seem to have better famacha scores also in the summer when it is particularly dry. Of course, when the rains finally come, all the encysted eggs hatch at once and I expect to see the guy from the Allstate commercials who calls himself Mayhem running around in the fields. Actually, that would be okay with me, since I really liked him as "Ryan O'Riley" in that old HBO series Oz... but I digress.

I also wonder what warm spells in the winter do for parasites. Do they hatch out? What really triggers them to hatch? If we have an empty paddock, and it sits idle for only four months over the winter but we have had several spells where the temperature bumped seventy with plenty of moisture... at what point will all the eggs have hatched, found no host, and then died? I know they say it takes six months to make a clean pasture in the winter, but how do warm spells temper that estimate? I guess these are all questions I should send to the folks at the wormx site. If anyone knows, it should be them. When you run as many goats as we do on limited acreage, it can make a difference. Like I have said many times, I will do most anything to avoid using chemical dewormers if I possibly can, so the more ways I can work with nature, the better.
Speaking of working with nature, Chuck is still working on fencing that usused field, and the fence fairy did come! I'm not sure he would want to be known as such, but our bow hunter, who has helped us on so many occassions, has come through again and has helped Chuck work on it. I help when I can, but my help is limited to how long Virginia is willing to nap in the car. Now that the weather is improving I may get her to sit in the stroller while I help, but her patience does run thin.

The second wave of kidding is officially underway, starting at a trickle. Little 34 had twins, a buck and a doe, from a test breeding to G, and they are too young to tell much about but we are interested to see how they will do. We have two goats left at the old farm to keep the kudzu down, and today Chuck had found that the black half Kiko, half dairy doe we call "The Hornet" because of the facial markings she had as a kid, has had twin does by Milky the Boer buck. He was the one that survived joint ill that we raised in the bathtub for a while. We learned to tube feed a kid with him. I sure hope we never have to do that again. I will never forget the image of Chuck sleeping on the bathroom floor cuddling that little goat. I really think he flat willed him to live. Milky was named by Annalee, and basically became a pet. He and The Hornet have to forage down there as there is nothing extra but a round bale in winter, and although they have Amalie the llama to protect them, they have had to be a pretty tough pair to thrive as they have. They literally were the last of the original dairy and Boers we got. It would be nice to start a strictly commercial side of the herd using tough individuals like that bred back to some good Kiko bucks. Maybe we'll see where that goes in the future. The Hornet is a daughter of Boomer, and a crazy old dairy doe we dubbed Psycho. Psycho had horrible pasterns, and was woefully parasite susceptible. The fact that The Hornet is able to make it down there speaks well of Boomer as a sire of easy to maintain does. Lastly I will add a shot of Ace, trying to eliminate himself from the gene pool. I had asked Chuck to put the stroller in the truck and take it up, and I would meet him at the farm a little later with Virginia. I drove up and found this scene... Ace looking for an escape route from his temporary pen, and eyeballing my insanely expensive stroller as a landing pad on the other side. Let me say that if most of the cost of the stroller had not been reimbursed by a Healthy Moms program I completed, I would not have been able to get it, so I am pretty protective of it. It drives smoothly over the roughest terrain, and it turns circles with ease one handed. Ease of handling in a stroller becomes a pretty big deal when you have a Chip to be holding on to with the other hand. I'm not sure who would have been in more trouble if Ace had flattened the stroller, but Chuck now has hot wire around Ace's pen and Ace did not have to replace its cost by the pound, so all's well that ends well.