Saturday, April 14, 2012

One down...

And four more to go, including Kitty. Today Wendy, a daughter of ECR Blackbeard and a Sports Kat/Hanky Panky doe, kidded. As we expected since this was her first, she singled. And of course, it was a buck. At least this one wasn't a black buck, since we seem to be overrun with black bucks this year. Chuck had stuck around to be there when she kidded, just in case, and happily she handled it all fine. He got a kick out of her though, because this whole thing was clearly new and strange to her, because every time her new kid moved, she would jump. She also did what we see a lot of first timers do - right as the kid was about to nurse, it would make noise so she would turn around to check on it, swinging her hindquarters and hence, her udder, out of reach again. It takes them a little bit to figure the whole thing out, and I remember that feeling clearly when they placed my first daughter in my arms as a newborn. I was like a deer in headlights, so I can imagine how the does must feel. I mean, they haven't even read What to Expect When You're Expecting, and yet they get the job done. When Chuck left, Wendy was adjusting to new motherhood. Every time the buckling made a sound, she was on the case. We were disappointed to see another buck when we really could use the does, but I think she was happy with him no matter what.
The does in her group have all been recently moved into the new field, and it is amazing how quickly they have opened up the underbrush in the woods. It is a good thing for people to see how fast they can do this, not only so people can see how goats can be used for land clearing, but also so folks can see just how quickly what appears to be ample forage can go away. We have a lot of goats, so we expect to have to move them around to utilize evey bit of forage we can, and we expect to supplement the pastures and woods when they run out or are of low quality. Anyone wanting to have goats on forage only needs to carefully consider stocking rates. Count on way more land than you think you will need, or be prepared to compensate when necessary. Certainly easy keeping goats that forage well are part of the equation, but being mindful is important, too. Watching the goats condition, and watching the condition of the available forage is key. We are still learning how to best utilize the fields we have fenced to minimize parasites while maximizing nutrition, and it is a dance. The season changes the tempo and the steps of the dance, as does the amount of rainfall, and the temperature. I can guarantee we aren't the ones leading, either... it is nature, and we just try to keep up. Another thing this little cold snap we've just had has reminded us is that a single species pasture is dangerous. I don't mean single animal species, but rather, a single species of grass. I see a lot of pretty fields that get turned up and planted with a fancy grazing grass, but if something happens that that grass can't take, you are just out of luck unless you have a lot of diversity in the forage in your fields. Chuck noticed this morning that the freezes of the past few nights bit back the lespedeza. I don't know enough about it to say if it will come back or not, but as much as we like to see it, it isn't the only game in town.
Now that this area is almost complete, we have more to do. There is an area right around the barn we plan to fence, and an area down the hill with a ton of blackberry bushes, some areas of grass, and woods as well. Those are next on the agenda. We've started some more spring goat maintenance, and have trimmed a few hooves as we moved does (and this really makes me value the ones with feet that never need trimming. Chuck holds them and I am the one stooped over at the toe end wielding the hoof trimmers), and we have done some of the external debugging. I am trying Ivomec pour on this spring for lice, mites, and ticks, because I read it is extremely safe and I am about desperate to do something that reduces the tick population at least a little bit. It has always been bad but this spring it is, to use my nephew's vernacular, just "off the hook." It isn't unusual for Chuck to come home with three or four ticks, so we're hoping this helps. We have a couple of guineas, but we've never had any stick around if not confined, so we are a little concerned about turning them out. If they can reduce the tick population, though, we may have no choice. I still am waiting for someone to tell me a sure fire natural way to get rid of ticks. I do love neem spray, and I use it on the kids' shoes and mine as well to limit the little buggers (the ticks, not the kids) hitching a ride, but since it has to be reapplied almost every day, we have more goats than it is practical to use on, and several who are almost impossible to even catch without an awful lot of effort. If I could keep Chip out of the trees it might limit his tick exposure, but even the trees can't keep him out of the trees, and they are trying hard to shed him. One day he scraped up his back falling out of one tree who had had enough of him, but since that didn't slow him down, two days later a tree decided to throw him and then caught him by a sandal, where he hung hollering until Chuck came and unhooked him and got him some ice for his newest war wound. I asked him if he didn't think he might ought to quit climbing trees since he clearly has some problems staying in them. He said he just couldn't stay out of them. I am just not up for emergency room visits this summer if we can help it. Hopefully if we can't keep him out of the trees, we can help him choose more amenable ones that won't try so hard to divest themselves of their blonde headed attacker.

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