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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The open gate

Goats are wonderful. Just when you think you know what they're going to do, they fool you.

Yesterday evening, around dusk, I drove the tractor out the gate from the pasture.  The goats were in, so I didn't bother with the gate, figuring I'd get it the next morning.  Well...I forgot about it and let the does out for their respite time.  About two hours later, I walked out to the barn, glanced at the gate, and with a sinking feeling,  saw that it was wide open.  Somewhat perturbed,and a little abashed, I looked around.  Where were they?  Garden?  Nope.  Lawn?  Nope. Pasture? No, not there either.

I carefully closed the gate as I scrutinized the area.  Then I saw them, under the barn, sauntering and gazing in my direction.

I am still astonished.  My does take great delight in escaping from the pasture at every opportunity.  Why didn't they notice the open gate?  Was the challenge gone?  I chuckled to myself.  Who can figure out goats?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bringing it all up to date

     Wow!  I can't believe it's been so long since I posted.  Since then, we have three new kids, all purebred Saanens.

Neptune's Fantasy
     Beatrice kidded with one doeling on May 8th, which I promptly named Neptune's Fantasy.  She's very correct, and will probably be on her way to Pennsylvania by early August.
Fantasy Greenears after tattooing.

     Leah had two kids, a doe and a buck, on May 23rd.  I was undecided about going to the HOMDGA Spring Show in Windsor, but Leah made the decision for me.  She was in full labor early morning, and quickly gave birth.
Franz, aka "Frankie".  Dandelion is in the background.

Fleur de Lys, eating from her perch.
Frankie, Fantasy, and Fleur.

All three kids were immediately separated from their CAE+ dams and are bottle fed on a combination of raw goat milk from negative does and raw cow milk.  Leah's doeling, Fleur de Lys, will stay, and the buckling, Franz, is for sale--but will not be wethered if he doesn't sell quickly.  He's too nice to be a pet or meat, and his bloodlines are valuable.

 The two wethers, Euan and Dewey, have been sold, since I don't need to keep them as company for Mime.  In the meantime, I have three Sable bucklings sharing his space.  And what a space it now is!  A neighbor took down some fencing and asked if I could use it.  Could I!  With the help of the Mormon missionaries, the buck pasture has now been doubled, and includes a lot of browse.  They're in goat heaven.   As soon as I open the gate in the morning, they come running out and head for the trees and undergrowth.   It's amazing how quickly goats can clear the understory.  Where before it was hard to see beyond the closest trees, now I can see where they are during the day. 

Fabian under the trees

French Mime (Frenchie) clearing the undergrowth

In the afternoon, they usually move out to the more open area, but there's still browse on the edges.
Fabian still likes the browse, even if everyone else is eating grass.

And Finn McCool is so tired that he lies down to eat.

Finn McCool, Frenchie, and dear old dad on the right.

Grit-N-Moxie (Mime) and Fabian

Monday, May 11, 2015


I always prepare my does from the time they're very young by letting them eat Chaffhaye on the milk stand when I'm trimming feet, or brushing them, or just letting them get used to the idea of jumping on the stanchion.  While there, I run my hands all over them, including belly, thigh, and future udder, sometimes even gently massaging those tiny teats.  Nevertheless, sometimes first fresheners just don't "get it", true even if preliminary work has been done.  They may dance or kick, and for my part, I don't enjoy holding one leg up while I try to milk with the other hand. It becomes even more critical when they "graduate" to the milking machine.

This year, I had two first fresheners that I had to hobble, one because she would bring her hind legs far forward and crouch down, and the other because she started to kick.  I've seen a few different types of hobbles, but these two setups work for me. Both use a nylon curb strap for a horse's bridle for each leg.  These are easily found in any tack shop or online wherever they sell horse supplies.  I keep them snug, but not tight.

The first has the hobbles attached from the back

Removeable hobbles can easily be hooked to the stanchion and attached to the legs.

A view from the back

My other stanchion is much longer and wider, so I put an screweye just about at leg length on either side.  The setup also allows for a lengthener if necessary.  This one isn't quite as good as the other, since the doe can still step forward, instead of keeping her legs under her, but it does keep the legs down, and not allow kicking.

This setup works for a longer stanchion.  I used a screweye instead of a hook.

The MOST CRUCIAL thing about using these hobbles is to make sure they've been removed before letting the doe off the stanchion.  The best outcome is the stanchion falls over, but a worse one would be the doe on the floor with her hind legs on the stanchion--not a pretty situation at all.

The two does in the photos needed the hobbles for a short time, but they seem to be fine now. The longest I've ever had to hobble a doe was 2 months.  These two took 4 weeks and 2 weeks respectively.  Dolly, the Sable, took longer because as soon as I touched her udder, she'd step forward and crouch.  Now she stands square, just as if she had the hobbles on.  In fact, I didn't have to move her feet when I hobbled her for these photos. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Farewell to Cassie

It's been an interesting spring, watching the kids nursing on any doe in range, and the does!  My goodness!  They hardly notice what kids are latched on.  This may be all to the good, eventually, since yesterday I sold Cassie, and she'll be leaving soon.  I have mixed feelings, of course.  She was the first Sable born to Crooked Shade Farm, the proof that Leah carries color.  But I have too many goats, way too many, and it's time to cut back.  Cassie's a beautiful doe, but I'm slowly working my way toward an all purebred herd.  Whether that will include Sables remains to be seen, but eventually I want to get down to four does.

Her bucklings will be bottle babies now, and I was concerned that with Cassie gone, I might not have enough milk, but I think there'll be plenty.  Dandy is producing more than enough for her kids, and she nurses half the others anyway, as does Dolly.  The only one that seems to walk off is D'Arcy, and it shows in her production.

I'll miss Cassie, and I do wish I'd had a doe from her, but she produced a stunning buckling this year.  She's going to a wonderful home out on Islesboro--she'll be an Island Goat! How romantic!  And, she'll be hand milked, which I think is better for her. 

Farewell, my sweet Cassiopiea!  May your star always rise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

More kids

          Violet kidded Saturday, twins (of course), a doe and a buck.  That makes 5 and 5 so far.  The doeling is a black sundgau with the same wry tail as her sire.  Hopefully that will disappear, as did the other kid's wry tail.  The other is--no surprise--a caped Sable, just like his sire.  Mime certainly does stamp his offspring. 

          Since Violet is leased out, I didn't get to see them until the next day, and after Stake Conference, off I went, camera in hand.  They were outside, learning how to jump and run--and not always succeeding. I love watching new kids, they're so full of themselves, so full of life, so curious and fun to watch.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Milk test

Today is the first milk test.  I'm sure I'm complicating everything far more than necessary (why make it easy, when with just a little effort you can make it really difficult?), but this morning I had all kinds of containers out there in the milking froom:  a strip cup to get the first and last of the milking so I don't miss anything, the container for the milking machine, a pail for pouring all of that into so I can weigh and sample the milk after each doe, a pail to pour all the milk together after sampling, and finally a pail of warm water to wash everything out between does.  Good grief!  Nothing straightforward about it.  I think I need to find out how others do it so I can streamline this a bit.

Cassie, bless her little heart, milked over 8-1/2 lbs and she's just three weeks fresh.  She may not have a "pretty" udder, but she fills the pail. The next in weight was Dandelion, which isn't surprising since her dam, Beatrice, was producing 13 lbs of milk when she was 4 years old.   The next two in order were Dolly and then D'Arcy, neither of which milked as much today, test day, as they did yesterday. 

I find myself wondering if not having their kids will affect their milk production.  Certainly the kids are all screaming their heads off.  They don't like not being with their Mamas.  I'm beginning to see why a lot of people don't dam raise and milk test, too.  They certainly have good appetites.  All 8 kids were fed within 20 minutes, and I have no doubt the next two feedings will be as speedy.  I've learned to let them out two at a time to feed, then shuffle them into another area before I bring out the next two.  At three weeks old, these critters are a force to be reckoned with.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kids, kids, kids


D’Arcy kidded on Sunday the 22nd.  I thought Cassie would be the one to kid, since she had her front legs elevated and was yawning and stretching.  Her ligaments had been soft earlier, but were firm when I checked them late afternoon and evening.  I had given them both Pulsatilla that morning and put hay down in the stall to kid on.

About 2:00 in the afternoon, my computer alarm reminded me to clip their tails for kidding.  I ignored it for 15-20 minutes, and when I finally went out, D’Arcy had a kid on the hay, licking it clean, just born, still covered with mucous.  I ran into the house, grabbed some towels, phoned Olivia to tell her there was a kid born and to come over, and by the time I got back to the barn, the second kid had dropped onto the hay.  The first one, a doe, is marked just like Mime; the second looked to be all white, another doe.  Later we could see that she has a small black spot on her left side, but hard to see unless you ruffle her fur.  Two doelings, both lovely, the Sable born about 2:36 and the Saanen born 5-10 minutes later.

 Olivia and Lynne showed up shortly afterward and we all went out to tend to them.  The Sable kid found the teat and latched on; the second didn’t do as well.  Suddenly Lynne or Olivia said, “their ears are hard, is that normal?”  I didn’t think too much of it at first, but when I touched the ears, the moisture of birth was freezing on the ears.  Oh, crap! All I could think of was frostbite if we didn’t act quickly.  Lynne was ahead of me.  She was already packing up the white doeling and sheltering her under her coat. They were both half way to the house when I came along with the Sable doeling. 

After the two kids were warmed, fed, and completely dry, I took first one, then the other, back to the barn.  It had been a couple of hours, and D’Arcy was munching on hay.  She hardly noticed until the Saanen kid started to bleat.  She replied and came over to start nuzzling and licking her.  A while later when she woke up, I brought out the Sable. D’Arcy kept sniffing her and checking her out, as if something weren’t quite right.  She let her nurse when I held her, but wanted to move away.  As time wore on, whenever the Sable kid nursed, D’Arcy would bite her tail or her butt.  I finally took her back to the house.  An hour later, I came for the second.  It’s bitter cold out there, and I wanted them together. I found my Sepia and gave it to D’Arcy, hoping it would change her attitude.  It was too cold for them out there, with a low of around 8° F.  I don’t really mind bottle feeding them, since D’Arcy will be on milk test and they’ll need to be bottle fed on test day. 

The next morning I repeated the Sepia once.  By afternoon she was letting the Sable doeling nurse and by evening she was actively taking care of her..  These are the only kids that have names so far:  Crooked Shade Fanciful, or Fancy Free (haven't quite decided yet) and Crooked Shade Fiona (or Feona).  who is now wearing a turquoise collar to tell her apart from the other white kids.


I spent most of the wee hours of the night of the 24th getting up every hour to check Dandelion, who thankfully did not kid in the middle of the frigid night. A small show of blood to let me know things were starting to happen had me worried that she was going to kid right away, but—sweet girl!—she held of until late morning.
I was quite exhausted, but didn't dare take a nap. Every time I went out there, Dandy looked at me quizzically, as it to say, "What are you doing here again? Do you think I can't do this without you?"  Ah!  but when they finally came, she was glad to have me there, looking at me pleadingly.  A first time mom who didn’t know what it was all about.
A buckling was born at 11:10, a doeling at 11:22, both completely white.  This is the doe that looked so skinny a couple of weeks ago, but she plumped out the last week or so. She had twins hiding in there, but I don't know how. 

Dandy’s a wonderful mother, right from the start. She licked and cleaned them, took care of them, pushed them toward her udder, fussed over them.  No rejection on her part!  When I took them in for the night, because it was much too cold still to leave them out, she was upset, and both relieved and ecstatic when I returned them the next morning—after 10:00, when the temperature had risen above 20°.

Dolly’s experience as a first freshener was traumatic, to say the least.  After watching her pass a lot of fluid and goo, watching for over an hour, and seeing that she was not progressing at all, I called the vet—who confirmed that yes, I had to go in and see what the obstacle was.  After feeling with just my fingers, all I could find was a nose. Normal birthing position is feet first, nose afterward.  I had to reposition the kid, whose head was presenting without legs.  It took a while, but finally got one front leg pulled forward.  I just couldn’t find the second, I wasn’t sure whether Ii was feeling his leg or the second kid’s, but by now poor Dolly was screaming so loud and pushing so hard, that I gently pulled that one leg to tilt the shoulders and she finally got him pushed out.  Less than 3 minutes later she stood, and the doeling followed, sliding easily onto the thick hay..  minutes after the first. I gave her 1M Arnica for the birth trauma. About 30 min later I followed that with  1M Aconite.  She was in shock, staring straight ahead, and didn’t want anything to do with her kids. She refused to   clean them off, or even sniff them, turning her back when I moved them in front of her.

After an hour of her rejection, I milked her out to feed the colostrum. The  kids’ suck reflexes weren’t well developed, perhaps from being in the birth canal so long--2 hours or more.  I took them inside to feed them.  My friend Kim came over to help me tube them, but thankfully, that wasn’t necessary; instead, she showed me another technique that went a lot more quickly than what I’d been doing.  After 6 hours they had suck reflexes (thank goodness) and with the last bottle they each took about 3-1/2 oz.

When I returned to the barn, she had passed one placenta.  Hours later I was sure the other was retained.  Strain as she would, membranes dragging on the ground, nothing happened.  Membranes were hanging out  She wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink, didn’t want to be touched or handled in any way.

After giving 2 or 3 homeopathic remedies, I repertorized and Cantharis and Bellis were confirmed. I'd already given her Bellis with little result.  I gave her a handful of white willow bark for pain, about a cup of Raspberry leaf/Nettle/Squawvine tea (syringed it down her) to tone her uterus, and finally gave her a dose of homeopathic Cantharis to expel the placenta. Within 10 minutes of the Cantharis, she started to eat, walked over to her water, but only looked at it. Still, it was promising, the first time she’d shown any interest in water at all.  The next morning, her water bucket was down 3 inches, both kids were nursing and the placenta was passed and nowhere to be found, apparently eaten. Dolly was looking perky, swelling had gone down, she was making mil --which was pretty hard for her to do before since she wasn't drinking anything.  I’m sure the herbals helped, but the dramatic change after the Cantharis is what makes me love homeopathy.  When it’s the right remedy, there’s no doubt.

          Cassie was the easiest of all. She had shown a little goo, but was not in any discomfort that I could see. Still, Shawn and I both kept an eye on her.  Not closely enough, though, as when we went out to treat Dolly, she had two bucks in the hay, one a sundgau, one black caped.  They weighed 7 lbs and 6 lbs respectively a few hours after birth. 

She had them so quickly that it came as a complete surprise.  We arrived seconds after the second had been delivered, his foot still inside her.  Shawn had checked on her only an hour before, and I an hour before that, she didn’t show any signs of impending labor, but goats just live for the pleasure of doing their own thing.

I stopped only long enough to towel the second kid and then let her take over again. Once she had completed that, she turned and started eating the placenta.  I let her.  In the wild, or with no one around, she’d do it anyway, and I thought, “Maybe she needs it.  Maybe it contains nutrients her body craves after kidding.”  Cassie’s a second time freshener, so I didn’t feel that I had to hold her hand, as it were, and she didn’t disappoint me.  I milked about 6 cups of colostrum after her kids nursed.  That went into the freezer for times of need.  Her kids got short shrift, though.  They had to wait for pictures.

So now kidding season is done for a while.   Beatrice and Leah aren’t due until May, so I have plenty of time to regroup and just enjoy these babies.