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Friday, June 21, 2013

An experiment in fostering

At the same time that I took the kids, I separated Violet's bucklings and started the weaning process.  I was going to do it last week, but delayed it because I hate milking Violet.  She's a first time freshener and has a "2 finger teat" and I still don't have my milking machine put together, nor does my Henry Milker work on her.  Now was the time, though.  That evening, I let them nurse again, and for the last time on Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon, I put the new kids in with Violet, and as Shawn held her while she ate Chaffhaye and grain, I guided their little mouths to her teats.  It took a few times, but they finally latched on.  Ah! here was the milk bar they'd been looking for all along!  Every 2 hours, Shawn and I came out, fed Violet, and guided the kids to the milk station.

Next morning, I tied Violet up while I made sure the goatlings could find their own way, helping only when necessary.  By the end of day 2, they had it down.  By mid-day, all I had to do was hold Violet, no food in hand, and she'd stand while they nursed.  She wouldn't stand without being held, but she wasn't aggressive, either.  Progress!

The one thing that I felt held her back was hearing her bucklings.  They would call, she would answer.  It must have been confusing for her to hear her kids calling, and yet here were these kids suckling on her.  I posted a request online to see if anyone local could take the bucklings for a week or two.

On day 4, Wednesday, I put Violet and the kids into a small enclosure with an electric web fence.  Oh, how hard it is to hold those tiny babies close to the fence until they reach out and touch it!  But how necessary if they're going to learn about electric fences without jumping forward and entangling themselves!  It was wonderful to see them sniffing the grass, playing on the stone steps, then curling up together when they were tired.  Violet was still walking away when they wanted to nurse, so I was still holding her every 2 to 3 hours so they could eat.

Midafternoon came and Violet asked to go in, so I carefully carried the kids, one by one, into the barn, then led her back.  She was not happy.  She wanted out, to choose her own place in the barn or near the barn, or in the pasture, or wherever, but not be locked up with no choice at all! 
Sorry, Violet.  The more time you spend with them, the more likely you are to accept them as your own.

Thursday was a repeat of Wednesday, and the hollering back and forth of Violet and her bucklings was getting me down.  I was convinced that their presence was the final impediment to her truly fostering the new kids.  Thursday night I got an email from another goat breeder in Morrill, offering to keep my bucklings for a couple of weeks so she couldn't hear them.  Today, I packed them into the car--my Goatmobile--and off we went.

Young goats are very resilient.  They took the car trip in stride, settled in to their new digs quickly, and didn't bat an eye.  "Hey! This is cool", they seemed to say.  We like adventure!"

Violet and the kids went into the buck pen, now empty, where there was grass and shelter from the sun.  In the morning, Violet was inside the shelter and the kids were curled up outside.  A couple of  hours later, the kids were inside the shelter and Violet was lying outside.  By early afternoon, the kids were at the back of the shelter, and Violet was also inside.  Progress.  All this time I was still going in every 2-3 hours and holding her so they could nurse, because she was still walking away.  I told her, "Violet, if you want to go out to pasture again, you have to be a mother to them. I promise you that if you take care of them, and I can trust you to watch out for them, you can get out of this small enclosure."  I hoped that would encourage her and show her what was at stake.

Tonight, though, oh tonight!  I went out around 10:00 to feed her a bit of Chaffhaye so they could nurse, while I prepared the feeders for the morning milking.  When I'd finished, I walked back to the stall to turn out the light.  There was Violet, standing looking at me, the kids nursing away, and the feeder across the stall.  She looked briefly back at one of them, touched him with her nose, and gazed at me again.  Success!  GOOD Violet!  You just came that much closer to joining the herd again!




1 comment:

  1. Wish I was closer - I'd have taken the bucklings for a few weeks! I live in MA, Belfast isn't that far away. Keep me in mind for the next time!
    Jan

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