My goat has what?

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It’s been wild and crazy around the farm these past few weeks. Babies are hitting the ground left and right, my front yard is pretty much one giant weed patch (including most of the garden…yikes!) and the tomatoes I started back in February look like they could walk out the door and plant themselves!

The most exciting thing though happened a couple of days ago when I noticed one of my goat kids had something wrong with her eye. Turns out her eyelids are too big and were rolling in toward her eyeballs! The lashes were scratching the insides of her eyes. Even weirder is the fact that when I called my friend Bridget for help, she told me she had the same problem last year and learned how to fix it. Apparently its called entropion. According to http://www.helium.com, “Entropion is a disorder of the eyelids which can be painful to goats. The eyelid or both eyelids are reversed (turned inward) causing the lashes to scrape the eye. Goats can either be born with entropion or it can be caused from an injury to the eye. Blepharitis is commonly associated with entropion and both of these disorders are frequently mistaken for pink eye.”  I wound up taking the doeling over to Bridget’s and she put 3 skin staples under each eye. I have a little punk rock baby now! We should be able to remove the staples in a few weeks. In the mean time we’re giving her prescription eye drops to speed up the healing process and help with the pain.I’m happy to report she’s doing great so far.

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A Year in Goats Part I: Spring

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Oh right, I’m a FARMER…

Here’s what the heck I have to say about tending your goat herd in the springtime.

  • Deworm and trim hooves after each kidding.
  • Provide Copper supplements to lactating does.
  • Disbud and tattoo kids.
  • Rotate pastures if possible.

My year begins in March with the onset of kidding season. I chose to kid a bit later than other farmers, mainly because I don’t find bringing frozen kids into the house to warm by the fire in the least bit cute and I have learned through experience that it’s much easier to keep new moms healthy when the pasture is green. She will be able to get more of what she needs to produce milk for her kids and heal from the birthing process if she has access to leaves and brush than if she’s on a diet of hay and grain.

So the day after kidding I always give my new moms a dose of dewormer and a thorough hoof trimming. They won’t have had either treatment since just before breeding and the birthing hormones trigger a worm population increase. I will also give my does a copper bolus shortly after they kid. This is something I learned the hard way…Even if you provide free choice minerals for your herd, and I highly recommend that you do; your goats may still need some supplements, particularly copper and selenium. However, copper can be toxic when overdosed so do your homework on this one and find out of you have copper deficient soil in your area before you go crazy with it. Cows also require higher amounts of copper than other livestock so you might get some insight on the copper levels in your area by speaking to local cattle farmers. You might even find your goats perform better on minerals formulated for cattle rather than your typical goat mineral.

I disbud all kids as soon as soon as I can feel the little bumps on each side of the top of their head. I will tattoo them the following week. I will blog more about disbudding at another time.

When the kids are two weeks old I latch them up with other kids at 7pm every night. That way their mom’s will have plenty of milk for me in the morning. And so the milk season begins! Around 7am I milk my lactating does on a stand in my milk parlor. While on the milk stand, they receive their morning grain and a good brushing. I examine their eyelids for any signs of anemia, check for mastitis and trim their hooves whenever they need it.

Early spring is also when I rotate my does onto a new pasture if possible. Sometimes, I have other groups taking up all of my spare paddocks so its not possible to give one a rest over winter. It is most certainly ideal however, to move your herd from one paddock to the next to avoid parasite overload and to promote regrowth and diversity in your available browse.

Maybe next week I’ll do Part II. But then again you never can tell with me can ya?

This post is linked to Barn Hop and Works For Me Wednesdays.

so long couch-y-poo

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So far I have avoided the couch (in the morning) for 2 days which has freed up my time to make scrambled eggs for breakfast and say hi to the goats before leaving for the office (two VEREY positive activities). Getting ready has been kind of fun lately too. It’s weird how long I suffered with that one considering how easy it was to change. I think I didn’t want to care about my looks and so I thought that I didn’t…but in reality I do. It’s been an ironic lesson in self acceptance because I learned to accept the part of me that wasn’t happy with another part of me, which led to a few minor and relatively easy improvements and now all parts of me are getting along quite well. What a relief!

In addition to having a plan, Leo also says you should use visualization to help keep yourself motivated while changing habits. So here goes.

I see myself basking in the rays of positive energy…better yet I see those rays shining from within me out into the world. I am a light moving about on the farm, laying my hands on the backs of the goats, looking into their eyes and connecting with the cosmos within me and within them. I see this energy filling me with a passion to DO, to create, to be active, to come out of my bubble of lethargy and shyness and connect with the excitement of the universe! I see myself feeling alive all over and feeling light and free from worries. When a negative thought threatens these happy moments, I squash it! I SQUASH THEM ALL!!! And replace them with gratitude for nature’s beauty and the love of these dear sweet creatures.

Sometimes Less is More, Right?

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Last night I put this ad on craigslist:

“I have a small registered nubian herd for sale. These goats would make a perfect starter herd for a home dairy…Will sell any 5 for $1000.”

What the hell am I thinking? This is 2/3’s of my herd! I am advertising does with the fullest utters I’ve ever seen.

But the thing is, sometimes in farming, as with any other aspect of life you’ve just got to rethink the whole situation. On the one hand I could keep everybody, pick up a few milk customers (which is completely illegal), fence off smaller paddocks and build another barn (which would cost more than I can recoup in farm sales this year unless I got a grant and that would put my name on a list, something I am loathe to do). On the other hand, I could downsize, keep only a few does and a buck or two. This option would actually put some extra cash in my pocket and keep me off those lists for the time being.

So yeah, the big decision’s been made. And I’m feeling pretty good about it. The main drawback so far has been all the phone calls. I actually have to interact with people, not one of my favorite things but good medicine none the less. They’ve all been nice enough so far.

Gag Me with a Poopy Pitchfork

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10 grossest things about farming in no particular order:

  1. flies and maggots
  2. reaching in to a goat’s vagina to pull out a dead kid
  3. afterbirth which the momma goats or the dogs eat if you don’t get to it first
  4. seeing your dog happily licking up chicken poop
  5. the smell of rotting hay
  6. having your foot peed on by a goat who’s just saying hi
  7. rotten potatoes with maggots in ’em
  8. chicken blood
  9. chicken guts
  10. chicken feet
  11. did I mention the poop, the flies and the maggots?

Goat Lovers, Mind Your Minerals!

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The thing about goats is just when you think you’ve got it all under control, somebody looks at you funny. By this I mean one of your special favorites (because they are all your favorites) gives you the “I’m not quite myself” look which translates into, “Chances are I’m fine but then again I could be dead by morning so you had better do something about it.” The other thing about goats is, there isn’t much practical information out there on goat husbandry, especially dairy goat care, unless you consider “Consult your veterinarian” practical advice which I do not and neither does my vet.

So late last winter I had a goat, Trudy (a large, beautiful, expensive, senior doe and of course my favorite) giving me the look, but not a clue what could be the matter. She had kidded a couple months before and had a single doeling. I have to admit I was expecting twins due to her large size and over all capacity. So it was kind of strange that she only had one baby. The kid was healthy and there were no problems until about 6-7 weeks out when I noticed Trudy’s eyes looking slightly weird. The bones around her eye socket seemed to protrude and the eye itself looked sunken, just a bit. Her eyelids look pale so I treated her for worms. In a few days she had scours so I treated her for coccidia. I followed up on her wormer and was hopeful she was on the road to recovery. But her milk production took a plunge and she became anorexic. The only thing Trudy would eat was leaves. Did I mention this was In January? I had to let her out into my yard to eat the Japanese honeysuckle and privet bushes.

One by one my largest, oldest does began to exhibit the same symptoms and all the milk was drying up! The kids were gorgeous but the moms looked ragged and skinny with dull coats and the sunken eye thing but no worms. Turns out they had a Magnesium deficiency! What the heck?

I was feeding grain and hay all winter plus minerals but the thing was, I was feeding “foraging” goat minerals, which are for meat goats not dairy goats. I had no idea how important this little difference is. The reason I hadn’t noticed a problem before was that my field had once been full of more browse than any goat could hope for. I had dandelion, plantains, privet, mock orange, sumac, mimosa, honey suckle, blackberry and thistle. But over the years, I let the goats eat it all away. Now I’ve got the perfect pasture for cows: fescue, orchard grass and clover. Poor Trudy!

Today, nearly 4 months later, Trudy is on the mend but I did lose one doe to milk fever as a result of the magnesium problem. So the lesson is, make sure you supplement with the right minerals. My next move is going to rotational paddocks with movable electric fencing so I can bring the browse level of my pasture back. I’ve also started mixing beet pulp and sunflower seeds into the grain. Trudy LOVES her sunflower seeds.

If any of yall have suggestions or similar experiences please comment here. I could talk about goats til the cows come home.

This post is linked to Homestead Barn Hop. Hop on over and check out more homesteading adventures!

On the subject of the 300 lb pig and the kittens:

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Some may wonder how one can eat a pig and not a cute fluffy kitten.  To them I have this to say:

It is illogical to argue the point that non-vegetarians should be willing to consume any and all animal life simply because they chose to eat certain types of meat.  For example I don’t consider song birds a food item, or ground hogs or lizards or my dairy goats. I don’t see what the big deal is there. Would you eat your house plant? Or the bark from a tree or some endangered type of carrot?

It is also narrow to assume people who eat meat see no value in the animal whose life was taken to provide nourishment for them. I am thankful for and humbled by nature’s abundant resources and I respect those resources, especially the food I eat. I don’t consider what I eat to be otherwise worthless and or disposable and therefore relegated to become food. I just don’t think of food in that way.

The point to me is that it is unfair to assume those who eat meat are un-thoughtful about their food choices and are somehow being unkind to the planet and that the mere act of being a vegetarian makes one a better steward of the environment. That is simply untrue. There are 20 million people in Mexico City alone.  How could we feed the people of world on vegetables without destroying the world itself or decimating the human population?

My last point on the subject is this: Why does everyone seem to care so much about what other people eat or don’t eat? It’s a personal choice and NO it doesn’t always make logical sense. Much of what we eat is driven by our emotions, like most of what we do in life is. And I’m OK with that. So please, don’t question me if I chose to have a vegetarian meal; just because I’m not vegetarian doesn’t mean I have to eat meat 3 times a day. Please don’t question why I don’t want to eat my dairy goats. I don’t consider them food in the same way I don’t consider you food even though you are an animal and I’m sure you would taste quite good.

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