Thursday, January 2, 2014

The dark days of winter

It's cold. It's dark. It's muddy. I leave for work in the dark, I come home and it's still dark. I don't like winter. But I DO like the free time I have to catch up on crochet projects.

Most of farm life is on hold in the winter. I dried up Mystique because milking a half gallon twice a day was just getting to be too time consuming. When she kids at the end of February I'm going to leave her babies on her so that I don't have to milk if I don't want to. While it is easier to sell bottle babies, it is SOOOOOOO nice to have the flexibility to milk whenever I want. And now the human kids are complaining about goat milk so we aren't going through all that milk she was giving us.

I learned something new this week - a doe who aborts her babies can go back into estrus a few weeks later and be rebred. I didn't have a clue that was possible until Daisy did just that. Basically what happened was that she had explosive diarrhea so I wormed her and treated her for coccidiosis and stuck her with a ton of needles, which she didn't appreciate. She lost a ton of weight and was lethargic and not her normal self. I then noticed bloody discharge, which is a pretty good sign that she aborted. I put the buck in with the does because he wasn't getting enough to eat in with the sheep who were bullying him, and darned if Daisy wasn't wagging her tail at him and following him around talking to him. So it looks like late May babies for Daisy. Speaking of May babies, Daisy's daughter got inadvertently bred. I thought breeding season was over - I hadn't seen her go into heat for quite a long time. Apparently I was wrong because Hef had his way with her again and again and again.....Now I just need her to grow a little bit in the 5 months between now and kidding so that she's big enough. I'd like her to have been another 10 lbs heavier before breeding, but oh well.....

 I'll tell you about the chicken that P glued back together another time.....

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Autumn thoughts

Has it really been 3 months since I last posted? Time flies in the summer. I was super busy weeding the garden and harvesting and canning. I canned something like 36 pints of various types of salsa, 36 quarts of peaches and pears and 14 quarts of applesauce. I still need to figure out what to do with all the ground cherries that are just waiting to fall off the plants. Someone gave me a suggestion I want to try - pull up the plants and hang them upside down until the fruit falls off (put a sheet under them to catch the fruit). As an added bonus, all those ground cherries won't end up sprouting in the garden in the spring (turns out they are rather invasive but oh so tasty!)

Now that fall is here, I am finally able to relax a little. Dark arrives by 6:30pm so I can't do anything outside. You would think that will all the extra time I would have a spotless house. Not the case. It is just as bad as usual.  My goal is to focus on one area every evening and to make sure that I am done with it by 9pm so I can sit on the couch and crochet for a bit. That's certainly more relaxing than I did all summer!

Even though it is dark and cold outside, I still have outdoor chores to do. I stopped milking Daisy because I am getting so much milk from Mystique still that it seemed pointless. She is still nursing her doelings a few times a day, but she should wean them soon. One of her doelings already thinks she's ready for breeding because she's  coming into estrus every 3 weeks and is flirting like crazy with the buck. She walks over to the crack between the stalls and turns her butt to it and wags her tail. Poor Hef is going nuts because he can't get to her. If she's big enough in December I will breed her but she needs to be around 80 lbs. As of now she's about 60. 

Just because Hef can't have access to Windy, doesn't mean he hasn't had any action. Daisy was in estrus a couple of weeks ago so I had this brilliant idea to put him in with her for the day. Well darned if he didn't go straight over to Mystique and breed her - I didn't even know she was in estrus! So much for my plan to breed Daisy early and Mystique later so that I would have a year round supply of milk. Lesson learned - always put the doe you want bred in with the buck and not the buck in with all the does.

Autumn also means downsizing. There isn't as much forage so I have to supplement all the animals for the winter. I was hoping to butcher one of our rams (the smaller one) and the two wether lambs. But the wether lambs just weren't heavy enough so the ram was the only one to leave. He came back in little white packages of ground meat and I tried some the other night and it was good! There are a million different opinions on the taste of mutton and the taste is so varied - it can be based on diet, breed, sex, age, etc, etc. He was a little tougher than the younger lambs but not enough to cause a problem. So only one less mouth to feed but every little bit counts. And now there's no fighting between the rams over the ewes.

 Also downsized were the chickens. Because we hatched out some chicks this year, we had a bunch of extra chickens and they don't all fit in the coop well. There were chickens perching in nesting boxes, on feeders, on the ground, etc. So last Sunday P and I decided to butcher chickens. We ended up being able to catch 7 of them and we also decided to butcher 2 of the male ducks since 9 ducks was way too many and at least 4 of those were male. And if you want to know how terrible male ducks are just read this:
Anyhow, P got the job of killing the birds and then I hung them to bleed. Next we had to remove feathers which means dunking them in hot water for 30 seconds. That is one seriously stinky job.  The kids (minus the youngest who wanted nothing to do with it) had a great time defeathering. I was quite surprised. They wanted to watch the killing and be part of the butchering. I feel wonderful that our kids KNOW where meat comes from and will therefore have a greater respect for animals that provide food.  I got to do the gutting because I'm good at it I guess. Or maybe because my hands are small enough to fit inside a chicken. My son was extremely interested in the guts. He wanted to know what all the parts were - I should have brushed up on  my chicken anatomy. Gutting is a gross job the first time you do it but after a while it's not a big deal. Though it is physically very taxing. My neck, shoulders and back are still suffering days later.  I learned something new about ducks which I should have known all along - they have down feathers! As fluffy and soft as they might be in a pillow, they are a real pain in the butt to get off of the duck. I don't even know if I like duck but this is a cheap way to try it!  Two of the chickens we kept whole as friers. The others P skinned and cut up into parts. The carcasses became LOTS of chicken stock.  And we are now going through a lot less poultry food. That stuff is expensive nowadays!

So that's life right now. I love fall and winter because I get to rest, but I truly miss the sunny days and long warm evenings where I get to be outside enjoying nature. Only 5-6 more months before I can be back outside with my hands in the soil...


Thursday, July 25, 2013

RIP Rosie Posie...

Rosie went on to greener pastures on the evening of 7/23. I got home from work and P told me she was down. I went to check her and it didn't look good. So I gave her another dose of antibiotics and B-complex and some electrolytes. She had missed her weekend dose because I took the kids to Orcas, but missing one dose shouldn't have caused a crash like that.

After I gave her the injections, I went back to check on her about 45 minutes later and she was laying with her neck at an odd angle and only taking a breath every 20 seconds. I got a stool and sat down with her head in my lap and petted her and told her it was ok to go. That I was there for her and it was ok to let go. I swear she heard me because her breaths became farther apart until there were no more. The odd thing about death is that you don't know it's the last breath until about a minute after. I kept thinking there would be another breath to follow but it never came.

 I thought she was improving the week before because she was eating again and was even going out into the field and bossing the other goats around. But I think that it was one last burst of energy before the end. People often do this before they pass. Someone who has been incoherency suddenly becomes coherent and has a few really good days. Such was the case with Rosie.

Someone suggested I do a necropsy to see what the "mass" was inside her that the vet said was a retained fetus. I couldn't bring myself to do it. And what good would it have done? There was no way to get her through this whether it was a retained fetus, tumor or torn uterus.

She was such a sweet goat - always so calm and quiet. But her genetic line obviously has some issues since her daughter died last year and her grandson nearly did. I've not had problems like this with any goats from other lines. I think it is an immune issue with her and her offspring.

I have to admit, that I am glad she finally took her last breath....she is no longer suffering and I no longer have to worry about her. I can focus on and enjoy my healthy goats.

RIP Rosie Posie.....

Poor Rosie

Rosie was not improving so I called the vet to come out and look at her. After poking around in her belly she looks up at me and says "She has a retained kid." My first thought is "OMG how could I have missed that? I am a terrible goat midwife!" But then she says it's only the size of an apple. And it could have been from this year or last year. Goats can wall them off apparently. She thinks Rosie's difficult kidding irritated the uterus and is causing her illness and the retained kid is part of that. If it's from last year then the rough kidding irritated it and we just need her body to wall it back up again. If it's from this year she needs to wall it up (or expel it). She also feels there is a uterine rupture because she felt fluid in the abdomen. Oh poor Rosie. This doesn't sound good.

Treatment plan - high dose of antibiotics, a steroid and a B vitamin shot. Plus foods high in protein to help her gain some weight because she is soooooo thin now. AND I have to dry her up so that means bottle feeding the kids. She said I should start to see improvement in about 48 hours and that until then it might look like she is worse. And she was right. Rosie didn't want to eat much and she laid around a lot. Wouldn't even eat peanut butter/garlic balls (gross to me but a delicacy to goats). 48 hours later and she gobbled up it up.

I have to make a decision about Rosie. If she pulls through this (and I have my doubts - the vet didn't say it but I could tell she thinks its a death sentence) I will have to retire her. I've had her for 3 years and only the first year did I get milk from her. I got one doeling from her that year who died the following year. So at this point, I wasted my money buying her and feeding her for 2 years.
Life with goats is sometimes hard.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013's not just for women

Rosie has been feeling poorly for about a week. I noticed it a week after kidding. She ate her alfalfa pellets and black oil sunflower seeds with little enthusiasm. I had wormed her so though maybe that was the problem, especially since she started perking up a few days later. But she still wasn't back to her normal self and she was kicking her kids off quite a bit as they were nursing on her CONSTANTLY.  About 6 days after I noticed her feeling badly, I gave her some B-Complex and a antibiotic. She ate well that evening. Something prompted me to check her udder, and sure enough, it was lumpy. I taped her teats that night so I could do a mastitis (udder infection) test in the morning. By taping her teats with first aid tape, the kids can't nurse on her. If they are nursing I get zero milk.

Morning comes and at 6am I'm out in the barn trying to get Rosie on the milk stand. She is pretty weak and falls getting on the stand with her head in the restraint so she would basically strangle herself if she didn't get up. So I had to help her and let me tell you, she is HEAVY! 150# I'd guess. Once all is under control, I follow the instructions and squirt milk in the mastitis tester cups (she didn't have much milk even though she was taped all night - she should have had a full udder). Then I put in the appropriate amount of blue testing solution, then I swirl.  Within 30 seconds the liquid becomes the consistency of pudding that hasn't set up yet - if it remains liquid there is no infection detected. I quickly get online and ask the people in my favorite goat forum what I should do. I'm basically doing the right things but need to add an antibiotic teat infusion, an oxytocin shot (to get her milk flowing better) and massage her udder frequently. And since her milk production is low, her babies aren't getting enough to eat so I got out the bottle and got one to take it (it is always a challenge to get kids to take a bottle when they have only been nursing - same as with human kids) but the other couldn't figure out what to do with it.

On my way to work I got the infusion from the feed store. Thank goodness they open at 7am!. I was scared because the applicator is much larger than the hole it needs to go into. All morning I was thinking about how unpleasant it would be for her. So after all that worrying I get home and it really wasn't that bad. She didn't even notice. So then I got to spend 15 minutes or so rubbing it up into her udder. Then I taped her teats so that the kids wouldn't suck all the antibiotic out. Meanwhile, Paul managed to get the other kid to take a bottle. Boy was he hungry!

I repeated the infusion 12 hours later but had to keep up massage and milking her frequently. I kept her separated from her kids for a full 24 hours but once she started feeling well enough to call for them I decided to reunite them. Plus they can do the frequent milking instead of me having to do it.  4 days after the infusion she still has pretty good sized lumps in her udder but they seem to be loosening up, which is a good sign. I've also been giving her vitamin C and probiotics as well as some aspirin to help with the inflammation. I was hoping to see faster improvement. I read online that goats love garlic and it can help clear up mastitis. We had some old dried up garlic and I offered it to her and sure enough, she ate it. Daisy was LOVING the garlic and kept trying to get it from Rosie.

I hate to say it, but Rosie has been a problem every year since I got her. The first year after she kidded all of her hair fell out and she got mites so I had to treat her for that. The second year she didn't get pregnant at all so she wasn't earning her keep. This year she has mastitis. It might be time for her to go to a retirement home. She is 8 years old after all, and most breeding does only live 10 years or so and die from kidding related complications.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Always trust your gut instinct!

You know those days when your gut tells you one thing but you don't listen even though you know you should? Friday was one of those days.

Rosie was due to kid on Thursday. No signs of kidding. Friday morning I check her and I think I might see some goo but it could just be the poor light. P checked her all day long every hour or two. Nothing to note except that she stayed in the barn all day. Before he left for work he said she was just standing there looking at him. That was at 2:45. I usually get home from work at 4:30. Well, since it was a nice day out and the boss was out of town, I was able to leave at 3:15 so I decided I'd go to the gym and get home around my usual time.

I get home all sweaty and in my gym clothes still because I figured I'd wash my car and then shower, so I go inside and drop my stuff off, get a couple of rags for washing the car, put them on my trunk on my way to the barn to check on things. I open the door and see Rosie standing there with a baby stuck halfway out!!! I drop my phone and my sunglasses into a flower pot by the door (it took me 24 hours to remember that's where my sunglasses ended up) and go grab gloves out of the birthing kit (thank goodness I have one of those so I know where to go instead of frantically running around looking for gloves, towels, etc.) and head into the stall. The kid is out up to it's shoulders with one leg sticking straight out. It's been stuck long enough that all the goo is off of it and it's breathing and bleating. So there I am, in completely the wrong clothes, trying to figure out what the heck I am going to do. Can't push it back in to reposition it because it won't be able to breathe. So I put my hand in to feel around. Can't feel the leg at all. I decided the first thing to try is pulling. I grab onto that slippery little leg and pull. And pull. I dig my feet in and pull with both arms on that poor little leg. I'm worried that I will dislocate it but that's better than not getting the baby out. Rosie is screaming in pain and is pushing as I'm pulling. Finally we make progress and the kid comes out - a buckling. Rosie immediately starts cleaning him. Seems no worse for the wear but I really should have listened to that inner voice that told me to go straight home and hit the gymn later. Phew!

Ok, time to breathe for a minute. I go get a chair and put it in the stall because I know she has another baby in there. She is just too huge for there to be a single, especially since this buckling was average size. Sis-in-law walks over to keep me company for a bit as I'm waiting. I see Rosie start doing some pushing. She is shaking she is straining so far. But after 20 minutes there is still no baby. I'm starting to worry that the second one is in a bad position. I get online and go to my favorite goat page on Facebook and post a message. Within seconds people are giving me advice, but before I have a chance to do anything, Rosie lays down and I see the bubble.

Let me explain the bubble. In my experience, a goat's water doesn't break prior to birth (unlike humans) so the first thing visible is a bubble. Inside that bubble you want to see a nose/mouth (usually the tongue is sticking out for some reason) resting on two hooves. That means proper presentation. Anything else is bad news and means going in to reposition - thankfully I haven't had to do that before.

So there's the bubble which means the baby will be out soon. But what does Rosie do? She stands up!!! I forgot that she kids standing up. Which means if I'm not there, the kid will fall 3 feet to the ground! She isn't the brightest goat in the barn. Anyhow, that kid comes out fairly easily, though I did pull gently just to help her a bit since she was pretty exhausted. Another buckling. I was really hoping for a doeling since Rosie is getting older and I want one of her girls to raise as a milker. Oh well.

I check out the kids and get them standing and notice that one of them has really floppy legs. His knee joints bend both ways. One leg is much worse than the other and he can't stand on it without it flopping forwards. So I get onto my goat forum again and ask what to do. Selenium they all say (Western Wa is deficient in selenium which can cause fertility problems, difficulty kidding and muscle weakness). I had given Rosie and injection in December AND in May so I was surprised her kid was deficient. But it won't hurt to try because I don't have any other options. I inject the newborn kid with selenium which, let me tell, you isn't easy since they are so squirmy.

The next day he is standing and walking but one leg is still funky. They say to give him a second dose. The following day, he seems to be all better! Both legs are working properly and he's playing with his brother.

Kidding season is now over and I just get to enjoy their antics. Next up (starting in late August) is breeding season!

Thursday, May 2, 2013


After driving P crazy by giving him daily udder updates, Daisy finally had her kids. She was due on Thursday and had them the following Monday. Average gestation is 150 days (which was Thursday) but they can go 5 days either direction. So she kidded on day 154. The only sign she was getting close was that on Thursday her ligaments were loose and Sunday her udder was starting to firm up. On Monday morning when I checked her at 6:30am her ligaments were super loose and her udder was very firm. No normal signs of labor. Her vulva looked normal and not swollen. She had zero discharge. She wasn't pacing, pawing at straw, talking more than usual, arching her back. Nothing. So I figured it would be later in the day or towards the evening. P checked her at 8:30am or so when he was milking. No change except he said she was a little standoffish. Checked her at 9am. No change. I asked him to take a look around 11:40am before he left for a hair cut and I got a frantic phone call "Call the hair dresser and reschedule my appointment! Daisy had her babies!" Dang it!!!!! We missed it!

Here they are just minutes old - 2 doelings. They were still all wet and covered with goo when he found them so they had obviously just been born. But they were up and on their feet and nursing in record time. The kids and P had pretty much already named them by the time I got home. The white one is Sunny and the brown one is Windy. Because they were born on a very windy sunny day.

Personally I think they are just about the cutest babies ever born on our mini-farm. The mom is a Saanen/Boer cross and the dad is an Oberhasli who happens to be naturally polled (hornless). So they seem to have gotten all sorts of pretty coloring from the multiple breeds and I think they may be polled as well because at 3 days old I still don't feel any horn buds growing on their heads.

At 2 days old their mom already has them out in the field while she grazes. She is such a great mom! The dogs were eyeing the kids through the fence and she was making this strange thumping sound in her throat, warning the dogs to keep away.

There was much discussion about who these goats belong to. Daisy belongs to G and he was under the impression that he would get her babies if they were girls and he would give one to D since we had to sell her runty buck a few months ago. Well then E chimed in that she wanted a goat (even though she hasn't wanted one up until now). So we parents made an executive decision that D and E get the babies, with the understanding that a) the goats can be sold at any time if it is determined that they are not good milkers or they fail to thrive or have an attitude problem and b) they must spend time with their goat and take care of it or we will reconsider ownership.

As I was out in the field yesterday playing with the kids, and even later that night as I was filling water buckets in the barn, I was thinking about how much I love my life, even though it is a lot of work. When I was a kid I went over to my neighbors place every day after school for years to help her walk her herd of Nubian goats. I watched babies being born and I learned how to milk, came home with gallon jars of goat milk that no one in the house would drink except me and I generally fell in love with goats (I was probably the only 16 year old at Mariner High School that had her own goat), though at the time I thought the neighbor's horse was my best friend. I always envisioned that I would have a farm with a horse when I grew up and maybe some goats. It's funny how the goats made a bigger impression on my life. I wish Sue were still alive so that I could show her how much she influenced my life.