Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Goats, goats and more goats.

I have not written specifically about our goats for a while now. I'd like to do a better job documenting them than I have and sharing our hard lessons on goats that we have loved and lost.

Three years ago we got Amelia and Lady on July 4th 2010 from My Kids Farm and I made a new friend named, Karlene. We got goats mainly because hubby and I really didn't want to get a horse. And when your 12 year old is DESPERATE for a horse OR goats. You will probably opt for the lesser of the two evils, or in this case, the cheaper and more practical of the two.

I decided that if we were to get goats I'd like them to be "in milk" already so that we had to immediately start milking every day and that we'd benefit from the new food we would be buying them and it would turn into food for us. When I started this blog I was just really starting to develop a "back to basics" mindset. Trying to grow more, can more, forage more, learn more about the food we eat and how to prepare our family better for harder times that always have the possibility of coming.

We set up our temporary hut for the girls (it was a Rubbermaid lawn mower shed, low ceiling to keep warmth in and keep them dry, I had been researching a little and discovered goats don't need a heated space, little did I know what that little shed would lead to.)

Amelia was the first to breed that fall and Lady was much more stubborn. Amelia kidded in April 2011 for the first time at our house. In the heated garage, we didn't want frozen babies, and April can surprise you here with cold weather. She had 3 big boys, Lazarus, Buck and Billy. We sold Lazarus to a friend and got her hooked on goats in 2011.

Amelia with her batch of boys in 2011.
Lazarus was our bottle baby and SO cuddly and adorable.
My daughter had done so well milking the first year that in the spring when she asked for a puppy, I said, "No, but you may have a goat!" So I bought her a pure bred LaMancha doeling that she chose and we brought her home when she was weaned. She named her, "Elka". This was May 2011. I'd wanted a LaMancha to begin with but took Ameila and Lady (Nubians) because Karlene didn't have any other does in milk that she was willing to sell. K and I worked out an arrangement on how we'd share the work and pay for her goat and how we'd deal with money if we sold a kid out of her in the future. So far it has worked out great. K has milked for all three years now and does not want to give it up, she doesn't consider it a chore, she loves her alone time with the goats.

Elka, our new LaMancha.
Lady still would not breed 'till we dried her up completely, so in August Lady had gone to Karlene's, house to visit for a very long August she bread successfully and in January we had our first winter kidding. We were hoping that this would be the LAST because winter kidding has many issues attached to it. But, as I write this, Lady is at Karlene's again after the same issue of not breeding last November and bred 3x last week, so it looks like we're in for another one.
Large Lady in her kidding stall in the garage a week or so before kidding.

January 27, 2012 she had two adorable boys, this one was the cutest.

Here's lady and her matching boy.

This boy looked just like his daddy, Impetuous. We named him "Roast".
We named both boys after cuts of meat. We didn't have high hopes they would go for breeding stock, not that they couldn't have, they have great bloodlines, but because boys aren't needed as much as girls and they typically get eaten.

On March 9th the boy with moon spots died. K found him frozen stiff on the ground and came to the front door screaming in anguish with the frozen baby goat. All of the other 5 kids chimed in with the screaming at seeing the dead body and jolted hubby and I out of our TV trance to find out who had died. It was very sad.We learned from that experience. If a goat does not come in for food on a cold day, FIND OUT WHY!!! They should ALWAYS want grain, if they don't there is a problem.

In November Karlene and I decided that we would borrow a buck to breed the girls to. We'd give a Nubian to Lady & Amelia and we took Elka down to my friend, Amber's house, where she had other LaManchas to breed. Karlene brought a buck there first and we watched Elka breed 2x as soon as we put him in the pen.

We brought the Nubian up to our house and put him in with my girls. They flirted but didn't really make any commitments, this went on for about three weeks then, tragically, in the November bitter cold winds, her buck died. We learned MANY more lessons from that ordeal. The most important one was to 2X DAILY at the very least, pet, check, talk to, make stand, your goats. We also learned that bucks pee on themselves to make them more attractive to the ladies, so they are more susceptible to cold, especially the kind we had with the wind and a lame ass shelter. We also learned that no matter how good we think we are, Karlene has a lot to teach us about humility, forgiveness, friendship and kindness. Not a harsh word was spoken, she simply cried, collected her bucks body and told us that it was HER fault for not educating us enough and that she just shouldn't loan out goats. Her heart is so kind, she puts me to so much shame.

Hubby had had enough of my temporary shelter and we hired 2 very burly men to build a small doe barn on the end of our milking shed, we added insulation and a deck area inside to keep cleaned off. This also accessed the hay shed so they could eat with out leaving the shelter. I just wish so badly we had done this sooner.

First day's work building in 10 degrees and much bitter wind.

Lunch break and it's ready for insulation and a door.
Amelia nor Lady bred to Karlene's buck, both their preg tests were negative. So Karlene put me in touch with another amazing goat farmer with a disease free herd and she housed both girls while they were in heat in December. Amelia took the breeding and Lady was taken there two times and still didn't take.

In April 3013 we put Elka in a new kidding stall I had built in the milking shed. K noticed that she had developed a hard udder before kidding and Karlene came the next day to take a look. She had developed a very bad case of dry mastitis. She kidded 3 days later, we had been treating her teat, but the main infection was right in the tip of her udder so the medicine would not even go into her udder very far at all. She has not produced on that side, it's quite sad. We hope that with her second kidding we can watch for it more closely and perhaps get some milk out of that side. I have learned that this destroys the milk glands inside and they don't produce nearly as much as they would have even if it works again. She had a single doeling, now breaking our buck "spell". K named her Belka and has since been re-named by her new owners.

Belka at a few days old.

K with her Belka the day before she went to her new house.
End of June Amelia was due to kid. We weren't worried about putting her in a stall as it was so WARM!!! She kidded right after K had checked on her and this was her first birth she did herself, Ameila had the first two on her own and K pulled the last one that was breeched. My husband usually helps the goats but he was on a trip to his brother's wedding. K, now 15, handled it like a champ, it was very laid back and we were SHOCKED to find that she had had three GIRLS!!! 

Proud K with Ameila and babies.

Karlene had first dibbs on Amelia's girls, just took Amelia 3 years to have one. She chose the dark eared one pictured here. She plans to show her. Her big sister from 4 years ago is already a finished champion. She'll do great.

All in all, having goats is very rewarding. It's more work, for sure, but they are very enjoyable. Goat kids are the CUTEST animal in the world and you sell them when they get bigger. My kids love having goats, people love to visit the goats, I love the manure from the goats for the garden, we all love the cheese that my husband makes. All in all it's a win win.

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