MILK! Oh, how I've missed you!!!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Saturday, August 24, 2013 11:50 AM

Today I decided to steal some milk from Candy and start training her on the milk stand.  I try to let the kid(s) have all the milk they want for the first week or so before I start taking a portion.  The problem is that Baby Ruth tends to favor one side.  That's not unusual.  But with only one kid, this tends to result in a lopsided udder.  So today I decided it was time to even Candy out a bit.

Normally when you start training a first freshener to be milked, they sort of freak out.  "Why is my head locked in this damn thing?  WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING MY UDDER???  I don't give a damn about that grain.  STOP TOUCHING ME!!!" accompanied by lots of dancing around, kicking hooves, trying to lay down, etc.  Normally, you end up tossing a lot of milk for the first few weeks because they inevitably either kick the bucket over or put a hoof into it.

But not my girl, oh no!  Candy took to the milk stand like a seasoned professional.  She didn't protest the stanchion and eagerly dug into the grain.  When I wiped her udder clean she immediately squatted into the perfect stance.  When I began milking her she didn't budge.  Not only did she NOT put a foot in the milk bucket,  SHE DIDN'T EVEN RAISE A HOOF!

Incredible!  Absolutely incredible!  I kept waiting for that back leg to jerk up in protest.  But she didn't budge.  I'm totally floored by the experience.  I didn't strip her udder by any means.  I just milked the one side down until it was slightly smaller than the side Baby Ruth drinks from.  Then I took a small amount from the other side and evened Candy out.  Trust me, she still had PLENTY of milk for her kid.  And now that I'm starting to milk her, there will be plenty for me too!

Starting tonight I'll separate the kids when I go to bed.  Then tomorrow morning I'll begin milking on a daily basis again.  I'll take the morning milk and the kids can have all they want for the rest of the day.  I may give Lulu's kids a few more days before I take much from her.  But getting her back on the milk stand to eat will begin in the morning.  And lets not forget that Nali and Gretel are still due to freshen in the near future.

Oh, I have soooooooooooooooooo missed having MILK!!!

The fencing around my "pasture" is finally complete

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Friday, August 23, 2013 12:51 PM

I set up a 4' x 16' x 6" raised bed earlier this summer to experiment with creating a small pasture area for my critters, especially the geese.  Originally I laid down sod and then watched to see how it worked and whether or not it would get destroyed in an instant.  Good news is that it didn't.  So I let the sod die and then pulled it up.  Why?  Because I realized that it was grown on/through plastic netting.  Um... not a good idea in my barnyard

With a bit of help, I've finally fenced it off so that I can seed the raised bed with a Dairy Pasture Mix from Peaceful Valley Nursery.  This morning the girls are helping me spread a nice rich layer of compost.  Once they've done most of the work, a layer of composted rabbit manure will also be added.  Then it will all be forked into the soil prior to seeding.  I plan on broadcasting seed and then covering it with a layer of barnyard mulch (mostly straw) to help hold in moisture.  Finally, the entire surface will be covered with 1/2" hardware cloth that will be attached to the surrounding boards.  The pasture grass will grow up through the hardware cloth.  This will prevent destruction of the bed once the pasture is grown and the critters begin foraging on it.

It's nice to have such happy workers on my homestead.


Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Tuesday, August 20, 2013 10:07 PM

Around 8:30 this evening, Lulu gave birth to triplets.  She has two doelings and one buckling.  All noses and hooves accounted for.  Everyone is up and.... okay, let me rephrase that... all three kids are up on their legs and have had their first meal.  Lulu is taking a well deserved rest.  As am I.

Better pictures and an update in the morning.  I was already exhausted today and looking forward to a good nights sleep.   Four roosters left my property today - Whew!!! - so I had planned on sleeping in (ish).  Thank you Lulu for being so considerate as to have your little ones early enough to let me do just that.  Love you Lulu!!!

There's a new kid on the block

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Sunday, August 18, 2013 9:58 AM

Last night at 11:20 PM, Candy became a first freshener and pushed this beautiful little doeling into the world.  Twenty minutes later, she was latched on tight to her mom's teat.  Way to go little one!

Candy had a relatively short and light labor,about 2-1/2 hours from plug loss to birth with only about 20 minutes of hard labor and pushing.  The birth itself was a little difficult and Candy is a bit swollen and irritated this morning.  But that will right itself in a few days time.  I'm happy to report that both are doing just fine.  Happy and healthy.

Which calls for a family portrait - Baby, Mom, and Grandma!  
Now I just need to figure out a name for her.  She's a beautiful chocolate brown with frosting on her ears and nose, a white tip on her tail, and one little white spot on her side.  I have one name in mind, but I'm still thinking about others before I decide.  Don't want to jinx it by changing her name after the fact.  That's supposedly bad luck.

For now, I'm just happy that the first birth is out of the way.  Three more to go!

My birthing kit is packed and ready for action

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Thursday, August 15, 2013 11:24 AM

Day 145 and counting.  I'm not sure of any exact due dates as I had Triumph here for two months.  But based upon the first date of exposure, the countdown starts now.  Normal gestation for a goat is 150 days, so I'm thinking sometime next week.  But there's no telling since I don't have an exact breeding date for each doe.  It could be a month from now.

Based upon belly size and more importantly udder appearance, I think Lulu will pop first followed closely by Nali.  Candy and Gretel, both first fresheners will most likely be a little later.  But udders have developed on both of them.  I'm especially excited to see that Candy's udder is looking good.

Little ones are coming!!!  Prepare for cuteness overload!!!

Unsolicited Product Endorsement - Cinch Net from Cinch Chix

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Tuesday, August 13, 2013 11:27 AM

This is actually the first time I've been so impressed with a product I've purchased for my homestead that I felt the need to publicly endorse it.  I happily recommend this product to all my goat owning friends and readers.

(and three exclamation points)

Last fall while I was working in the petting zoo at the Northern California Renaissance Faire, my friend Ally was using a couple of feeding nets for the miniature horses, miniature donkeys, alpacas, sheep and goats.  They seemed to work really well and the animals had no problem getting their hay from between the netting.  I was impressed and decided to look into them.

I researched various net and bag style feeders on a number of forum boards.  This research pointed me towards Cinch Chix for the highest quality and most reliable nets.  Reviewers had used them for years without any breakage or weather related degradation.  But these nets didn't come cheap so I held off buying one.

Flash forward to early July.  I finally broke down and ordered the West Coast Bale Cinch Net with the 1" netting recommended for goats and sheep.  It literally holds an entire bale.  The net is pulled over the bale while it's still bound.  Once the netted bale is in place in the feeding area, the bale cords are cut and pulled out.

It wasn't quite as easy to get on the bale as the video on their website showed.  But then I realized that I purchase my bales directly from a farmer and his bales are actually a little larger than the ones I had been getting (and occasionally still do) from the feed store.  He also uses baling wire rather than nylon cord which added another dimension of difficulty when removing them.  But the second bale was easier, and by the third bale I had it down to a science.  I had figured out the best way to get the net on and the wire off so that I no longer struggled with it.  Relatively speaking, that's a pretty short learning curve.

I've been using it for a little over a month now, and boy oh boy am I sorry that I didn't spring for this thing last fall.  Where as I used to have to load up the two feeders with flakes of hay morning and night, now I just load one bale onto the bench and walk away.  Set it and forget it - literally.

Previously a bale would last me about 4-1/2 to 5 days feeding six goats and a sheep.  Now a bale lasts me a full 7 days!  The waste that goats are so notorious for has been cut down to a smidgen compared to my previous feeding regimen.  I calculate a 30-35% reduction in waste.  Wow!

And the goats, how do they feel about it?  They love it.  They now have a continuous supply of hay and browse whenever they feel like it.  Previously, they would gorge themselves when the feeder was full and then later in the day wonder why there wasn't anything left for lunch.  I think this new system is healthier and more natural for them.   Goats are browsers.  If I had pasture for them, my goats would eat sporadically throughout the day just like their wild cousins.  Added bonus - my sheep Pappy no longer has a chest full of hay tangled in his wool.

Sammy Scale = 4 HOOVES!!!
(and 3 exclamation points)


Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Monday, August 12, 2013 1:42 PM

Today, the little chicks are getting to experience their first foray into the barnyard. They are surrounded by a small wooden fence to protect them from the other critters until everyone gets acquainted. Some of them are LOVING their first ever dust bath.

Most of these actually belong to Natalia and her two daughters.  I'm just brooding them until they are a little bigger and can be safely introduced to their girls.