Monday, March 5, 2012

Raising friendly kids

As cute (and yes, even fun) as it can be to bottle feed kids, it can also be a lot of work & the novelty of it all can wear off pretty quickly when you have more than a couple hungry kids to feed. So, what do you do if you want the personality of a bottle fed goat without all that extra work? Start handling your kids right away & do it every on our mini-farm, this is a job we all enjoy getting involved in. Since goat kids are adorable & entertaining, this is one farm chore that nobody complains about! My oldest is very high energy & loud & can sometimes scare the animals with all that yelling & jumping around, but once I showed him that the kids would happily play with him if he would sit still & quiet on the ground, he was willing to save all that energetic behavior for outside the goat pen.
My middle child has always been very loving & gentle with animals...she'd probably love to dress one of the kids up like a baby & play mama, lol.
I have to keep an eye on my youngest who seems to want to share the bottle with the sip for her & one for the kids...
Because our doe had 4 kids, I was concerned that there might come a point where she wasn't wanting to feed all of them (at her peak last year she was a 2 gallon/day producer so chances are she'll have plenty of milk). Just in case I have tried to introduce the bottle to the kids once a day...I was especially hoping the little doe would take to it to give her some extra calories, but only two of the boys would take a little milk from the bottle. Persistence paid off today because I finally got the doeling to take quite a bit which I was really happy about.
So it seems that you can have it both ways...leaving most of the work to the mama goat while having a little fun with bottle feeding, combined with lots of socializing can get you nice friendly kids.
By the way, one of our goats was raised by a friend in this manner (lots of handling with no bottle feeding) & she is just as friendly & easy to handle as the doe I bottlefed last year, further proof that this is a great option for many busy homesteaders!
A little update on this suspected our mama goat seems to have gotten rather tired/impatient with the idea of feeding 4 kids. She is still feeding two of the boys exclusively, but we have been milking her & feeding the other boy & little doeling 1-2 bottles a day because they were not getting enough from their mama. Raindrop is producing plenty...just seems to be (understandably) tired of having 4 kids with growing appettites latching onto I'm now glad that I did introduce the bottle from the start, but am also glad I'm not bottlefeeding 4 kids exclusively!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

4 New kids!

So, from the last post, you know our doe, Raindrop, kidded & had 4! Here is our favorite, the only doeling, already posing for the camera. These two pics were taken today.

Her coloring & markings are very pretty, & she seemed to be getting lighter & more "frosty" each day. She is a tiny little thing compared to her 3 brothers, but she is strong & eating well.
Speaking of eating, here she is nursing away...keep it up little girl so you can catch up to your brothers!
One of the bucks investigating the snow that fell in the big storm the day after they were born. I was a little worried about the weather, having kids this early in the year. We've had a really mild winter, but seems like as we get closer to spring, more real winter weather has arrived. We have an open style pole barn with 4 corrals on one side & then the rest is a large open space big enough for our RV & plenty of other storage. The center two corrals tend to stay the most protected from the elements so that is where the goats are when not on pasture. We had a lot of wind with this storm which blew a lot of snow into all the corrals, but the kids did fine since they were able to stay snuggled into the dog crate with heat lamp attached when. They seemed to figure out pretty quickly that it was best to just venture out with their mama when they were hungry, then return back to their warm den.
Here's mama goat with all 4 kids. Still shaking my head a bit that there were 4 kids inside of her! She's a good mama & is very careful around the kids.
Kids being kids...they are so fun to watch as they jump & leap & run around!
All 4 hanging out with their mama...


The following post has detailed kidding pictures, so consider yourself warned. (o;
I'll start out with something comical. I like to call this series of 3 funny pics, the faces of goat labor. They may be a bit blurry because I might have been laughing while trying to capture them. I very likely made similar faces during childbirth, lol.
Lots of licking...

And teeth gritting...

And yawning...

Anyway, just as I suspected when I wrote this post, Raindrop did indeed go into labor the following day (Sunday Feb. 26). I noticed she was gently talking to her babies as I was putting the girls out to pasture that morning. And when I looked at her backside, this is what I saw (I'm thinking, mucous plug)...
I kept checking on her and noticed she was keeping the other two does at a distance, yet affectionate with me, & she had been making a nest & I could see her contracting now & then. So I made the decision to move her to the kidding stall & move the other two does back into the adjoining stall to hopefully prevent Raindrop from getting too upset from the separation. Wishbone & Sweetheart were very attentive during the labor, continually poking their heads under to check in on the progress...
I stayed with her for a bit as she continued much of the same behavior. She also began laying down & getting up as she tried to get more comfortable. Here she is pawing at the ground to make a nest...
My husband came in & watched her for awhile so I could take care of a couple other things & when I returned he reported that she had just pushed out a lot of water. At that point a friend arrived to watch & help out (she also has two pregnant LaMancha does & was eager to get some experience before she deals with kidding the first time). Next thing we saw was what I would describe as an amber colored long stream of thick discharge with stripes of white.
Here's where both my friend & I started to get a little nervous. From all my research as I prepared to deal with kidding for the first time, I was expecting the long stream of white(ish) mucous followed by the amber bubble, then hopefully hooves & a nose. I'd been told that if there was blood I would need to go in because that isn't normal. Within the last couple of days I read a blog that had a goat who had the long amber stream for many hours & the kids ended up dying inside, so this of course was making me nervous. But I made the decision at this point to watch things as they progressed. Eventually, more contractions & pushing revealed the amber bubble which (look closely & you might be able to make out the veins in the upper portion)... So, now that we were seeing the amber bubble when then popped, I was starting to feel better about things, especially now that the discharge was more yellowish in color & then these adorable little hooves began appearing (but there was some blood too, so that made me a little uneasy)...
After getting excited about the hooves, they disappeared & rather than peek out again with the next contraction, another amber bubble appeared. This is where I started to wonder if perhaps two kids were fighting over who would come out first. Next thing I knew, contractions stopped completely. So, we waited & waited & waited some more. Again remember that this is my first time kidding (it was the 3rd time for my doe) so I don't have past experience to draw on here, and neither did my helper friend & other observers. I felt like a decision needed to be made once the contractions didn't resume after a period of time. Membranes had ruptered & there was a little bloody show so as much as I wanted to let things happen naturally, I was concerned waiting much longer might endanger the kids. So, I cleaned my hands with betadine & slathered them with lubricant (I'd been told by multiple people not to use gloves because it can be too hard to decipher what you are feeling) and went in while my friend held the doe steady. All of the kids were in the classic diving position which made things easier in that I didn't need to reposition any of them, but it was still difficult because there were no contractions to accompany the pulling & I was nervous about hurting the doe (and the kids were very slippery). I managed to get the first kid out, a doe, and everyone chipped in to start drying her off & introducing her to her mama.

Then it was time to go in again...

Once I had two kids out, I made a phone call to the breeder we purchased our goats from to update her & find out if I should wait to see if she delivers more. She advised me to go in to check for more since we still didn't see contractions & I'd already gone in twice anyway. Sure enough, when I went in again I felt not one, but two more kids! I worked on getting them out, but they were bigger so it was harder.
Raidrop was eager to help clean her kids off (1 little doe & 3 bucks)...

So, despite not being what I had hoped for (a kidding that didn't need intervention), I feel good about the fact that I didn't panic & managed to deliver everyone safely & without injury to my doe. There is nothing like a hands on education...I now feel confident if I have to intervene in the future, be it in my own goats or in any of my local homesteading friends'. After the fact, I started to second guess myself for maybe intervening too soon, but a friend wisely advised me to stop that since afterall the end result was a healthy mama goat & 4 healthy kids. And she is right, because the truth is I'd be really upset if not intervening had resulted in losing any of them.
More cute kid pics in the next post!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Any day now...

Well overdue for a goat update. The number of goats here at on the mini-homestead has fluctuated quite a bit, but currently consists of 3 LaMancha does, all pregnant, which means our herd numbers are going to fluctuate again. Our 3 year old doe, Raindrop, is officially due March 1st, but I doubt we'll have to wait that long. She's gotten huge (care to guess how many kids she's got in there?) and as you can see by looking at her lovely udder, she's bagging up. This is the goat I always have a hard time keeping weight's a reminder of what she looked like after her last freshening...
I've been watching her really closely the past few days & I have noticed some of the other typical signs, such as stretching to get the kids into proper position and restlessness as it gets harder to find a comfortable position the larger she gets. I have the baby monitor set up in the barn so I can monitor night time noises that might necessitate me venturing out in the cold to check on things.
Needless to say, we're really excited to see her kids, and to start enjoying her fresh goat milk again! That said, I'm also a bit nervous since this will be our first kidding experience. We're hoping to be able to witness (and photograph) the birth without having to assist to much (and really hoping it all happens in the daytime when we have a better chance of it not being so cold)!
Speaking of cold, I've been busy preparing for kidding. Besides reading up on the wealth of info on the Fiasco Farm site, I was excited to stumble upon this blog which has a ton of great info related to kidding as well. In this post, she shows what her kidding kits consist of, including instructions on how to repurpose sweatshirt sleeves into kid sweaters, which of course I had to do, because who knows what this "winter" will bring weatherwise.

Not So Subtle Reminders...

Part of my never ending to do list includes things that fall into the category of preparedness. Its an area we've made improvements on, but still needs attention (can you ever be too prepared?).
I had a big wake up call late last summer/early fall when a series of wildfires nearly forced us to evacuate our little homestead (and many of our local friends faced evacuation as well during this very stressful 2 week period).

As is often the case when a "crisis" arises here on the homefront, my husband was working (nearly an hour away) & our closest family live an hour away as well. This meant I had to remain calm & clear headed while I nervously watched the smoke & flames advance & began to make arrangements for our animals, then prioritize what was most important to pack into the RV, all while trying to turn it all into some sort of adventure for my young children. I must say that we are fortunate to live in an amazing community (and we have amazing firefighters) that really pull together in time of need. That experience pushed us to build a cage for the back of our truck to transport our goats in. Prior to that we would borrow one as needed, but having a way to safely transport & evacuate your animals is a must for any homestead.
Another more recent development made me thankful for the efforts I've put into slowly building up our freezer & pantry stock. Recent changes in my husband's job, specifically a pay cut, forced us to really clamp down on the budget & cut expenses. Thanks to our food stores (of food we actually eat on a regular basis) we were able to save a lot of money in the food category the past couple months simply by using what we had. Its made me even more grateful for the fresh eggs provided by our chickens and milk (and the cheese & yogurt I make from it) from our goats as well.
While these events can be scary when your dealing with them, I do appreciate the not so subtle reminders they bring for placing more priority into preparedness.

Hello, is anyone still out there?

You know what they say about chickens, right?...they are the gateway farm animal. Get a few & before you know it you get a little confidence & start thinking, I can handle this, but then its just not enough because you aren't content with just a few chickens. Wise homesteaders will warn you, in their books & their blogs, to take things slowly to prevent burnout. Some follow that sound advice, and others decide there's no time like the present to jump into raising big dairy goats, more chickens, and some turkeys (plus the typical dogs & cats)...and a garden, immediately following relocating to a new little "homestead" in a new town...and if that weren't enough, add homeschooling & starting the adoption process again to the plate too.
In case you're wondering which category I fall into, well the neglect of this blog should be a BIG clue. Despite all the work that's gone into taking on so much in our homesteading adventures, I can honestly say that I don't regret any of it because we've learned so much. I briefly considered just deleting this blog & starting a new one, but then perhaps having higher expectations for my ability to blog frequently at a new address was just setting myself up for failure. So, here I am...doubting anyone is actually out there reading, but writing nonetheless, and with the hope that I will at least find the time to update weekly. I certainly don't have a shortage of potential blog posts from the past 8 months, and we've got lots of exciting stuff ahead of us as hopefully I can carve out some time to share some of it. Wish me luck!