October 25, 2008

Kansas Skies

I wanted to share some pictures I have taken of the skies over our southeast Kansas farm.

October 24, 2008

Electric fence for Goats - Project Finished!

I am happy to report that the latest fencing project and the new addition to the goat pasture is finally finished. This new pasture was built right off of the existing pasture so we only had to fence three sides and a friend of Jamey’s was nice enough to help with the first two sides of the fence so it went up fairly quickly. After a few days delay due to rain, Jamey and I finished the final side last weekend. The day we finished the fence the sky was blue and the weather was beautiful.

A beautiful day to work on fence
The old adage is a fence that will hold water will hold a goat. That might not be too far from the truth, especially for some individuals. The fence we chose to put up was a seven strand electric fence. This type of fence has worked well for us for the last 6 years and while there are certainly better fencing options, this has balanced workability with easy construction and very low cost in comparison to other fencing options for us.
Some of our fencing materials
Our materials were approx. 700 insulators, 100 electric fence posts, 16 steel fence posts, 2 ½ to 3 miles of fence wire and 2 cattle panels for gates. We were able to save some money by getting the electric fence posts on sale and picking up the steel fence posts for free from someone who had a fence to take out and just wanted to get rid of them, but if we had bought everything new the cost for us would have been roughly about $500 for the three sides of the pasture in electric fencing (we already had a fence charger, otherwise that expense would have to be added) which is only about half the cost of even an 8 strand barb wire fence and only about a fourth the cost of putting up welded wire or field fence making it possibly the most economical fence to put up as far as the cost of materials go.
There are disadvantages that have to be seriously considered before one chooses this type of fencing for goats. For one thing it is high maintenance, weeds and limbs on the fence will ground it out, as will ice and if deer hit the wire they will send post insulators flying. Goats that have never been in electric fence will have to be watched closely at first or “trained” to the fence or they might just run into it the first time they get “bit” by the fence. I would also not recommend this fence unless livestock guardians are also used as it is only predator deterrent and certainly not predator proof. This fence has worked great as a pasture fence on our farm for years, but some people have reported problems with keeping their goats in electric fence.
Some of the new goat pasture addition
The fence line is cleared of grass & trees
The first thing that was done was to decide where the fence would go and to clear out a path for it. We had about 10 extra acres of pasture that was perfect for goats, it is rocky in some areas and over-grown with under brush, cedar and hedge trees.

The next step was putting all those insulators together because they come in two pieces that have to be screwed together. I spent about three hours straight just doing this, but it was an easy task and wasn’t unpleasant work at all.

It is also a good idea to go ahead and put your insulators on your posts now and position them as this is easier than having to kneel one hundred times to put them on after the posts are already in the ground.

We used steel fence posts with braces for the corners and electric fence posts for the straight lines of the fence. We place the electric fence posts 10-20 feet apart ideally.

On this section of fence and this area of our property our biggest fence challenge was rocks! It was a little bit of a challenge to find places where the posts would go in and would sometimes involve trying several places for each post before we would find a place where we were not hitting rock.
After all the corner posts are set and the steel fence posts and insulators are up it is time to put the wire through the insulators. We start at the corner post, a different type of insulator is used for corner posts and steel fence posts.
Electric fence wire
Running the wire through the insulators

After the wire is secured around the corner post insulator we go along the fence line and start running it through all the other insulators until we get to the end corner post where it pulled tight and tied off. A piece of electric fence wire can be wrapped and threaded vertically between each of the seven strands of fence to make them all hot. We put the two cattle panel gates in and we were done! The next step is to test the fence with an electric fence tester to make sure it is charging well and then it is time to let the goats out!

West side of finished fence

South side of finished fence

I was going to post some pictures of the goats in their new pasture but somebody...not naming names (my husband Jamey) dropped the camera and broke it, well accidents happen and at least that solves that little "what do I need for Christmas" problem! hehe

October 18, 2008

Super Cute Goat Photo of the Week.

"You talking to me?"
This is a baby picture of my Boer/Nubian cross doe "Rose" who is now two and a half years old. She was one of triplets, her sister Penny is still in the herd, as is their Nubian mother "Dym". Rose is an easy going goat that loves to have the sides of her face scratched.

October 14, 2008

New Pastures

There has been some changes and new projects happening on the farm. For starters the sweet, red wether "Pumpkin" went to new pastures and a great new home a couple weeks ago. He is now living just north of Wichita where he is a companion to a young Nubian buck and when he gets older he will help his new owner's other goats to clear their land of weeds and brush.

Pumpkin is not the only one getting a new pasture, the new big project on the farm has been fencing off an additional 10+ acres for the goats. We had thought we were fencing off about 6 acres but when we actually measured and figured it up we found out we really are not all that good at "eyeballing" a section of land to determine it's size. I am glad it is going to be larger than what we originally planned. This new pasture has lots of brush, ceder trees, blackberry bushes and some rocks to play on; it is goat heaven and I am anxious to see it finished so we can let the goats out in this new pasture. We have 3 sides of the new pasture fence up and only have one side and the gates to finish. The project is coming along fairly quickly with the help of a friend. This will almost triple the goat pastures we have available for use and I am hoping it will save us some on hay costs in the future.

Things I love about life

Puppy breath
Sky Blue
True Friends
Loving Family
Winding Country Roads
Road Trips To Unknown Places
The Smell Of Rain
The Sound of Birds Singing
Animals Large and Small
Snuggling Under A Soft Blanket
A Windchime's Song
Fall leaves
Tree Frogs
Baby hands
Summer Days
Soft Grass
Smell OF Fresh Cut Hay
Good Books

October 11, 2008

Is Your Buck Ready for the Breeding Season?

Is Your Buck Ready for the Breeding Season?
It is that time of year, the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting crisper and there is love in the air on the goat farm…ok…that isn’t exactly love I smell near the buck pasture. Those big boys have been blubbering and calling to the does across the farm. They have spent a great deal of time spraying themselves with urine and making sure their eau de la buck funk is potent enough to make them irresistible to every pretty doe on the place as well as peel the paint right off the barn walls. But how much time have you spent making sure your bucks are ready for breeding? An unhealthy buck may not be “up to the job” and illness may even cause him to be temporarily infertile.

The development of spermatozoa within a buck’s reproductive tract takes about 8 weeks; so for optimal spermatozoa production, preparation should commence at least 2 months prior to using him for breeding. In general bucks will become more active in the fall when most does are cycling. This will vary with some breeds such as the Boer that have the ability to breed year round, but no matter what breed or time of year, it is important to make sure bucks are in good condition and health before they are turned out in the doe pasture. Check through the following list to ensure your buck is truly ready to start work.

1. Nutrition & body condition

During rut, bucks have one thing on their mind, therefore activity levels go up and often less time is spent foraging and eating. It is not uncommon for bucks to lose condition during rut. Therefore, they need to be in good body condition and physical shape before the season starts. About two months prior to breeding, check your buck’s body condition. Don’t rely on sight alone but feel over his back and the bones of his spine, also check the conditioning over his ribs and hips. The buck should have some extra condition but not be overly fat, which could make him sluggish and more susceptible to heat stress during the breeding season. It is just as important that he not be too thin either or he will lack the reserves to get through both breeding and winter. Adjust his feed accordingly.

2. Hoof care & general health inspection

A buck’s hooves are often a forgotten aspect of preparing him for breeding, but it is important that your buck’s hooves are trimmed and examined prior to the breeding season. Problems such as overgrown hooves, sores or hoof rot will cause him pain and might hinder him from seeking out does in the pasture and breeding them. Start with a good hoof trim well in advance of when he is to be used for breeding, this will give you time to address and treat any problems you may find. While you have him restrained for this it is a good idea to also check his legs and joints and note any unusual swellings, then check his teeth, eyes and over-all soundness for any issues that may need addressed prior to the breeding season.

3. Vaccinating & Parasite Control

Worming bucks before the start of the breeding season is important because a heavy parasitic infection will also reduce a buck's performance, therefore bucks should be checked for both internal and external parasites. Look for a rough hair coat, excessive scratching and lice and treat if needed. To check for anemia caused by blood sucking parasites, namely the barber pole worm, pull the lower eyelid down and look at the inner eyelids which should be bright pink to red in color. If they are pale pink or grey the goat is anemic and most likely needs wormed and treated for anemia. Since not all internal parasites cause anemia, it is also a good idea to have a fecal sample checked to get a good idea of how many and what internal parasites your buck may be carrying and treat accordingly. Bucks should also be vaccinated against enterotoxemia and tetanus. We vaccinate our bucks at the same time we do the does so we know we never overlook keeping their vaccinations up to date.

4. Pre-breeding soundness exam

As the breeding season approaches it is a good idea to observe bucks for normal urination as well as normal behavior such as calling and spraying urine on their front legs and beards. If you are new to goats, ask your vet to show you how to check the buck’s penis and testes. If you feel comfortable in doing this yourself you can start by sitting the buck on it’s rump with its back to you, an assistant will make this easier. Examine the buck’s testes. They should be about the same size and fairly firm. There should not be any lumps, swellings or sores as abnormalities could indicate that the buck is unsound for breeding. Next examine the sheath and penis; the skin should be healthy with no sores or scabs. If any problems are found the buck should be examined by a veterinarian in plenty of time to find a replacement buck if necessary.

It is important to remember that without the buck, there would be no kid crop; often bucks go unnoticed until just prior to their use. Having a plan and keeping an eye on your buck’s health, condition and hooves year round with breeding soundness examinations prior to turning him out with the does will help to ensure high kidding rates and a good kid crop for you in the spring.

By Jennifer Fulton

All Rights Reserved.

October 09, 2008

Identity Theft?

I thought I would share some pictures that are guaranteed to make you go "Awww". What do they have to do with goats or homesteading? Nothing, but I think everyone could use some more bunny, puppy & kittens in their life. :-)

October 08, 2008

News - Goat birth control in Kenya

An interesting article:

Goat 'condoms' save Kenyan herds
By Ruth Nesoba
BBC News, Nairobi

*Maasai herdsmen in Kenya have turned to an age-old
contraceptive device, the "olor", to protect their
precious goat herds from an ongoing drought. *

The olor is made from cowhide or a square piece of
plastic, and is tied around the belly of the male goat.

It prevents the bucks from mating with the female goats.

The herdsmen are using the device to limit the goat
population and ensure there are not too many animals
grazing on sparse vegetation.

"We don't want them to breed in this drought," says Mr Ole
Ngoshoi Kipameto, a goat owner in Kajiado district.

* Vital assets *

The area, which is 80km (50 miles) from the capital,
Nairobi, has received insufficient rainfall, making the
landscape barren and forcing residents to move from place
to place in search of pasture and water.

In the Maasai community, livestock are often people's only
assets and sole means of survival.

"We tie this hide under the belly of the buck for three
months. After that we remove it and then they can breed by
November when the short rains come," Mr Kipameto says.

The rectangular piece of cowhide is passed over the buck's
head and front legs and secured under the belly in front
of the hind legs with a rope or elastic strap.

"It looks like an apron," Mr Kipameto says.

Peter Ndirangu, the area livestock officer, says the olor
is very effective.

"In the modern method, we advocate keeping the bucks
separate from the breeding goats. But that is an added
cost as you require two herdsmen - one for the bucks and
one for the goats," he says.

"This [device] will play the part of a herdsman."

He says the device is very useful in keeping the herd
numbers down and controlling when the goats give birth.

"If they give birth during harsh conditions like now, the
mothers - the does - are going to be very weak, they're
not going to feed their young ones properly," he says.

The device helps the herdsmen to restrict kidding to the
period during and after the rains.

If the rains fall in October and November, the dry
landscape will turn green again and the herdsmen will be
able to settle with their livestock.

Until then, the herdsmen will have to employ the olor to
protect their livestock and livelihood safe.

Those who do not use it could face a hefty fine if their
bucks are found guilty of impregnating another herder's

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/10/06 00:44:51 GMT

October 05, 2008

Quiet Time with the Goat Herd

Life on a farm sometimes seems so busy with chores and an endless and ever growing list of things that need done that I feel like I don’t often enough just get to relax and actually enjoy the blessing of living in the country and spending time with the farm animals. I spend a great deal of busy time with the goats and other animals everyday as I make sure they have plenty of food and water and a clean, dry place to sleep but I have also decided that it is also important to slow down for a bit every once in awhile. That is what I did yesterday after morning chores as I spent some quiet, relaxing time with the goat herd.

It was a beautiful fall morning, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and the weather was pleasant and comfortably warm. As I walked up to the goat pasture a breeze sent a flurry of colorful fall tree leaves dancing across the yard and pasture. I didn’t get very far into the buck’s pasture before Dudley, a very large Great Pyrenees dog spotted me as he bounded up and greeted me the way he does every morning, with a big nose, some drool and an insistent, if not slightly pushy request for attention.

Good Morning Dudley!

After saying hello to Dudley and feeding him and the buck goats their breakfast, I continued up to the does & wether’s pasture where a herd of impatient goats waited for their breakfast; actually they had already been out in the pasture browsing on tree leaves and weeds for breakfast but they are always ready for a bit of grain and while I don’t over do it with the grain, I do like to give them some grain each morning so they stay on a schedule and it affords me the opportunity to check everyone out each day and make sure no-one isn’t feeling well or is off in any way. No one was feeling off today, everyone had a bounce in their step and was feeling their oats.
After the chaos and disagreements over who got what feed pans settled down and the goats finished off their grain, they all started settling down to relax and digest what they had already eaten that morning. Goats are ruminants, which means their stomach has four compartments: the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum and they chew cud. I have always enjoyed watching the goats chewing their cud, relaxed and content.
The mother and daughter team of livestock guardian dogs, Abby and Bayla stick close to the goats and keep a watchful eye out for any problems. They are Great Pyrenees dogs which are an old breed that comes from the Pyrenees Mountains and have been watching over and protecting livestock for centuries. It wasn’t long before several of the goats came up to me seeking face scratches and attention. Emma as usual was one of the first to come up for attention, she is a very sweet Boer doe and one of my favorite and most loved does, she is one of the first Boer kids born on our farm so I have known her since she was born. I set a lawn chair in the pasture under a walnut tree where I could relax for a bit while I watched the goats. I would have liked to take a cup of coffee up to the pasture with me, but Emma loves the stuff. Normally I would always be happy to share, but she insists on drinking straight from my cup with cud still in her mouth and well…that is just rude.
Sweet Emma
Rose is another favorite that came up for attention that morning, she is a dark red Boer/ Nubian cross doe that was born right here on our farm. She likes to gently put her nose up to my face and blow little goatie “kisses” and if I scratch her neck and side she will lay her head on my lap and close her eyes in utter contentment.
I had moved my chair a little ways from the herd so that I could try and get the whole herd in some pictures and so I could lean up against a tree. It was not long before I noticed one by one the goats would get up from where they had originally laid down at and would move closer to me before laying back down to chew their cud. It wasn’t long until the whole herd and moved down the hill to lie near where I was sitting. My most senior doe, “Trouble” got up to come lay right beside where I was sitting. There is no denying how social goats are and they seem to enjoy my company as much as I was enjoying theirs.

Boer doe "Trouble" and the rest of the herd.
It was nice to spend some quiet time with the herd that morning, sitting under that walnut tree listening to the cheerful sound of birds and the occasional hums of contentment from a peaceful herd of goats chewing their cud and enjoying the day as much as I was. Several of the goats took a late morning nap and even the usually alert dogs took that peaceful time to take a break.
Boer doe "Rock" takes a nap with her herd, while Bayla enjoys the sunshine.

I could have stayed out there with the goats for a lot longer, it was a nice time but there were still things that had to get done. I had more chores to do and the goats had more goaty business of their own to take care of. So we both got up and stretched and headed out, me back down to the house and the goat herd and dogs out to the pasture.