December 29, 2010

Some Rather Random Goat Tips

I was not quite sure what to write about today so I decided to share some random goat management tips off the top of my head. Many I have learned over the years I have spent with goats on my farm.

Goats and Kidding

1. Trim your fingernails short before your goat is due in case of trouble and you have to go in.

2. The new mother goat can have a waxy build-up on the ends of her teats making it possible that her newborns might not be able to get that all important colostrum. Milk out a little colostrum right after they are born to make sure her teats are open and the kids can nurse.

3. If a kid sounds like it has some fluid in it's lungs from kidding you can gently hold them upside down for a moment to help clear it. (Be careful newborn goats are slippery, don't drop him!) Old towels from the thrift store are great to help dry kids if the weather is cold. I always let the doe do some of the cleaning (or all of it in warm, summer weather) as this is them bonding to their kids.

4. If a newborn kid gets severely chilled (he will be limp and his mouth will be cold) you can quickly warm him up in a bath of warm water in the sink but DON'T leave him unattended for even a second and take the chance of his head slipping under water. Also use a thermometer and make sure he does not get too warm. The normal temperature for a goat is 101.5 to 103.5. You can tell when he starts to get warmed up, the inside of his mouth will warm up, he will become more active and vocal! I have revived a couple kids this way that almost looked dead they were so chilled. It helps to put them in a thin plastic bag with their head sticking out so that the water does not rinse off the smell his mother will use to identify him as hers. I will give them a bottle of their own mother's colostrum but I also get these babies back to their mom as soon as they are stable so they don't get rejected.

5. A chilled kid can not digest food properly and will not want to eat. Always warm them up first then feed them.

6. It is very important that newborn kids get colostrum (the first milk their mother's produce that is full of antibodies they need) as soon as possible after birth. If a kid is too weak to nurse off the mother I will bottle feed them this colostrum just to make sure they get some with in an hour of birth.

Goat Management

1. Never, ever leave a nylon or leather collar on a goat unattended and don't ever leave them staked out in the yard when you are not watching them. You might think there is nothing for your goat to get a collar hooked on but they are agile animals that like to stand up to eat leaves, making high branches a possibility or even their own back foot or another goat's horn. I had a man tell me once he had two bucks that must have got to rough housing around and one got his horn under the collar of the other one and strangled him to death. Collars that snap together don't always break either. If you feel you must have a collar on your goat at least get one of the breakable, plastic link ones made for dairy goats. Leaving a goat staked out makes them very easy prey for dogs and predators and puts them at risk of getting tangled up, out of reach of water or strangling themselves. I have had people tell me that "well my goats wear collars and haven't gotten hung up on anything," all I can say is that they don't, until one day out of the blue they do and then it might be too late. It just is not worth the chance for something so preventable.

2. In a large herd, one shelter with a single, narrow door does not always work out. It makes sense to build them that way, we did at first thinking they would be so much warmer for the goats. What we did not count on was the fact there often seems to be a dominate "shed piggy" in the herd that will stand in the doorway, blocking the more passive goats in the herd from coming in out of the cold or rain. I even tried removing said shed piggy from the herd and the next cranky female goat down on the totem pole just took her place. I still had some sad, wet goats standing outside of the door in the rain while the one blocking the door was dry and comfortable and probably smirking. I have found either several different shelters or at least one with a fairly wide doorway (or two doors) works much better and allows all the goats to get in the shed more easily. You can hang blankets or tarps on wider doors to block cold air without blocking access.

3. Feeding large round bales of hay to goats can be cheaper and less work but it can also be tricky too. Goats will waste a lot more of a round bale, they will climb on it and pee on it. There is also a danger in the fact that goats will eat around the bottom part of the bale first, creating an unstable mushroom shape that can collapse on a goat and suffocate them. If you are going to feed round bales in the goat pasture it is important you have a feeder specifically designed for feeding goats this way or you wrap a fence or panel around the bale to keep it stable, safe and keep the goats from climbing on it and wasting so much of it.

4. Trying to go into a herd of goats with a bucket of grain is chaos! If you have a large herd you feed all at once, save yourself some frustration and bruises and build a feed pen with a large, strong, free swinging gate. Have a second gate you can access this pen without walking through the goat pasture. This way you can keep the main gate closed, walk into the empty pen and easily dump their grain into feeders, then open the gate for the goats while safely standing behind the open gate as they run in. Or set up feed troughs along the fence so you can feed them safely from the other side.

I hope you found these tips that make life a little easier on my goat farm helpful. I will be sharing some more helpful goat tips in the future!

December 24, 2010

Christmas Cookies in a Jar

This year I decided to give friends and family these really neat "Cookie in a Jar" gifts. They were not difficult to make at all and made a wonderful, homemade gift.

You will need:
1 -1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
3/4 cup holiday red & green M&M's. (or you could use any color of M&M' for Valentines day, etc)
1/2 cup Reese's Peanut butter baking pieces (oops forgot to get them in the picture!)
12/ cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts or chopped pecans.
1 quart sized glass jar with lid.
Some ribbon, holiday colored computer paper, scissors, red or green material, double sided tape, labels or whatever you want to decorate your finished jars with.

Mix the baking soda and salt in with your flour. Put your ingredients into separate containers.

Layer in your jar the following ingredients, adding each ingredient one at a time in the following order: Flour with baking soda & salt, brown sugar, M&M's, Reese's Peanut butter pieces, Coconut, and peanuts. A funnel comes in real handy here. Tap jar gently on the counter to settle and even each layer before adding the next one. You can use a small ladle or spoon to pack each layer slightly but don't go overboard or you will have too much space at the top when you are done.

When you are done your jar should look like this. Don't those layers look pretty?

Next comes the fun part, decorating your Cookies in a Jar gift! I just used a large red holiday table cloth that I found for only $4.50 (and there is plenty there to do several years worth of these gifts!) I cut out 6" X6" squares for my jars which I secured over the lid and under the lid ring. (Or you could just secure it over the whole lid with a rubber band if you like that look better.) I used the double sided tape to help attach a pretty green ribbon bow around the lid as well but you could decorate these any way you like, that is part of fun!

Don't forget to print off the following baking instructions on a label or piece of colorful paper to attach to the jar! I printed it off on green computer paper, cut out with a decorative edge scissor, punched a hole in the top of the label and attached to the jar, hanging with a small piece of ribbon.

1. In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter, softened, with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until smooth. Beat in one egg and one teaspoon vanilla until combined. Stir in contents of jar until combined, knead if necessary.

2. Drop by 2 tablespoon portions, 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly press down to flatten.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Let set on cookie sheet one minute. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Makes about 20 cookies.

I made a batch of these cookies at home too (shown here mixed up before baking) and they are delicious. If you like chocolate and peanut butter you will like these! I made about 7 of these gifts and figured they cost me about $7 a jar but that is not counting that I still have a lot of red material, some ribbon and lots of double sided tape left for other projects! I also bought the jars new, but I know a lot of you already have these at your house. I loved making and giving these away and I think they made much nicer and more meaningful gifts than I could have found at Wal-Mart for $7!

December 19, 2010

Whose Your Daddy?

That is what I would like to know, but their mom Cookie isn't telling. These cute two new baby goats was born this past week, one doeling and one buckling. Cookie knows we are big believers in planned parent hood on the goat farm. Pairings of each doe with a buck is planned in advance and when the doe comes in heat she is either pen bred or only one buck is ran with his chosen girlfriends for that breeding season. Since most of our goats are registered we must know with absolute certainty who the sire is. The other reason is to plan when those babies will be born so as to hopefully avoid freezing weather or to plan for certain times of the year when the market for goats is better than others.

We haven't had a doe bred on our place who we didn't at least know who the sire was until about a month ago when we had the does up in the working pens and I happened to notice Cookie's udder looked quite large. I looked closer and sure enough..."Cookie, you little tart!" I couldn't help but say out loud when I realized she was less than a month for sure from kidding and that those kids would be due in December. Luckily the weather this year has not been nearly as bad as last year but still darn cold enough at night that I did move her to a room in the old shop/farm house so the kids would not be born out in the cold.

Based on what group of goats Cookie was with at the time and looking back on the calender for when Cookie must have had her secret rendezvous told me what happened but not exactly who their father was. One of the young Boer bucklings in the doe pasture last summer must have had a secret May-December romance with Cookie right before we got them moved to the weaning pen. It is a good lesson to make sure those intact buck kids are either castrated or weaned by 10-12 weeks old because some can mature quite quickly. They might not have been planned but they are adorable kids. Cookie seems quite pleased with them and we are as well.

Thank You All So Much!

I just wanted to say thank you to all the people who left such encouraging and wonderful comments on my blog about my mother. It really meant a lot to me that you took the time to share your stories and offer advice and kind words. It was not a post I planned, I didn't even spell check it. It was just an expression of what I was thinking at the time and I am very touched that so many people took the time to offer words of encouragement and prayer for my mother and our family. Thank you.

December 15, 2010

More Brave Than I Could Ever Be

Something has been weighing heavily on my mind lately. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time recently. She had went through surgery and chemo five years ago and beat it then. She just had a mammogram in September that didn't show anything but after that she found a lump herself. Her first chemo treatment this time will be less than a week before Christmas. She puts on a brave front and tries to remain positive. She says "whatever will be, will be" but I also know it is terribly discouraging for her.

I know it has been discouraging for me. Cancer can sure make a person feel helpless. You want to be able to do something, and there is little one can do. It is so easy to take life and even people for granted when you are busy worrying about all the constant little things in life that really are not all that important after all. I think she has been more brave than I could ever be.

December 02, 2010

Speak Softly - Farm Photo of the Week

"Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far. "
Theodore Roosevelt

One of the Great Pyrenees dogs on our farm loves to carry big sticks he finds around. I wish I could get a closer, better picture of him, especially when he finds a stick that is curved in such a way it pulls his baggy lips up into a big, funny smile, but every time I try to get closer with my camera he puts his stick down and trots up to the fence to say hello. Silly Dudley.

December 01, 2010

Goat Grazing Company Accused Of Neglect

The co-owner of Goats R Us, a California based company that uses goats to clear brush and weeds has been charged with neglect of his goats. Egon Oyarzun and his employee Wilfredo Felix have both been ordered to stand trial for the alleged neglect of some of the company's goats after animal control officers reported that some goats in the flock located near the old Oak Knoll Navel Hospital site in Oakland was malnourished and not cared for. Goats R Us was hired to reduce brush at the site.

The goats in question were located in a courtyard of the 167 acre site. Reportedly when the animal control officers arrived on scene they smelled decaying flesh and found multiple dead goats and four very sick goats which were impounded. Many of the other goats in the courtyard were sick from "parasites, pneumonia and other diseases," said Oakland animal services director Megan Webb.

Terri Oyarzun defended her husband Egon and their company. She says that the goats were senior goats, weanlings and rescues separated for extra care. The Oyarzuns depended on their herders to care for the goats, Wilfredo Felix was in charge of them. He was a newer employee who despite having prior experience did not follow protocol and notify them of the problem, according to Terri Oyarzun.

So how did this happen? According to the Goats R Us website they have been in business for over 15 years and goats in their herd are never sold for any reason. They say the goats are their "buddies" and that all of their goats are supplemented year round, wormed three times a year and vaccinated.

I do not know all of the facts of the case, only what I have been able to research online so any thoughts I have on it are merely my opinions based on what I have read. Some articles have stated that the Oyarzun's own about 1,000 goats, working at different sites in the area. Our own farm had a mere 58 goats on it this past spring and so I know how much care and time even a small herd takes. I reduced my goat herd by quite a bit before winter this year to help ensure every goat on the farm gets the best of care and attention they deserve.

It is only speculation on my part but perhaps the success of Goats R Us has been a bit of its downfall. Maybe they got too big, with too many goats and were forced to rely too heavily on hired help to properly over see the care of their own animals like they should. Now I am certainly not saying a very large goat herd can't be well cared for. There are many large herds of healthy goats; but the owners of those animals do know that no matter what their hired help does or does not do, ultimately the buck stops with them as the owner. They are responsible to make sure those animals are cared for properly.

One merely has to read the 70 and growing number of negative comments posted by angry readers of one article posted on the care2 website about the charges against Goats R Us to know that this case has left an ugly, black mark on the business of goat landscaping in some people's minds. Many people are quick to forget that as awful as this is, cases like this are the exception and not the rule. It is truly a shame because up until now goats for brush control has garnered only positive media attention. Everyone read about and loved the "Google goats" and enjoyed the segment about landscaping goats on The Colbert Report. When done responsibly it is a beneficial, environmentally friendly practice for both the goats and the land, while reducing the danger of wildfires for people living in the area. It can also be educational for children in urban areas who have maybe never even seen a goat and don't know anything about them.

My heart goes out to those unfortunate goats who got caught up in this situation, it is very sad indeed. Farmers and owners of these types of businesses involving animals have a responsibility to make sure their animals are always well cared for and treated humanely. Not only for the sake of the animals which are dependent upon us for their needs and who deserve to have a healthy, well cared for life, but for our own future as well. The world is watching and it is our duty to educate the public about all the good that most of these businesses and farmers do and how much we really do care about and for our animals.

** The picture is not of or related to the Goats R Us case. This is a picture of one of my own goats demonstrating why they are so good at brush and weed control**