August 30, 2010

Taking Dym Home

In my last blog post I talked about some of the difficult decisions I have to make on the farm when it comes time to reduce the size of our goat herd. We do this so that the amount of pasture we have will support our herd because less crowded conditions are less stressful to the goats and do make for healthier, happier animals.

One of the goats that found a new home this year was a Nubian doe named Dym. It is never easy to let one go, especially a goat as friendly as Dym but I know she is in a wonderful new home with a family that will give her lots of care and attention. Mandy had bought a Boer wether from us back in 2006 and gave him such a nice home that I contacted her about if they would like to add a Nubian like Dym to their family with the condition that if they ever decided in the future they no longer could keep her that I would take her back. She is a special girl and I did not want her to end up at a sale barn. There is only one other goat at her new home which I imagine suits Dym quite fine since she really does love to be the center of attention.

We took Dym to her new home south of Wichita about three weeks ago and it was a little bit more of an adventure than I had planned. Dym is a very tame and easy to handle goat so I figured we could just put a tarp in the backseat of our little red car and haul her that way instead of taking an uncomfortable and gas guzzling truck.

We had planned on driving Dym up to her new home on Saturday. Jamey had taken a vacation day earlier in the week to make sure we got our hay put up before it rained and his job was not very supportive of it so he unexpectedly had to work Friday night. So right from the beginning we got a late start. It was not a bad drive at all though and the miles went by quickly, maybe a little too quickly for me.

Dym did so well in the car, just like I knew she would. Honestly, she rode better in the car than most dogs I have known! She looked out the side window part of the time but most of the way she just held her head between the front seats and over our shoulders. That is just like Dym, always wanting to be a part of things.

We saw lots of hay fields on the way up there. I guess we were not the only ones scrambling to get hay baled after all the rain in July. Not long after we went through the last town before our destination we started hearing an awful...thud..thud..thud. Oh no, what a wonderful time to get a flat tire! The road we were on did not have good shoulders so we quickly pulled into the end of a driveway in front of a well manicured lawn.

Jamey checked the spare, not even a donut. Apparently Jamey had taken it out in order to have more room to haul things in the trunk and it did not get put back. I had just assumed it was still in there for the trip. OK, plan B, fix-a-flat sealant to the rescue! Nope, that didn't work either, the can wouldn't even spray right. Geez, talk about unprepared, no spare and a defective can of Fix a flat. There was obviously no Boy Scouts on this trip.

This was about the time the owner of the house came out. He was nice enough to quickly help us air up the tire with his portable air compressor. He didn't seem to be the slightest bit surprised or even curious as to why we had a 130lb goat in the backseat. We had both saw a tire shop back in town just a few miles away so we headed back but the car only made it about a mile down the road before the tire went flat again. Drats!

One thing we DID have was a cell phone! So we called Mandy and she was nice enough to drive out to where we were. Luckily we were only a few miles away. While we waited, I got Dym out of the car and held her off the road, along side the ditch while Jamey took the flat tire off the car. Strangely enough lots of people slowed way down at the sight of a goat on a leash beside the highway but no one stopped to ask if we needed any help. I can't judge them too much, they could have been afraid that us AND our GOAT might need a ride somewhere! hehe

It did not take Mandy long at all to pull up in her handy SUV and she was nice enough to give us and the goat a ride to the tire shop! Tire now fixed, and with some much appreciated help we did manage to get Dym to her new home. A pretty, country place with a walnut grove and some new friends, a Boer wether and two cute little miniature horses. I sure am going to miss that goat but she could not have went to a better home or a nicer family and that makes it easier.

August 17, 2010

Tough Decisions on the Farm

When I was a child I dreamed of living on a farm. I do not know exactly when I decided I wanted to live in the country, I know it was even before my sister and I started taking horseback riding lessons and that was at age 8. It quite possibly was one of my very first wants in life...right after a pet giraffe. I never did get that pet giraffe as a child but as an adult I did eventually get the life in the country I have always dreamed of and have had the pleasure of living it for the last 13 years.

I think the thing I love the most about having acreage of my own is the possibilities are almost endless. All those wonderful possibilities also come with lots of decisions to be made though. Most important of these is what type of farm is this going to be? My husband and I made the decision quite a long time ago that ours was going to be a working farm. We will never get rich from it and I don't see us both ever being able to not have to work off the farm but we will gain self-sufficiency and make a small profit each year from it. That is our goal, and one that demands many decisions on the farm come from a business perspective. This is not always easy and I do my best to try and balance what I think is right for the individual animal with what is in the best interest of the entire herd and farm as a whole.

A couple years ago I was shopping for a new Boer buck for our goat herd. My husband and I went to quite a few different farms and talked to several different goat breeders. One lady we talked too has had success buying and raising meat goats and selling them direct to ethnic buyers. She has done the leg work and is no doubt a farmer with a very good business head on her shoulders. I have a great deal of respect for her and could no doubt learn a few things from her about making a farm profitable. While we were there she pointed out an old doe and told us with pride that she had kidded 14 times with at least twins and usually triplets or quads each time. She then told us that goat was going on the next truck to be jerky, mostly do to her age no doubt along with some udder problems she had developed recently.

This could just be the difference between someone who was raised on a farm (as she obviously was) and someone like me who spent my childhood with pet dogs and cats but a doe like that would earn a permanent retirement on my farm. I do have a few older does like Trouble and Hope that have certainly done right by me and this farm and they will live out the rest of their lives here. Still, we simply can not keep them all or this would quickly turn into a goat sanctuary and retirement home, not a farm with any possible hope of being self sustaining.

On the other side of that coin I know a couple people that have some beautiful goats but they hardly ever sell any female goats from their fairly large herds, most are kept from birth to death. I am not talking about a few pets but large herds. These people are clearly attached to their animals, as they give them every thing they have. While I certainly respect this and consider it noble, these herds just keep growing larger each year causing considerable financial strain for their owners. This has the potential to affect the entire herd negatively.

I try my best to find a balance between these two extremes. One with respect for the individual animal, but not over the health and well-being of the herd as a whole and not over our goals of being a self-sustaining farm. I don't want to make each decision with cold and callous profit margins in mind but I also do not want to let my sensitive heart lead our farm into bankruptcy either. If you are going to raise meat goats, many are going to go for meat... there is a reason it is in the name and not all dairy bucklings can (or even should be) sold as herd sires either.

Only the best few bucklings each year are left intact on our farm, all others are wethered. I also know we can't keep every doe born on the place no matter how cute they are. I will send a female goat that doesn't meet our standards to the sale barn just the same as a buckling. That is not to say I also won't go out of my way to place a particularly special and sweet natured animal that is healthy but not as productive on our farm in a good pet home over making a few bucks at the sale barn with them. I still have to be able to sleep at night.

We reduced the goat herd this year and I had to look at individual animals and decide who was going to stay and who was going to go. These are the type of decisions while certainly not easy are necessary on the farm. I sold most of our good four year old 50% Boer does in our herd. These were a good deal for someone else, productive does that are at their prime, while I kept their younger, higher percentage Boer yearling daughters. That was not the easiest thing to do, as all of those does had been on our farm since birth but maintaining a herd size our pastures can easily support is essential not only from an economic and goal achieving stand-point but also for over-all herd improvement and health.

So what are the difficult decisions you face on your farm or homestead and how do you make them?

August 05, 2010

You've Come A Long Way Baby

This yearling doe spends a lazy summer day with her friends in the goat pasture. Some of you might remember her from her birth pictures. She sure has changed in the last year hasn't she?