Kidding of yesteryears

In 2013 we bought our first goats. Two $75 spanish cashmere crosses we named Murielle and Estelle. They were brought home in dog kennels in the back of our (relatively new at the time) Ford Fusion, and hubby learned then to tarp the back seat any time we brought something home, cage or not!

Murielle (left) and Estelle (right)

The chickens had just been moved to what would come to be known as the coop (and now, the barn), and these two ladies made themselves at home in the 10×10 garden shed where they would spend their first year and a half.

Our first spring with these girls yielded a single buckling, our first kid, Walter. He was born uneventfully while we were at work in the city to a loving and protective herd queen who was proving herself to be a wonderful mother. When we got home from work, Estelle didn’t greet us as normal and we rushed to the shed to find them together. He was fed, dry, bouncing and being chortled to, and we were elated to have our first non-avian to be born on the farm.

Our second round of kidding wouldn’t be so easy. Murielle would give birth without warning to pre-term twin bucklings who were gone when I found them, and the oberhasli and boer does we had acquired would fall victim to large kids crafted by poor advice. As a result of feeding large amounts of grain on the advice of other goat owners so they would ‘be able to survive our harsh climate’, the does, after much struggle and assistance from me, finally gave birth to massive single bucklings, both well over 10lbs. It was, perhaps, one of the greatest series of lessons I wouldn’t know I had received until later. I spent a total of 3 hours learning to pull kids because of those girls, horrified I wouldn’t be able to get them out and that I would lose the girls. However, both of those girls would go on to have more kids.

We stopped graining, and the next year we stopped heating and massive kids have not come up since. We also learned how much of a difference with kidding ease Selon-E (BoSe is the American equivalent) can make. I’m not sure the link between selenium and/or vitamin E and kid positioning, but on years we haven’t given Selon-E a month before kidding, we have had far more presentation issues then on years with those we have.

The years after that haven’t always been good, but they have provided the learning experience that really sticks: practical, hands on, in the moment. We have had years where the only assistance needed was drying due to the cold, and other years where every single kid was malpositioned and required assistance. These experiences have taught me how to pull the most difficult, twisted kids, how to untangle multiples, that breach kids pop out easier than standard presentations, and that kids with one leg back can be delivered without assistance. We have learned minis are difficult due to space but if you need to push back they can handle it, and that difficulties are rarely due to kid size.

Our best advice is learn to pull your own kids as you will save many more that way than by waiting for a vet. You are their greatest asset.

Let the early 2020 kidding season begin!

Seeking your truth

The past year has been the hardest year on the homestead so far. We have encountered so many obstacles it has become tiring and remarkably stressful and it often feels endless. This winter has been particularly difficult with record cold temperatures, a dog urine encited house fire, frozen cistern and lagoon, dying heaters resulting in a frigid basement and extensive incidents with the goats; my YouTube channel and photography have been put on hold due to an RMA’d computer and even the petty annoyances just become icing on a poor tasting, multi-layered cake.

All of this has been both emotionally and financially taxing, at times it is hard to figure out which one moreso. This spring/early summer will bring the extensive electrical repairs required to get things back where they should be, and we are looking at bringing in propane and installing a propane furnace as a backup instead of our baseboards. Beyond this, new fencing needs to be put in, a new coop and buck barn erected and, ideally, the basement framed in and insulated; we also have our summer trip back to BC to visit family and the return at Christmas to plan for. It just seems like a lot and, frankly, it is. It makes moving back to BC seem further away with every new negative that manifests.

Homesteading isn’t easy, and we never went into it thinking it was, however I think homesteaders today are faced with a unique obstacle those of centuries passed were immune to: Modernism. Despite our romanticized view of early settlement and the ‘wild west’, cities were unattractive cesspools plagued with illness and overcrowding and lacking basic sanitation; it didn’t have the allure it does today. Just over my horizon is a bustling prairie metropolis with all the amenities including clean water, parks and recreation, food, work and housing. While the city seems like a tomb to us most days, stretches like this can make a homesteader long for some of the simplicity that comes from living in an urban center.

Within the next week, the pregnancy status of all the goats will be known and we can finally look forward to the summer kiddings, though they certainly pose their own challenges. Our winter has been riddled with dropped pregnancies, pink eye, and prolapses; add to that difficult births and losses of kids, along with widespread vaccine reactions and failures, and you end up with more than a small stockholder feels they can withstand.

At one point I posted my herd for sale, tired and worn down, lost and disheartened. The inquiries were many but takers were few, and those who wanted them showed their true colours and confirmed the reputation that preceded them. I could not send my goats to mills who tout themselves as something else. When discussing this, a friend said: “That should tell you something.” While shopping in the city hubby said to me, “I think this registered world has spoiled you for goats.” It was one of those moments that tilts your perspective back right, that pulls the film off your eyes and helps clear things up.

He was right.

When I got into Nigerian Dwarfs, I finally found a breed that resonated with me. One that was dairy but didn’t have the barbie doll look I have never enjoyed in dairy-anything; one that had all the colours and personality I loved in Nubians without the long ears prone to frostbite and a more consistent mothering instinct; one who was smaller in size for the kids but with exceptional milking qualities. I found a breed with regional body styles that all fit within breed standard, and one that required passionate breeders willing to make improvements beyond pet stock. I had passion for them.

Over time, that passion looked less like artful motivation and more like a job I had to tend to. It was no longer something I enjoyed. This test and that test needed to be done to keep up, this status needed to be obtained, goats needed to place well in show and look perfect, everyone expects to buy from a vaccinated herd so I had better do that too. It all became a chore, a game I wasn’t good at, one that had become detrimental to my herd and one that has ultimately set me back. I have decided I am out of that scene and back to doing things the way I did when I was doing them for the right reasons, back to how my goats were thriving and healthy. If testing is able to get done this year it will get done, but I am not willing to fret over it not being done or about losing sales; whatever the results when they come in will be dealt with then. Everything that has happened over the past 6 to 8 months has resulted in a lot of research and a modified understanding of the way things work. I hold no regrets that my views and methods going forward may alter the perception of my herd. My integrity is of the utmost importance to me and, as such, I have been an open book and will remain so. I have learned far fewer people than I originally thought share the willingness and desire to do the same. My priority is enjoyment of happy, healthy animals while remaining open and maintaining my excitement for the breed, whatever that entails and where ever that places my future in the goat world.

Inevitably, spring is just around the corner. Soon, the kids will again find happiness in the dirt and grass, playing in warm sun and rain, swimming in the pool and roasting marshmellows over the firepit. There is joy within this stress, though we so easily find ourselves lost in its fog of war. We will come out better on the other end, it is just about keeping our boots on in this muddy terrain.

Welcoming 2019

 

The first big freeze of winter arrived in accordance with Fin’s birth plan, as it so often does.  Weather at the -30C mark and a wind chill even lower had checks at every half hour for more than 2 days, but I was able to pick up on the subtle hints I have learned to look for in my few years of raising goats.  Finn’s labor process was long, but flawless, and her petite form wasn’t a detriment to her average sized kids at all.  Born in the fading hours of day 145 (January 8th), two healthy boys arrived to the farm as the last heirs to Old Mountain Farm Firecracker.  Her birth process can be seen on our youtube channel embedded below.

Buckling #1: Broken Buckskin, Blue eyes (B/b), White Poll, 3lbs 15oz

Buckling #2: Broken Bezoar, Brown Eyes, White Poll, 3lbs 14oz.
The babies have since been disbudded.  To check our our first time disbudding, check out this video, also from our Youtube channel.

We hope this video helps someone and are always open to questions!  Wishing you the best in your 2019 adventures.

Caseous Lymphadinitis Policy changes

In July and August, 2018, we commenced a vaccination program for the prevention of Caseous Lymphadinitis (CL) using Glanvac 6. Effective immediately, our vaccination program will not be continued. Every member of our herd had adverse reactions beyond the expected injection site abcesses, some very scary and some potentially detrimental to our program. These included extremely high fever, lethargy to the point animals needed to be shaken to wake them, reproductive issues including sudden and dramatic changes in heat cycle or loss of, swollen neck and throat, coming off feed, etc. etc.; these symptom started immediately after the initial dose, persisted for 2 weeks and then recurred again immediately after the booster.

Going forward, the animals who have had their initial round of vaccine and booster will not be revaccinated. The vaccine prevents us from blood testing them to determine exposure/infection as it makes their blood tests show positive, however we will monitor for abcesses and may do serum testing to determine antibody levels and track the results. After further research due to the reactions, the vaccine does not prevent disease, rather it is better considered a control method. Animals, despite vaccination, can still become INFECTED with the virus (but are asymptomatic), which was exactly what we were trying to prevent in the first place.

New animals, including kids and new acquisitions, will not be vaccinated. Unvaccinated animals will be tested on a yearly basis (starting late 2019/mid 2020) along with the CAE and Johne’s testing.

Any animal that presents an abscess will be quarantined until the abscess has gone away or ripened and ruptured. If a rupture occurs, animals will remain quarantined for 3 additional weeks and the exudate will be tested. Any suspected pregnant animal that comes up positive will be monitored daily for abscess presentation and quarantined until they can be sold.


We understand not everyone will be comfortable with this plan and we are happy to discuss our reasoning and our research. While we never want to have an outbreak on our farm, CL is one disease, though ugly, we are not overly afraid of and can be culled for. We have invested a lot of time and money into our foundation herd and they mean the world to us as individual animals, and as a potential future for our farm.

2018 Testing Results

I have been mulling over how to approach the subject of our 2018 testing. I always planned to be open on the matter, however I have fought with myself about how to go about it. After much thought and discussion, and at the risk of losing future buyers, I have decided on public transparency, not transparency made on inquiry.

**This does NOT effect past buyers**

Here are our results!

We are proud to say our original stock is all CAE clear, and we will maintain those girls (Arcturus, Daisy, Dot, Gracie, Poplar, and Rose) as our foundation herd at this time.

In the fall of 2017, we were excited to aquire a small breeding herd of Mini Manchas. Their breeder contacted us a couple months after delivery to inform us the dam of all the does tested positive for CAE. Testing revealed one of the yearling doelings, Ruby, was positive, a complete surprise as she was young and had no symptoms. Upon learning this result, a few phone calls were made and, ultimately, Ruby was removed from the herd and harvested for meat. The other girls (Saffron, Winnie, Josephine, and Clementine) as well as the buck who is not maternally related (Jasper), though negative, will be shipped to the sales barn next weekend in an effort to keep our herd clean. While these girls may NEVER test CAE positive or become symptomatic, we have chosen to cull them.

We are confident this decision will have minimized exposure in the rest of the herd, as none of the mini manchas had freshened or were being milked, the primary vectors for CAE spreading. From research, its a fragile virus outside the body and we are not worried about having inadvertently contaminated our property or buildings.

While this decision will set us back financially as we likely will not break even, it has opened new doors for us and we are restructuring our mini program to become MDGA registerable. We hope to have our first registered La Manchas arriving this summer, and are on a couple waiting lists on the Nigerian front.

We hope prospective buyers will appreciate our transparency on this matter and do what it takes to make an educated decision about how they will handle the disease should they ever have a positive result. Remember: negative results only show an animal is negative the day the test is taken and CAE can sit dormant and undetected for years (and possibly a goats entire life). We spoke privately with several breeders who have encountered the disease and methods of disclosure ranged from none (cull and say nothing) to full transparency and everywhere in between. We are grateful to those who spoke candidly and privately with us to help us determine what was the right decision for us.

Please see our new Policies tab for more information on our culling practices going forward. They are modled after the Maedi-Visna program in Ontario for CAE. Feel free to contact us with any questions. If you are currently in contact concerning being interested in future breedings and no longer wish to be, please send us a note through facebook and we can remove you from any notification lists.

Heres to a healthy kidding season and some gorgeous, healthy (maybe female!) kids.

A temporary resident

Who would have thought a bottle calf could have a positive influence in so many ways?

Several days ago, an unexpected proposal came across through text message; a neighbor with cattle wanted to know if I would be willing to bottle feed a late calf if he supplied the milk replacer. While inexperienced in bottle feeding calves, I jumped at the opportunity as I have been telling him for years to get in touch if he needed help with something like that.

So arrived our temporary resident, a freemartin hereford cross heifer I have dubbed Heiferlump.

Shortly after she got here, a nasty necrotic wound was discovered. Our best guess was a coyote got a good bite or two in on her before she was discovered. The wound was scrubbed and cleaned of flies and maggots, sprayed with an antibacterial insect repellent and packed with petro-carb. She waa given some antibiotics and electrolytes were added to her milk.

Her first couple nights were dodgey, and I found myself packing the 2 month old boy child into the moby to check on her and offer the couple drinks of electrolyte packed milk she would swallow.

Now, however, I am nearly tackled upon my arrival to the pasture, and every time I am certain she will break my foot as she spins around me with excitement; she is eating grass and drinking 3 full liters at each feed. To my amazement, this exuberent calf has piqued the curiosity of our dexter heifer, Dezzi, and within a couple days has afforded me the opportunity to hand feed her some beans and even get a couple strokes in on the muzzle. Because of this, her mother Star, has discovered her own passion for beans and has decided I am a little more interesting than before.

Because of Lumpy, I am on the search for a registerable bottle dexter heifer, and I am determined to find one. There is something enchanting about a bottle calf that goat kids lack, and i love the bond so quickly formed. I dream of walking out to the pasture in the spring mornings to find my children laying on the cow reading to her as she rhytmically chews her cud. I am not looking forward to the day our guests time here is over. By the there will be that inevitable love, and my heart will ache as she steps onto the trailer and disappears in the dust cloud of our grid road.

For now though, I will enjoy draping myself over her back and petting her after she is finished her bottle, and I will revel in the excited moo before she skips and flips her back end as she races to see me.

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