Category Archives: Goats

A grizzly end to self-sufficiency

Well, the inevitable has happened. It was a dry summer, so not  many berries around for our ursine co-inhabitants here in this remote rainforest valley. In addition, the fish runs were down. Then last weekend we had our fifty-year flash flood, which swept away both fish and berries, and blurred the notional “boundary lines” which the officials fondly imagine keep humans from bears/cougars and keep the peace. For the last month there have been intimations that those boundaries were about as effective as Chamberlain’s piece of paper in 1939: neighbours reported seeing a grizzly bear routinely ambling around my property; my husband (who is tending the farm while we decide what to do with it and our lives) eventually saw him/her sitting thirty meters from my house, across the grass and orchard, behind the two boundary fences, calmly surveying the pickings. The next night he made his move and broke the main branches on my two pear trees and apple trees. David reported the attack to the RAPP centre in Kamloops and also crosses the road to the Ministry of Earth and Water, where a generous parks official lent me an electric fence, which friends and he set up encircling the orchard; meanwhile we picked almost all the remaining fruit. He thought about ringing our year old $22 000 chicken barn instead, but felt it was as solid as a building could be.

Two weeks later he heard that at least two neighbours down the highway had their chicken houses ransacked and lost their entire flocks. Then the floods hit, and everyone was preoccupied with surviving, then with trying to save their possessions, cars, houses, fences, bridges, stock, food. That same night one of my egg customers phoned to warn about these attacks and offered the use of her gun; frankly, she said, she wanted to protect her food supply.

David decided to move the electric fence, but was suffering a back injury and decided to postpone it until the weekend and some more healing had first taken place. Meanwhile he increased the lights and radios around the chicken house, and stowed away and secured the bags of feed even more securely behind at least two four inch thick doors.

The following night around 11  pm he heard the scream of a hen. There was a new moon so it was black outside, but from my house he could see an illuminated side of the chicken shed about two metres  away and he could see no commotion. He could only guess that the bear had entered from the side, the weakest side of course. Without a dog or gun, surrounded by neighbours, with the flooded slough still saturating the ground all around, he could do little besides yell “shoo bear!” and bang some pots and pans. Later that night he heard more shrieks, but at dawn my restless fears were allayed when he heard the familiar cock crow. Unlike Peter, he felt relieved of his guilt–until he dressed and went down to let them out to free range, and discovered the side door ripped open, and a line of carcasses stretching through the broken page wire fence and under the trees towards the neighbour’s lawn. Inside, the remainder of my flock were traumatised, the biggest rooster hobbling about with one wing extended, a claw puncture mark on his back. There was even one dead chicken, otherwise untouched, inside the hen house.

He reported the attack to Kamloops (a mere 743 kms drive away) and was contacted at work later that day by our Conservation Officer who by good fortune had just made it back into the valley that day. They rendezvoused at 6 pm and David showed him the wooden barricade  had erected overt the broken door. The CO laughed and said a grizzly would toss that side with his little ginger, literally.

“That’s what I feared,” Davie confessed, “but I have no other defence save the electric fence. And that seems so puny.”

“Actually that’s the best defence,” he said. They tracked the bear scat and chicken bodies across my neighbour’s property and back into the bush which stretches a hundred meters to the highway. He didn’t want to go any further.

“So,” David quite rightly asked, “since you’re staying nearby, when I see the bear tonight I’ll phone you and you can come and shoot it?”

“I wish I could, but no,” he sighed again. “If the fence is broken, then I can.”

“So twenty carcasses, a ravaged chicken house and a loss of livelihood aren’t enough.”

“You got it. Ministry policy. I must obey. If he attacks your goats, on the other hand, then I can shoot.”

“Who makes these rules?”

Apparently, he shrugged with–what I hope was–embarrassment and turned away.

David spent the next three hours and into the darkness moving the electric fence to surround my chicken house. My remaining flock reluctantly returned to the scene of the crime except for one canny rooster which, for a time, tried to roost in a nearby tree. David left them to the tender mercies of the night, the barricaded door and turned on the electric current, and hoped for the best.

That was last night. At dawn they were all still safe, but the biggest rooster was barely dragging himself around. David did, however, find bear scat outside my living room window on the grass and in front of the goat gate ten meters across from my house. He noticed the wooden superstructure above the five foot log railing fence (which I had erected to dissuade the goats from jumping out) had been broken down. I have seven pygmy goats now, and five get moved every night out of their pen and into their locked quarters in the nearby barn; the two grown boys like to take their chances in their run. They were safe, but I wonder for how long. Part of me dreads going out tomorrow morning and finding two goat carcasses by the fence; the other part looks forward to it so that then I will have reason to get the CO to shoot the grizzly.

Or maybe I should work with the current capitalist regime, move back to the farm, and put a sign at my gate saying: “BEAR VIEWING STATION: see the grizzly at close quarters as it kills chickens, smashes fruit trees and rips apart pygmy goats–LIVE! P.S.: Since my livelihood is being destroyed in front of your eyes, donations gratefully accepted.”

35 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Bears, Chickens, Conservation, Educational, Food Security, Goats, Politicking with predators

Men who stare at goats

As many of you know, I’ve not been at Howling Duck Ranch for several months now. Living away from my home, the ranch, and all my animals has not been easy.  Consequently, I’ve been remiss with my regular posts. I have struggled with many things these past few months: from the lack of anything to write about (what do I have to say without my farm?), to the lack of desire to bore you with my life’s struggles. After all, that is not what brought you to this blog!

Suffice it to say, these past few months has been full of difficult decisions:  downsizing the ranch,  possibility selling the place, and finally, dissolving my  marriage.

Thankfully, I’ve had a friend living at Howling Duck Ranch. She’s been doing a wonderful job of taking care of the place and the animals, which has been a huge relief for me. She has, quite literally,  helped keep the wolves at bay! However, she can only stay until June and I’ve not yet found a suitable or affordable alternative for the Howling  Duck Ranch crew. Consequently, I’m faced with being realistic and that means disposing of some critters.

My farm sitter friend is helping with this task and has already given away many of my chickens. The goats however are not easy to find homes for. Moreover, I’m emotionally attached to them. I can’t quite part with them yet–they are my family.

However, I couldn’t avoid the facts forever. A couple of weeks ago, I had some time to get away so I planned a quick trip into the Valley to butcher some of the kids. Even a few less goats to feed at this stage would be helpful. I know this sounds contradictory to their status as family, but the boy kids always were destined to be food. Also, I convinced myself that rather than give them away and risk them being eaten by a grizzly bear or cougar, I’d end their lives myself–at least I know it will be done quickly.

While planning my trip, a blog follower sent an email requesting to visit Howling Duck Ranch and wondered did I do ‘farm stays’. Before leaving the ranch in January, I was planning to do just that. At the time, I wasn’t sure how to make that happen or what it would look like. Suddenly, before my eyes was an email request that had nestled in it an offer I couldn’t refuse: “If you ever need help with butchering goats, I’d be happy to help out.”

We exchanged a few more emails (one of which he confessed to having run a butcher shop!), and before I knew it I was planning my first ‘hands on farm stay’ experience at Howling Duck Ranch! Not only that, with someone who had a skilled set of hands. What I didn’t know at the time was just how many hands would be at my disposal that weekend.

The morning started out as planned, with me rounding up the kids:

Fetching the first kid of the morning.

Making the killing shot:

Not the funnest part of the job but a necessary one.

Prepping the carcass by hanging it in a tree, ready for skinning:

Waiting for another piece of rope to tie the second leg up by.

However, it wasn’t long before the men were involved. Before I left Smithers, I called Clarence to say I’d be in the valley (I’d never hear the end of it if he found out I’d been in town and not visited), and my friend Mike Wigle to see if he was interested in taking some photos (I encourage him to develop a farm photo portfolio every chance I get)! Both men agreed to come to the butchering day. But it was my farm stay visitor who was ‘first man in’.

Enter stage left. Jeff jumps in to help with the skinning process:

Jeff is the first man in on the scene and is laughing at how small and easy a goat is to butcher compared to the huge cattle beasts he's accustomed to working with.

Jordan came with Clarence and is soon eager to get his hands in on the process too:

Clarence's great grandson, Jordan casually approaches and offers to help.

There were some comments about the lack of edges on my knives followed by a request that I find a wet stone. As I dashed off in search of the stone, the men quietly moved in and without ceremony, took over the job:

At this stage, I'm enjoying watching men at work!

The three of them made light work of the butchering process and I was thrilled to have the help. It gave me some time to visit with my friend Colleen, who I’d not seen for months and had dropped in unannounced for a visit. Without the men at work, stopping to visit with Colleen was a luxury I would not have otherwise afforded:

No longer needed, I move away to go visit with my friend.

Eventually, even the dogs got in on the action:

Tui licks the saw and waits to be handed some tasty offal.

Colleen’s tiny pooch ‘Peanut’ gives a first rate effort as part of the ‘clean up’ crew:

Peanut eagerly eating some offal.

It is not long before the goat is in pieces:

Clarence and Jeff take over the process and cut the goat into recognizeable cuts of meat. Note: I love the look in Tui's eyes. She knows she's in for a treat as does the chicken!

Soon we’re ready for round two. At this stage, I barely have to lift a finger, let alone a goat:

Jeff is a quick study: this time, I don't even have to fetch the goat!

Although a fast and furious paced weekend, it was a wonderful visit home. Thanks to the men who stare at goats–my new friend Jeff, and my wonderful old stand-by’s Clarence, Jordan, and Mike–it was made all the more enjoyable. Thanks guys!

12 Comments

Filed under Butchering, Goats

Slow roast goat leg

Cooking for Cullen

I’m hosting our National Member of Parliament for dinner tonight, Nathan Cullen. Consequently, I had to find something to cook! Having recently butchered one of my goats (and checked with his reps that he doesn’t have any food allergies or dislikes, I decided to try finding an interesting recipe for goat leg. This recipe is inspired by Chocolate and Zucchini which calls for a lamb shoulder and I’ve made some adjustments to suit my taste and the goat leg.

For the seasoning paste:

1 bushy sprig of fresh rosemary (you can substitute 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, but fresh really is preferable)

lemon (organic if possible)

50 gm filets of anchovies packed in olive oil, drained (if you don’t have anchovies, then use a combination of green and/or black olives!)

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds

A fresh ground black pepper to taste, or several good turns of the mill

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

3 teaspoons olive oil

For the meat:

2.2 kg (5 pounds) bone-in Goat Leg

8 small ripe tomatoes, about 650g (1 1/3 pounds)

8 small onions, quartered

4 cloves garlic,

Serves 6 to 8.

Pluck the needles of rosemary and discard the tough central stem (you can leave it to dry and use it as a skewer on a later occasion). Peel the zest of the lemon using a zester or a simple vegetable peeler (save the naked lemon for another use).

Using a mortar and pestle, combine the rosemary, lemon zest, anchovies, peeled garlic, mustard seeds, pepper, vinegar, and oil. Grind until the mixture turns into a coarse paste.

Place the leg of goat in a baking dish large enough to accommodate it, and rub in the seasoning paste, taking care to spread it well, and on all sides. (Clean your hands meticulously before and after the rubbing.) Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably 3 or 4.

Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring it back to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Remove the plastic wrap from the baking dish. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves and the tomatoes, cored and halved, slipping them under and around the meat, wherever you can and place the quartered onions all around the goat leg and drizzle with olive oil.

Place the dish in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 130°C (270°F) and cook for another 2 1/2 hours, basting and flipping the meat every 30 minutes or so. Cover with a sheet of foil if it seems to brown too quickly.

Let rest on the counter under a sheet of foil for 5 minutes. Carve the meat table-side and serve. (The leftovers are even better the next day.)

Goes well with greek style roasted new potatoes or brown basmatti rice.

18 Comments

Filed under Goats, How to..., Low carb foods, Meat and game cookery, Recipes

Bloodless castration: an atypical birthday celebration

On October 11th, my birthday, my goat kids turned 12 weeks old. This was as old as I could safely let them get with in-tact testicles and not run the risk of them impregnating their mothers or sister; or at least that’s what my research tells me! So, happy birthday to me, I spent the morning castrating my goats.

Some advise separating the bucks from the does at 3 months old, emasculate at 4 months old, and then butcher at 5 months of age. However, I do not have the facility to separate the bucks from the does so I decided to play it safe and castrate them at 12 weeks old. This way, I know for certain that they will not breed with my does.

It was a miserable process, likely worse for me than the kids. Yes, they cried out when the clamp was on–and as they did I nearly cried myself–but relief seemed immediate the second the clamp was released. The look on their faces frightened me because I thought they were going into shock. If the pitiful wails weren’t enough to tear my heartstrings, looking into their eyes when they stopped crying and withdrew deeply into their minds–mentally checking out–nearly did me in. However, I’m happy to report that within a minute or two of letting them go, each kid was back at the feeder and frolicking around the paddock in search of fodder. They did ‘walk like cowboys’ for a few hours that first day but by the evening they looked as good as new and had even forgiven me for doing it, running over and snuggling with me when I went to check on them that night.

Note: I have read a lot of different articles on this subject and bought the “Veterinary Guide for Animal Owners” by C. E. Spaulding, DVM and Jackie Clay, before attempting this procedure.

Step 1: Some advise to wash the testicles since the emasculator, in my case the Ritchey Nipper (or Side Crusher as they are called at Premier One where I bought mine) can break the skin. In my case, I did not wash the testicles beforehand and I did not have any broken skin.

Step 2: Have someone hold the goat by the hind feet with the goat laying back into their lap.

The easiest method of holding the goat kid in preparation for castration.

The easiest method of holding the goat kid in preparation for castration.

Step 3: Take the scrotum in one hand and find the spermatic cord with your other hand. Be sure the testicles are down into the scrotum and hold them in place with your hand. Move your fingers above the testicle and find the spermatic cord (you may need to use two hands for this). Once you have the cord identified, place it in between the fingers of the hand that is holding the scrotum.

Finding spermatic cord. Note the tiny teat that is above the testicle and my left thumb in photo.

Finding spermatic cord. Note the tiny teat that is above the testicle and my left thumb in photo.

Step 4: Place the Ritchey Nippers over the cord and clamp it down firmly.  Check to be certain that you have the spermatic cord between the nippers and that it hasn’t slipped off to one side and avoided being crushed. Hold the nippers clamped in place for 20-30 seconds. Be sure not to clamp the tiny teat with the nippers; clamp below the teat and above the testicle. Then repeat on other side.

Holding the nippers in clamped position making sure the spermatic cord is under them.

Holding the nippers in clamped position making sure the spermatic cord is under them.

The Ritchey Nippers work by crushing the spermatic cord thereby cutting off the blood supply to the testes. The testicles will eventually atrophy due to the lack of blood supply. The scrotum however will be visible for the rest of the animal’s lifetime. Although this is supposed to be a bloodless method, my research reveals that you can break the skin. Be sure to check each animal for broken skin and apply antiseptic and give the kid an injection of tetanus antitoxin if broken skin is found.





15 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Castrating goats, Ethical farming, Goats, How to..., Learning to Farm

Motherhood-it’s not for everyone

Last week we were lucky enough to find reliable farm-sitters and sneak away to my brother’s wedding near Vancouver. This was not an easy task thanks to the fires in our area. We had planned on driving out but when we got to the bottom of ‘The Hill’ the officials were there just closing the road and bringing the pilot car off the mountain. “I could feel the heat from the fire right through the truck!” exclaimed one of the men, looking thrilled to be out of harm’s way.

Under normal circumstances this would not be a problem. If I lived near a city where there were lots of flights to choose from, and normal sized planes that hold a decent number of people, I would not have begun to panic during the hour long return drive home down the valley. But in Bella Coola getting a last minute seat on a flight is not always guaranteed! Here, when they use the ‘big’ plane it holds 19 passengers. Furthermore, although we have a scheduled flight every day, there is no guarantee the plane will get in. Often it is canceled due to heavy clouds, and in this case, I was worried that the smoke beginning to billow off the mountainsides might make it impossible to land. Nevertheless, I refused to believe that I might not make it to my brother’s wedding.

Thankfully, the stars were aligned, we got seats on the flight to Vancouver and managed to arrive in the nick of time (I was part of the wedding party!). That was the good news. The bad news was I didn’t get to stay long and visit anyone after the wedding: a check-in call to our farm-minders  brought news of evacuation alerts, so we had to get on the plane and come back home right away, thanks to the threat of the fires.

During our three days away our farm-sitters noticed that Shiraz was no longer feeding one of her kids. They were observant enough not only to notice this new behaviour from her but also to take control and hold her while the little one fed–the mark of dependability in a babysitter! Now that we are back, things have gotten worse and she is barely feeding any of them.

Goat breeding: If only I’d read the fine print

While researching the reasons why a doe might reject her kids, I came across this site which describes my experience with Shiraz to a T!

Many new producers do not know what to expect from their stock, and some are very unhappy when they discover that goats are not always the easiest animals to manage.

In light of my experience with her thus far (see Oh what a night), I would say that Shiraz qualifies as having achieved ‘not the easiest to manage’ status. The difference between Shiraz and my other mother Fatty-Fat is extreme, and this is the kind of experience the above article describes. My experience is particularly marked in that I only have the two goats, so I don’t have the 10-15% of my herd with this dysfunctional behaviour as the article suggests may be the case, and what producers should allow for. Instead, I have a 50% problem! Thankfully, this translates to only one goat and three kids to care for–I don’t know what I’d do if it were several goats and a full nursery! Perhaps I should have done some more research before launching into goat breeding! The next paragraph in the article unfolds as if reading my thoughts:

The majority of new producers receive a big reality check when their first kidding season arrives if they have not done their research and adjusted their expectations accordingly.

You don’t say. I’m not really sure what I expected, so I don’t really have many expectation adjustments to work through. I do, however, have to figure out how to get these kids fed! I thought it would be easiest if I could trundle down to the local veterinarian’s office (if I had one, that is!) and get milk replacement and a milker/feeder type thing and take over the job myself. This article doesn’t support my wishful thinking:

Some people bottle feed, but I don’t recommend this… I have also had big problems with the milk replacer actually killing the kids. It causes a high percentage of the kids (over 50% in my experience) to develop ulcers which eventually rupture killing the kid.

As luck would have it the vet was going to come the 458 kilometers into town this weekend and I was considering asking her to bring some milk replacer, but thanks to the fires she’s had to cancel her trip! Now out of options, I’ve taken to holding Shiraz between three and four times per day in order to let the little fellows feed: basically whenever I hear them crying.

The key to maintaining some control over her is to hold her tail, this way she is less likely to sit down to evade her kids.

The key to maintaining some control over her is to hold her tail, this way she is less likely to sit down to evade her kids.

This is not an easy task; as you can see, Shiraz is a strong goat! She is also a smart goat and has all sorts of tricks she pulls in order to evade her milking duties. One of the most effective is to sit down while I’m holding her. This is very effective and difficult for me to oppose. I have found that by grabbing hold of her tail she is far less likely to try this one on. Keeping ahead of her is a monumental task. Not only that; it is taking a huge amount of my time. I hold her for about a 1/2 hour each session in order to let all three feed to their tummies’ contentment.

One satisfied, full bellied kid.

One satisfied, full bellied kid.

I’m hoping she will once again accept her kids, though I’m alarmed at how long the article suggests this may take:

Does that are intent on killing the rejected kid(s) require more drastic measures. I generally put a halter on them a couple of times a day and tie them to the fence so their kids can eat. Usually they will eventually accept the kids, but it may take a month or more before they do. You will have to decide whether the time involved is worth it.

Of course the one kid she is rejecting outright is my favourite, Sinbad. So it’s worth it! Oddly, he is the biggest and was her first born. I have checked her bag to make sure it is soft and pliable and giving milk, and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with any of the kids which can be a reason the doe will reject one or more. When I do hold her and they feed, they do so willingly and with gusto complete with satisfying sound effects, and until satiated. I thought perhaps she feels she doesn’t have enough milk for three. At first I was alarmed with both her and Fatty as they began to lose weight during the first few days after kidding. Again, I checked with my doctor friend who said that this is certainly normal with nursing women. I upped their feed rations and within days brought their weight loss to a halt. Shiraz seems to be holding condition nicely and has a full, heavy bag.

Performing acu-pressure on Shiraz helps her calm down.

Performing acu-pressure on Shiraz helps her calm down.

One of the many things I’ve learned through working with my horse is about horses stress and how to relieve it through acu-pressure points. While I’m holding Shiraz, I use the acu-pressure point just below her nose in order to help calm her down. In horses, this point is the locus of an endorphin release. I have used it on myself and know that it works for humans, therefore, I presume that it will also work for Shiraz. Much to my relief it seems to have some effect.

After some light acu-pressure Shiraz relaxes enough for me to stand up and take only a light grip on her while her kids continue to feed.

After some light acu-pressure Shiraz relaxes enough for me to stand up and take only a light grip on her while her kids continue to feed.

While contemplating my predicament, I have been considering my next year’s breeding program and my diminutive scale farm, and wondering who I should cull. Sundown didn’t get pregnant at all this year so she is on the list of possibles because she may be sterile, though of course this is not for certain. Thanks to Shiraz’s insistence on maintaining the ‘not the easiest to manage’ status, she too has made the list. There is no way I can do all this again with Shiraz if this is the way she’s going to behave each pregnancy, although, much to my chagrin, according to the article this is not usually the case:

In my own operation 10-15% of the does that kid in a year decide to reject at least one of their kids, and the does that did so this year are not the same does that pulled that stunt last year.

My doctor friend and her doctor husband dropped in yesterday to see the farm and I relayed the story to them. He said that he’d had a dog that ate all her pups many years ago and they found out later that it was due to a vitamin deficiency; he suggested this may be the problem with Shiraz. I too had wondered about this but had dismissed the idea because of the conditions in which I’m raising them: she has sweet feed two or three times per day, access to good hay, a mineral lick, free access to a free-form mineral powder suggested to me by the vet, and all the good clean native forest browse she could ever possibly dream of having. These goats are in fact actually quite spoiled.

Upon hearing this, my other doctor friend said that it may be an absorption problem and/or simply a lack of calcium due to the heavy demand that bringing up three kids has on her body, so she suggested that I get some calcium supplements and see what happens. When I asked if I should get liquid calcium she turned to me and laughed: “Just get Tums and crush it in her morning grain.” This doctor friend really should have been a vet! This morning, following my Goat-Doctor’s advice, I got the peppermint flavoured Tums out. Before I had a chance to crush the tablet into her food dish Shiraz snarfed it out of my hand, scoffed it down in seconds flat and immediately snuffled around for more. Either she really likes peppermint flavour or she realizes this is what she is missing. In light of the fact that none of my goats will touch the mint in my garden, I’m suspecting it is the latter!

My guess is that my doctor friend is correct, that having three kids makes her more susceptible to this deficiency than Fatty-Fat who is happy in her new role as mama-goat to twins. I’ll keep up with the calcium tablets, reinstate the morning molasses tea and see if this makes a difference. If anyone has other suggestions, I would welcome them!

…As I write this I reflect that in this whole process I am measuring my own situation. I sympathise with Shiraz. I never wanted children and chose not to have them. When we husband animals we take away their right to choose. After going through this with her I wonder if she too would have chosen not to have kids if she had her druthers!

23 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Goats, How to..., Learning to Farm, milking goats

When you sin bad-ly…

My little goats are growing fast and in need of naming. Thanks to all who made suggestions for the kids, both Fatty-fats and Shiraz’s. The response from my hubby when I relayed the names you folks have proffered to him was, “What creative blogging friends you have!”

In light of the fact they are going to be eaten, we have decided on the following names for the boys:

Saddam (cuz we all know why he should be eaten);

Sadam does kind of get a look every now and then...

Saddam does get a dissembling look in his eye every now and then...

Salam-i (which speaks for itself);

Salam (i) is the climber of the group.

Salam (i) is the climber of the group.

and Sinbad (cuz if you sin bad enough you deserve to be roasted on the spit!). But does he look like a sinner?

Already finding excuses why I need to keep Sinbad! He's such a sweetie.

Already finding excuses why I need to keep Sinbad! He's such a sweetie.

Well, there it is. Wish me luck over the next few months that I’ll actually muster up the courage to do this. I’m already smitten with all these babes. Working with them and thinking of them as my food is a difficult paradox to reconcile. This is the part of being such a small farm that is difficult: I kn0w each animal, and am working with each one, e.g. imprinting, haltering, human therapy, breeding. I want to do so much with so many of these animals; I’d like to be able to teach these fellows to pull a cart, for example. I know that taking the time and bonding with them so deeply will have its cost in the end. Unless, of course, I can justify keeping the cart goats to get to the store now that gas prices are on the rise… maybe  I could start picking people up from the airport in the W-e-e-e-e-e-l-co-o-me wagon.

6 Comments

Filed under Goats, Just for fun

Goat milking machines: a review

So now that I have two nursing mothers, I’m on the hunt for a decent home dairy goat milking machine. I have been doing research for weeks now off and on, and even have our local librarian helping out with the research (thanks Linda!) into how to milk pygmy goats in particular. If you’ve never seen a pygmy goat teat, imagine milking into a shot glass and you’ll have the proportion about right!

When I’ve been given directions by people ‘in the know’ about milking there is always a whole hand involved, “It’s all in the forearm” they tell me. Of course, none of these theoretical lessons have been with my goats in situ and when I have said how big the teats are their faces have fallen, “Picture milking into a shot glass,” I say as I bring my two hands up and gesture with my index finger and thumb. They look somewhat disbelievingly at me and then they laugh, “Ah, so more a finger action then!”

That is the sum total of Shiraz's teat between my forefinger and thumb!

That is the sum total of Shiraz's teat between my forefinger and thumb!

My friend the librarian has confirmed my suspicions–that anyone who keeps pygmies for milking uses a machine. Trying to milk those little teats, even if successful, will be killer on the fingers. I already have some problems in my index finger thanks to too many years on the computer with a scrolling mouse.

I have found the following options for the home goat dairy:

Hamby Dairy Supply: 1 Goat NuPlus Style Milker (also comes with 2 goat option)

Model 14L stainless steel bucket. Small and lightweight. Holds 14 litres (3 1/2 gallon) weighs only 8 pounds empty

Features our Lightweight small quiet portable vacuum supply Includes a stainless steel overflow vacuum tank. Efficient Oil – less Electric Motor runs on 110 volt household current. Some assembly required.

Stainless Steel Goat Milking Bucket Assembly comes with stainless steel lid, 3.5 gallon stainless steel milking bucket, Goat Claws, Interpuls Long Life pulsator, adapter and all necessary tubes and hoses to milk one goat. 1 year warranty.

Our milking machines come with everything you need to milk and a cleaning kit that includes 30 day supply of Pfanzite powder dairy detergent and 3 dairy brushes Pfanzite dairy detergent and brushes Milk Check Teat Wipes Teat Dip, dip cup, strip cup and more.

Caprine Supply: System 1 Vacuum Source

Our improved System One vacuum source will now milk one or two goats at a time. It is lightweight, durable, and draws only 5.8 amps — small enough for household wiring. It has a powerful 1/2 hp motor, oil-less pump, and on-off switch, so you can keep it plugged in. Comes with wheels and handle. In stock and shippable. Our System One vacuum system can be used with any of our bucket assemblies: one goat, two goat, or poly.

Hoegger Goat Supply: Delux Milking System

This milking system will milk one goat. Our State of the Art electric milking system is first quality, field tested and proven with over 40 years of personal goat-milking experience built into the design. NOT a modified cow machine, but a true Goat Milking Machine with exclusive features not found in any other equipment. Hardly any more clean up than hand milking. Thanks to the belly-pail design NO MILK LINES TO CLEAN.

Parts Dept Supply


10″ Air Tires, 3/4HP or 1.5 HP 110V Motor, Conde Brand Vacuum Pump, Balance Tank/Moisture Trap, Glycerin Filled Gauge, Shipped Fully assembled, Oil Catching Muffler, Solid Brass Regulator Valve, Made in the USA

I have been looking for reviews of the options out there and found precious few. I did find one by Steve Shore. In this article he states:

I bought one from one of the supply houses that was “designed just for goats.”

Reading ‘between the lines’ I take Shore to be saying that the Hoegger unit was the one he sent back (they are the only suppliers to advertise ‘a true Goat Milking Machine’). He goes on to say why he was unimpressed with the product:

It was usable but the small milk bucket wasn’t quite big enough when used on my most productive doe, The foam from the milk would be sucked into the small vacuum tank and the milk bucket was so light that it tipped over easily. Then after using if for less that a month, the electric pulsator quit. I packed it up and sent it back.

It was the Hoegger unit that I was most attracted to simply because of the advertisment of ‘NO MILK LINES TO CLEAN’. After all, how much more perfect could the job of milking get if you don’t have to clean the milk lines?

However, after reading this review, I decided against that particular model and instead found myself concentrating on the similarities and differences between the Parts Dept,  Caprine Supply, and the Hamby Dairy Supply systems. Now all I had to do was decide between them. They had very similar specs and pricing, so that didn’t narrow the field much.

What I did find was that the Parts Dept (being true to its name) and Caprine Supply both required that the consumer make several decisions: what size bucket, which milk lines you wanted, and so on. While this might suit some people, I just wanted to click a button and have the machine show up at my place within a few weeks. I didn’t want to have to decide on the size of this or that. Though, the Parts Dept model did hold my attention for quite some time because it was almost exactly like the Hamby model and it was made in the USA, and I like to ‘shop local’ whenever possible!

The final decision came down to design. The Hamby model and the Parts Dept models both came on easy to move trolleys, but the Hamby model was sleek enough to fit the actual milking pale on the trolley whereas the Parts Dept model would leave you to lug the milk pale around.

In the end, the Hamby 1 Goat NuPlus Milker won my vote because:

  1. It is a New Zealand dairy design and I know Kiwis do dairy very well;
  2. I really like the all-in-one-unit complete with cart;
  3. It was the only machine that mentioned a warranty;
  4. and, well, I’m married to a Kiwi…

I will keep you posted as to how it looks when it gets here and how well it functions when I actually start using it!

33 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Goats, Milk preservation techniques, milking goats, Product reviews

The kids have names

Fanny-Mae and Franky

With several good contenders for names, we finally decided upon Frankie and Fanny-Mae for Fatty-Fat’s two kids. While Fanny-Mae and Freddy-Mac cracked me up and Fred Astaire was clearly a contender in his black and white’s, Freddy just didn’t suit the little guy. Finally, although I was partial to Fatima for the girl goat, the suggestion of Fanny-Mae just fit her perfectly.

Meet Little Fanny-Mae.

Meet Little Fanny-Mae; my poster girl.

Meet Frankie.

Meet Frankie.

Help with names for Shiraz’s kids

As for Shiraz’s, we are hunting for names for her 3 boys that would be in keeping with hers. Some contenders are Sinbad, Soltan, and Surak. We are open to suggestions. The only stipulation is they have to start with S and have an Arabic flavour to them in sound or actual meaning. For example, Surak and Shiraz are both cities in Iraq.

Fanny-Mae and Frankie playing in the sun.

Fanny-Mae and Frankie playing in the sun.

7 Comments

Filed under Goats, Just for fun

Calling all goat experts, again

Clamping/Bloodless Castration

So, now that I have my kids all present and accounted for, I will need a quick but comprehensive lesson in how to bloodlessly castrate them. Until Jo at Little Ffarm Dairy suggested doing them at 7 days, I had thought I wouldn’t need to think about this for another 4 or so months; if at all! (I know, I know, try not to laugh too hard.)

Thank-you for setting me straight again Jo, my mentor, my friend. Me thinks those web-cams could come in handy right about now! I had read that you can butcher the goats at 5 months, just before they become sexually mature. Hence, I thought I’d get away with not having to castrate… So now that that illusion has been dispelled, I’ll need some more advice.

I have the loan of a Burdizzo clamp but no one who is knowledgeable or willing to help with its use. In my Veterinary Guide for Animal Owners, it says to clamp one side then the other. With the diminutive size of these little guys’ testicles, I just can’t see managing this without hurting, or even cutting the scrotal sac. I have also read about smaller Burdizzo’s being available but cannot locate one here,  on the internet, or at our feed supply store.

If you have answers to the following, I’d appreciate hearing from you (or better yet, if you happen to be in the area… )

Just how important is it that they get done this young?

Does anyone know of a supplier that will mail order the smaller 9″ Burdizzo?

Does anyone know of a site with a really good description of how to do this?

Is there any reason why I can’t clamp both sides at once on these little fellows?

Any other advice welcome.

cheers,

HDR

10 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Castrating goats, Goats

Oh what a night

Only minutes old, Shiraz begins to clean her kids.

Only minutes old, Shiraz begins to clean her kids.

Shiraz woke me up last night at 1:30 am screaming bloody murder. Nothing like a goat in distress to get your heart pumping in the wee hours of the morning. I ran out to the barn to see what was the matter only to see her laying in the hay, eyes ablaze, and a baby goat head sticking out of her back end. When I opened the door to let myself in, Shiraz bellowed once more: “Give me some drugs!” It was a la Shirley Maclaine in Terms of Endearment; she was clearly unimpressed with the–so called–miracle of birth.

Before I could run back to the house and get some towels, she popped the first kid out, left it laying in the hay and moved to the other side of the room, leaving the little one to quietly suffocate. I immediately cleared it’s nostrils and mouth while she revisited her Shirley Maclaine impersonation. After number one was breathing but before number two was out, I ran to the house and bellowed to my husband, “Shiraz is in labour and screaming her head off, bring towels. QUICKLY!” and tore back to the barn just in time to catch number two. Again, Shiraz ignored the wet little ‘bundle of joy’ and crossed again to another corner of the room. “Good lord, she’s got three kids too!”

While she worked on producing kid number three, I worked on getting number two breathing. My husband arrived on the scene just in time to witness number three being born and Shiraz immediately turning around to head butt it several times. We got it away from her and got its face and airways cleaned up and then gave it back to her to finish the job herself. I now realize that Fatty-fat probably produced three live kids but didn’t have the support staff that Shiraz did in order to deal with all three of them at once. After witnessing Shiraz head butt kid number three as soon as it hit the ground, I was concerned that she do the  majority of the cleaning work herself hoping it would help with the mother-kid bonding.

It was soon apparent that Shiraz was exhibiting classic ‘borderline personality’ behaviour–the ‘I hate you, don’t leave me’ repertoire. She would butt them away if they tried to nurse, and then grunt softly and lick them for a few seconds as if to apologize. I was hoping that this was just her wanting to ‘get the business of birth’ over with before bonding with the kids, but it was not to be. After expelling and eating her placenta, every time one of her kids tried to nurse, she head butted them out of the way. A couple of times the kids were actually lifted up by her horns and catapulted across the room she was so adamant about keeping them away.

“Honey, I think we have a problem.” We got the others out of the room. Fatty-fat and co, along with Sundown were all sharing the room in the barn. I don’t have the capacity to give everyone their own birthing space and I can now see that you need it. As it happens, Fatty-fat’s crew were very happy to move into one of the little houses in the paddock and Sundown just manages to stay out of the way. Once they were gone, I tried intervening but she would have nothing to do with them beyond cleaning.

So, I spent the day making frantic comments on Little Ffarm Dairy’s blog–thank you Jo!–and wrestling with Shiraz trying to force her to accept her babies. There was a few moments when I considered ‘mothering her on’ to Fatty-fat, but quickly discarded the idea. I knew it would be better for everyone if I could just get Shiraz to accept her kids. It took some time and there were words exchanged (on both sides).

Having horns on my goats does have some advantages--I have an easy way of controlling her head.

Having horns on my goats does have some advantages--I have a nice sturdy handle with which to control her head.

Here I'm helping the kid find the nipple while controlling Shiraz's head.

Here I'm helping the kid find the nipple while controlling Shiraz's head.

I have been at it since 2:30 am but have just witnessed her let them suckle all on her own accord. It has taken a lot of time and patience–not to mention a few bribes: molasses tea, fresh comfrey leaves, a bowl of sweetfeed, and her favourite, salmonberry bushes hand cut from the forest–but it was worth it. I have just witnessed her let her kids feed on her own accord for the first time today!

Nothing wrong with this little fella's lungs!

Nothing wrong with this little fella's lungs!

The wail that came from this little tike cracked me right up and let me know he's good and healthy!

The wail that came from this little tike cracked me right up and let me know he's good and healthy!

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Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Goats, How to...