June 2011


Since getting goats, getting a little experience in the milking realm, and doing even more research based on what I have learned so far, I have really been contemplating my long term goat plans and goals.  The way I see it, we have been truly blessed with the stock we purchased, considering how little we knew about dairy goats (almost all book learning).  

First, I found Lilac. 

I have since talked to her original breeder to find out her history.  Lilac was born in 2009.  The breeder is one of the top breeders for milk lines and show in CO, and he aquired his original Alpine stock from one of the top breeders in the nation (Mamm-Key).  Lilac’s breeder has two herds–Alpines and Nigerian Dwarfs.  One day, somehow, they discovered one of his better Alpine bucks had jumped the fence into a ND doe’s stall.  They figured nothing could have happened due to the size difference.  5 months later, Lilac was born.  He had no use for a cross bred, so he sold her to a neighbor who had her bred in fall of 2009.  She easily deliverd twins, with no assistance in 2010.  She was then sold to the lady where I found her, and she was sold to me strictly due to the size of her teats (too short for easy milking).  As a newbie, I figured, “why not?”

I fell in love with Lilac from the start.  She has a great temperament, good conformation, and milks beautifully–a perfect beginner goat.  Thanks to her top milk lines, she has a great udder, and produces on the upper end of her cross-breed.  And the milk is wonderfully delicious–much whiter, sweeter, and creamier than my Lamancha doe’s.  I initially thought I would like a whole herd of this cross, and upon researching, discovered there is a recognized breed for her cross–the mini-Alpine.  The cross is typically an Alpine doe with a ND buck, and the offspring is expected to have all the physical characteristics of an Alpine, with slightly decreased size and milk production, but increased butterfat.  An Alpine averages about 3.8 percent (depending on the source) butterfat, while a ND can vary from 6-10 % butterfat!  That explains the richness of her milk and why Dayjay thrived on it!  Maybe it explains our chunky baby, who gets a good 30% of her diet from the goats!  LOL!

Lilac’s only real downside is the size of her teats.  I assumed they would increase in length after her next freshening.  Upon researching, though, apparently, this is the one downside for all the mini-Alpines.  And they really don’t change a whole lot with future freshenings.  It is nearly impossible for S to milk her, with his big man-hands.

Then we got Sara.

At first, I thought I had a gold-mine in Sara, as she was from a production dairy, and her dam and grand-dam were great milk producers!  But, alas, it was not to be.  Read more about Sara’s plight here.  My first thought was to see her through this milk season, then cull and replace her.  I gained a bit of hope, though, when I realized how nice Sara’s teats and udder were overall, and how much more easily her milk flowed than Lilac’s.  It was interesting comparing the two.  Then, when I learned that her problems were more nutrient-related than genetic, I had more hope for her. 

Now that it is June, and I am looking ahead to breeding season, I really got thinking about where I want to go with these goats.  Obviously, we are in the learning phase.  I first fell in love with the Arapawa goat, an endangered heritage breed.

Because they are so rare, though, it is difficult to find breeders or info on them.  More importantly, they have not been domesticated long enough to really been bred for dairy.  They are known as a dual purpose goat, but production would likely be no more than 1/2 gallon a day at best right now–and that is only IF we were able to find a good one.  

So, I took a second look at Lilac.  She is a great cross, and I seriously considered a whole herd of them.  I also considered a cross between a Nubian and Pygmy, known as a “Kinder” goat.  Unfortunately,  Lilac’s teats have become a big downside for me.  My hand is a bit crampy when I am done with her, and S can’t milk her well at all. 

The Lamancha and Saneens are out completely.  I just don’t like the look of no ears, but love the “airplane ear” look.  I also can’t stand how my white, 1/2 Saneen doeling looks so filthy half the time.  I also love the many colors that the Alpine can come in, which rules out other breeds like Toggenburgs and Oberhaslis.  More important than looks though, is that the Lamanchas and Saneens, as well as most Toggs and Oberhaslis, have lower butterfat than Alpines.  I need those milk solids for my cheese and occasional butter!

So, the more I have contemplated and thought about it, the more I have placed my value on high production and good, long teats, with personal color and ear preference lower on the list.  That pretty much eliminates all mini’s and pygmy crosses.  All in all, I think I have narrowed my choice to the good ‘ole Alpine goat.  They’ve been around almost forever, are easy to find (especially around here), and they have all the traits I like about Sara and Lilac, wrapped into one package. 

Of course, I could still change my mind as time goes on.  That’s the advantage to easing into this lifestyle, and learning as we go.  I think, however, the plan for now is based on us being here another 2 summers (after this one), then moving to Red Gate for good (oh, how I look forward to those lush, green pastures!).  So, assuming Sara is doing well, and I can figure out this whole heat cycle thing, then I am planning to breed all 3 does this fall, hopefully staggering the breedings so we won’t have a dry spell next spring, and have no milk.  I am definitely (Lord willing) breeding Lilac to an Alpine from the original breeder where she was bred.  This breeder happens to work closely with another who specializes in Lamanchas and Saneens, so I am debating what to breed Sara and Lilly to still.  Next spring, I think the plan will be to kid all 3 goats, harvest any bucklings, then sell Sara while she is in milk, as well as most kids.  I would probably keep Lilac and Lilly for milk.  The hope would be that I could sell them for enough money to be able to buy some top-notch Alpine doelings from Lilac’s breeder.  If that works, then I would probably breed Lilac, Lilly, and whatever doelings we purchase the following fall, and sell all but the pure Alpines the following spring.  At that point, I may also invest in a purebred, top quality buckling.  Then, it would be time to plan our move to the farm.  The idea is to have at least 2-3 does in milk, and a young, unstinky, barely-breeding-age buck to start our herd with there. 

So that’s the plan.  For now.  I am a women, and we have the God-given right to change our minds on a whim.  I’ll look back on this post in a few years and see how much actually happened.  Just because I can.  In the mean time, I would love to know your thoughts on this.  Here are a few specific questions:

  • Should I even breed Sara, assuming her health has improved, or would that be considered irresponsible, just cull her, and forget it?
  • Sara is 3/4 Lamancha, while Lilly is 1/2 Lamancha and 1/2 Saneen.  Should I seek out a good Lamancha for Sara?  What should I breed Lilly to?  Will making them a higher % purebred increase the sale price any?
  • What am I forgetting to consider?  I’m sure there is plenty!

Sara is a trainwreck.  I just didn’t know that when I bought her.  Thankfully, I think she has potential, though.  If I had the ability to replace her right now, I would cull her, we would have a yummy goat-meat supper, and she would be out of all present and future misery.  Since I don’t have the ability (seeing as how she is primary milk producer now), she has become my “guinea pig” to learn all I can.

Sara is 3/4 Lamancha and 1/4 Saneen.  She was born in 2010, bred to a Saneen buck in December, and delivered her twins on Mother’s Day this year.  Sara came from production dairy lines, rather than show lines, so, while she isn’t necessarily conformationally correct, she definitely has the production genes!  Her grand-dam produced around 14 lbs, while her dam produced about 12 pounds of milk each day.  Sara wound up being sold–supposedly because she was the result of a first-freshening, and they typically sold such kids. 

I bought her in April, heavy with kids, and I noticed a few things about her.  First, her hooves were quite overgrown.  Secondly, I noticed her front legs seemed a little crooked, but I assumed it was due to the overgrown and mis-shapen hooves.  She was also very timid–as in we couldn’t get near her without a lot of effort, so I had my work cut out for me.  I spent a few weeks getting her used to me.  I tried treats of all sorts, but she really wasn’t interested.  I got a good collar, and began walking her to the milk stand for a treat of grain.  I would give dog-like leash corrections from my dog-training days when she pulled violently.  I have since learned this may not be ideal, though.  Apparently, it is very easy to accidentally crush a goat’s windpipe (a fatal mistake), so I am more cautious with it now.  Nonetheless, it did seem to calm her down a bit.  I also started tying her out on a cable to graze, in the hopes she would start looking forward to seeing me more.  She is still far from “friendly,” but she has come a very long way in 2 1/2 months!  While she still doesn’t want to meet me at the gate and allow me to reach out and pet her, if I simply hold the gate open, she will now run out and jump on the milk stand.  She likes her grain, I guess.

Then, I purchased a good hoof trimmer.  I studied up on how to trim, developed ways to catch her, and did the deed about 2 weeks before her kids were due.  S had to hold her, while I did a quick trim.  Her feet were such a mess, and I had no goat-hoof trimming experience, so I didn’t want to take too much lest I leave her lame.  I took off enough to make me feel better, and hopefully give her a good start.  It didn’t help her legs straighten at all.  

So, it was back to the books and the internet.  I came across a condition known as “bent leg.”  Surprisingly, I have found only one bloggy friend who is familiar with it.  Even the local vet and a 4-H leader who raises goats had never heard of it.  The lack of knowledge made it difficult to come up with a treatment plan.  I was basically left with my research. 

Bent leg, as it turns out, is due to a nutrient deficiency, typically during the first few months to year of life.   Depending on the source I read, different minerals were to blame, and treatment success was variable.  The Merck Veterinary manual blamed a calcium/phosphorus imbalance, I believe, while other sources blamed copper or selenium.  One source even mentioned a lack of Vitamin D as being a contributing factor.  Whatever the cause, the result is weak bone stucture that winds up causing the long bones to warp, basically.  The treatment is simply a better, more balanced diet.  If caught early enough, the bones may correct themselves, or at least not get worse as the kid grows.  Sara also happened to have a long haircoat (not typical of a Lamancha or Saneen), appeared unthrifty overall, and pooped chunks (like a dog) rather than goat-berries.  Everything pointed to a severe nutrient imbalance.  In Sara’s case, she was over a year old when I got her.  The dairy practiced CAE prevention, so she was raised with other kids in a pen in the barn (no sunlight for several weeks), bottle-fed, and later put in a pen with about a dozen other does, where she was low-man in the dominance line.  She was thin when I got her, obviously lacking many nutrients needed for her health.  So, in that sense, I guess bent leg totally fits the mold.  I think it was very irresponsible to breed her in the condition she was, and the lady told me that she had done it to increase Sara’s sale-ability.  Sara had always been timid, and no one had bought her, so the lady figured if she was bred, someone would take her (some poor sucker like us, in other words!).  When she kidded a month later, she had very light contractions, trouble delivering, and very different-birthweight kids.  Again, all signs of severe nutrient deficiencies.

So, now I have a goat that could have had a great deal of potential, except for these problems.  I finally decided, she will be great to learn on for future reference.  The things now in her favor is that, amazingly, she produced 2 beautiful, and very healthy kids, and secondly, she is a very good milk producer.  I get almost 1/2 gallon with morning milking, and I think I could safely estimate I will get over a gallon a day once I wean Lilly. 

So, I came up with a “natural” plan of attack.  I didn’t want to totally overload her system with an influx of healthy stuff–particularly while she was pregnant.  I knew that could cause more problems. So, when I got the goats, I played around with their basic feed for a couple weeks, finally settling on a good, free-choice, timothy-grass hay and twice-daily feedings of organic alfalfa pellets.  When they get milked, they get a 50/50 blend of organic dairy pellets mixed with a cheap sweet feed for more palatibility.  I periodically mix organic, raw apple cider into the water.  I mix diatomaceous earth into their alfalfa pellets and grain mix to help with intestinal parasites.  In addition, we built a supplement feeder, where they have free-choice access to baking soda (in hopes of correcting Sara’s poop issue) and a good goat mineral that’s high in selenium and copper.  Just to ensure they always have access to minerals (Lilac tends to dump the supplements on occasion), I also have a trace-mineral salt block in their shed. 

Then, there is the physical side to tend to.  I have been watching Sara’s weight carefully, particularly with the additional strain of late pregnancy and now heavy milking.  Thankfully, she is slowly gaining and looking healthier, though she still has a ways to go.  After that initial trim, I gave her another trim a few weeks after kidding.  This is an area where info for goats gets very difficult to find.  Therefore, I have reverted back to my  experience with horses with bad hooves.  Based on that, my theory is that, naturally, the hoof health directly depends on the overall health.  Once health improves, it takes a horse 6 months to grow a new hoof.  I am estimating it will take Sara about 2-3 months–starting after the kids were born.  The big problem with her hooves is that the bent leg means she doesn’t stand properly, causing them to splay out and grow very unevenly. 

The worst of the front legs. You can see how her outside hoof section splays out to the side.

Even her pads are cock-eyed, making it difficult to trim.  So, after the birth, I re-trimmed a bit more aggressively, then (don’t laugh) duct taped the 2-divisions of the hooves together.  I figure many horse hoof issues can be corrected with shoes.  They don’t make shoes for goats, so duct tape fixes anything, right?  We’ll see. 

Hind foot. Due to the lack of past trimmings, her hoof sections have overgrown in some areas, and generally grown unevenly all over.

It may be completely pointless, but I have to try something.  At this point, it is hard to say if there is improvement in her hooves, but it’s only been a couple weeks since I started this.  My plan is to keep at least the toes of her hooves taped together as much possible to add support as the new hoof grows out.  I plan to trim almost weekly, hopefully weaning her down to every 6-8 weeks (which is more normal for a healthy goat).  I trimmed this morning, getting the most agressive so far.  I trimmed her heel pads down to not-quite-even with the hoof wall, trimmed the edges down to more flush with the pad, trimmed the hoof divisions to match each other more closely, took off any distinct points and overgrowth of the toes, and even nipped off a bit of the “dew-claw” part of the hoof–the horny growth that comes out the back of the legs (Sara’s are very long).  This is a lot of work, but I am learning soooo much!  Now that I write all that, perhaps there has been some progress.  This was, afterall, the first time I was even ABLE to make the hooves somewhat match each other.  That was physically impossible the first trim!

I am truly hoping that with the balanced diet, the good organic (as much as we can) diet, the good minerals, and less competition, I am really hoping Sara will make great progress.  Even an improvement in her hair coat would go a long way to improving the way she looks.  If I could get her back feet in good shape, that would be tremendous success!  I don’t expect her front feet will ever be less-than-high-maintenance, as the damage was already done.  I am relieved, though, to know that it isn’t likely a genetic issue.  If I can improve the rest of her health overall, I may even go ahead a give her a second shot at breeding.  I have high hopes for her.  While my long-term plan does not include keeping her, I am hoping, for her sake, that she will come around.  That way, I could sell her if nothing else, and allow someone else in our shoes to learn from her and be blessed by her milk–even if I have done all the hard work!

Our chicken and turkey flock is getting big!  As in growing up, that is.  We have actually scheduled a day to harvest next month.  The turkeys are obviously getting close to being ready, but I’m hoping the chicks pack on a few more pounds before then. 

I have definitely taken more of a liking to my bronze turkeys than the white ones.  I don’t know why.  There isn’t much pretty about a turkey–they have a face only a mother could love, after all, but I love the way the light hits the bronze feathers.  They shimmer in all sorts of metallic blues, greens, golds, and more!  They also seem more easy-going somehow, while the whites tend to be a bit more flighty and agressive.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, I think I can finally tell their sex.  It looks like both my whites and 1 bronze are toms, while the other bronze is a hen.  I think.

It absolutely amazes me that these 3 feet tall, roughly 15 lb. turkeys are just 2 weeks older than the little 2 pound chicks!  And man, can they pack a punch!  I had to pick one up the other day, and it got it’s wing loose and whacked me right in the face!  OUCH!  They have serious power behind those wings!  They are really too big to pick up much these days anyway.  

 My “assorted bargain” chicks have been full of surprises of their own!  Just when I think I have all the breeds figured out, they change and keep me guessing. 

Light Brahma pullet

 The Light Brahmas have always been a favorite, and I was so excited to receive quite a few in my box.  All the hens and at least one roo are assured a spot in my coop, in the hopes they will hatch out a clutch or two next year.  With roos reaching near 12 lbs., they could make a nice meat flock, too, in addition to being good layers!

A Light Brahma hen (front) and rooster (back)

 The majority of my flock is made of “everyday layers,” or Silver Spangled Hamburgs.  I have a few hens, but most are roosters, so, despite their small size, the roos are destined for harvest next month.  They are pretty, but too small and flighty for my liking. 

Silver Spangled Hamburg

Surprise!  Some of my SSH have turned out to be something else!  Though I have yet to figure out what!  Compare the above pic of the SSH to this pic of a mystery bird:

These birds have been identical from day 1, but now, as they grow, they are the same size, the same color for the most part, but notice that the SSH has a rose-comb, while the other has a single comb.  Any ideas? 

Then there are the more certain breeds, of which we have only 1 each, and the kids have named:

There’s “Tophat” the chronic-bad-hair-day Golden Polish.

Then there’s “Beaky”, the Barred Plymouth Rock.

Then we have a Golden Penciled Hamburg with no name.

I’m pretty sure the GPH is a pullet, but I’m not sure about the other two.  I THINK the Plymouth Rock might be a hen, as it is very docile and friendly, but her comb is much larger than the other chickens, so I don’t know.  I have no idea what the Golden Polish is. 

Then there are the other 2 surprises.  I would’ve sworn I had a brown leghorn and a silver leghorn.  But, as they grew, they got much bigger, much faster than I think leghorns would have, and both developed fluffy “muffs” on their cheeks.  They are as big, if not slightly bigger than, the Light Brahma roos we have.  By all descriptions, they almost seem to be Ameraucanas, but again, I don’t know.  What do you think?

We have desperately wanted some “Easter-eggers.”  Can God change a breed half way through?  LOL!  In any case, if they are, I REALLY hope they are hens.  They do have small combs still, and no wattles or spurs yet, but they are also some of the more agressive birds I have, and love to pick fights with the SSH roos.  What do you think?  Are green and blue eggs in our future?

While I’m on the chicken topic, our laying hens are doing well–well, most of them.  We got 6 when we first got them, and they were laying 3 eggs a day pretty consistently.  Then, a fox got the white leghorn hen, and, later that day, almost got one of my black sexlink hens.  S just happened to be looking outside, saw the fox run by, pick the black hen up in its mouth, and S took off, barefoot, sprinting after the fox.  Because the fox was weighted down by the hen, it couldn’t run very fast, and my dear hubby outran the thing, and just as he was about the catch up to the fox, the fox dropped the hen.  S scooped her up, took her back to the coop, placed her gently inside.  Other than a pretty good gash on her back (from fox teeth) and a few missing feathers, she was none the worse for wear.  S’s feet took about a week to recover from the prickly pine-needles and stick scrapes from running barefoot.  I wish I could’ve see that!  It had to be quite a show!  Nonetheless, once we moved the hens to the coop and really started free-ranging them, even with the loss of 1 hen, we now get 4-5 eggs a day!  We figured out the fox’s pattern ususally involves coming through around 7-7:30 every morning and every evening, so we wait until about 8:30 to let the hens out, and then round them up and put them away around 5 in the evening.  We haven’t had any trouble since, and our hens are obviously happy enough to reward us with beautifully rich eggs every day!  When we get back from our farm trip, I plan to add the selected pullets to the coop so they can begin to start free-ranging a bit. 

The amazing thing is, with our 5 hens, we are blessed with EXACTLY the number of eggs we NEED to get through each week.  We are usually able to have a good egg breakfast once a week, plus enough to bake what I need.  It will be great to have a surplus to share and splurge with in a couple more months!  And I haven’t eaten chicken in quite some time, so I am really looking forward to chicken in the freezer next month!

R, 4 months. Check out those fat rolls!!

R is doing great!  She was on oxygen for almost 3 weeks, then we went to see the cardiologist for her tests.  They gave her an echocardiogram, an EKG, monitored her pulse-ox levels, and ran blood pressure tests.  The cardiologist said she checked out perfectly, and has no need for the oxygen.  Praise God!!  We have a thriving, happy, little bundle of joy, who, oh by the way, happens to be teething at 4 months of age!!  She has one adorably cute little bottom tooth popping through, but except for a rare fussy spell, doesn’t seem to be bothering her too much—as long as she has lots of fingers, toys, and clothing to chew on!

 

Sorry for the delayed absence.  We go through very busy spells around here, so even if I find the time to blog, I just don’t have the energy to do so.  I am starting to feel like a farmer–going to bed shortly after the kids and getting up shortly after the sun rises (OK, so not really…I sleep every moment I can).  Anyway, I thought I would give you a little goat milk update. 

Since we harvested Dayjay, the milk supply has really shown up!  Lilly still gets seperated at night, and stays with mom, Sara, in the morning.  Now that no one is nursing off Lilac (who “adopted” and co-parented Sara’s buckling, Dayjay), Lilac is producing very well. 

Lilac before milking

Lilac is now giving me about a quart in the morning and another quart in the evening–almost 1/2 gallon a day from a mini-Alpine who freshened over a year ago!  Not a bad deal! 

Lilac after milking.

I am excited to get her bred for next year.  With her quart-full udder, it is still very loose.  She appears to have a beautiful udder, with great attachments, so I am very curious to see how much she produces with a second freshening.

Sara has really thrilled me with her production as well!

Sara before milking

I am getting almost 1/2 gallon from my morning milking of Sara, and almost a pint at my night milking (after her doeling Lilly spends the day with her, nursing).  Again, I would say that isn’t a bad deal for a first freshener!

Sara after milking

Sara’s udder is quite taught in the morning, with the 1/2 gal milking, and it is very firm even after milking–hence the reason you can’t tell a big difference in her udder after milking.  She definitely has the production lines, and she has an OK udder.  I am not thrilled with her attachments, as she tends to have a “pocket” up front when she is full.  I have a lot to say about Sara and Lilac seperately and specifically, so I will do another post later about each. 

 
To summarize, though, I am blessedly receiving almost a gallon of milk a day right now from 2 goats, about 7 weeks after the one freshened.  It is so exciting for me.  Based on my research, it sounds as though many folks in our shoes often get “stuck” with poor milkers as their first goats.  I think our research payed off, and we were blessed with some excellent milk lines!  I am also interested to see if Lilly improves on her mom, assuming we are able to breed her late this fall.  With all this milk, I have been able to make lots of chevre’ and yogurt, plus I tried my hand at goat butter and squeaky cheese curds.  I am able to give the poultry about all the whey they can stand, and even the goats have enjoyed a taste of it every now and then. 
 
Oh, and both girls got haircuts!  Once again, I was all about being “natural” with the goats.  I thought those close-shave jobs on show-goat udders looked ridiculous!  Then, after weeks of having my fingers get all tangled in that udder hair while milking, constantly pulling the hair, and having to frequently brush the hair to get the straw and other residues out, I gave it up.  Sara, in particular, had gobs of long hair all over the front and middle of her udder!  I gave the girls a shave, and really kicked myself for not doing it sooner!  Now I know why they shave those girls’ udders!  Milking became so much easier and more pleasant for both me and the girls after that!!
 
As far as Lilly, we will soon be headed back to Red Gate for a little vacation.  To ease our care-takers workload, I have decided to continue allowing Lilly to nurse during the day while we are away.  As soon as we return, though, I am going to attempt to wean Lilly by seperating her from Sara for a month or so.  The plan is to rotate her and Sara into the brooder pen, so both will have companionship from Lilac periodically.  I am hoping Sara will benefit from a little alone-time, as I need to her to look forward to seeing me a bit more.  She still is quite standoff-ish, and I am hoping having her seperated for a while will cause her to be more excited about my presence when I am around.  We’ll see. 

FYI, for you city folk, “chevon” is a fancy way of saying “goat meat.” 

Reader beware:  This post contains graphic pictures.

Saturday was a bittersweet day for us.  It was time to harvest our little buckling, Dayjay (sorry, Uncle D!).  He was exactly 4 weeks old.  It was a day we had anticipated for 4 weeks.  When he was born a buckling, we knew his days were numbered.  We decided to forego the torture of disbudding and castrating since he would be harvested.  Then, we thought we would just raise him until we felt the time was right.  Well, as it turned out, there were a few things we didn’t know…..

First, our family milker, Lilac (not Dayjay’s mom) adopted him and let him nurse.  So, in addition to nursing a substantial portion from mom, Sara, he took the majority of our family milk from Lilac.  Then, at around 3 weeks old, he began mounting his little sis.  At first I thought it was just play, but upon researching, I learned that little bucklings become fertile as early as 7-8 weeks of age, and can potentially impregnate a doeling when the doe is just 8-10 weeks of age.  That was NOT something we wanted to deal with!  Then, in that last week, he accidentally smacked those 2-inch-long horns into my face and jaw on 3 different occasions.  I knew the time had come. 

To prevent stress (which can supposedly taint the flavor of the meat), we kept everything as normal as possible in the 24 hours leading up to the harvest.  On Friday evening, we separated the kids from mom as usual, and put them in the brooder pen.  We ensured they had water, but this time, I gave them no food (their primary diet is milk anyway, they just like to nibble on hay on occasion).  An empty gut allows for a cleaner harvest.  On Saturday morning, S prepped for the harvest while I milked the does.  Then, we returned Lilly (the doeling) to mom, but kept Dayjay in the brooder pen.  He didn’t like it, but we assigned the kids the task of playing with him until S was ready.  It seemed to work, as he didn’t seem too stressed as long as someone was with him.  Finally, it was time to say goodbyes.

M and Dayjay. BTW, the helmet is because the kids were interrupted from bike riding, and has nothing to do with the goat.

After goodbyes and last pets, I ushered all children around to the front yard while S did the dirty work.  For anyone who might actually be interested, for young goats, that involves a strike to the back of the head.  Once S got him bled (not pretty on a white goat), and hung for harvest, he allowed the children to return to watch.

I was surprised how much harder this one was for me.  I had gotten pretty attached to the little guy.  He was so sweet, and always the first one to meet me at the gate. 

Next, S had to skin the goat.  Just so you know, all the books claim that, for kids, it is done almost identically to a rabbit–which S has done several of.  And just so you know, S says it was nothing like doing a rabbit!  The connective tissues were quite a bit tougher, and it took a great deal of effort to skin this boy!

Then it was time for the biology lesson.  S gutted the goat, and gave the children a quick explanation of the organs–which happened to be MUCH larger than the rabbits.  Now we know what made that boy so heavy (he was over 20 pounds).

Finally, all unedible (for us) parts were removed, and the carcass was dropped into ice water to chill for a bit. 

Chilling ahead of time keeps the flies down for outdoor harvests, and makes the meat much easier to cut up into nice, smooth pieces.  While it chilled, S got the brain out, and ensured it and the pelt were stored safely in the freezer–alongside the pelts and brains from our recent rabbit harvest.  Later this summer, he plans to experiment with brain-tanning–an old-fashioned way of softening and tanning furs, using the brains of the animals rather than toxic chemicals.  We’ll see how it goes.

Then S returned to the chopping block.  Literally.

This is one of the areas I have to laugh.  You see, people always seem amazed at what S “knows how to do.”  What they don’t realized is that he is as clueless as anyone, but, unlike most people, he has the resolve to research, then try and see what happens.  For example, doesn’t he look so professional and knowledgeable here in the above photo?  In this case, what you can’t see, is that he had no clue how to cut this carcass up.  So, I actually stood beside him holding the book with the diagram of meat cuts.  He would look at the book, and cut what looked correct.  Our favorite author in this case is the guy who stated something to the effect of, “When you are just learning, you pick out a chunk of meat, whack it off, cook it, and eat it.  You will learn as you go!”  That is the approach S decided to take here.  Despite that casuality, though, we wound up with some pretty impressive cuts, and a very impressive amount of meat from this little goat!

2 foreshanks, 2 legs, 4 chunks of ribs, 2 flanks, and a pile of mini-steaks and "stew-meat."

Note to self:  be sure to have large freezer bags and/or butcher paper for wrapping next time.  I suddenly found myself out of everything except cling-wrap and aluminum foil! 

After getting it all wrapped, I started on dinner.  The children had begged for goat meat for dinner all day.  So, I took the mini-steaks (everything is mini-sized on a 4-week old goat) and miscellaneous chunks of meat, and sautee’d it up in olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and italian herbs.  It turned out quite delicious, actually!  It was surprisingly tender, and now we know why milk-fed goat kid is a considered a delicacy in many areas. And we can raise it right in our own back yard!

Oh, we certainly couldn’t leave out our faithful companion, so S ensured Will got his fair share too.  I think Will is learning to enjoy harvest-days!

Once again, we praise God for the blessings he has given us.  I can’t express how rewarding this life is…among many other things, to toil and care for animals, while watching God provide the growth and food-to-meat conversion that eventually becomes the food that will sustain us.  Our before-meal prayers-of-thanksgiving have taken on a whole new meaning!

Goat kids sharing the brooder with the chicks. Every evening, they all go in together (by choice) and cozy up for the night.

I need about 6 more hours in a day to accomplish half of what I hope each morning.  So much to do, so little time.  As soon as we finish one project, it is time to move on to the next.  That all being said, we are making great strides around here, and I think we can see light at the end of the tunnel.  It just happens to be a really long tunnel still! 

Today, we actually got started on the hired cleaning that has to be done.  We got the septic tank and clogged drains all cleaned.  Tomorrow, the HVAC guys are coming to clean all the vents, ducts, and the 25-year-old original furnace.  I can’t wait to hear their opinion on its projected remaining lifespan!  Tomorrow evening, we have the flooring pros coming in to give us an estimate on re-carpeting all the bedrooms, and maybe on laying some other flooring on the stairs and entry areas.  I am sooooo looking forward to getting the awful animal-urine smells out of here!  (FYI, the smells are in the carpets from when we moved in…not from our animals!  Just wanted to clarify!) In addition, S managed to finally get the front door working properly.  You’d think opening and closing would be easy enough, but not with this door!  It stuck so badly that the children couldn’t use it.  He had to replace the threshhold, make some major repairs to the hinges, and tear out and re-do the entire backside of the frame.  Alas, it is done, and it works like a champ! 

Of course, at the same time, we have about a dozen other projects either going on or needing to start.  Our pressing to-do list includes:

  • Replace front door
  • Rebuild front deck
  • Rebuild back deck
  • Trim trees for perimeter fence
  • Install partial perimeter fence
  • Finish organizing interior of house
  • Finish painting interior of house
  • Replace roof on Hen House to make coop more portable
  • Add walls on goat hay shed before the rain and hail season
  • Install goat supplement feeders
  • Build portable goat shed
  • Start goats on rotational grazing
  • Harvest goat buckling
  • Harvest roosters and cull pullets
  • Harvest turkeys
  • Fix children’s play area
  • Paint animal housing and play area

At that point, we can breathe a sigh of relief.  Then I have next year’s to-do list to look forward to, as, at that point, we will really be preparing the house to sell the following year.

  • Replace woodpecker-damaged house siding
  • Finish landscaping
  • Repaint necessary areas
  • Clean paint and other residue off windows (might do this year, but low on the priority list)
  • Possibly smooth out driveway
  • Who knows what else!

As soon as we think we are done here, it will be time to move to Red Gate and start that hard work over!  In the mean time, we are planning at least 2 vacations a year back there to complete as much of the pressing work as possible, including building whatever animal-housing we can.  Hopefully, that will make life MUCH easier when we actually move in.  We’ll see.