On Saturday, I will be travelling five and a half hours to possibly buy a buck called Lucifer. Being the Supernatural fan that I am, I probably won’t change his name, cause it’s an awesome name.
Applejack’s come and gone, and I’ll have to wether his male kids— they’re not going to be any good, as he’s slab-sided, which means he’s got no depth, and no good spring of rib— which is important in a dairy animal.
Went up to my father’s for two weeks, and unlike the last time I was gone for a month, there were no disasters while I was away. No mastitis, no kids being weaned too early, none of that. Instead, my stepdad was working on my new goat shed, which they should be moving into by August, when the six adult does kid.
This is a photo of my stepdad working on my new shed.
I’m so sick of having to battle mastitis with Betty. It goes a bit like this: one day, milk looks fine, no evidence of the mastitis, the next day, it’s pink and disgusting, the next day it’s back to looking like there’s no mastitis. Getting rather disheartened by this, as it’s her first lactation, and she shouldn’t have it.
Time flies! I can’t believe my kids are already five months old. They’re the same age my first twins were when they came to be mine (Dany and Drogo), and now their siblings are five months old. God, how fast it’s happened. And now Dany’s a year old, and will be joined when I join Sunshine and Daisy.
Not planning on joining Grace again— her temperament is terrible, and results in very flighty kids. Cobby and Betty-boo (as I call Betty), I will join again, because they produce nice, placid kids.
I have a buck picked out— he lives just down the road from our farm, so at least I won’t be spending $450 on a brand new buck, but there’ll be some great genetic diversity, as this fella is not of bloodlines I already have in my herd.
The goats are scared of my best friend, a tall red haired man named Hamish. All the animals are scared of him, and it’s kind of annoying because I wanted them to get along with him. It means it’s difficult having company while I milk the goats, although when my excellent sister in law came to watch me milk them, she didn’t spook them. Go figure.
This is a far better photo of Bertie than the first one I presented you with. He reeks something awful while in rut, but hopefully, he won’t be in rut much longer. There’s something quite Oedipal about animals and the lack of care given when it comes to who they mate with in the wild. They don’t understand genetics, and just think: “cool. SEX!” without any of those pesky human emotions and moral ethics issues that come up when dealing with bloodlines and the like. He’s related to the two little kids I have, as he is their father, and the son of Cobby..
I’ve been away from my herd a while, and I’m starting to miss them a lot. And with all animals, something inevitably goes wrong. Grace weaned her two month old triplets, due to the fact that she had mastitis. What is mastitis, I hear you ask?
Mastitis is an infection of the breast or udder, and can also be found in humans, as well as most mammals. It is sometimes very difficult to detect, especially in goats who already have a bad udder.
But it would be typical of my goats to get sick while I’m 800km away from them. Especially Grace. Who has triplets. And a bad udder. Really, Grace? You had to go wean them now?
I’m getting the hang of milking, but it’s still quite a difficult rhythm to get into, especially with the teats on my three in full milk. The best one to milk is my girl Grace, the one who I thought, when I first got her, that she was an absolutely horrible goat. Turns out she’s the easiest one for me to milk, but because of the way her udder is, it’s very hard to get the teat only and not the udder tissue as well.
Everyone thinks that milking is just easy to do— it’s quite challenging. You have to know the way to hold the teat, and you don’t just squeeze the teat, it’s harder than that. Might end up buying an Anglo-Nubian to learn more about milking— they’re notorious for weird looking udders that’re easy to milk, and they have the highest butterfat content of all the goat breeds, by comparison, my breed, the Toggenburg, has the lowest butterfat content.
Will be at Queanbeyan Show on Saturday. I had planned to show, but I’ve realised I’m in no way prepared to show, and I don’t fully understand the health related things I need to know. In a strange stroke of fate, when I rang the steward, he said he’d not received my paperwork, which means I’m totally off the hook about the showing stuff. Thank goodness! I was really not ready, and was feeling overwhelmed and panicy about the whole thing— I haven’t prepared my goats, my kids need disbudding and tattooing, and vaccinating. The other thing that really concerned me was the Ovine/Caprine Johnes status rezoning, as we’re currently in limbo regarding the status of our property. Am also extremely paranoid about the goats contracting Orf (Scabbymouth), considering that it’s in the soil and that the lambs we’ve vaccinated against it have unfortunately contracted it.
Scabbymouth is one of those horrible, horrible diseases that have been known to kill animals if the animal then contracts a secondary infection. Early this year we had a beautiful ram lamb contract it, and it just got worse and worse, and so there was some thought that he contracted a secondary infection when there was no end to it. Poor little guy had to be killed out of mercy, because it was just so terrible. Nothing we did helped. So you can now understand my absolute paranoia about this infectious disease. And once it’s in the soil, it’s impossible to get rid of.
Goats have all kidded. It got a bit hairy for a little while last week when I first started this kidding business.
Betty kidded first, and her doe kid, which I named Malta, didn’t live very long— but her chances of survival were fairly poor anyway. When I saw Malta for the first time, she couldn’t stand up, she was still wet and not cleaned up by Betty, and when I got to her, she was almost a complete goner. Fortunately, I knew what to do with hypothermia, and was able to revive her. Thankfully, I’ve dealt with hypothermic lambs in the past, and knew what to do to get her body temperature up: stick them in a warm bath, and when they’re nice and warm, take them out of the bath and put your hairdryer on the lowest setting and blow dry the newly-revived animal.
I hadn’t expected Betty to kid as soon as she did: I was expecting Cobby to kid first, and that it would be at a time and place where I would be home to monitor it—- these twins were her first kids, and so I was totally unprepared for it. I’d just gotten home from being up north for a lovely wedding, and went to check on my goats when I got home. Betty was right at the back of the shed bleating softly to her two kids, and when I realised what was going on, I went to investigate, to find Malta and Reyn (I named them after characters in Robin Hobb’s Liveships books), and a very proud Betty. What I didn’t realise until I got closer was that Reyn was standing and already alert, whereas poor Malta was still lying there covered in amniotic fluid and hadn’t been cleaned up. This should’ve been an omen that things weren’t right— but I knew she wasn’t okay, so I picked her up, cleared the mucous out of her airways with my fingers, and brought her inside to warm her up. Her umbillical cord was still bleeding, which should’ve been another big fat warning, and I think I may have ruined my favourite t-shirt by carrying her inside.
Brought her in. Bathed her, got her warm, and tried to bottle-feed her. Not good. Had to get Mum’s help with tube-feeding, which is never easy at the best of times. You basically stick a rubber catheter down their throat, which has a chance of going into their lungs if you’re not careful, and pour milk from a little receptacle into it. We got a few mls into her, but I noticed then that she was still bleeding from the umbilical cord, so I went to get a small piece of wool and some iodine spray. Mum tied the umbilical cord, and I sprayed the iodine onto it. So far, so good, right?
Wrong. She was strong enough to scream, but not strong enough to stand or suck. Frustrating, really. But then came the fun of trying to milk her mother for colostrum, or as we farmers call it: “liquid gold”. Colostrum is the first milk a mother of any mammalian species with the antibodies and resistances to disease that the mother may have, and passes it on to the babies. I’ve seen enough lambs who haven’t had colostrum die. It’s so awful. So, into the breech I go, totally unprepared for how hard milking a goat who has never been milked before is going to be. But I rose to the challenge, and got a small bit of liquid gold.
Martin started building a milking stand. It took him two days to build it, and a few hours of modification before we got the head stall right. So, we’re up at dawn to milk Betty and Cobby, and it’s taking forever to milk them right out. Of course, being brand new to milking doesn’t help, and it takes a good long time to get a litre out of one goat. (Unless it’s Grace. I got almost two litres out of her today in order to prevent mastitis on one side of her udder.) Hand fitness is really important when it comes to milking.
Morning comes, and Malta’s still alive at this point. I optimistically hope that she’ll stand, but she doesn’t. She screams a lot when I try to pick her up, and she flails about like a wet piece of spaghetti. When you pick up a kid, I have discovered that they flail a lot, and scream for no reason other than to make a fuss. Must be something to do with their fight or flight instinct. Anyway, I try and feed her again, and she doesn’t want to drink. Nor does her brother Reyn, who Betty is fussing over in her pen. He’s a much more solid little chap, and seems to be doing a lot better than Malta. You know where this is going, don’t you? The next morning, Malta is dead in the secure cage we keep poddy lambs in at night during their first week of life. Sad, but I knew it would come to this.
Then Cobby kids. Two healthy goat kids, a buck and a doe. Martin yells for me to get out of bed because Cobby’s had twins, and so I pull on dirty old clothes and head straight to the shed where they’re kept in at night. Check them both, and they seem healthy and strong. Cobby doesn’t look terribly well a day later, so I take it upon me to clean her vulva, which expels the last bit of placenta that had been retained. Much better. Now comes more tries at milking— neither Cobby or Betty are eager to get up onto the milking stand. We give them a bit of food in a feed container to entice them, and we’re still having problems with the stand and reluctant goats. Cobby’s twins are named Ella and Fitz, mostly because I had Ella Fitzgerald playing in my head that morning. (Don’t Fence Me In, in case anyone’s wondering.) Ella is going to be Eleanor of Aquitane on her papers, and Fitz is going to be Chivalry— and yes, I named my bucks for characters in the Robin Hobb books. I plan on naming a buck Paragon if I ever get a really, really good buck kid from one of my does.
Flash to yesterday. I put the goats up on their hill as is my usual thing. Only four of them went out, and Grace’s vulva was starting to soften, which means kidding is imminent. Everything was looking good, the current kids were doing well, and then Grace kids in the bush. Such a fantastic mother, but it’s hell trying to find a doe with kids in a paddock that’s about twenty acres. I call and I call, and I eventually find her, like in the poem The Man from Snowy River, by a big clump of gum trees (not exactly like the big mimosa clump, and definitely not on horseback…) making the soft bleating sound to her kids and to me. Went up to see what was going on, and found she’d had triplets and that they were all does. Wonderful news!
Trying to carry two doe kids, all squirmy and wriggling down an incline that’s fairly steep is not fun. Daisy, Sunshine and Dany were with me when I went to get Grace and the third kid. But by that time, I had lost track of where Grace was, and Mum had come up to help me find Grace and the third kid. So yeah. Pretty busy for me. Carried kid number three down the hill, and put her with her two sisters while Mum went to get the quad bike to help transport them. Named them while waiting for Mum to come back: Poppet, Bitty and Mair. Bitty’s an obscure reference to Buffy’s little sister being called “The Little Bit” by Spike. Poppet’s more cause it suited her, and Mair is the Gaelic form of Mary. Their registered names will have absolutely no reference to their paddock names, except for Mair. The names I’ve planned are all women who made history more interesting.
Mair: Mary, Queen of Scots.
Bitty: Elizabeth I
Poppet: Isabella of France
Ella: Eleanor of Aquitane
Yep. Then this morning I go check on the kids and their mothers, and discover that Grace’s kids are only feeding from one side of the udder. This worries me, because it’s a surefire way to get pink, bloody milk from a bacterial infection called mastitis. This is one of those times when pink milk doesn’t equal strawberry smoothie or strawberry milk. I put the three does that aren’t going to kid for a long time onto their hill, and go back to the house, preparing to deal with the issue. I ring my grandparents, who have had livestock for a very long time, and have a lovely conversation with Grandma about mastitis prevention. She told me to milk out the udder completely, to make sure it wouldn’t happen. So I did that. I got two litres of lovely, rich yellow colostrum from her, and she spilled half of it by being curious as to what was in the milk pail. But two litres of colostrum from one side of the udder was a victory for me.
And yes, that’s all I’ve got. I have a lot of stuff to do, and I’ve got poddy lambs and goats to feed when I get my arse in gear.