Monday, March 23, 2015

Dam Raising Kids

Let's talk about dam raising kids. Most of the dairy/ show goat world pulls kids at birth and puts them on a bottle. Maybe it's just me, but I did enough middle of the night feedings with my human twins. I am happy to let the goat moms take care of that job.

Dam raising has several advantages. It takes less time and effort, my dam raised kids have overall been healthier, had fewer problems with parasites, and have grown better than their bottle raised counterparts.

Dam raising also comes with its own set of challenges. It is certainly not a "leave them and forget it" kind of system. Take Opal (pictured below) as an example. Opal is a first freshener and gave us a single doeling, Jade. As you can see in this picture, Jade prefered Opal's right side all day that day. To keep Opal's udder even, I milk her out twice a day, even if it means I am only getting a quart of milk out of her.

Left alone, the kid would continue to favor the soft side leading to permanent lopsidedness of her dam's udder. Starting around two weeks, I lock all the kids away for the night (12-13 hours) and milk their dams in the morning. This gives me plenty of milk, and allows the udders to be used evenly each day. Mothers of singletons require extra attention. Jade will probably be locked up at night around 10 days.

I want an udder that can stand up to many years of use. I have heard that kids can be rough on an udder, but in my mind a good udder should be up to the task. Take 8-year old Konstance, she has raised many sets of kids. Even before I had her, care was taken to make sure she stayed even and now at her advanced age, she has a lovely, productive udder.

Here is the other side of the spectrum. Trixie came to me this way. Somewhere along the way her udder became quite uneven. She still is a very productive doe.
I try to keep their udders well moisturized to keep the skin flexible. Watch that kids have not bitten teats (it's happened a few times) but usually with some use, the skin gets stronger is able to take it better. Be ready to intervene if things aren't going the way they should.

With some care and attention, I believe does can raise their own kids and have udders that are just as beautiful as their counterparts.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Welcome to the World, Jade

Opal had a baby girl on Thursday. In keeping with the stone names, I am calling her Jade.

Seeing the world for the first time.
The other girls wanted to check out the new baby.

Striking a pose. This is my first Rocco baby of the year and he didn't disappoint!
Snuggling up with Asher.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Little Bit of Cuteness

Trixie's little family was enjoying the sunshine this morning. The triplets don't seem to be growing quite as fast as the single and twins, so I am leaving them out with their dams every other night.
Good Asher, chillin' with his babies.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

How I Wax Cheese

There are many different ways people wax cheese. I have tried several of them and this is what works for me.

I have three colors of wax- red, clear, and black. Each color has its own old saute pan that is used exclusively for it. It is way too hard to clean wax out of your pans. Check thrift stores, you don't need anything fancy here.

I slowly heat the wax over low heat on my gas cooktop. Since I do not use a double boiler, I never leave the stove as I am melting my wax and I am continually swirling it and checking the temperature. Cheese wax has a flash point of about 300 degrees. That's nothing I want to mess with.

Heat the wax to just over 200 degrees. Some people go 225-240, but I don't want to risk getting it that hot and have never had trouble with mold growth under the wax at 200 (unless the wax gets punctured).
When the wax reaches about 204-205, turn off the heat. Place your cheeses on a rack over a cookie sheet next to your stove. I allow the cheeses to air dry 2-3 days before waxing them to get a good bond. 

Holding the cheese by the edges, dip one end leaving it in the wax for 10-12 seconds. This gives the heat time to kill any mold spores that may have settled on the cheese surface. Place cheese on the rack wax side up. Pat out any large air bubbles that may have gotten trapped.

While you are allowing the wax to set, check your temperature. If it has dropped below 200, heat it back up. I check the temp between every dip at this stage. 

Now repeat the 10 second dip with the other side of the cheese. Take care not to dent the wax as you set it back on the rack to firm up. 

Dip each end a second time. This time you do not have to hold it in for 10 seconds, just dip and remove. Let me add here, keep a good grip on your cheese. It is a huge mess when you accidentally drop one into the pan and splatter wax all over yourself and the kitchen. Trust me.

Check your temperature again and allow each end to firm up. At this point you are going to hold the cheese by the ends and roll the edge in the wax. If it's not firm enough, you will leave fingerprints in the new wax. 

Slowly roll the edges in wax. Remember, you are trying to kill mold spores here, so go slowly. Allow the wax to cool and repeat, moving more quickly with the second coating. Let the wax on the cheeses firm up. 

As you can see in the picture above, even with two coats on the cheese, the wax is still a bit transparent. I like a nice, even solid color on the cheese. Without reheating the wax, roll the sides again and let set. Then dip top and bottom again. The cooler temperature will allow more wax to stick with each coat now. 

You can rewarm the wax a bit if it starts to solidify, but it should remain melted for you to finish coating your cheeses. Continue dipping and rolling until you are satisfied with the look of your cheese. Touch up any places the wax looks thin or damaged.

 Now the cheeses are dated and put in the cave for aging. When you are flipping them as they age, check the wax for damage. Damaged areas can be cut off and redipped before mold has time to set in.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wrapping Up February

The only thing February has going for it is that it's short. We ran out of firewood, so had the boys and their friends split a bunch. It's a bit green, but better than nothing. Although, now I'm going to have to have the chimney cleaned this summer.
Scilla had her babies on the coldest day of the year.  I was out there in 20 degrees drying twin boys with a hair dryer. I know it's the buck that determines the sex, but Scilla has only given me one girl in 3 years. And she died. 
This black buckling is the biggest kid ever born here. He must have been 12lbs! He and his brother left this morning for their new home. She is crying for them, but I couldn't justify pouring a gallon a day into them for the next 3 months to get them weaned. I'd never sell them for what all that milk is worth, even with papers.
They are going to a husband and wife in Alabama who are excited to get into goats. These boys will be a good place to start.  
This is Olivia and she is for sale. If she doesn't go on a bottle in the next week or so, she will stay here until she's weaned, although she will cost more once she's weaned. 
She's starting to nibble hay and is checking out the waterer. 
This is her dam's first freshener udder. I'd contemplated selling Maddy because she's a bit high in the hips, but I may just have to keep her now. This udder is amazing and she is well behaved on the stand. 
It's been pretty mucky here with all the rain. I got the worst of it cleaned up this morning and have the callouses to  prove it. I had to quit when the goats all decided they wanted to stand in the new dry spot leaving me no room to work. 

Just a couple more weeks until we get more kids. Opal is due 3/14. I can't wait to see an udder on Magnum's daughter!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kids Everywhere

How many kids can you fit in half a doghouse? I counted seven. 
Kat wants to know what they're doing up under there. We have had a cold snap here (cold for middle Georgia). I'm glad they have a place to snuggle up and get warm.  
It's not too cold to go out and play though.   This is Bliss playing king (queen) of the mountain.
What is it with the little ones that they have such big personality? Here's Bliss playing with my keeper doeling, Ysabel.
This is one of Ysa's brothers. I may just have to keep him too. We will see what Magnum's daughter's udders look like next month and then decide. Ysa and Rand have another brother who is looking for a good home. SG Krisscross Mack Constance 1*M X Raven's Haven Nik Magnum. 
Lovely gave us one big son. She is/was so huge, I really could not believe there weren't more babies in that belly. This is the first time she's been allowed to raise her own kids, and she is very proud of this one. 
Maddy has grown quite a beautiful first freshener udder. I was not planning to keep her or her two doelings, but I may have to reconsider. 
Scilla is in the kidding stall right now. It is 22 degrees out. I hope she waits until the mercury raises above freezing. I was also considering selling her this spring, but now her gorgeous udder is starting to fill, the fridge and freezer are empty of milk, and I'm starting to have second thoughts.

Saturday or Sunday, depending on the weather, I'll start locking some of the kids away at night so I can milk the moms. It may have to be only Maddy for a while as the next two who kidded are both nursing triplets. I'm not sure they have much to spare.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Propylene Glycol and Pregnancy Toxemia

Two years ago, when Trixie developed toxemia/ketosis (the terms are used interchangeably, though technically toxemia is before delivery, ketosis is after) about 3 weeks prior to delivery with a triplet pregnancy, I turned to the dairy goat and homesteader forums. I was relatively new to goats and did not know how to treat her, I just new that she was sick.

Before I turned to the forums, I trusted a breeder's advice that "They all slow down and get whiny when they are big pregnant. Do nothing, just watch and wait." Following that advice, I waited a week without doing anything. I have learned the hard way to trust my gut.

Back to the forums. I established that she was suffering from toxemia. She was not able to take in enough calories to support fetal growth so was burning her own body tissues. This lead to a build-up of toxins in her blood which eventually killed the fetuses and nearly killed her.

Most of what I read online recommended propylene glycol as a last resort. I was told that once I started it, she would stop eating. It would shut down her rumen. It is related to anti-freeze. Start with molasses/ corn syrup drenches. Move to dextrose drenches.

When I finally trusted my gut and started treating her, I started with these "more natural" sugar treatments. She stopped eating. All that sugar caused acidosis which killed all the good rumen bugs. I barely managed to save her life and ended up with stillborn triplet doelings at 142 days gestation.
Swollen feet and legs. 

Jump forward to this year. In late fall, I suspected she was carrying triplets again. As she neared the end of her pregnancy, I increased her feed and alfalfa significantly and began watching her like a hawk. I bought some ketone test strips at the pharmacy so I would know what was going on and not just suspect it.

When she refused her breakfast and had swollen feet on a Monday morning about 15 days from her due date, I knew it was time to get busy. I tested her urine and found it contained moderate to high levels of ketones. I immediately drenched her with 30ml of propylene glycol (PG). That evening her ketones were up to high levels. I increased the PG to 50ml. By the next morning, her ketones were down to trace levels.

I had my vet prescribe Dexamethasone, a steroid that will help to develop the kids and will induce labor after about 36 hours. From her previous kiddings, my instincts told me her kids would be fine at about 142 days. It was a balancing act, keeping her strength up and deciding how long she could go and still have the strength to deliver, getting those kids out before her weakened state killed them but waiting long enough that we wouldn't be fighting to keep preemies alive.

I continued with 30ml PG morning and night until she delivered. Her ketones got no higher than trace levels. Through it all, she continued to eat hay and the other creative offerings I brought her (she never really went back on her feed). She liked scratch grains, carrots, apples, lettuce, oatmeal and I fed her what she would eat always being sure that she was not getting so much sugar that we would end up with acidosis of the rumen.

By Friday (day 140) she was weakening and starting to refuse her hay. I knew we could not wait any longer to act, but I also wanted those kids to hang on just a little bit longer. I called Dr. Maxwell at Auburn University and he suggested breaking up the 2ml Dex into two doses, half on Friday, the other half on Saturday to give the kids a boost but delay the start of labor a bit longer.

The Dex perked her back up a bit and she enjoyed lounging in the sun and nibbling hay until she started labor Sunday night (day 142)- my goal from the start.

She delivered perfectly healthy triplets at 2:30am of day 143.

Now let's talk propylene glycol. You can buy it by the gallon at Tractor Supply or find it in products such as NutriDrench. There is a reason it is used in ruminants to treat toxemia/ketosis. These animals rely on good bacteria in their rumens to break down their food. When you drench a ruminant with sugar solutions, their rumen pH goes down killing all good bugs and leading to acidosis. Now your goat is doubly sick.

Propylene glycol will boost blood glucose levels without acidifying the rumen. Additionally, as the liver breaks down propylene glycol, it gives off propionate. Propionate is part of the chemical reactions that turn ketones into glucose and remove acetone from the blood.

With normal blood glucose levels reestablished and toxic acetone removed, appetite returns (at least as much as it is able to with all those babies taking up most the room for food).

In the end, it is up to you to decide how to treat your animal for toxemia/ketosis. I, for one, will go straight for the propylene glycol.