Monday, May 25, 2015

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Last week was a very rough week. Tuesday evening, Alice just seemed off. By Wednesday morning she had a 106.5 degree fever and was foaming at the mouth. I rushed her in to Auburn University. 

They got her on antibiotics, banamine, IV fluids, and started running tests. Two ultrasounds, a milk culture, CBC, and a urinalysis later, we still had no answers. She kept deteriorating.

By Saturday morning, all the vets agreed that her prognosis was poor. The only thing left in their arsenal was a $700 CT scan. As Dr. Maxwell put it, "Only 1/20 of the things the scan could show would be treatable". 

We made the decision to have her put down and have a necropsy performed. I am still waiting on the results. Jeff was able to be there with her at the end. I was having a miserable morning at the farmers market. It's not the best place to receive news like this. 

In the end, the best diagnosis the vets could come up with was a lesion on the spinal column. We asked if it was anything we did. Could we have done anything different? They all agreed no, this is a 1/10,000 kind of thing. I was also concerned for the rest of my herd but they assured me that they had no indication that this was anything infectious. In fact, before she spiraled downhill Saturday morning, we were considering taking her home to see if her own environment would help her recover. 

It's difficult to lose an animal. Even more difficult since she was my favorite and had so much potential. She was only two years old and was already my second highest producer. I am comforted to have her daughter here still, poor little orphaned baby.

There was a glimmer of good news this weekend. A breeder north of Atlanta needed to downsize her herd for family reasons and posted a list of goats she was selling. I really wanted Emilie off that list, but by the time I contacted her, Emilie was already sold. I settled on Kami. Early last week, the breeder wrote to let me know that the deal with Emilie had fallen through and did I want her too. How could I say no?

So after losing my sweet Alice Saturday morning, we picked up two gorgeous dry yearlings Saturday afternoon. My heart is still aching, this was the first adult goat I've lost and it was so much more tragic since she was so young. Things still look bright for the future of our herd though- two steps forward, one step back.....

Montage KVG Emilie

Mint*Leaf Kami

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Wasting Food

In my searches for goats, I have come across a disturbing phenomenon. As a result of state bans on raw milk sales, many breeders just dump milk out. One breeder told me, "We dump 15 gallons a day on the ground".  I can think of so, so many people who could use that milk if only they were allowed.

We are fortunate to be in a state where I can sell my excess milk under a commercial feed "pet milk" license. My mama taught me not to waste food and we've wasted very little.

The cost of setting up a grade A facility is cost prohibitive for most people. I have roughly priced it out to be $200,000, if I can find used equipment. Not only that, I find the flavor and health benefits of my own raw milk far superior to processed milk.

It just seems to me that there ought to be a way to use all that beautiful food.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Buck Pen

Two pieces of good news: First, my friend, John, got the milking machine running again. Thank you, John!

Second, the buck pen is done!

I am thrilled with the way it turned out- a far cry from the rotting, converted swingset that had been the buck shelter.

The left side is closest to the girls' enclosure. It will be used for breeding, an extra kidding pen, a place for kids, or whatever else I need an extra pen for.

Each side has an automatic waterer that I can reach to swish out through the fence in front.

There are two stalls inside with a wall in between that reaches clear to the roof to keep amorous bucks on their side. Each stall has a door on the side so the goats can access their pen.
Our builder even added cute little details to the stall doors. The front has a 4'x12' "people side" where I can store some feed and hay and not always have to be trucking it down from the main barn.
My awesome husband spent the afternoon running another row of fencing next to the cattle panels that separate the two pens. There will be no hanky panky going on through the fence now!

I still need to do a little work on water redirection to be sure it doesn't flood when it rains like it did last month!

My son helped me get some new pictures of Bubba. He's growing up so nicely.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Buying Up Bucks

Ever since our appraisals, I have been on a mission to make some fast and serious improvements to the herd. We did well, but I want to make some serious improvements in the next couple years. The one category that the we needed work on overall was rump width. The appraiser took a look at Bubba and said that he is very strong in the rump. What a relief since I bought him last fall before he was even born!

I had planned to keep one of our homegrown bucklings to be Bubba's companion and get another buckling next spring. I had been in communication with a breeder I greatly admire and planned to put a deposit on one, but I hadn't heard back from them in weeks!

Even though I still think our homegrown fellow is an amazing buck, after appraisals I am even more eager to bring in some strong genetics- another buck as nice as Bubba. If I am going to feed two bucks, I want to feed two that I am using.

I'm not going to say more for fear of jinxing things, but this guy may be joining us here shortly.

After I'd been in contact with the breeder about buying him, I finally heard from the other breeder I'd been chatting with and put that deposit down on a buck from the herd that I admire more than any in the whole country. We will see how that turns out next spring!

The new buck shelter is going up, so these guys will have a very nice home here shortly. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Linear Appraisals

Our first ever Linear Appraisal (LA) session was yesterday. I am so glad that we did it!

LA is a program offered by the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA). A judge comes to your farm and judges your herd based on about two dozen different traits such as stature, rump angle, shoulder assembly, and udder depth. They are then given an overall number score, like a grade in school, although the highest score a goat can receive is 94- because nobody is perfect.

My girls did me proud with scores ranging from 89 for some of my more senior does down to 81. The younger does tended to score a bit lower as they are not mature yet and have not reached their full stature, udder shape/size, and such yet.

The recurring theme of the session was "This is a really early slot in the spring. She'll look better in a few months." It takes a lot out of a goat to kid. Then she steadily increases her milk production over the next few months before it levels out and then starts to go back down in the fall. Peak production is about three months after kidding. Guess where we are now?

The does will gradually put on weight over the summer and improve her body condition in preparation for breeding in the fall. My girls are at the point where they are working their hearts out and have not had a chance to fully recover yet. That influenced their appraisals. I was told to "squawk" about it on the survey so we can get a different time in the future.

I learned so much and learned where are biggest weakness was as a herd. The good news is, our new buck Bubba, is very strong in that area, as were his dam, his sire's dam, and his grand-dams! That's a relief since I reserved him last fall before he was even born.

I plan to participate in LA every other year to see how we are doing as a herd and to continually improve my animals. Between this and DHI milk testing, it allows people who buy from me to really know what they are getting.