Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Plans? What plans?

If you're going to be a homesteader, the first thing you have to learn is that control is an illusion. You can make plans, but you really have no control over any of it. I was reminded of that lesson again today. This morning, Star gave birth to three beautiful little doelings. Normally, this would be a cause for celebration, since doelings are generally more prized than bucklings, but this situation is different.

Star was the very first milk goat I ever bought. She's been very special to me for many reasons. The first year we had kids, I kept all three of Star's bucklings. After agonizing for months, I finally decided which one to keep as a buck, and I wethered the other two. The boys were George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, which seemed appropriate since the three of them were the first triplet bucks born on our farm. John Adams ultimately was allowed to keep his testicles, but he was used very little. His first daughter is now ARMCH Antiquity Oaks Carmen *D VG. Yes, he was a good sire, and he was a good buck in his own right. He earned four grand champions, but he was not a finished champion because of politics. He was not registered in ADGA, and the two ADGA judges that gave him champion titles refused to sign the win forms. He died during my first semester of grad school. It was one of many things that caused me to feel guilty about being gone so much. If only I'd been home, maybe I would have noticed something was wrong, and we could have saved him.

I used another of Star's boys as a sire, but then sold him before I'd seen the result -- Anne Bronte, another beautiful doe that is a good milker. So, for the past two years, as I've watched Star age, I've said that I was going to keep a buck from her and retire her. Last year, she gave us triplet does, and this year again, she's given us triplet does. She's 9 years old now, and I really can't see breeding her again. She didn't maintain her body condition as well this time as she has in year's past. She loves her baby girls as much as ever, and she is the same doting mother she's always been. She actually reminds me of my own mother, always saying, "Eat, eat!" I had to laugh this morning when I saw her pushing her little doe towards her udder, even though that little doe had just nursed.

I don't know if Star will be happy next year without babies though. One year, she didn't get pregnant, and she was trying to steal other kids from their dams. She would walk between the kid and its mom and push the kid towards her back end where her udder would have been if she'd had one at the time. It was so sad. I finally had to isolate her from the new moms and their babies. When her first three boys were old enough to be sexually mature, I separated them from her until I could decide which ones to castrate. A month later, I finally made my decision, castrated TJ and Georgie and put them back in the pen with the does. Then a few days later, when Star came inside for the night, I started to milk her and got only drops -- she had let them start nursing again after being separated for a month! When I think of how much she has always loved her babies, that makes the decision much more difficult about whether or not to retire her from breeding.

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