Friday, January 16, 2009

Thoughts on goats

Yesterday was one of those days that makes you think. What the heck are we doing kidding in January? Everybody with dairy goats starts kidding in January, but as my mama used to say (and probably your mama too), "If everybody was jumping off a bridge, would you do it?"

January kidding never seemed as crazy as jumping off a bridge until yesterday, but we certainly can't rule out the possibility that it will happen again. I'm so glad the girls were there, because we were all working like crazy to get the kids dry, so they wouldn't get hypothermia or frostbite. In three years, they won't be here. Next year, Margaret won't be here. And at some point, my part-time teaching will probably go to full-time. Kiddings should be scheduled for school breaks. I can't cancel classes every time I think a goat might kid. We currently coordinate our schedules, so there is always someone home.

Yesterday was wild. We had the heat lamp, a blow dryer, a heating pad, and a stack of towels. Between the first and second kid, the mucous-soaked hair on Sherri's tail froze. I tossed a couple of wet towels over one of the sides of the pen, and they froze to it, so they'll be there until the temps go up, since I don't want to risk ripping them to get them off.

I am so glad we have the office out there, because it was only a few steps away when we needed to warm up ourselves. It's amazing that animals survive in those temperatures when we get so cold, in spite of our triple layered clothes, coats, hats, double socks, and lined boots. When Margaret felt frozen and stood up to head into the office for a few minutes, she said, "I don't want to do this anymore." Florida Institute of Technology became Katherine's first choice for a college, and Margaret said, "I wonder if it's too late to find a college down south."

In spite of their complaints, the girls took turns going out to the barn through the day to check on the kids. One of the little bucks is polled (daddy is polled), and his ears kept freezing. The other two seemed to be doing okay. After the 11 p.m. check, when Margaret said, "Polled boy's ears were frozen again," we decided we had to do something since no one would be going out there to warm him up again until morning. I suggested that we cut a sock in half and use the cuff part to slip over his head and hold his ears against his neck. To my surprise, Mike said that there were already socks like that in the laundry room. No one knew where they came from, but Jonathan took one out there and put it on the little guy. Although the whole thing had slipped down to his neck, and his ears were sticking up this morning, they were warm. I don't know whether or not my little wimple helped him, but at least we tried. One ear has a bent tip, which is red, and I'm afraid that means it's damaged. Another kid has a bent tip also, but he has black ears, so I can't see any color changes.

Next goat due is Carmen. Day 145 for her is Tuesday, so she will probably kid between Tuesday and Sunday of next week. She kidded at day 143 one year, but hopefully she won't do that again. One reason Sherri's kids are probably doing so well is that they are big for baby Nigerians. Temperatures should be somewhat more normal next week in the 20s, which is nothing to celebrate, but it is better than the below zero temperatures we have been having!

8 comments:

SkippyMom said...

We are suffering severe goat baby love here in the Skippy household! Thank you so much for posting and working so hard :D

I do have a question[s]: Do their damaged ears [due to frost bite] diminish their value to you [for resale] and does it harm their quality of life/hearing?

I don't, can't, but want to have goats and I am so curious!

Take care...and love the wimple idea...good thinking. The already cut socks do make you say "Hmmmm?" tho' don't they? lol

kristi said...

As a teacher and being single I understand worrying about help. This summer all my sheep lambed from June-the end of July. Okay, it was my total fault for thinking "breeding season" was over and I put my ram back in, But it was so nice having the whole summer off to be there for all the ewes and the lambs and in 2 cases, had I not been there, I would have lost the lambs. I am pretty sure 2 of my Nigerians are bred....hope all goes well with your other girl and you get some does!!

Deborah said...

Hi Skippy Mom -- If the ears are damaged, it shouldn't affect their value. They can still be shown, and it shouldn't count against them. At least, that's what a judge told me a few years ago when a goat bit a kid's ear and left a notch. It shouldn't affect their hearing at all.

Kristi -- Don't feel bad about the putting in the ram too early. I put two ram lambs in with my flock in April and they got five of my ewes pregnant. Thanks for the good wishes.

My Year Without said...

I just found your blog tonight from reading your article in the Writer's magazine. Great article. It's exactly up my alley...trying to get in with a local newspaper instead of magazines.

Also, I am very excited to read through more of your blog as you are doing what my husband and I quit our jobs to do: sold our home and quit our careers to live a simpler life. We just don't know where yet. We have the same dreams of owning land, raising goats and writing together.

I loved the pictures of your goats birthing. I grew up on a little farm and we would always try and be there when the goats gave birth--amazing experiences.

I met my first la mancha goat two summers ago at a county fair. I thought that they were beautiful.

It's getting late but I will read more and then write more. I am so happy that I found your blog. It is very interesting that you have put into action what my husband and I are still pondering of doing and how.

Thank you! Thank you!

Deborah said...

Welcome to my blog! I also love la manchas and have two does that I use for experimenting with mini manchas -- little earless goats. They have such a sweet personality.

Good luck with your writing and your farm dreams! I always say that if I can live out here, anyone can.

Jenny said...

Cute babies! We just put a buck in with our girls. I know we're running a little late, but I'm so glad we won't have January weather to deal with when they kid. Bambi, our Nubian doe, had her ears a little frostbit when she was born. They are just a little pink on the ends still with less hair. I don't think you can really tell, though.
~Jenny~

Meg said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one utilizing the "wimple on animals" idea! This requires a wee bit of backstory to explain, so here it goes....

Clara Bow (our Ridgeback mix) was born with two "down" ears like most hounds. Somewhere along the line, someone took a pair of kitchen scissors (the meat cutting ones) to one of her ears and sliced off the edge and top and cut a notch out of it. They then trained the ear to stand up a la Great Danes' ears. Now, since Clara takes after the Ridgeback (i.e., *African* dog) side of her lineage, the hair on her ear is quite short. This ear was never intended to stand up. Over time the inside edge grew a little thicker hair, but it's still very short, and the ear is quite bald and pinkish inside, so it totally invites frostbite.

To create a wimple for Miss Bow we took an old turtleneck, chopped off the neck, and put that around her head and cold ear when we've had to be outside for more than a minute or two in anything lower than -10F. That, combined with a long shirt/coat made of two layers of bonded windblock fleece, and booties keeps the girl from freezing her little behind off in these Michigan temps! People thought we humans were crazy when they saw her out with us, but Clara thinks anything to keep her warm is OK by her.

I must say, though, that I am glad she is less wildly energetic now that she's approx. 4.5 years old. Last time we had a stretch of sub -10F temps for more than 24 hours she was still a wildly energetic young lady who required at least 1 walk every 24 hours to keep from bursting at the seams with too much energy. This time around wild play sessions in the living room were enough to take the edge off, so she only required one 10 minute walk during this ungodly cold snap we just went through!

I hope your temps are warming up as much as ours are....we're now at a balmy 13F and our windchill is now positive 1F!! That's the first time the windchill has been positive in at least 48 hours or more...

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