The Miracle of Colostrum Soap

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Kidding time is always tough on my hands.

The combination of milking, feeding, cleaning pens and constant hand washing always leaves my hands very rough and dry. It usually takes months for them to return to some kind of normal.

This year I took some excess colostrum from one of my does at 12 hours post-kidding. It was amazing, thick, yellow stuff. After her three kids had consumed all they could for 12 hours, I milked off about a litre and a half. Enough for an emergency supply and two batches of soap.

Colostrum is the first milk produced by mammals, usually formed in the weeks to days prior to giving birth. It contains important antibodies for the offspring, which are absorbed through the gut in the first few feeds. This is referred to as ‘passive transfer of immunity’ from mother to baby. It provides the antibodies specific to the environment that the animal is born into.

I had not soaped with colostrum before, but I had read that it was even more of a challenge to use than milk. Milk, if you are not careful, will burn and discolour during the soapmaking process. I froze my colostrum solid and expected to get a fairly manky colour in my soap. I wanted to fast-track part of the batch by allowing it to heat up, so I decided to add activated charcoal to give a black soap and hide any discolouration. Activated charcoal is used in soap for its ability to absorb toxins from the skin, it is also a safe and easy way to get a uniform black colour.

The frozen colostrum did mix in very slowly and very thickly with the lye. I split the batch and added the charcoal to one half. I had a bit of black batter left over after pouring the uncoloured half, so I drizzled it on the top and made a bit of a contrasting swirl. I put the black one in the oven just long enough to make sure it had heated all the way through, causing it to ‘gel’ and speed up the cure.

The colostrum soaps in the moulds.

The colostrum soaps in the moulds.

But surprisingly, the white half stayed pretty white. It got an hour in the freezer to make sure it stayed cool, but it played very nicely. The large particles in the colostrum made both soaps slightly rough in texture, but once cut they turned out to be quite attractive soaps.

Colostrum soaps cut.

Colostrum soaps cut.

The white soap will get the requisite six weeks’ curing time before use, but I’ve been using the black version already. I put an offcut piece on the soap rack in the laundry and I use it every time I come in from tending to the goats or gardening. To be honest, it gives a very grey lather, due to the charcoal, but this rinses away easily.

I wasn’t expecting much, but it didn’t take long for my hands to notice a difference. Usually I try things like large amounts of hemp cream left to soak in while I watch a movie, or regular applications of my usual facial moisturiser. But all I have used for the past week or so has been the black soap. And my hands almost feel like hands. They are steadily improving, and while still a little rough they are not cracked or sporting areas of ground-in dirt.

Colostrum’s claim to fame is a component called lactoferrin, which some go as far as to claim can cure cancer. It is widely accepted as being a great immune booster. Applied topically, as a cream or in soap, it is meant to be great for eczema and psoriasis.

All I know is that my colostrum soap seems to have made a big difference to my hands.

Epic Kidding Weekend – A Debrief

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Those who follow me on Instagram and Facebook will have a disjointed idea of what happened when four of my does kidded in one weekend.

I know many people will kid more does on a more intensive timetable, but I’ve never had more than two due at once before. I was very glad that they waited until the weekend and I didn’t have to mix all-nighters with work days. I also managed to avoid any freezing nights, with the overnight lows hovering around fridge temperature rather than freezer temperature.

All four does were bred to Toggalong FitzWilliam over the one weekend and did not come back in season. I also bred Maia to Zeus that weekend, but she missed and was bred to Tazzy three weeks later. Probably just as well.

Sienna had been the size of a house for weeks, and I expected her to kid first. Her udder got bigger… and bigger… and then, on Friday night, Victoria started showing signs of labour.

I watched from the house on the kidding camera, which sends video to an app on my phone. At 10pm I went out to keep a closer eye on proceedings. Much like last year, Victoria didn’t push. I watched and waited some more. Then Sienna showed us all how it is done, producing big, strong triplets without any assistance.

After helping Sienna clean and sort her tribe, I decided that it was time for Victoria to come up with the goods. I put her in the head bail, scrubbed up and went in. Her kid was just about out, presented correctly, and stuck fast. After much pulling and howling (the doe, not me), I got him out. I fished around expecting another kid, but found nothing. One big buck kid. By now it was 4am, so I left both does with their new kids and went to get a couple of hours sleep.

I came out early the next morning to find all four kids up and about, two of Sienna’s feeding themselves, and something grey and weird poking out of Victoria. I pulled it out and looked at it for a couple of moments before dropping it in shock. It was a half-formed mummified kid. Ew! That explained why there was only one to deliver. Both does cleaned up without any trouble.

Victoria’s buck kid was a bit slow and floppy, and had a lot of trouble figuring out what the teat was for. He took nearly a week to be able to feed on his own, and a good few days before he could feed without being held up.

I had decided to name this year’s kids after songs, and I had a list of names for doe kids but hadn’t thought about names for buck kids. Victoria’s kid has been named Greg (ie, The Stop Sign), but I got into the habit of calling him Buckethead due to his slow and dopey personality. So now everyone else calls him Greg and I call him Buckethead.

Greg (aka Buckethead) with his mum Vicky keeping a close watch.

Greg (aka Buckethead) with his mum Vicky keeping a close watch.

Sienna’s triplets are a buck and two does. The does are neat little bookends, red with white ears, and bits of white detail on their heads and feet. The buck is black and tan and very stylish. The does have been named Rosanna and Ruby, the buck is Jimmy Recard.

Rosanna and Ruby

Rosanna and Ruby

Saturday night it was first-timer Hera’s turn. And, like Victoria, she made a lot of noise for not much result. I pulled one kid out, a tiny doe, and hoped the others would follow. After an hour I went back in and pulled out the second kid, another tiny doe. I was concerned at this stage, because at that size there could have been several more kids. But on further inspection, I found the cause of all the trouble – a huge kid with its head folded right back. I did everything I could, with poor Hera howling, tied to the gate, but I could not rearrange that kid.

At 11.45pm I called my vet, Jim Hancock. Jim had been out twice in the previous couple of months to put down a buck and wether with urinary calculi, and after his second visit he said ‘hopefully next time I come here I can save one for you’. Well, he got Hera’s third kid rearranged and out without having to resort to drastic measures. The kid, a very big buck, was not born alive, but my poor little doe was no more than tired and a bit sore. Her doe kids, Cecilia and Layla, weighed in at 1800g and 2200g, and I knew that being born alive did not mean that they were out of the woods. At that size they would need not just extra care, but a strong will to live.

This gives an idea of how tiny Cecilia is.

This gives an idea of how tiny Cecilia is.

Tiny Cecilia never took a backwards step. Within a few hours she was up, feeding herself, escaping from the pen and getting in everyone’s way. Layla was not so intrepid. She refused to feed, and on a Sunday without anywhere open to buy a feeding tube, there was nothing I could do. She died that night.

With the pens all full, Meredith kindly kidded under a tree in the farmyard. In her usual fashion, she did so without warning and I missed the entire thing. I found her Sunday afternoon having cleaned up her first kid and in the process of cleaning up her second. Two big mottled kids, a buck and a doe, just what I was hoping for.

Her doe kid was lively, loud and hungry. The buck got gradually slower and slower and eventually gave up altogether. I don’t know why. Possibly he came out backwards and got a big dose of amniotic fluid on the way out. Perhaps there was something not right with his insides. Either way, it was a shame to lose him.

In her previous three kiddings, Meredith has had her kids up and feeding very quickly and generally been an exemplary mother. This time she was distracted and disinterested. She did not want to feed her surviving kid at all. I took the spotted doe, named Gloria, and put her in a small enclosure with Sienna’s Jimmy. The two are being bottle raised together, since two kids will be plenty for Sienna to deal with.

Jimmy and Gloria

Jimmy and Gloria

Meredith also turned out to have a nasty case of mastitis, which I am now treating with a range of good drugs.

So at the end of the weekend I have four doe kids and two bucks from two sets of triplets, one set of twins and a single kid. Losing three kids was tough, but we have had some good years lately with minimal losses, and it is always swings and roundabouts with goats. I have been fortunate not to lose any does so far, and kidding time is always a learning experience. Knowing when to go in assist and when to wait is always tricky, but I think I will be more inclined from now on to go in and check that everyone is pointed in the right direction than to wait for too long.

The does have recovered incredibly well this year, despite some rough births. They haven’t gone off their feed or had trouble with acidosis like in previous years. Sienna in particular is eating like a racehorse and looks great. She is producing loads of milk and maintaining her condition well. Her kids weighed a total of over 10kg and there is not a runt amongst them. Her year off seems to have done her wonders.

Sienna with Rosanna

Sienna with Rosanna

A week down the track, and the kids are adjusting to life out in the farmyard with their mothers. They are finding safe spots to sleep and dancing with the chickens. Hera has come in with a fantastic udder, and her surviving kid Cecilia is just like the other kids, albeit half their size. I have almost developed a routine that gets me to work on time. The toughest part is over.

Hera's udder

Hera’s udder

Maia is due to kid in two weeks, then Elaine in October and possibly Ambika in December.