A Tale of Two Kiddings

Standard

Every year kidding brings something new. You think you have seen everything, you think you have a contingency for all possibilities, but every year a new challenge presents itself.

This year our first challenge was hoping that Maia would hold off kidding until we got back from our trip to North Queensland. Our animal carer Mel was glad to be relieved of her duties without having to deal with a birthing goat. As it turned out, Maia waited until we had been back for three days, which was nice of her, but kidded at around midday on Monday while I was at work.

With my mobile data running out fast due to a high volume of Instagram posts during our holiday, my workmate Morgs got me onto the work wifi so I could monitor my labouring goat without leaving my desk via our excellent internet barncam.

Maia’s first kid was a bit stuck, so I had to instruct a somewhat reluctant Matt to don some rubber gloves and apply a bit of traction to help pass the shoulders.

It was a miracle of modern technology… I had Matt on speakerphone, watching events via the barncam, and he assisted Maia with the delivery of a very nice big doe kid. I was then able to send him back to bed to prepare for his upcoming 12-hour night shift while I kept an eye on the new family.

Of course, a few minutes later Maia delivered a second kid. By the time I got home she had cleaned both kids and they were up looking for the udder. The second kid was a buck, and both are absolute rippers.

20160801_163141

Maia with her twins

Maia is one of those goats I have had a complicated relationship with. An only kid, she was big and flash and went to a few shows. She was champion kid at Geelong Royal, and from five shows as a kid she won three championships, one reserve and was only unplaced once. As a goatling she decided she wasn’t going to walk in the showring. She would lie down, walk sideways, crouch, and generally sulked her way to the bottom end of a lot of line-ups.

As a first lactation doe she was still incredibly stroppy. She took her trick of lying down whenever things got difficult and applied it to milking time. That was once she finally developed an udder – she kidded with almost no udder development and it took a week for her udder to turn into something useful. She would lie down on the milking bail. I was advised to put a bucket under her belly to stop her from lying down, and this often led to me milking with my arm jammed between a tall, crabby red goat and a bucket.

Eventually she became more agreeable, and after a few shows she settled down and was happy to walk. She was also fairly okay with being milked at shows, and as long as I milked from her right side everything was okay. She still will only agree to being milked from the right side. She won a couple of Best of Breed awards as a first-year milker, ending up with 17 points towards an Australian Champion award. She also became my second ever doe to win a Best Udder class.

maia

Maia at Geelong Show

In order to gain an Australian Champion award a doe needs a milk award. And on the two litres a day she gave in her first lactation, that was never going to happen. I decided that no matter how nice her udder was, unless she could do four litres in her second lactation she would not be shown or bred again. We are here to make milk, after all.

Imagine my delight when Maia came in with the same neat, symmetrical and well-attached udder, but this time with much more volume. She is feeding her two big kids and has a little bit left for the house each morning. I’m not sure exactly how much milk she is making, but four litres is a reasonable estimation and enough to attain a production award with a bit of luck. Whether or not she ever makes it to 100 show points, at least we have a chance.

20160817_091103

Maia’s udder this year

A couple of days after Maia kidded, my little spotty doe Juno, known as Pud, started to show signs that her unborn kids had died. She was three weeks from her due date, in kid to my new buck Anara Eclipse, known as Buddy. She birthed one dead kid on her own and I had the sad and unpleasant task of going in and removing the second one. Two big spotty buck kids. Nothing evidently wrong with them. I put it down to ‘one of those things’, dosed poor Pud up with antibiotics and buried the unfortunate kids.

20160802_194150

Sad Juno after losing her kids

A couple of days after that Matt noted that Maia’s doe kid, Gaia, was unable to walk properly and was drooling. I did a quick Google of what could make a kid drool, and found all sorts of unpleasant possibilities, some of which also mentioned stillborn or aborted kids as their other effects. I called the vet, left work early and arrived home fearing for the health of my entire herd.

Gaia was diagnosed with sepsis, and not expected to live. She was put on twice daily antibiotic injections. My old doe, Rianna, due to kid the next day, was put on a precautionary course of antibiotics and I was left with some extra medication and instructions that if any other pregnant does gave the slightest inclination of being off-colour I should start them on antibiotics too.

Gaia seemed to make a miraculous recovery, and I was relieved to be able to watch her make her first journey out into the farmyard with her mother and brother.

IMG_20160807_113140

Maia and her kids, Gaia and Reuben, enjoying the outdoors

Rianna kidded that Sunday evening, two days after the vet had been. She asked to be put in the kidding pen when I came out to do the evening feeds and jobs, so I did as she requested and headed off down the paddock to put the horse’s rug back on. When I got back Rianna was in the process of birthing her first kid, so I got a couple more tasks out of the way and then came back to watch.

Rianna was my first registered Anglo Nubian, who I purchased at six months of age. Prior to this season she had given birth to 13 kids and raised nine of them. Every year she has given me one doe kid and one or two bucks. Her udder still looks like it did on her first lactation. She has a lot of what is referred to as ‘dairy quality’ and part of this is that she never carries much condition. Even after a year off, and with an appetite that seems to know no limits, she still looks like a hat rack with a blanket over it. I used to worry, but now I know she is healthy and that is just how she runs.

This year Rianna has produced her 14th and 15th kids, a buck and a doe, and only once needed any intervention, when a kid was partway out with a front leg pointing backwards. As I watched her 15th kid enter the world I had a moment of confusion when it appeared to have two front legs on one side of its body. I thought for a moment that there might be two kids trying to come out at once, but at that stage there could only be room for one in the birth canal.

20160807_172832

Rianna with her newborn kids, including a rather floppy Titania

It turned out that the kid had been delivered with its head under one front leg. That was the doe kid who I named Titania. She was quite weak, although very determined, and got around for her first four days as though the ground was a magnet and her nose was made of metal. She did not raise her head like a normal goat until she was nearly a week old. I began to wonder if she ever would. Slowly but surely, with some help to feed, she got stronger and now she looks just like a normal kid.

20160812_073347

Titania stared at the floor for a few days, while her brother Oberon bounced around oblivious

Some years you have those kids who worm their way into your heart, and Titania is one of those. She will be Rianna’s last kid, and she has decided that I am her best friend. I can’t photograph her without her trying to climb up my leg. She is just delightful, and I admire her strength, determination and humour.

20160817_101429

Four kids from the first round of kidding hanging out with the family. Titania is now as strong and bouncy as the others.

Little Gaia, Maia’s sick kid, has had a setback with an infection setting into one of her joints. She is otherwise healthy, feeding, growing and getting around, but there is a chance that the antibiotics she is now on won’t cure her. So for now we wait.

Meredith and Lizzie are due to kid next, followed shortly after by Maude. Meredith gave me a big fright, doing the sort of uncomfortable shuffle that Pud was doing before she lost her kids, so as the vet suggested Meredith got a course of antibiotics and so far she seems fine. Her belly is enormous, and she is due in another nine days. Hopefully these will be Buddy’s first live kids. Lizzie is Rianna’s great granddaughter, so her kid/s will be Rianna’s great great grandchildren and fourth generation Elcarim goats.

Advertisements

Farm Update

Standard

I’ve been finding it hard to find time to write over the past few months, and the simple explanation for that is that I have been working more hours. My job had got to the point where I just couldn’t keep up with everything I had to do in the time I had available, and since so much of what I do is time-critical I spent most of my time feeling like I was chasing my tail. So I put my hand up to do more hours.

This has meant that while work is less stressful because I actually have time to get everything done on time, I have less time at home and I have to go to bed earlier so that I can get up earlier. The rest of the family have had to learn to do more around the house and since I no longer have time to do everything I am also no longer the default person to look after everyone else. We look after each other, we all pitch in, and we all benefit from mum bringing home a bit more money each month.

I took a break from soapmaking and writing just to let everything settle down. Like anything else, it comes down to priorities. You make time for the things that make the most noise. But you also need to make time for the things that you get the most value from, and value can definitely include enjoyment.

When I found myself home alone on Sunday with the sun shining and the birds singing I was almost overwhelmed with excitement and an urge to get as much done as possible while I could. I popped out at 9am to do the milking and ended up having ‘breakfast’ at about 2pm.

IMG_20160807_113428

Hanging out with my farmyard friends

I sent Maia and her kids out into the world for the first time. Those babies got to feel the sun on their backs and the dirt under their feet, as well as meeting the rest of their family. This was especially sweet since little Gaia had been treated for sepsis two days earlier, and the vet had warned me that he did not expect her to live.

IMG_20160807_113140

Maia and her kids, Gaia and Reuben

Moving in and out of the house and between the shed and the garden, I got the milking done, cleaned the goat pens and delivered some straw to the garden beds. I did some weeding, thinned the silverbeet, cleared the dead tomato plants from the small greenhouse, baked the sourdough, did four loads of washing, replanted some strawberries, pruned the apple trees and cleaned out the cat litter. It was glorious.

IMG_20160808_123346

Yay! Sourdough. My lunch for the next fortnight.

20160514_131034

The food garden, with the berry nets up to allow for weeding, pruning and planting the strawberries.

20160807_135412

None of my winter vegetables sprouted last year, so I cheated this year and used the greenhouse. So far so good, cauliflower, beetroot, cabbage, broccoli and lettuce.

I sat down for a bit around 3pm and ventured out again an hour later when Leo the Italian Greyhound started complaining that it was getting cold and he wanted his coat back on. This seemed like a good time to go around closing up the windows and the big greenhouse door, and put the blanket back on Stella the old Thoroughbred who also got to get her kit off for the day. I was wondering what feat of culinary genius to make for dinner when I found that old Rianna, my boss doe, was about to have her kids.

I popped her in the kidding pen I had prepared earlier and set off to get the furthest away tasks done, which meant wandering down the paddock carrying a Weatherbeeta horse rug trying to find two full-size Thoroughbreds who seemed to have disappeared into the 10 acre paddock. I found them in the back corner behind the dam wall, re-clothed old Stella, took some pictures of the impressively full dams, and headed casually back up to the shed.

Where I found this…

20160807_170657

First kid out, nothing to do but keep on with my to-do list and check on Rianna occasionally. I got the goatlings and bucks in the small paddocks fed, put the poultry away, fed the cat and put out the call to Matt to pick up some dinner on his way home from work.

We ended up with a small but nice set of twins from Rianna. They were a little slow to get going, the buck was frustratingly resistant to feeding from his mother, but they are doing well now and feeding themselves.

After such a long dry Autumn, the recent rain has been very welcome, but it is much wetter here than we have seen it previously. The main dam is at its highest level since we moved in after almost drying up completely a few months ago. The interesting bit of earthworks described by the real estate agent as a second dam actually looks like how I imagine the previous owner had intended the water trap on his golf course to look.

20160807_165903

The main dam

20160807_170247

The back dam, aka hole 3

Days like this give me the enthusiasm to press on through the cold and wet, to make plans for the spring and start thinking about what to plant where. I’m hoping to do a lot more seed propagation this year, rather than buying seedlings, so I’ve got some equipment to use the small greenhouse to start seeds. I’ve started mulching and weeding the vegetable garden and ordered some seeds for the spring and summer crops. I hope to get some peas and beans planted next weekend, and I’m thinking about where I might be able to plant some hazelnut trees.

The daffodils and wattle trees are blooming, the geese are getting aggressive, the ducks are laying and the pregnant does are expanding alarmingly. Spring is on its slow march toward us and will be here before we know it.

Cats Are Awesome, Just Ask Them.

Standard

I’ve been quiet on here for a while, but I’ve had it in my head to make a post about our shed cat, Rufus. Then Zoe cat joined us as well, so I figured I might as well produce an all-cat extravaganza post. So if you like cute cat photos, you’ve come to the right place.

Name: Louie G

Likes: Sleeping under the blankets, sticking her bum in your face, back rubs and the fireplace.

Dislikes: Strange dogs, being put outside, Zoe cat.

Also known as: Catbearpig, Kitty Lumpkin, Your Sister’s Mongrel Cat, Spewy Louie.

Louie (named after Luigi from Super Mario) was the littermate of Sunny, who died earlier this year. In a story something like a cross between City Mouse, Country Mouse and Sons And Daughters, Louie spent her formative year living with my sister in Melbourne, while Sunny was raised with us on the farm.

When you’re a cat in the suburbs you have to make your own fun, so Louie spent a lot of time tormenting my sister’s dog and bringing home gifts of mice, worms and goldfish.

Upon coming back to the farm, she quickly took her place as the wacky counterpart to the more serious Sunny, and dominated her larger, more athletic sister at Kitty Smackdown several mornings a week for many years.

These days Louie loves to watch TV in the evenings and you have to be quick to grab her before she realises that it is time to go outside. If you are too slow she will disappear under the bed or leave you chasing her Benny Hill style around tables and chairs. If you are quick enough to catch her before she knows what you’re up to she will growl at you as you approach the front door to put her out.

IMG_20160503_204315

Louie’s likes to lie in front of the fire and pretend to be a beanbag.

20160626_204804

Inconveniently located scratching post prevents her from tearing up the carpet in this spot.

20160630_201342

She doesn’t mind sitting through a few episodes of Orange is the New Black

 

Name: Zoe

Likes: Eating toes, fairy bread, watching footy with Callum

Dislikes: Louie, having a dirty litter tray.

Also Known As: Smoosh, Muppet Kitty

Zoe came from the RSPCA Pet’s Place. She had been picked up as a stray, and while her owners were located they did not want her back, so she was offered for adoption.

I have difficulty understanding why anyone wouldn’t want this little cutie back in their home. To begin with she was very docile, to the point where I was concerned that she might be unwell, as every time you picked her up she would go all floppy. But after a couple of days zooming around the house, getting up on the table and generally proving to be quite a livewire, I stopped worrying.

She still goes floppy and relaxes completely when you pick her up, but she’s just a super chilled-out little cat. She hangs out with Callum, sleeping in his bed, watching footy on TV, sorting out the footy cards, and even playing with her little squashy football. Even the hordes of children who descended on our house for Callum’s recent birthday party didn’t bother her – she was happily passed around for cuddles and didn’t do the normal disappearing act that cats tend to do at parties.

She struts around the house like she owns the place, but will retreat to one of her hiding places (under the buffet, in the back of the fridge, the suitcase in Callum’s room) when she hears the bell on Louie’s collar.

 

20160702_224228

All feet must die!

20160709_143532

Zoe off with the fairies after stealing some fairy bread…

 

Name: Rufus

Likes: Goats, goat milk, hunting.

Dislikes: Dogs

Also Known As: Wuffy, Ferocious Kitty, Savage Beast

I was desperate to find a solution for the rat and mouse problem in the goat and poultry shed, so I put out word that I was looking for a shed cat. A work colleague found me a seven week old ginger kitten on a local buy, swap and sell network, and Rufus came to live with us.

At that time he looked like this…

IMG_20151207_122620

I wasn’t completely sure about leaving such a tiny little furball to live in the shed, but he started out in a cage, being let out while supervised, then spending his days outside and soon graduating to the free-range life.

He killed his first mouse before he was even old enough to be desexed, and soon the only evidence of rodents that I found in the shed were the bits he didn’t eat, like rat tails and jaw bones. He eradicated all the rats and mice from the area and began to venture further afield. He regularly brings rabbits from the house yard back to the shed to eat. He did eat one young Silkie cockeral, but apart from occasionally smacking an upstart chicken he mostly leaves them alone.

He has adapted to outdoor life incredibly well. He will snuggle up with the goats on cold mornings and follow them down the paddock during the day. He has come to expect a dish of milk at milking time every morning. He waits on the gate post each morning and night when I come across at feed time, and climbs on my head and shoulder while I open the gate. He then rubs his head on mine, purring enthusiastically, as I transport him across the yard to the shed.

The farmyard and shed are his domain, and he oversees them admirably. He is always there to help with chores, unless he is busy hunting. This will be the first kidding season with him in residence, so it will be interesting to see what he thinks of all that.

 

20160514_095203

Free range cat out for a morning stroll