Nothing Like Christmas

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After the last post we had two does with live, healthy kids on the ground and one who had lost her twins. Gaia was being treated for an infection in her joint, and the next doe due to kid was Meredith.

Gaia hung on bravely, hopping about on three legs, feeding and growing, but the antibiotics didn’t work. She was put down at 23 days and buried behind the barn.

Meredith kidded unexpectedly a week early. Her big buck kid was a beautiful mottle, but despite two days of nursing he didn’t make it. He was buried next to Gaia.

At this stage I had four does kidded and only three kids running around. The next three due were maiden does and I wasn’t completely sure when Juliet’s due date was.

Lizzie kidded on a Saturday afternoon at 150 days on the dot. We were out shopping when I checked the barncam and saw that she was getting very close. We rushed home and I watched for a while. After about half an hour, with only the kid’s nose visible and not a lot of progress being made, I decided it was time to investigate. I found that only one front leg had come forward. I dragged Lizzie up onto the head bail, thinking ‘I just need to push the kid back, find the other leg, and it will slip out no worries – I’ll look like a hero’.

Nope.

Being such a small doe, Lizzie, as it turns out, has a fairly small pelvis. I was able to push the kid back a bit and feel about for the other front leg but what I found was more like three or four legs and I had no way of knowing which one belonged to the halfway-born kid.

I called the vet and got Anna, his wife, who I had not met before but who is also a vet. She was in town but came straight out to my place. She had a poke around and discovered what I had – a stuck kid with a leg back and whole lot of legs to choose from. After much pushing and manoeuvring the second leg of the first kid appeared, and with considerable traction she was removed.

The second kid followed hot on the heels of the first. A doe and a buck, both big-boned and rowdy. They were on their feet within an hour and after a little bit of encouragement Lizzie was happily feeding them. I paid the Saturday call-out fee with a smile on my face, relieved to have healthy kids on the ground and a healthy doe to feed them.

Juliet started to make her udder and I was apprehensive, with no way of knowing what stage her kids were at or what to expect when they were born. She laboured all day Wednesday with no visible goo, which also had me spooked. Just after dark I checked the barncam to see that she had produced a very interesting little kid. I put on my outside gear and rushed out to the shed.

The first kid was a boldly marked dark brown and black with loads of white, black ears with a white border, a big white top-knot and a white dot on her otherwise black face. Very cute. I left Juliet with this kid for a while, as they were both lying down peacefully after the effort of birth But after a while I moved it to where Juliet could more easily clean it without getting up and took a look under the tail – a little doe. Juliet cleaned her up very well and after about 45 minutes lay down again and produced two more kids, both bucks. The kids were small, but clearly fully-cooked, they were up and feeding before I got around to weighing them.

My kid population had grown to eight from six does and things were starting to look up. Maude was due a few days after Juliet kidded, but the date came and went. At 154 days she started to make an udder. At 157 days I was due to make a trip to Melbourne for a two-day Radical Feminist conference.

When I bought the ticket for this conference my calendar showed that the dates were in the middle of a 23-day window between Maude’s due date and Hera’s. I should have been fine to leave the farm. Matt assured me everything would be fine, so I left everyone in his capable hands and headed off to Melbourne.

It turned into the sort of scenario that even Murphy could not have anticipated. At 11pm on Friday night, with me ensconced in a hotel room and the next train home not leaving for 8 hours, Maude went into full labour. She was working very hard, pushing and getting up and down. I messaged Matt to keep an eye on her. I used up my hotel free wifi allowance and had to use my mobile data to keep watching. At about 1am Maude lay down, exhausted. I must have nodded off after that, but when I woke at 4am Maude was still lying in the same place. I rang Matt again and told him something was wrong. ‘Those kids have to come out now’ I told him. He sighed, put on his waterproof gear and headed out.

With Maude up on the bail, Matt quickly identified a hind leg presenting first. I instructed him to find the other one, which he did. ‘Now what?’ he asked. ‘Now you pull’, I said.

The kid was stuck. Really stuck. I suspected that it was probably already dead, but didn’t say so. It still had to come out. I could hear the anguish and rising panic in Matt’s voice as he worked to get the kid out. The geese were squawking in the background. Another doe somewhere was calling out. Poor Maude was silent, she had basically dissociated and gone to her happy place.

Matt got the kid out, but the reason for the obstruction was obvious – it was grossly swollen, big but underdeveloped, mostly hairless and incredibly grotesque. With this kid out, a big gush of fluid followed then another kid, front feet first. Then came the words I was not expecting to hear.

‘This one is alive.’

The third kid was also dead, and mostly normal. But we had one live kid, which meant there was still plenty of work to do.

Maude was not at all interested in her kid, so I instructed Matt to bring the kid inside. I told him to take her temp and not give her any milk unless she was over 37 degrees. I left the hotel at 5.45am and caught the early train home. When I got in just after 9am I found Matt asleep in front of the heater with the kid wearing a heated ICU rug on a towel next to him. I thought she had died, but when I picked her up she opened her eyes. I took her temperature and she was so cold that the electronic thermometer couldn’t get a reading.

I sent Matt to bed and the boys and myself set about warming the kid up. I got the heat lamp from the barn and set it up in the TV room, while Rohan warmed the kid with my hairdryer. I put her in a tub with some straw and towels, the heated rug warming her from one side and the heat lamp warming her from the other. Then I headed out to milk and feed all the healthy crew and clean up the mess from the hours before.

Hera had a bit of goo under her tail and was clearly uncomfortable. ‘Here we go again’ I thought. With two weeks still to go until her due date I knew her kids had probably died. I put her in a pen and got on with my tasks.

I watched Hera through the day and into the night. She did not look distressed, so I left her to it. In the morning I found her lying flat on her side, legs and neck stretched out, with a recently-expelled dead kid behind her. For a moment I thought Hera herself was dead.

I called out to her and she opened her eyes and sat up. A second kid, tiny, was still hanging from her in its sac. It was malformed, as was the bigger one, and neither would have been viable. She seemed much relieved to have that all over with, and after the second kid came out she was up and about, and I let her out to be with the others. She went looking for food and water, and was back to her normal self by the evening.

In total, four does had either dead kids or, in Meredith’s case, a live kid that died soon after birth. From those four does we lost two doe kids; four bucks, one too small to tell and at this stage one doe kid is still alive. Meanwhile four other does had healthy kids. The only link seems to be that all the aborted or unviable kids were by one buck, the healthy kids by my two proven bucks. Whether that is just a coincidence I have no idea. We have run a few tests which have turned up nothing. The only option is to roll the dice again next season, and do a full investigation if we encounter any similar problems.

I used to say that kidding time is like Christmas – you never know what you are going to get. After a couple of bad years I now approach kidding season with trepidation rather than excitement, and when things go well I can hardly believe it. Just when I think I have seen all the problems goats can throw at me, and learned how to deal with them, something comes up that scares me. I am incredibly grateful for my vets who are not far away when I get to a point where the situation has gone beyond what my skill and knowledge level can deal with.

Every now and then you catch a break. A particularly nice kid turns out to be a doe or a first year milker comes in with an especially good udder. The wet weather is making things even more challenging, but with kidding season over and half a dozen does to milk there is plenty of cheese to be made. Show season is around the corner, and that can always go one way or the other.

But when all those Nubian does come screaming into season in Autumn there will be little hesitation in breeding them again. And once the kids are in there, they have to come out eventually. And so it goes again.

 

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When Soap Gremlins Attack!

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I have been making soap for two and a half years now. That’s quite a long time. I wrote a post about the first batch of soap I made way back in March 2013. You can check it out here.

Since then I have made about 800 bars of soap. I’ve got my NICNAS registration and started selling to family, friends, workmates and at the very occasional public event. In a couple of weeks I’ll be at the school Christmas market, which is quite exciting.

In that time my soap has gone from looking like the ones in the link above to single colour swirls and basic natural scents to complex themed essential oil and colour combinations.

Original Fairy Garden

Original Fairy Garden

Fairy Garden Mk2

Fairy Garden Mk2

And until last week I hadn’t lost a single batch.

Soapers talk of a phenomena known as ‘soap gremlins’. It’s when soap develops a mind of its own and things go awry. Seized (super fast thickening), discoloured or overheated batches, dropped mixing bowls, missed fragrances, anything that stops your masterpiece from manifesting as you had intended. And they tend to come in a series of two or more disasters.

I’ve been stocking up on a lot of old favourites with Christmas, the school market and next year’s Rural Lifestyle Expo in mind. Two popular natural varieties, Holy Guacamole and Bee’s Knees, should have gone off without a hitch. But I made a couple of bad decisions.

Holy Guacamole features avocado oil and the flesh of a whole avocado in the mix. It turns out a kind of booger green. It is probably the ugliest soap I make, but it is super moisturising and leaves that dewy feeling on your skin without being greasy. I usually let it heat up naturally to gel phase to speed up the cure, but this time it didn’t heat up on its own. So I gave it a bit of help by putting it in the oven.

When I unmoulded it the next day I found that I had burned the edges. It had a thin layer of nasty brown goo around the top. The rest of the soap was fine, but it looked bloody awful. The best option was to slice off the top layer, leaving a smaller bar. To compensate for this, I cut the batch into 12 bars instead of 16 to make up for the lost weight. So the bars are nice and fat, with flat tops. And they should still work perfectly well.

Holy Guacamole, not a beauty even when successful, but feels great to use.

Holy Guacamole, not a beauty even when successful, but feels great to use.

My next mistake was on the honey soap. The batch stayed beautifully cool and kept the creamy look. I had the bright idea of putting it in my cute new 12-bar mould with the goat kid on it. The soft, sticky soap stayed in the detail parts of the mould when I popped it out, and left sad blurry goat kids on the top of each bar.

I had never done a rebatch before, but a newly made, otherwise perfectly good batch of milk and honey soap seemed like a good place to start if I wanted to save all the ingredients and have a saleable batch of a popular variety. I did some research and decided to go with the stove top method.

I grated up the soap, put it into oven bags and put the oven bags in a big pot of boiling water. Once it had all melted down I snipped a corner off the bags and squeezed all the molten soap into the moulds. Then it was fingers crossed and don’t look at it for at least 12 hours.

It turned out okay, some people have even said it looks better than the original (thanks guys). I’ll test it in a day or two and see how it goes.

Rebatched honey soap

Rebatched honey soap

Then on Saturday I woke with an idea. I pictured a creamy, mostly white soap, with a light brown and lilac swirl. I had been trying to figure out a way to lighten-up a combination of frankincense and patchouli essential oils, and I had the idea of adding lime. I decided to risk a hanger swirl with two colours. The essential oil combo turned out better than I expected, it smells amazing, and applying the colours turned out to be a bit of a learning experience. But in the end I am happy with how it turned out.

New, still unnamed variety with frankincense, patchouli and lime.

New, still unnamed variety with frankincense, patchouli and lime.

Here are a couple of my recent creations that I am a bit proud of. I’ve never really been much of a crafty person, but I enjoy making things that are useful, good for you, enjoyable to use and also look good sitting on your sink or in your shower. I’ve been able to help a few people with skin problems along the way.

Tie Dye - four colour in-the-pot swirl with clary sage, patchouli and lavender.

Tie Dye – four colour in-the-pot swirl with clary sage, patchouli and lavender.

Plain four-ingredient goat milk soap, dressed up just a little with this cute goat kid mould.

Plain four-ingredient goat milk soap, dressed up just a little with this cute goat kid mould.

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.

642 Days…

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That’s how long Sienna was in milk for. 642 consecutive days of milking. Over one and a half tonnes of milk.

Not bad for an undersized Anglo Nubian doe with dangly teats.

sienna triplets

Sienna with her newborn triplets.

It all began on 11th July, 2013, when she kidded her second set of triplets. I had been in hospital having my pacemaker replaced only a few hours before Sienna went into labour, and it was a very long night waiting for her to kid, but she eventually got all three kids out without any drama. Thankfully this time one of them was a doe kid, a very cute little spotty brat who we named Juno. Twelve days later I thought that doe kid was lost when Sienna came back to the barn without her baby. I assumed a fox had taken her and I was devastated. The next morning my neighbours brought a very hungry Juno home after finding her in with their Suffolk lambs.

Sienna’s kids were all bouncy and healthy, and after the two boys went to another home as bottle babies, she settled into life with her doe kid. She came in with loads of milk, producing a huge five litres per day in the beginning. Her body condition fell away due to her being such a fussy eater, and by the time she was balanced again she was producing a steady 4 litres a day. I left her kid on her and took whatever excess milk she had in the morning.

sienna and juno

Sienna down the paddock with Juno

This was my first attempt at herd recording, which requires monthly reporting of milk production and testing of butterfat and protein. Sienna’s herd recording results slightly edged out her bigger half-sister Meredith’s in the first six months of her lactation.

I took Sienna to the Ballarat Show that year as a second lactation doe, and mentioned to judge Alda Jackman that I was planning to give her a year off to grow out a bit more after the huge effort she had put in birthing six kids in 13 months and milking heavily. She suggested running her through; continuing to milk without kidding. Sienna had shown a tendency to milk on in her previous lactation, so I figured it would be worth a try.

Meredith and Sienna were still very close in their herd recording results when, in kid again, Meredith stopped milking after about nine months. She achieved her standard for age in herd recording, and in her following lactation she gave over five litres at an official test, qualifying for a * award and just barely missing out on a *Q* award.

Sienna kept on producing. When the other does were drying off, she dropped her production to around three litres and continued at this rate for the next five months. Over the winter she dropped back to two litres, which she kept up until recently when she started to dry off. Having fresh milk through winter was wonderful.

In the first twelve months of her lactation, Sienna produced 1152 kilograms of milk, achieving the production award F115.

With that award to her name, and my A-team of does sidelined due to illness and injury, Sienna did the rounds of the shows with me in the spring of 2014. She did Type and Production – Herd Recording classes, where she was not only the only Anglo Nubian entered, but often the first doe to receive that prize at a particular show in several years. She won the special award at the Branch Show in Bendigo for Type and Production Anglo Nubian. Sienna brought home her first tricolour sashes since being Champion Kid at the Branch Show three years earlier.

sienna ballarat

With her spoils at Ballarat Show, 2014

sienna bendigo

At the Vic Branch Show, Bendigo 2014

She stood beautifully to be milked out, and paraded like she wasn’t having a completely terrible time. This was a huge improvement from the sour, crabby, stompy little goat she had been in her first lactation.

While the other does were birthing kids, Sienna milked on. Her coat was glossy, she maintained good body condition, and developed into a much more mature doe with good bone and depth of body. She was giving the same amount of milk to the house as she would have if she had kidded, but without the burden of producing a litter of kids. Her daughter Juno kidded twins and raised her own daughter, a sturdy yet feminine kid with great Nubian type, who we call Lizzie. Lizzie is now nine months old.

Juno with her newborn twins, Abel and Elizabeth

Juno with her newborn twins, Abel and Elizabeth

lizzie crop 2

Sienna’s granddaughter Lizzie (Elcarim Elizabeth)

Towards the end of her lactation, with her milk volume dropping, the protein and butterfat content rose. This resulted in me creating some amazing cheeses and fabulously creamy yogurt. Where four litres of milk would normally yield about 800g of chevre, I was getting closer to 1200g. My hard cheeses were turning out bigger too, and I made some amazing camembert. Late lactation milk is great stuff to work with.

So finally, five weeks after being bred, Sienna has dried off. I definitely intend to run her through again. In the meantime, her daughter Juno has been in milk for nine months and after weaning her kid she is still producing steadily. After kidding a few days after her first birthday she will need the year off to grow and catch up, but if she will give enough milk to keep the kefir going through winter that will be a great help.

Not a lot of Anglo Nubians will run through, and I am proud of my little doe and her achievements. I will run her through after this kidding as well, try for a 24 hour production award, and give herd recording another go. Her full sister Hera will kid this season too, and it will be interesting to see whether Sienna’s sisters and progeny also have the ability to milk through.

It just goes to show that it doesn’t take a big, flash doe to produce a lot of milk. And that sometimes a little Anglo Nubian can milk like a proper dairy goat.

Value Adding

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I had horses for years. I bred them and raised them and trained them. Sometimes I even sold them. Sometimes I even got something like what they were worth.

They say with horses that the only way to make a small fortune is to start with a large fortune. I’m going to have to agree with that. While I saved a lot of money by having my own property, trimming their hooves by myself and occasionally breaking one in, the fact was that I spent a substantial amount of money on them and didn’t get very much back.

When people ask me how much my goats cost to keep, they are often shocked at my response. It’s not just feed, things like disease testing and other vet bills really add up. While worming and vaccination are a lot cheaper with a smaller animal, and I can whip through and trim everyone’s feet in a couple of hours, I go through three bags of grain a week in summer and a lot more when the does are milking heavily and their kids are small.

Showing is another area where I think the goats are much better value. I can enter half a dozen goats in a dozen classes at most shows for what it would cost to enter one horse in one dressage test. And I can fit half a dozen goats in the horse float.

The main thing that tips the scales in the direction of the goats, is that you get something back from them. Not just milk, but offspring who are worth something.

Even when I had my own stallion and could basically produce purebred ponies out of thin air, the amount I sold them for was never as much as it cost to raise them. And selling them could be a drama in itself.

Twin doe kids are worth more at a year old and cost a lot less to raise than a foal. And castrating the boys costs a matter of cents, rather than hundreds of dollars.

I worked out recently that each week my goats provide about $80 worth of dairy products for the house. At the moment I only have two in milk, and my feed bill is about $40 a week.

A kilogram of hard cheese, the same again of soft cheese, perhaps a mozzarella or ricotta. A litre of yogurt. And then there is the daily kefir for two people and the milk that is used on cereal, in drinks and in cooking.

Even if we were to replace all that with regular home-brand cow milk supermarket substitutes, it would still cost more than the weekly feed bill.

Sure, if I didn’t have goats I wouldn’t buy some of those things. I would still buy ‘good’ full-fat yogurt with as little added sugar as possible. I would still buy mozzarella for pizza or lasagne.

But we wouldn’t have the benefits of raw goat milk kefir. I wouldn’t have chevre to spread on my toast instead of sugar-filled jam. Our life and our health would not be as good.

And that is the real value-add of ‘pet’ dairy goats. The stuff you can’t buy. The goat cuddles and adorable newborn kids. The occasional broad sash on a home-bred goat at a show. Knowing that your milk has traveled about 30 metres from the goat to the house and only been in the one container from source to consumption. Making yogurt with a taste and texture exactly how you like it, and with no added sugar.

You can’t replicate this. Not without a milker or two of your own. People who drink well-traveled, processed, reconstituted white stuff from the supermarket and dyed yellow slices of plastic ‘cheddar’ will never understand what they are missing out on.

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