The Long Cold

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Winter at the new house has been interesting. While it feels like it has been cold for ever, the house is certainly warmer and the grounds certainly drier than winters at the old house.

We’ve had some long runs of soggy days and a couple of very dramatic frosts. But the goat pens are dry and if the farmyard is a little muddy, there are no huge puddles to dodge.

We are kidding a few weeks later this year, which was fortunate because those very cold nights fell on dates that have been prime kidding dates in previous years.

We have four does due to kid over three days starting on August 9th, with another three weeks later and couple more later in the season.

We are down to fifteen goats heading into kidding season. I sold Ambika’s twin wethers from last year, conceding that they were too small to bother butchering and I am not set up with a suitable place to fatten them.

We lost two boys to urinary calculi in the space of two weeks. First was young buck Zeus, who has left one doe in kid. Then, to everyone’s dismay, we lost our beloved pet wether Thumper. Thumper was a happy-go-lucky three year old wether with not a single mean bone in his body. The tallest goat in the herd, his favourite trick was to rear up and put his front hooves on people’s shoulders, asking for a cuddle. This got him in trouble sometimes, like the time he left muddy hoofprints on the classifier’s shirt.

Then one evening I looked out across the paddock to see a huge eagle standing in front of a patch of trees. I went out to chase it off, but it was too late. The eagle was in the process of devouring my brash and over-confident Rhode Island Red rooster, Russell Crow. I have been told that they usually go for smaller birds rather than big mature roosters, and the theory is that Russell was defending his girls when the eagle decided to take him instead.

This came on the back of losing all four of my breeding Pekin ducks in the previous months to the eagles, including Derek the rescue drake. We are now looking at adding a Maremma sheepdog to the family as a livestock guardian, as they are the only method of protection against death from above.

We’ve added a few new chums to the poultry pen lately, including Muscles the Muscovy drake, a trio of Hyline laying hens and most recently a new RIR rooster by the name of Chuck Norris. Chuck is a vocal and hard-working rooster who has come from a flock of bachelor cockerals and seems to be greatly enjoying some female company.

It will be a little while yet before my vegie garden starts to come to life, but some of the cold weather crops are ticking along quietly. I’ve ordered several fruit trees which should arrive soon, and pruned the neglected specimens in the original orchard. There are a few blossoms appearing and plenty of bulbs springing up and flowering, including lots of daffodils and a few bearded irises.

There will be a lot to do when the weather improves, but for the meantime we are concentrating on staying warm and preparing for kidding time.

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The Buck Stops Here.

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In my relatively short time as a goat breeder I have already owned four bucks, and currently have three entire males on the property. Compare this to the two stallions I owned in 15 years of breeding ponies and you see some of the reason why goat breeding appeals to me. Bucks, on the whole, are no real drama to keep and handle.

Admittedly it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. This season my buckling Jupiter has taken matters into his own hooves and kindly revealed every weakness in four acres of buck fencing. He has served three does; two who were planned and one who I hadn’t decided on. I can’t be certain that he did not also breed the fourth doe who is intended for another buck. Or the fifth doe who really needs to wait until next season to get pregnant if I want to show her as a goatling this spring. These two have been given emergency contraception. Quintus Batiatus is not the only one prone to cursing Jupiter’s cock (Spartacus fans will get the reference). Fingers crossed, we seem to have Jupi contained at last.

Jupiter as a kid

Jupiter as a kid

Jupi seems to have accepted his containment gracefully, with only the odd mournful wail, spending most of his time with the other boys happily grazing or cudding. He is an opportunistic wanderer who stumbled upon his escape routes and made the best of the situation. This sort of buck is much easier to deal with than the sex-crazed fellow I was forced to dispose of last year. Vic was a big, strong buckling who single-mindedly climbed over solid fences and through electric ones. When tied up he broke collars and chains and even climbed up my back to get out of the stable and to the does, including his mother and twin sister. There was simply no stopping him other than a quick and expertly administered bullet.

My senior buck, Tazzy, spoiled me somewhat in my early days of buck ownership. A wonderfully kind and gentle soul, he has been known to stand behind an electric tape fence that was not even working rather than attempt to get to the girls. If only they could all be like him.

Tazzy

Tazzy

The slutty does don’t help the situation. How do you know when a doe is in season? She parades herself in front of the buck pen, wagging her tail and fluttering her eyelashes. Failing that, she will stand at the gate, stare in the direction that the buck smell is coming from and cry her desperate (and not at all tuneful) Nubian cry. All day.

Once the mature does are in kid things settle down as we wait out the late autumn and winter months until kidding begins. Then once we see what each mating has produced we can start to think about the pairings for the following season.

Next year my big red buck kid Apollo will be a buckling. Will he be an opportunistic wanderer like his father Jupiter, or polite and courteous like his grandfather Tazzy?

Buck Kid Apollo, aka Red.

Buck Kid Apollo

I’ll be happy if all my planned matings go off without a hitch. A doe kid or two would be nice as well.