Posts Tagged ‘xenia’

Bette Davis, asleep in Huck's feed pan


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Wow, there is so much to say with the latest events over the past few weeks since the last post.  Forgive me, dear readers (hello?  anyone?), but let me indulge you in the latest from Spring Mill.

Chicken: It’s What’s for Dinner

Two weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, we processed our old laying hens.  I debated about if it was something I wanted to share with the blog, but have decided there is nothing to be ashamed about.  We received these hens as day-old chicks, raised them with love and care, and in return they (unknowingly) provided us with eggs for nourishment.  I sold their eggs to my co-workers last year, so they provided nourishment not just to HB and I, our in-laws, but also to at least 50 other people when you count the eggs eaten by our neighbors, co-workers, friends and their respective families.  Amazing the impact of 11 little hens, isn’t it?

The hens were getting older, laying less, and eating what eggs they did lay – a habit we tried hard to break, but never could.  So we set up one Sunday morning, and processed the hens.  The first one was the hardest for me, and after that it became a respectful thanksgiving as we did each hen.  The processing wasn’t that difficult and it was actually pretty interesting.  In their death, these birds will continue to provide nourishment, and that’s another amazing aspect.

A New Beginning

The day after we processed the hens, the next set of chicks arrived.  This time we ordered 30 pullets, half of which are Americanas that lay the beautiful “easter” eggs in shades of blue and green.  The other half are a mix of brown egg layers, Columbian Rocks, Red crosses, and Silver-Laced Wyandottes.  The picture above is taken at one week of age.  They’re living in their brooder in the coop and thriving.  We ordered them from Mt Healthy Hatchery in Ohio.  We ordered our previous set of laying hens from them as well, we love the quality of the birds.  Now, if only I could find a few meat birds to raise as well… 😉

A New Addition

Last week Xenia kidded a beautiful little doeling, who we named “Bette Davis” to keep up the year’s theme.  She is a sweet, spunky little girl.  Despite wanting to bottle-raise, we’ve decided to let Xenia raise her.  Our work schedules just don’t allow time for midday feedings.  Now I’m trying to decide when to introduce her to the rest of the herd.  Bette is so much younger than the other kids, I don’t want them to bully or injure her with their roughhousing!

The Never-Ending Project 😉

The goat barn is coming along well.  We’ve fenced in the small barn lot surrounding it and putt up two of the three gates.  We’ve started some of the interior wall work, and once that is finished will complete the outer front wall.  Then! we will be able to move the goats out there.  How strange it will be to not wake up to them “baaaaa”ing out my back door!

A Bit of Beauty

Our rose bushes are in full bloom and I’m in love with them.  Every year they get better and better.  These were $6 tea rose hybrids we picked up on a whim at WalMart a few years back.  I love the blooms – one blooms a buttery yellow, the other blooms a pale yellow with pink-tinged petals.   Walking out to the chicken coop and seeing these lovely plants makes me smile.

An Education.

Today is the first day the dairy goats and kids have been turned out with the wethers in the big pasture with Huck.  There were some antics at first, but now everyone has settled down and enjoying the field.  Yes, and I said with Huck, my horse.  After nearly 9 months of stall rest and controlled exercise we got the “go ahead” after his last ultrasound to put him out in the pasture!  Last Wednesday was his first day out, and he is LOVING it.  I think he enjoys the goats out there too.  Sweet Roll and Donut stay with him full time – in the pasture during the day, in the barn lot at night.  They often curl up together (the wethers, Huck doesn’t curl up with them) and sleep in the stall at night.  Huck must be picking up skills from the goats – when we climb a big hill/mountain on the trail he breaks out his “mountain goat walk” and cruises up them. 🙂

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The goat kids are growing like weeds.  I weighed them the other night, they average around 30 pounds, just over one month old.  Fred and Bogart (Memphis’ kids) are the biggest, and the youngest.  Their bone structure is much more substantial, while Rock and Doris (Abba’s kids) are taller, leaner, but weigh more than you think!

One month.

I can’t believe it.

I spent five months waiting, planning, and in the span of 30 days, time has flown by.  We have a new routine, new kids to play with.  To laugh at.  To cuddle with.  To wince at when they chew a little too much on your hair…

We expect Xenia to kid soon! She is due on Thursday the 29th.  She’s no where near as big as the other does were this close to birth.  Her udder isn’t nearly as full, but I really do think she’s still pregnant – over the past month her sides have taken on a more rotund dimension.  She’s such a high-stress girl.

All the kids have homes:  Doris will remain with us and become a future milker, Bogart will move in with Donut once he’s old enough for weaning – we plan on him to become a companion as we will eventually have to put Sweet Roll down due to his illness.  Fred and Rock will move in with Donut and be fed out and sold to buyers in North Carolina, co-workers of good friends there. I think I managed to pick the most mischievous buckling to keep for our own pet (he will be castrated shortly).  Bogey’s into anything and everything and often keeps me company while I do chores and clean Huck’s paddock.  He finds great joy and jumping on and off objects.  I love his zest for life.  I love all of the goat’s enthusiasm towards life.  It’s something good to model in our own lives.

We put a deposit down on a buckling this week, and we will go pick him up this summer.  He’s a nicely bred French Alpine with good conformation and bloodlines that overlap very little with our current stock.  I wouldn’t have minded something a little more flashy – a nice wide belt? – but we’re not breeding for color — we’re breeding for quality stock with good conformation, attitudes, and milking ability.

Our cheesemaking is going well.  We’ve had chevre transported up and down the East Coast by friends, who all come back with rave reviews.  Our friends have been known to hoard their chevre.  We’re up to several different flavors: plain, herbs de provence, cracked peppercorn, and the newest – a smokey chipotle.  My co-workers love me, since I regularly bring in cheese to share.   I luckily work with some pretty daring taste-testers, lots of foodie’s in one animal hospital!  We call them our “R&D department” and test run new flavors on them and get feedback on new flavors to try.  Some work, others need some tweaking.  They in turn share it with their friends, and we’re already developing a future customer base.  It’s the life of the party.   Not really.  But close. 😉

My father has surgery tomorrow, so please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.  I’m likely to be gone for another short stint depending on how everything goes.  It’s been a rough week:  last Thursday HB’s mom had her first chemo session at the same time her father was having quadruple bypass surgery.  Everyone is doing well, thankfully.

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Abba, 148 days

Today marks 148 days bred for Abba and Memphis.   This morning I measured the circumference of their ever-widening abdomens.  Their last measurement was at a month out, so about 3.5 weeks ago.

Today’s measurements:

Abba – 50 inches

Memphis – 51 inches

That’s a gain of nearly 5 inches each!  It’s been a lot of fun watching their bellies (and udders) swell as the time draws closer.

They say their tail ligaments soften as they approach kidding time.  You see the same things in horses, the tail head begins to feel very flaccid.  I’ve been feeling the ligaments for over a week now, at least twice a day, and I don’t really know if they feel “soft” or not.  They’re certainly a lot softer than Jacqsonne or the other goats!  I figure one day I’ll palpate the ligaments and be like “OH!” and know what it’s supposed to feel like.

The girls have been loving the break in weather, warm days combined with extra sunlight and fresh green grass in the pastures has made them very happy.  Yesterday Jacqsonne’s milk production increased by 2/3 of a pound!  She gave a full 3/4 of a gallon yesterday – her biggest production day yet, and definitely the biggest increase we’ve seen in her production.  I couldn’t believe how full her udder looked last night.  I’m sure I insulted HB when I questioned if he had milked in the morning – she was just that full!

We’ve started letting Sweet Roll, Donut, and Xenia out in the barn lot during the day.  Xenia is cooperating with the new schedule, and Sweet Roll enjoys the sunshine so much.  I hate that it’s bad for him – UV light aggravates his pemphigus (go figure).  While I figure out the next step for him, I figure why not let him enjoy sleeping in the sun?  Today is such a nice day, that as long as everyone gets along, I’m letting Huck roam the barn lot with the boys and Xenia.  They adore Huck’s haynets to the point where I’m considering getting them their own!

Well I better get busy.  HB and his dad are putting the roof on the barn shed today.  I picked up some summer-blooming bulbs that need planting (glads and dahlias) and I really want to start some seeds today too.  And Huck needs a ride.

Enjoy this beautiful day!

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Xenia introduced herself to the other does today, by jumping out of her stall where she has been living with the wethers and into their lot.  Whoops.

HB had wanted to introduce them soon, so I figured she had just jumped the gun.  Taken the initiative.  Good for her.

I put Jacqsonne on the milk stand and let her start eating, then went to feed the other does – now a threesome with the addition of Xenia.  I doled out their allotted grain, then shut their stall door so I could let Huck get out and stretch his legs before his evening walk.

Well if Xenia isn’t the bossiest little piglet I’ve ever seen!  She eats very quickly on the milking stand but was a bully in the stall!  I have three wall-mounted buckets I use for feeding, spaced around the stall.  She would run from one bucket to the next, pushing poor Abba or Memphis away to grab a bite from that bucket before rushing to the next.  What poor manners!  Poor Abba and Memphis, bumped at every bucket they went too, looked so confused and called out to me.

I left them alone, hoping Xenia would settle if I wasn’t watching her antics.  I milked Jacqsonne (who gave me a full half-gallon today!) and then walked her back to the stall.  You could tell she wasn’t keen on the “new girl” but let her have space.  I filled their hay manger with fresh hay, and Jacqsonne got really protective.  If goats have hackles, Jacqsonne’s were raised.  She glared at Xenia.  She repeatedly blocked her from the alfalfa hay.  Then she got aggressive when Xenia went to the feeder of alfalfa pellets and rammed into her shoulder.

Once again, hoping the girls would settle in my absence I left the stall to ensure Sweet Roll got his evening feed and medicine.  While he ate, I tiptoed back to the doe’s stall to check on them.  I peek in, just in time to see Jacqsonne chase Xenia around the stall and see Xenia sail over the stall door (I probably should have shut that, eh?).  She looked like a little deer.

If this doe carries a full term pregnancy and delivers viable kids it will be a miracle.  She’s sooooo nervous.  At times, I feel like the world’s worst in goat husbandry.

So then Xenia is out in the barn lot, again, with Huck (my horse).  The three does from TN were (and still are) nervous about being close to a horse.  Xenia, who as far as I know has never seen a horse up close, is unfazed.  Or perhaps he’s less threatening than I am.  Who knows?

I left her out with Huck while I finished evening chores and tried to figure out what to do with her.  In the end, I put Huck up, and settled for opening the wether’s stall to the barn lot.  Hopefully Sweet Roll and Donut’s presence will calm her.  Hopefully she won’t jump the fence.  Or teach them to jump the fence.  Or get hurt.  I hope she hasn’t already hurt herself; from afar she looks fine.  No lameness that I could tell.  But I can’t catch her in the barn lot.  I’m hoping she’ll come in with the boys in the morning when I shake a bit of grain for breakfast.  If not, I guess I’ll leave her out with the other does.

With that, I better go make sure they’re all still contained in the barn lot.

Oh, goats, they keep you young. 😉

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Abba and Memphis were bred October 23, 2009.

As of today, the yearling does have been pregnant roughly 117 days (16.5 weeks).  Xenia is approximately one month behind the yearlings.

We are barely a month out from their expected due dates!  This means it’s time to do some preventative management.  The care of pregnant goats revolves around keeping them happy and healthy.  This includes minerals, immunizations, hoof care, and nutrition.  Please keep in mind that this spring is my first time freshening goats, so what I’m about to share is simply what I’ve picked up from my own reading.

Making sure the does are current on vaccinations in important, not only for their own health but also for the health of the developing fetus(es).  It is recommended that does be vaccinated one month out from kidding.  Thus, this week I plan to vaccinate the two does due mid-March with a “CD&T,” which is a vaccine against Clostridium perfringes types C and D (the cause of enterotoxemia, aka overeating disease) as well at tetanus.  There are other, more comprehensive, vaccinations available if such diseases occur in your location – such as Caliber 7 or Covexin 8.  One vet in the area recommends using Covexin 8, others say it’s not necessary.  Last year the wethers were vaccinated with it, this year I think I’m just going to use the regular CD&T unless something changes.  Jacqsonne, Memphis, and Abba will all receive this vaccine this week.  In order to maximize the exchange of antibodies to the developing fetus, Xenia will be vaccinated in late March.

Some people use a vaccine called Lysigin, which is for the prevention of Staph. aureus.  S. aureus is a bacteria known to cause mastitis (inflammation of the mammary tissue that can affect milking ability and potentially be career or life ending for a dairy animal).  S. aureus is a pathogen frequently found in the soil so it is hard to avoid.  I’m still debating about using this vaccine, this year I’ve chosen not to but as time goes by I may consider adding it.

Also at this point, each doe will get her hooves trimmed.  Hoof care is a very important, often overlooked, aspect of caprine management.  With horses there is a saying, “No hoof, no horse” that stresses the importance of hoof care to a horse’s athletic ability.  Goats, while not athletes, are productive animals who deserve the best care possible.  I like to put the goats in the milk stand, give them a little grain for entertainment, and trim them.  The goats don’t seem to bothered by it this way.  Today, after trimming my horses, Anita helped me trim Jacqsonne’s hind hooves, which are overgrown.  HB and I worked on them individually about a month ago.  Before we trimmed again, we wanted a little input on how to advance their growth and try to return them to normal.

Nutrition is important to any animal, let alone a gestating animal, and especially one you plan to milk.  It is important to not let them get too overweight during pregnancy because that can cause birthing problems.  However, you don’t want them too thin when they kid, because once they begin lactating it’s hard for them to recover any lost weight.  Some people offer free-choice grain, but for now we offer grain twice daily.  We are currently using Blue Seal’s 20% dairy goat pellet.  Since Jacqsonne is milking, she gets more milk (close to 3 pounds daily) and right now we’re slowly increasing Abba and Memphis’s grain intake.  The plan is to slowly increase grain so that by the time a goat gives birth you are giving them the amount of grain they will be receiving on the milk stand.  This way their digestive system slowly adjusts to the increase in grain.  If you suddenly offer  a lot of grain, it can upset the bacterial population of the rumen (and other parts of the digestive system) and cause problems – and potentially be fatal.

We do, however, keep good quality hay (75% alfalfa, a legume, and 25% orchard grass) available at all times.  We also keep alfalfa pellets available.  In a separate container, the goats have access to special minerals as well as baking soda (there seems to be a 50/50 split on whether offering baking soda is a good thing) for them to munch on if they feel they need it to neutralize and upset tummy.  We started offering baking soda when we were using a textured grain with a high percent of molasses – we’ve recently switched to a pelletized grain, but for now are keeping the baking soda out.  Grains high in molasses and other starches are thought to potentially increase the chance of acidosis and other problems.

Selenium is an important mineral known to be an autoimmune stimulant and is often linked to Vitamin E, since they typically work together in the body.  Selenium is an intracellular antioxidant while vitamin E is one of the major antioxidants in cellular membranes.  When deficient, immune responses are impaired.

Bo-Se is an injectable supplement available through licensed veterinarians.  One ml of Bo-Se supplements 1mg selenium with 50mg vitamin E; making the vitamin E work 6 times more efficiently and making the high amount of selenium non-toxic.  While most research suggests that the concentration of Vitamin E negates the potentially toxic effects of such a high level of selenium, some people only want to supplement it in selenium deficient areas.  Unsure if your area is selenium deficient?  Click here for a map of the country showing Se levels (from the USGS, you can zoom into county-wide statistics for a range of minerals).  Keep in mind, that if you’re feeding local hay and grain then you’re not really changing your selenium status.  Selenium deficiency occurs when the soil contains less than 0.5 mg Se/kg of soil (source).  So, in my area of Virignia, the Se level is 0.138ppm or 0.1338mg/kg (conversion factor is 1).

Copper bolusing is another relatively new addition to goat care.  Copper deficiencies are linked to a number of ailments such as anemia, lack of growth, hoof deformities, parasitic susceptibility, and autoimmune deficiencies.  Because of this, many breeders have added regular bolusing of copper to their management schedules.

Keeping the parasitic load at a minimum is critical to maintaining herd health.  It is important to monitor the herd’s parasite load by performing regular fecal counts and dosing according to the types of parasites present.  If you are planning on consuming the milk, it’s important to remember that many types of dewormers (and other drugs) have milk withdraw times – check the list.

Looking for more information?  Click on the “Favorites” link at the top and scroll down to the Dairy Goat Information links.

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