Sunday, December 18, 2011

Goat Maintenance


Today was hoof trimming/ear maintenance day for our goats, and well... yuck.

Goats are awesome little critters, and though they can be challenging at times, are sweet and fun 90% of the time. The other 10% - crazy, smelly, ornery and bitey.

Today was a 10% day. Their hooves all looked really great; no hoof rot, impacted gunk or anything else nasty. I am especially grateful about the absence of the hoof rot. One of our girls had a terrible case of it last year when we first bought her. It took a lot of foot baths, intramuscular antibiotics and constantly refreshed bedding to get her hooves back in shape. Hoof rot is also very contagious, so we were lucky that our other goats didn't get it. Keeping their feet trimmed and clean, and having dry, poop-free bedding are the keys to keeping their feet healthy. It is a lot of work!

When we do hoof and foot maintenance, we also do ear checks. Seven of our nine goats are Lamanchas, and have tiny little ears that occasionally need to be irrigated and medicated, because they have very small openings and don't "breathe" well. Needless to say, the goats are NOT fans of these procedures, and wrestle and wiggle the whole time that we're trying to flush out the gunk and administer the ear drops. It is thankless and messy.

So by the end of it all (today it took about 2 1/2 hours), you smell like a buck, have bits of hoof trimmings in your hair, have had ear goobers flung in your general direction and have probably had your finger chomped a time or two by an overzealous goat seeking his or her snack. A shower and change of clothes will knock the smell down, but not always out, and the "essence of buck" has a way of lingering in your sinuses and throat for a few hours after the fact.

Even with all of that, how could you not love sweet faces like these?

Just like with kids, all of the work and the craziness are rewarded with little moments of sweetness that remind you why you bother with it at all. I heart my stinky, ornery, snuggly little goaties, even on days like this. ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Suddenly, I could go for some soup...

...starring this here buttmunch, King Kong.

They call me Captain Jackhole, or Doofus for short.

Our pretty boy is suddenly quite aggressive. He does a little stompy/dancy number, and if his move-busting doesn't intimidate you sufficiently, next up is the hackle-puffing and charging. He actually came at me with spurs up today. He's dang lucky that he didn't find himself on the receiving end of my boot.

Oy, the machismo. Apparently some ladies find that kind of stuff endearing.

Agnes, King Kong's best girl, clearly appreciates the agro-beefcake type.

Doofus gets to stay, for now. Much more of that funny business though, and his reign of fury will end in similar fashion to Louis the XVI's. Comprendez vous, Monsieur Derriere?

Bien. ;)

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Kink in the Flow

The goats have finally been dried off for the Winter, and the chickens' egg output has dwindled down from a dozen plus per day to two or three each day. In terms of the milking, it is a relief to be free from the daily chore.

We have a few cheeses aging, but will otherwise have to learn to live without fresh goaty goodness until the gals kid in late February/early March. As for the reduction in eggs; well that's just a bummer, no upside to that at all!

Last March, when I was browsing to buy the day-old chicks who have since grown to be our laying flock, I sought a "workhorse" of a breed. Between my research and the glowing recommendations from fellow chicken owners, the Australorp breed really stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Our wish list was this - a sturdy laying breed that was a) friendly b) hardy, health-wise c) would lay during the winter. The 'Lorp fit the bill on all counts.

So I ordered 10 hens and 2 roos, and the hatchery sent us an extra free roo. Out of our original 13, we still have 10. One was butchered (a mean roo), one died of a mystery virus (a nice roo) and one passed away from egg binding. For a flock of free-rangers, that is not a bad rate of attrition. Now the Polishes on the other hand - oy! - hothouse flowers. Never again!

Besides being hardy and better than their fellows at avoiding predation, the 'Lorp girls have indeed kept up their end of the bargain in terms of egg-laying during these first few weeks of dark Fall/Winter. Every last egg that we've collected since mid-November has been a Lorpy egg! We're averaging a dozen and a half to two dozen eggs per week now, as opposed to the 8 or 9 dozen that we were getting at peak production. I can't complain though. Even if it isn't quite enough for us to sell, we still don't have to buy eggs for ourselves, and to me, that's a pretty big deal.

So I'll take the slow down in production and try to enjoy the break. All of our "baby" hennies are headed toward their first birthdays, and therefore their first Spring of laying. I anticipate a landslide of eggs. :) Add to that the fact that, as best as we can tell without a veterinarian to confirm, we have five (maybe six) pregnant goaties. Keep in mind that twins are the standard in goats and visualize the sproingy-happy kid fest that will be my back pasture in just a few more months. :) We'll be swimming in milk and eggs again before we know it, so right now is our time to hunker down and rest up.